Georgia football coach Mark Richt was a featured guest during Tuesday night’s UGA Day at Doublegate Country Club.
ALBANY --- University of Georgia football head coach Mark Richt said his football motor was already churning with a series of ‘UGA Day’ stops across the southeast this month and next.
Fox talks about future of Bulldogs basketball
ALBANY — Basketball season is barely a month into its offseason for Fox, but the Georgia head coach, who has been to Albany personally each of the past two years to watch Monroe High play, is already thinking about the 2012-13 season.
Georgia doesn’t have any Southwest Georgia flavor on its basketball roster yet, but Fox has three players signed for next season — and Fox talked about each.
Union Grove point guard Charles Mann: “He’s a big point guard, almost the size of a wing player,” Fox said. “We felt like we’ve been too small in the backcourt … so Charles will be a big guard with a lot of athleticism that will allow us to do some more things defensively.”
Whitefield Academy shooting guard Kenny Gaines: “A very explosive shooting guard,” Fox said. “I think he and Kentavious (Caldwell-Pope) will give us a dynamic pair at that position and will play together sometimes as well.”
Miller Grove forward Brandon Morris: “He’s a 6-foot-7 small forward that won (multiple) state championships. Of all the nights I watched Miller Grove play, there were a lot of nights I got in the car and said (Morris) is the best player.”
And that’s saying something, considering Morris played with five-star recruit, 6-foot-8 center Tony Parker, who Fox recruited until the bitter end Monday. Parker signed with UCLA instead, and Fox was mostly mum on the subject Tuesday.
“Can’t say much,” Fox said. “Just not the news we wanted. We wish him well.”
Year four in Athens will be the deepest team yet, Fox said, and the only setback the program has faced was the early departures of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA after 2011 season.
“We weren’t deep enough to deal with it so it set us back this past year (15-17 overall, 5-11 SEC), but not so far back that we won’t get better,” Fox said.
And thankfully, defending national champ Kentucky, which saw all five of its starters leave for the NBA, will surely be down. Or maybe they won’t.
“That guy (John Calipari), He’s never down,” Fox laughed. “They drink magic water up there.”
Richt and head basketball coach Mark Fox stopped at Doublegate Country Club Tuesday for the UGA Athletic Association’s alumni and fan meeting with more than four months to spare before the Bulldogs’ season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 1 in Athens.
“My motor is turning pretty good right now with the Bulldog Club (meetings), but as soon as the 4th of July hits, I can’t do anything but think about football,” said Richt, who went 10-4 overall and 7-1 in the SEC last season to shut off the flames to the hot-seat talk.
Richt shared his thoughts on the progress of some of Southwest Georgia’s Bulldogs after the recent completion of spring practice.
Shawn Williams, a former star at Early County, came back to Georgia for his senior season despite a reported third-round draft grade after last season. The Bulldogs’ strong safety led the team in tackles last year, but suffered a knee injury during spring scrimmages. Richt said he would be fine for fall practice and has developed into one of the hardest hitters in Athens.
“He’s really grown up as a man,” Richt said of Williams. “He’s one of the toughest guys on our football team. He’ll lay the wood on people. I think he’s going to have a great career at football beyond the University of Georgia.”
Former Seminole County standout Bacarri Rambo, who Richt said could have played quarterback in a different offensive system, earned All-America honors last season at safety, leading the SEC with eight interceptions.
“He’s another guy I don’t think there’s much of a question that he’ll get to play some NFL ball as well,” Richt said.
Rambo, though, is still in doubt for the season opener, one year after he was suspended for the Bulldogs’ opener against Boise State last season for an unnamed rules violation. Rambo’s high school head coach at Seminole, Alan Ingram, told The Herald last month that Rambo failed a drug test following spring break after he inadvertently ate brownies laced with marijuana.
Rambo reportedly told Ingram he would be suspended four games this season, although Richt said Tuesday no official discipline has been handed down.
Cornerback Branden Smith is also facing possible suspension after an offseason arrest for marijuana possession and cornerback Sanders Commings will miss the first two games after being charged with domestic violence in February, leaving Georgia thin in the secondary.
Former Mitchell County speedster Justin Scott-Wesley turned heads this spring with his play at wide receiver and shined in the spring game. He took time off from the spring track schedule to focus on football and caught three passes for 43 yards in the G-Day game.
“He improved tremendously in my opinion as a route runner, ball catcher,” Richt said. “He became very consistent. (Taking a break from track) really paid off for him. He really established himself (at receiver).”
With Malcolm Mitchell, a freshman starter at receiver last season, seeing work at cornerback in the spring, Scott-Wesley has the chance to contribute this season.
“I think just the fact that Justin did as well as he did, (that) gives us a little more peace about making that move with Malcolm,” Richt said. “We still want Malcolm to play some offense. When you first (moved Mitchell to defense), you knew you were taking some offensive firepower away from that side of the ball, but then after Justin had the spring that he had, it kind of eased the pain a little bit.”
Richt was also pleased with Thomas County Central’s Ray Drew, who played as a freshman at outside linebacker and got in plenty of work at defensive end this spring.
“With the amount of weight he’s still going to gain, I think (defensive) end will be a really good home for him and a place where he’ll be able to have a lot of production for us,” Richt said.
Ex-Colquitt County offensive tackle Xzavier Ward continues to rehab from injuries after his freshman season in Athens, but Richt said Ward should have no limitations for fall practice and has put on 30-40 pounds of good weight.
Bainbridge’s Ben Reynolds is also one of Richt’s favorite guys, too. Reynolds, a sophomore walk-on, continues to provide depth on the offensive line and, as a former valedictorian, Reynolds is one of the smartest on the team.
“Although (punter Drew) Butler and (long-snapper) Ty Frix would probably give him a pretty good run for his money,” Richt said.