Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was already edgy on Day 1 of practice.
ATHENS — Mike Bobo reared back, grabbed his red hat and threw it down at the quarterback’s feet.
“We throw it down there,” Bobo yelled as Hutson Mason stared blankly back.
Then Bobo, Georgia’s suddenly irate offensive coordinator, turned his ire elsewhere.
“Bottom line there, the tight end gave in. The left tackle gave in,” he yelled.
And finally Bobo, turning and walking back toward the sideline, issued his parting shot.
“Last year’s over. You gotta work,” he yelled again as he wrapped up his tirade.
And this year has all but officially begun for the Georgia football team. It was the first day of preseason practice Thursday for the Bulldogs, and the dichotomy has been established. The defense, with all its youth and new faces, is in a patient, wait-and-see mood. Its coaches were much more subdued during the first half of the opening practice.
The offense, with almost everyone back after a record-setting year, is trying to avoid what befell the defense last year — failure to live up to high expectations.
“First thing (Bobo) said to us — it might have been right before the summer — is that we haven’t done anything this year,” receiver Malcolm Mitchell said. “So we’ve gotta come out there and play, and not worry about what everyone says about how good we were, and how good we could be.”
Bobo wasn’t the only coach fired up during Thursday’s first practice. Receivers coach Tony Ball gave it to his players during the same offense-defense drill. At one point, Ball could be heard yelling something not fully intelligible, but the word “South Carolina” was mentioned.
One would make the easy leap that “Clemson” was one of the words that couldn’t be heard.
Prior to practice, Georgia was reminded once again how monstrous a first month of the season it has coming. The preseason USA Today coaches poll was released, with Georgia at No. 5, and three of its first four opponents in the Top 13: Clemson at No. 8, South Carolina at No. 7 and LSU at No. 13.
“Coach (Mark) Richt’s been saying it’s a race to get ready, because we’ve got a whole bunch of teams we play off the bang, and we’ve got a strong schedule this year,” tailback Keith Marshall said. “We don’t have the time to have bad practices and not get better.”
Junior receiver Chris Conley, apprised of the preseason poll, called the start to the season a great opportunity.
“Because as soon as we come out on the field, we’re gonna have to test our mettle. We’re gonna have to see what we’re made of, and we’re gonna see what Georgia can do,” Conley said.
For the offense, that might be easier, given that 10 of the men who finished last year as starters are back this year. Quarterback Aaron Murray is a fourth-year starter. Tailbacks Todd Gurley and Marshall are coming off their tremendous setting year. The receiving corps is overloaded with talent.
Even the offensive line, the top concern, returns everybody. The first-team line at the outset of Thursday’s practice was made up by the same five in the same spots who finished last season, although there was some shuffling around later in practice.
Still, it’s no surprise that Bobo and the offensive coaches would be trying to break down their players before (perhaps) building them back up. After all, they witnessed a defense last year that returned an equal amount of starters (10) plus some quality backups after finishing ranked fifth in the nation in total defense. Everything was set up for another stellar year.
Instead the defense struggled for most of the season, before a strong late season, then struggled again at times in the SEC championship and Capital One Bowl.
Mitchell explained why he doesn’t think that will happen to the offense this year.
“I don’t think everybody is in the same situation that they (the defense) was last year,” Mitchell said. “I mean they had a bunch of seniors, a bunch of people who were worried about where they were going. We do have offensive linemen who might be in that place, but as we know offensive linemen don’t get very much attention as the defensive players would last year. So I don’t think we’ll have that problem.”
But expect Bobo, Richt and other team leaders on offense to keep pressing this month.
“We’re gonna see how far this team can go, really early,” Conley said. “So with that in mind, we can’t prepare as if we’re going up against an easier team in our first game or our second game. We have to be in midseason form in game one.”
Georgia RB tandem Marshall, Gurley: Enough with the ‘Gurshall’ nickname
ATHENS — “Gurshall” is a catchy nickname for Georgia’s tailback duo, one that caught on with fans, media and teammates alike. So as Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall enter their sophomore seasons, they have a message for the public.
Stop calling us that.
“I never really liked the name,” Gurley said. “I always said that since it came up.”
Added Marshall: “Sometimes I’ll be out somewhere and someone will be like: ‘What’s up Gurshall?’ That’s not my name.”
The nickname was bestowed early last season, as the pair were on their way to a record-setting year. They combined for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns, with Gurley accounting for most of it (1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns).
Their combined output would have broken Herschel Walker’s numbers, so at some point someone — it’s not clear who — came up with the “Gurshall” moniker. The two never complained during the season, but apparently Gurley was stifling his misgivings, and Marshall got tired of being called that off the field.
“Football-wise it doesn’t bother me, but I don’t really like being called it outside of that,” Marshall said.
Gurley says it’s a wrap.
“I don’t like it at all,” Gurley said. “I just don’t.”
Georgia’s media guide, in an opening section detailing storylines for this season, bypasses the nickname, simply referring them to as a “talented tailback tandem.” That name seems unlikely to catch on as quickly.
Neither player offered up any other nickname suggestions, and Marshall isn’t optimistic that “Gurshall” will go away.
“I feel like at this point it’s inevitable,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever gonna change.”
DUO READY TO FACE TEAM THEY SPURNED: Gurley and Marshall both are pretty well-acquainted with the opening opponent. Two years ago, it basically came down to Georgia and Clemson for the North Carolina natives.
“I would probably say if I didn’t come here, I’d be at Clemson,” Gurley said.
Marshall echoed that, saying he “almost went there,” adding that it wouldn’t be a big deal.
“It’s a big-time atmosphere, so that’s always good, because you get a lot of exposure. It’s a big game, and that’s why you come here to play,” Marshall said. “But it’s no extra because I almost went there.”
Richt singles out impressive performances on Day 2 of practice
ATHENS — The Georgia football team held its second practice of preseason camp Friday morning, working out for approximately two and a half hours in shorts and helmets. The Bulldogs will practice in shoulder pads the next two days before they wear full pads for the first time Monday.
“(Thursday) for the boys, it probably felt like the hottest day of the summer,” head coach Mark Richt said. “There was some day one energy and jitters, and you could tell that by the end of the day it got to them a little bit. We didn’t finish quite as well as I would like to, so we added some post-practice conditioning. (Friday) was cooler with the overcast skies, and it was probably something they needed. It was the quickest turnaround of the camp.”
Richt noted several players have caught his attention with their performances in the first two practices.
“(Damian) Swann had a couple of picks today, and he looked very good,” Richt said. “Shaq Wiggins also had an interception, and he’s a fiery competitor. I also like (Brendon) Langley, and (Davin) Bellamy and (Leonard) Floyd are long, rangy athletes who can really move. You get excited about that.
“You expect (Aaron) Murray to be sharp, and he’s been very sharp with his accuracy and leadership. Amarlo (Herrera) has done a good job getting his weight down, and you can see a different quickness in him.”
Richt also said that sophomore Josh Dawson is now working with the defensive ends.
“He has put on some really good weight and is very strong,” Richt said. “He is capable of doing both (outside linebacker and defensive end), but right now his primary position will be end.”
Georgia will continue to practice in the mornings until classes start Monday. The Bulldogs are slated to practice 10 straight days to start camp before an off day Aug. 11.
Fifth-ranked Georgia opens the season at eighth-ranked Clemson on Aug. 31. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m., and the game will be televised by the ABC.