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UGA NOTEBOOK: Richt keeping a close eye on kickers

Marshall Morgan, right, missed nearly half of his field goal attempts last season and is one of just three full-time place kickers in preseason camp for the Bulldogs.

Marshall Morgan, right, missed nearly half of his field goal attempts last season and is one of just three full-time place kickers in preseason camp for the Bulldogs.

Bulldogs don shoulder pads for first time

ATHENS — Fifth-ranked Georgia’s preseason practices intensified on Saturday morning as the Bulldogs added shoulder pads to their gear for the first time this fall.

The team is in the midst of an NCAA-regulated acclimation period from jerseys and shorts to shoulder pads to full pads on Monday.

“(Saturday) was our first day in shoulder pads, and we had a chance to up the tempo to what we call ‘thud,’” head coach Mark Richt said. “It’s part of the progression of our five-day acclimation period. Things definitely got more lively (Saturday), and I was pleased with what I saw.”

The Bulldogs hit the field at 8:45 under relatively warm temperatures in the mid-80s and practiced for approximately two and a half hours.

Junior defensive end Ray Drew said the presence of pads takes the workouts to a different level.

“I feel like it gives you a better gauge of what you’re going to get from someone as far as their effort,” Drew said. “Just about everyone can run around out there, but the real people show up when the pads go on. It really shows you who’s who and who’s going to do what.”

ATHENS — Georgia coach Mark Richt declared after last season he was going to take a more active role in the Bulldogs’ special-teams play, particularly when it comes to place-kickers. It’s evident in the first couple of days of preseason practice that he intends to be a man of his word.

Georgia has only three full-time place-kickers in camp — Marshall Morgan, Patrick Beless and Thomas Pritchard — at least until the rest of the walk-ons can join the team Aug. 12. And punters Collin Barber and Adam Erickson have practiced placement kicks.

All the while, a single videographer follows their every move, standing directly behind them and filming nearly every kick.

“It’s just a little higher accountability for them, just to let them know that I care what’s going on and I’m trying to keep up with what’s going on,” Richt said.

The Bulldogs are looking for improvement this season. As a freshman last season, Morgan missed six of his 14 field-goal attempts and four extra-point tries.

Richt said he met this summer “with a couple of coaches who are good at teaching kicking” and got some pointers on what to look for fundamentally. He plans to have regular meetings with the kickers to watch practice video.

“I’m not going to try to change somebody’s fundamentals in the middle of practice,” Richt said. “But there are some things I know are important, and there’s a process of being ready, certain drill work they need to do to stay ready. And so we’re going to help organize them during our practice sessions to be doing the things they’re supposed to do every week. I’m just going to be more apt to be watching that, and we’ll be videoing that.”

Of course, all of that is particularly important this preseason. Richt still has not announced a punishment for Morgan, who was arrested for boating under the influence on Lake Sinclair in early July. But precedent would indicate that Morgan will be suspended for at least one game. The Bulldogs open Aug. 31 on the road against Clemson.

Dawson’s corner: Josh Dawson, a sophomore who played in 13 games as an outside linebacker last season, has been working primarily with defensive ends the first two days of preseason camp.

“He’s an end, and he knows the outside linebacker position,” Richt said. “He’s put on some pretty good weight and is very strong. He’s capable of doing both, but right now he’s primarily going to be an end.”

Standing out early: Richt was asked to identify a few players who have stood out in the first two days of camp.

He mentioned junior cornerback Damian Swann, who had two interceptions during Friday’s practice, and freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins, who also had a pick.

“He’s learning how to defend without holding and grabbing and snatching and all that, but he’s a fiery competitor,” Richt said of Wiggins. “I like (Brendan) Langley, also. I’m watching those young guys and saying, ‘hey, they’ve got skill sets that we hoped they did.’”

Others Richt mentioned were freshman outside linebackers Davin Bellamy and Leonard Floyd, quarterback Aaron Murray and junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera.

Etc.: Starting inside linebacker Ramik Wilson was unable to practice Friday because of a stomach ailment. Wilson is expected to return to the field Saturday, Richt said. ... Wideout Justin Scott-Wesley, a former Herald Player of the Year in track & field and Camilla native, said he’s down to 205 pounds from a high of 228 last season. “I was a tight end in a wide receiver’s body,” he said.