Before Ogletree’s move from safety was announced earlier this month, it was safe to assume that Samuel would head into spring practice with the inside track to start. But Ogletree’s move changed that.
But Samuel still feels he has a shot at playing at one of the two inside spots.
“I feel like through practicing, and if I practice well and show I can get the job done, we’ll get a fair share of the playing time,” he said after Thursday’s third day of Georgia spring practice.
Samuel’s case is buttressed by the fact that the Bulldogs don’t really have many other options at inside linebacker, after the graduation of Akeem Dent and the transfers of Marcus Dowtin and Nick Williams. There’s Christian Robinson, the anointed captain of the defense, Ogletree, Samuel and Mike Gilliard.
So Samuel saw Ogletree’s switch as having more to do with numbers.
“I feel that we need depth at that position,” Samuel said. “Due to the fact that he had playing experience at that position last year, he got that position. More competition will make both of us better.”
Samuel knows a little bit about switching positions. In fact, compared to him, Ogletree’s switch is nothing. This time last year Samuel was shifting from running back, a spot he had played since high school.
He ended up redshirting last season after incurring a knee injury. Samuel could have played -- he said the knee felt close to 100 percent by the end of the season -- but the staff elected to save his redshirt.
And don’t even think about a move back to tailback for Samuel. Not with Isaiah Crowell on the way to join the already crowded picture.
“Not really,” Samuel said, when asked if he still thinks about playing running back. “I think about it every now and then when I look at the other running backs and compare myself to what I would have done if I were in their position.”
Head coach Mark Richt, when asked about the Ogletree move on Samuel and Gilliard, made his answer more about the safeties, and not the inside linebackers.
“It certainly helps them understand there’s more competition. But we’re really only two deep total at that position,” Richt said. “I think what it’s affected more is the safeties, to guys like Shawn Williams and Jakar (Hamilton) and even Marc Deas. Just to realize there’s a whole lot of playing time that just opened up for them.”
“Not to say that there was a guarantee that Tree was going to continue to hold onto the job. But he was by the end of the year the starter, and now he’s out of there.”
During the early portion of Thursday’s practice, four return candidates were fielding kick and punts: Tavarres King, Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith and Carlton Thomas.
Offensive lineman Dallas Lee has been slowed by an asthma-like condition. The length of time he’ll be out is unclear, according to Richt.
A.J. Green, Justin Houston and Fred Gibson were at Thursday’s practice. Green and Akeem Dent also watched Tuesday’s practice after participating in pro day.
The team will have a full-pads scrimmage on Saturday. They’ll have a half-scrimmage day, as Richt put it, which won’t count towards the three scrimmages they’re allowed.