“So many people were tweeting me all the time congratulating me and stuff like that,” the Georgia junior offensive lineman said. “It’s comforting to know that people are pulling for me across the country.”
Houston’s three-year-plus fight with the NCAA to be able to play ended on July 25 when he was cleared to play. He had finally met the threshold required after being tested some 100 times for a banned anabolic steroid given to him in high school that remained in his system.
Now he’s worked himself into the rotation, if not the starting lineup.
He’s worked the past four or five practices at right tackle, where he held down the starting spot after spring practice of 2012. He’s competing with returning starter John Theus.
“With my weight, I feel like I can play on the edge,” said the 6-foot-5, 281-pound Houston. “I’m comfortable there, but I’m comfortable on the inside, too.”
Both Houston and Theus are also working at right guard with Chris Burnette.
“It’s been fun getting yelled at and all that fun kind of stuff,” Houston said. “The first practice, the speed of play that was probably what was most rusty. Assignment-wise, I was fine.”
Houston is among what he said were “seven or eight players” competing for a starting job.
That, Houston said, includes Mark Beard and Watts Dantzler, who said he’s likely to play guard.
Burnette said he hasn’t had any setbacks after offseason shoulder surgery, but is being held out of some practices to keep him fresh for the season.
“We’re just trying to be smart,” he said.
Mitchell plans to be `smart' on returns
Malcolm Mitchell worked on returning both kickoffs and punts Monday in Georgia’s special teams scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.
It’s not the same Mitchell as a returner as last season, he said.
“As I got older, this camp when I grew up over the summer, to be a great player you also have to be smart and know when it’s your time to make the big play,” the junior receiver said. “That’s the main thing. Be smart, don’t rush it, let it happen.”
Mitchell averaged 22.5 yards on kickoff returns last season, but Georgia started second quarter drives against Florida at its own 8- and 17-yard lines after Mitchell returned kicks that went into the end zone instead of taking a knee.
Mitchell said he came to the realization on his own to play it safer at times.
“Your mind becomes more open,” he said. “(Chicago Bear) Devin Hester didn’t run back every kick, did he? You know what I mean? That’s not something I have to worry about.”
Georgia is looking at multiple players to return kicks and punts this season, including Todd Gurley on kicks.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see more than one guy get reps as the season rolls along,” Richt said. “By design, we may end up rotating them around a little bit.”
Richt stll splashing
Richt may be 53 and coming off hip replacement surgery, but he has no plans to give up his annual backflip that he did Saturday at the Ramsey Center.
"I really didn't know if I was going to do it," Richt said. "I jumped off the 3-meter, then the 5-meter just to see and I decided to go right to the 10 and encourage some of the freshmen who were chickening out."
He told them he would do a backflip if they jumped into the water.
"I landed on my feet, that's all I care about," Richt said. "I was worried about the hip, I'll be honest with you. ...I think I'll keep doing it every year. I might do it until I kick."
This and that
Richt said he’ll address the status of offensive lineman Austin Long on Wednesday. Long hasn’t practiced yet for what Richt has said was an academic reason. Richt repeated that he won’t reveal the status of Marshall Morgan, who is facing a likely suspension after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to his boating under the influence arrest.
Receivers Rhett McGowan (ankle) and Reggie Davis (knee) were out of practice, but linebackers James Deloach (thumb) and Leonard Floyd (hand) returned. Tight end Jay Rome (ankle) is doubtful for Wednesday’s scrimmage.
Nathan Theus and Trent Frix are competing at long snapper and both have performed well, Richt said.
ABC’s on-air talent for the Georgia-Clemson game on Aug. 31 will be Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox. CBS analyst Gary Danielson is picking Clemson to play Alabama for the BCS national title.
Former Georgia cornerback Nick Marshall is competing with freshman Jeremy Johnson for the starting quarterback job at Auburn after coach Gus Malzahn announced former starter Kiehl Frazier is moving to safety. Marshall played last season at Garden City (Kan.) Community College after being dismissed at Georgia.