08 19 2004 Notebook - A new punter?

08 19 2004 Notebook - A new punter?

ATHENS -- There is still at least one slot open at wide receiver with just 15 days left before the season-opener against Georgia Southern, both receivers coach John Eason and head coach Mark Richt said.

The Bulldogs have to have at least six game-ready receivers heading into the season and would like to have eight, Richt said. The top three spots are spoken for by seniors Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown and junioR Bryan McClendon. Sophomore Sean Bailey and redshirt freshman T.J. Gartrell are the frontrunners for spots four and five.

After that, it's up in the air, although Peach County's A.J. Bryant has the inside track for the sixth spot, Richt said.

"He's just on the cusp of getting into that group," Richt said.

Bryant enrolled early at Georgia in order to participate in spring practice as a quarterback, but he was moved to receiver in the final week of the spring. He has settled in at the position and is starting to feel comfortable, he said.

"I'm learning a lot faster than I was before," he said. "I want to play, to be a factor on this team, be successful in any way I can."

As Macon's Cedric Haywood continues to recuperate from a knee injury, that leaves only true freshmen Demiko Goodman and Kenneth Harris to fill spots No. 7 and 8. And those two aren't ready to contribute yet, Eason said.

"They're competing, but I think they're a ways off," he said.

It's too early to say whether Georgia would play Goodman and Harris this season if they were only going to be seventh and eighth on the depth chart, Richt said.

Haywood didn't join the team for Thursday's practice as expected, and offensive coordinator Neil Callaway said he doesn't know when the freshman will be healthy enough to play.

DEVELOPING DEPTH: For the first time since Jon Stinchcomb, George Foster, Kevin Breedlove and Alex Jackson left school, the Bulldogs have depth on the offensive line. Nowhere has it been more evident this fall than in the team's scrimmages. Last season and even during spring practice this year, the No. 1 defense was going up against a second-team offensive line made up mostly of walk-ons and emergency fill-ins.

"It's more of a realistic battle now," Richt said. "Before they would just run through them like they weren't even there."

Now, Georgia not only has scholarship players on its second-team line, but players who were coveted high school athletes. Ken Shackleford and James Lee are the second-team tackles. (Callaway said Thursday that Dennis Roland and Dan Inman have emerged as the clear starters at tackle.) Zeb McKinzey and Fernando Velasco are the backup guards, and Ryan Schnetzer is the backup center.

"That's a pretty talented group," Richt said.

SO FAR, SO GOOD: Running back Kregg Lumpkin had successful surgery on his left knee Thursday, Richt said. The sophomore running back tore the ACL in that knee two weeks ago. He isn't expected to be ready for contact during spring practice but should be 100 percent in time for next fall.

ANOTHER FIND?: The Bulldogs may have found another walk-on kicker who can help them from Athens Academy. The last time that happened his name was Billy Bennett. This time it's Matt Middendorf and he's a punter rather than a place-kicker.

Middendorf showed up at practice Thursday along with several other walk-on kickers, who are battling for one spot on the roster. Middendorf was the most impressive of the bunch and hit one punt that traveled 70 yards in the air, although that was without a snap or a rush.

Middendorf, who said his longest punt in a high school game was 55 yards, suffered a broken foot last year which almost ended his kicking career.

"I came back and kicked pretty well the last few games and decided to come out and give it a shot," he said.

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