“We’re moving Andy Bailey to first string but not naming the starter for the first game,” Coach Mark Richt said after the No. 3 Bulldogs finished a two-hour practice Saturday morning. “We’ll still compete at that position. If it’s a dead heat from here on in, Andy will kick to start out.”
In the last week, Bailey has moved past walk-on Brandon Coutu to earn his new position on the depth chart. Richt informed the kickers of his decision Saturday morning.
“It was a good feeling,” Bailey said. “We’re still going to compete so I can’t let down whatsoever. After having a great week, I feel real confident. I think I’ve proved to most of the guys that they can rely on me.”
Bailey was given a scholarship last year with the thought that he would immediately win the kickoff job and then take over for Billy Bennett on extra points and field goals this year. However, he struggled last year and was eventually redshirted. Only in the past seven days has Bailey, who recently changed his setup on the ball, begun to kick like Georgia’s coaches expected him to all along.
“The kicking has been very good,” Richt said. “Andy has just hit it a little better. The competition has been good for both of them, and I don’t want that to stop.”
The starting kickoff spot has not been announced, but Coutu appears to lead Dublin’s Brian Mimbs for that spot.
MR. WONDERFUL: In the two weeks since starting running back Kregg Lumpkin was lost for the season, true freshman Danny Ware has stepped up very well to fill the hole.
And he knows it. Ware doesn’t lack for confidence or expectations.
“I hope to be SEC Player of the Year, that’s my goal,” he said. “ I want to have 100 yards rushing every game.”
What’s the difference between Ware and Lumpkin?
“I know how to hit a man and keep going,” said Ware, who attributes his confidence to his father and Hargrave coach Robert Prunty. “He hits sometimes and goes down. I know how to keep myself up and use my speed.”
Ware’s confidence is justified, according to Coach Mark Richt.
“I’m really proud of what he is doing,” Richt said. “That son-of-a-gun is going to be all right.”
Not only has Ware shown he’s capable of carrying the ball, but he’s also proven to be a solid option in the passing game, which will help this year as the Bulldogs seem to be planning to do more with their running backs this year than they have in the past.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see him catch the ball the way he does,” Richt said.
DISCOURAGING WORD: Macon native Cedric Haywood still hasn’t joined the Bulldogs for fall practice and the date of his return is uncertain, Richt said.
Haywood has been out of action since tearing his ACL last preseason. He was expected to be healthy in time to practice with the team when camp opened this year, but he has suffered a variety of setbacks.
“Everybody is different in how they come back,” Richt said. “I think he’s still a ways off.”
The amount of time Haywood, a graduate of Central Fellowship, has already missed makes it unlikely he will be able to contribute much this season.
“He’s down,” Richt said. “It hasn’t been easy for him because he was really doing so well the moment he got hurt. Since that time, it’s really been difficult for him.”
FAMILIAR FACE: Running back Tony Milton wore a red, full-contact jersey at practice Saturday for the first time in almost a year. He didn’t make it all the way through practice, but he did well enough that Richt thinks he will be ready to play Sept. 4 against Georgia Southern.
“He got some work but by the time we got to the competitive stuff, it was pretty inflamed,” Richt said.
Milton started three games last year before a lower leg injury forced him to have season-ending surgery. He is completely recovered from the surgery but now is bothered by shin splints connected to his rehabilitation.
“It’s really the shin splints that are holding him back now, but that’s good news because that’s the last thing,” Richt said. “We’re going to need him.”
Backup running back Michael Cooper missed practice again Saturday due to a bruised Achilles’ tendon. He is considered day-to-day. Freshman Thomas Brown, who has missed more than a week due to a pulled hamstring, is expected back at practice Monday.
PRACTICE REPORT: Richt left Saturday morning’s practice feeling very good about his red zone offense, which was a significant problem last year, when the Bulldogs scored touchdowns on just 51 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line. Georgia’s coaches have changed their scheme slightly and have encouraged their players to have a different attitude near the goal line.
At least during red zone drills Saturday, it worked.
“The offense really did the best they’ve done in the four years I’ve been here,” Richt said. “I was excited by some of the improvements we’ve made there.”
Also, Richt said he expects cornerback Tim Jennings (hamstring) to be back at practice Monday.
DAVIS MAY GO: Jim McFather, Thomas Davis’ high school coach, told USA Today that he expects Davis to leave Georgia following this season. Davis is only a junior but, with another season like his sophomore year, he will certainly be a first-round draft pick if he skips his senior season at Georgia. Davis said this week that he won’t make a decision until the season is over.