Miller picking up steam

ATHENS - Last season, linebacker Brandon Miller won Georgia's UnKnown Soldier award, which goes to a player who sacrifices to help the team in an unheralded way.

The Bulldogs are hoping the sophomore from Miller County isn't unknown much longer. Brandon Miller was the team's biggest catch of the 2004 recruiting class, but had only a minimal impact on the field last year (nine tackles, one recovered fumble).

However, after a good offseason, he's started spring drills as Georgia's starter on the strong side. If the Bulldogs were to start the season this week, Miller isn't sure how comfortable he'd be, but he thinks he'll have things down pat in four months.

"I feel pretty confident for the most part," he said. "I've still got a little more to learn, but I still feel comfortable."

Miller is quick to point out that he doesn't consider himself a starter yet. His backup, senior Derrick White, already has started 10 games at Georgia.

"There's always competition," Miller said.

It's clear, though, that Georgia's coaches hope Miller can win the job outright.

"He's got a ways to go, but he's got great ability," Coach Mark Richt said. "If he keeps improving, he'll be fine."

NICE GESTURE: Richt sent hand-written notes Monday to Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey and former Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe. Gailey suffered a heart attack last week, and Cutcliffe also has had heart problems recently.

CROWDED BACKFIELD: The first person new Georgia running backs coach Kirby Smart talked to after being hired by Mark Richt was Derek Dooley.

Dooley, the son of former athletic director Vince Dooley and formerly Smart's colleague at LSU, coached a crowded backfield with the Tigers, just as Smart will in Athens.

"Derek Dooley did an outstanding job of managing that situation," Smart said.

Dooley had to spread carries between top-flight backs Justin Vincent, Alley Broussard and Shyrone Carey, and Smart will have to keep Thomas Brown, Danny Ware and Kregg Lumpkin all happy.

PRO DAY: The Bulldogs won't practice today, but it still will be a busy day at the team's training facility. At least one representative from every NFL team is expected to be in Athens for Georgia's pro day, when draft eligible players go through individual workouts. All the Bulldogs' NFL hopefuls from a year ago are expected to participate, and there probably will be plenty of big-name professional power-brokers in attendance because Georgia has two probable first-round draft picks in David Pollack and Thomas Davis.

SPRING BREAK: Richt wasn't very happy with the effort he saw from his players in their first practice in 10 days. The Bulldogs took last week off for spring break.

"Hopefully we got spring break out of our system," Richt said.

Most of Georgia's coaching staff took advantage of the week off from practice by going, along with their wives, to the tropical island of St. Lucia for a five-day vacation.

THIS AND THAT: Safety Tra Battle (back) returned to pratice Monday, but Kelin Johnson remained in the starting spot that Battle held at the beginning of spring. ... Georgia expects to know by Wednesday if Marcus Jackson (blood clot) will be able to play football again. ... Walk-on wide receiver John LaValley had surgery on Monday to repair a torn ACL. The Athens native, a sophomore, is expected to miss the 2005 season. ... Georgia is scheduled to practice two more days this week, Wednesday and Friday. The spring G-Day game will be held April 9. ... Michael Cooper (shoulder) practiced in a green jersey.

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