You wouldn’t quite call Georgia’s opening Gator Bowl practice at Jacksonville University festive, but coaches and players seemed loose and lively. Coach Mark Richt took pictures with several fans and hobnobbed with high school coaches. Players did push-ups on a makeshift metal station just outside the practice field. Heck, even a yellow lab pup made an appearance (on a leash, of course).
Nebraska had slightly better practice facilities the previous two years in the Capital One Bowl. Georgia has a slightly better one here. It’s protected better from a chilly Atlantic Ocean wind, for one thing.
“We want to compete well and win the game,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said “That’s our No. 1 priority. I hope the guys have fun along the way, and I’m sure they will, but you’ve got to learn to focus on the job at hand amid the distractions.”
More quick hits from the Bulldogs’ workout:
>>Georgia practices prior to arriving in Jacksonville were “very good,” Richt said in terms of tempo and focus.
“It looked we were trying to win a ballgame,” Richt said. “Hopefully we’ll have that same type of focus here.”
>>Richt said Georgia’s considering a number of players to replace safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who’s missing the game for a violation of team rules. He declined to say which rules Harvey-Clemons violated.
>>Richt had zero qualms about facing Nebraska for the second year in a row. For one thing, Georgia doesn’t have to completely guess as to what defenses NU will run against its offense. There’s a full game tape from the 2013 Capital One Bowl — a 45-31 Georgia win — to rely upon.
“That game film from last year is precious,” Richt said. “Now we’ve got some film of us vs. them and them vs. us. There’s some personnel changes, obviously, injuries, attrition…but it’s not that unusual to play the same team two years in a row.”
>>One personnel difference for Nebraska: Defensive end Randy Gregory, who finished with 17 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. The Bulldogs are very aware of No. 44 in NU’s defense.
“Young guy, tall, rangy, very athletic,” said Richt, who compared Gregory to Georgia’s Leonard Floyd. Floyd had 6.5 sacks and 22 hurries as a true freshman this year. “A guy who looks like a very difficult guy to block. Of course, they take him and move him around in some of their third-and-long situations where they can get him some good matchups. Put him in some spots where he’s not predictable.
>>Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason is making only his second career start — four-year Aaron Murray tore his ACL late this season — and said he feels more prepared than he did in his first start, a double-overtime win over Georgia Tech.
“It took a little while, a few weeks, to feel like this was definitely my team,” said Mason, who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Yellow Jackets. “I finally feel like this is my team. A little more media. A little more attention from people. I was still a little uneasy taking control of the guys. That was more Aaron…every day that goes by, I feel more and more comfortable.”
“The biggest thing is living through it,” Richt said. “It’s one thing to live through it in practice, it’s another to live through it in the game…the sensation of being the guy and living through that was huge.”
>>Star running back Todd Gurley initially evaded interviews until a Bulldog official went out to midfield and coaxed Gurley to share a few words. Gurley might have talked for a minute before returning to the practice field. The sophomore does more talking on the field, it would seem.
More to come later!
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Photos: Nebraska in Jacksonville
Video: NU’s first practice in Florida
Video: NU coach Bo Pelini talks after practice
Video: Huskers take a dip in the ocean