Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bulldogs Wrap Up Outback Bowl Practices


Georgia football worked out for 90 minutes to wrap up their practice sessions for the Outback Bowl at the University of Tampa on Saturday morning. The 18th-ranked Dawgs will take on the 12th-ranked Michigan State Spartans in Raymond James Stadium on Monday at 1 p.m.

DSC_7372“I think we are getting where we need to be,” said coach Mark Richt prior to Saturday’s practice. “We have to solidify our game-plan mentally and we will be ready for the game.”

The Georgia defense ranks third nationally in Total Defense (268.5 ypg) and ninth in Rushing Defense (103.4 ypg) through 13 games. While the Dawgs gave up 42 points to top-ranked LSU in the SEC Championship Game, Georgia had held five straight opponents to 20 or less points before their matchup with the Tigers.

“We have made huge strides defensively in this second year under Coach Todd Grantham,” Richt said. “We have a bunch of guys who believe what’s being taught. I have had little doubt this whole year that the group would have success. And since they have had success, it has bred more confidence in the system.”

DSC_6269The Dawgs arrived in Tampa on Monday and have practiced each day as they prepare for the Spartans. Senior cornerback/return specialist Brandon Boykin said Richt and the coaching staff have readied the team for its final contest of the year.

“Coach Richt has done a great job getting us in shape since the holiday,” said Boykin, who was competing in his final practice on Saturday. “Since we are playing on January 2nd, it will be nice to have an extra day to rest. But whenever the game comes, we’ll be ready.”

Boykin has started the last 21 games in a row and 37 in his career. The Paul Hornung Award finalist added that this year has helped bring the Dawgs back to the level everyone expects them to be at.

“I would describe the 2011 season as an amazing one where we got some redemption,” Boykin said. “This time last year, people were talking about the coaches being on the ‘hot-seat’ and that Georgia was not like it used to be. We had leadership this season who were committed to get this program back where it needs to be.”

DSC_6919Redshirt sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who is a Tampa native, agreed with Boykin that the Dawgs are ready for their showdown with Michigan State. “I think we are ready for the game,” Murray said. “We had great practices in Athens and have had our game-plan set for a while. We have had some awesome practices in Tampa and now it’s time for everything to slow down as we fine-tune everything.”

Murray also said that freshman quarterback Christian LeMay has made huge strides during his first season with the Dawgs. LeMay is redshirting this season while sophomore Hutson Mason, who is 18-of-30 for 254 yards and two touchdowns, has backed up Murray in 2011. “Every day at practice over the last couple of weeks, I have looked over at Coach Richt and just said, ‘wow’ watching Christian throw the ball,” said Murray. “At the beginning of the year, he seemed like he was throwing it as hard as he could and was off-balance a lot. But now that he is relaxing, he has been throwing great balls and making really good decisions.”

Kickoff for the 2012 Outback Bowl is slated for 1:08 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium, and ABC Sports will televise the game live.

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