Georgia defensive line coach Chris Wilson offers his take of practice from Anthony Dasher on Vimeo.
As Georgia's new defensive line coach, Chris Wilson has brought a blank slate to the practice field when it comes to evaluating the players he'll try to mold for the Bulldogs this fall.
So far, two veterans are taking advantage of that opportunity.
Following practice Tuesday, Wilson cited redshirt Mike Thornton and redshirt sophomore Sterling Bailey as two individuals who have really started to open his eyes.
"Mike Thornton has really been a pleasant surprise. Obviously, he's a guy, an older guy, a (junior), with not a lot of playing time. He hasn't made a lot of plays on tape but he's really playing well," Wilson said. "Chris Mayes is coming along. Obviously, he's got to make a push these next 10 practices but to me the guy who has really been standing out is Sterling Bailey. I've been impressed with the progress he has made."
For Bulldog fans, that's certainly good news to hear.
Injuries have slowed Bailey's development his first two seasons in Athens, but now that he's healthy the former East Hall standout is showing he's ready to contribute.
"My whole deal is, I don't box guys in. I just try to find a way to get my best football players out on the field, so I don't classify guys as just a nose and just an end," Wilson said. "At the end of the day we just want to put them in the best positions to make plays for us. Those guys (Thornton and Bailey) really give us a little flexibility."
Thornton has spent a career of waiting his turn.
At 6-foot-1 and 302 pounds, Thornton has been stuck behind John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers the past two seasons. But now that those two have moved on to the next stage of their career, Thornton has an opportunity that Wilson believes he will take advantage of.
"I see Mike, other than the progress, he's making and he's earning a chance to be a contributor on our team. I like the direction he's going and I think he has all the ability to be an SEC player," Wilson said. "What he needs to do is get some confidence and as I like to say, make some tape. "
Wilson added he sees no reason that a 302-pound nose can't have success in the Bulldogs' defensive system.
"In our system, I believe so because we're an attacking type defense. What Coach (Todd) Grantham has brought to this deal is we play as much one-gap as we do anything else," Wilson said. "We're not always two-gaping those guys so that makes us a little bit different than some of the other teams that are traditionally 3-4 teams."
Thornton and Bailey are two of nine players the Bulldogs currently have working at the defensive line. They'll be joined by Toby Johnson and De'Andre Johnson come fall.
But in the meantime, Wilson feels confident he's got enough depth to rotate the way he hopes to come fall.
"Depth is huge. We've got a bunch of guys. One of the things that I think our staff has done under Coach Grantham is find a way to get our best guys on the football field," Wilson said. "What we're doing is playing a lot of guys, playing situational football with these guys and that's really big because this is what this game has become. We're very multiple and we're getting a lot of guys on the field right now."
An illness bug kept backup quarterback Hutson Mason and tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith from taking part in Tuesday's practice, Georgia's first in full pads.
They were joined by walk-ons Jared Chapple (right ankle sprain), Jesse Jones (left knee contusion) and linebacker A.J. McDonald (left knee).
Right tackle John Theus (right foot) and linebacker Chase Vasser (labrum) both remain out, but according to offensive line coach Will Friend, Theus should return to practice soon.
Pro Day set for Thursday
The Georgia record for players selected in the NFL Draft is eight set in 2002, but that number could well be challenged in 2013.
Of the 17 former Bulldogs taking part in Thursday's Pro Day, Georgia could have as many as 10 who get their names called during the seven-round NFL Draft set for April 25-27.
Former Bulldogs scheduled to work out for the NFL scouts and team personnel include Marlon Brown, Sanders, Commings, Ty Frix, Kwame Geathers, Mike Gilliard, John Jenkins, Abry Jones, Jarvis Jones, Tavarres King, Jamie Lindley, Alec Ogletree, Christian Robinson, Richard Samuel, Branden Smith, Cornelius Washington and Shawn Williams.
Quarterback Jon Richt, son of head coach Mark Richt, will also take part.
Georgia's 2002 draft class included Charles Grant, Will Witherspoon, Randy McMichael, Terreal Bierria, Jermaine Philips, Verron Haynes, Josh Mallard and Tim Wansley.
This and that
After practice, Richt was pleased with his team's performance as the spring sessions resumed. "Both sides of the ball competed hard today and the offense ended up winning 4-2," said Richt. "I thought it was an overall good day today. This was the first time we tackled out there so it was nice to get some contact going," he said. "I thought we practiced with a solid set of fundamentals and it ended up being a physical practice. Not too bad for being the first practice back after spring break."
Grantham said Josh Harvey-Clemons is currently working at safety, but still plans to use him at different points on the field.