Georgia coach Mark Richt touched down at the Statesboro Municipal Airport Thursday on his way to a Statesboro Bulldog Club engagement, no doubt ready to answer some of the many questions on the minds of the Bulldog Nation.
Concerns about the quarterback situation and first-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s new 3-4 defensive scheme remain to be seen, but Richt sat down with the media at the airport to discuss two of the defensive questions that already have been answered by a pair of former Statesboro Blue Devils.
Former SHS defensive standouts Justin Houston and DeAngelo Tyson each have a bit of a transition to make, but one thing’s for sure – they’ll both be on the field and will likely start for the Bulldogs in the upcoming season.
Houston, who was named second-team All-Southeastern Conference and was awarded SEC defensive lineman of the week after UGA’s 20-17 win over Arizona State in 2009, will make the switch to weak-side linebacker while Tyson, who played defensive tackle and appeared in 13 games a year ago, sits at the top of the depth chart as the nose in the new three-man front.
“He’s going to be a guy who’s going to have a very physical job ahead of him,” Richt said about Tyson. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and he’s ready to play well for us. I would imagine both of those guys will start for us and be very, very productive for us.
“Now that we’re trying to learn a new scheme, coaches are trying to learn our personnel and try to figure out where everybody belonged in that scheme.”
Houston was a junior on Statesboro’s 2005 state championship team, and the attention of playing for a high-profile program didn’t hurt either Blue Devil in Georgia’s recruiting quest.
“It just depends on the crop of athlete coming out of any given area,” said Richt, “but every single area within the state of Georgia, we’re very aggressively trying to find out who we should offer and who we should not.”
Another player from the area who is making a name for himself in Athens is Washaun Ealey, the record-setting running back from Emanuel County Institute.
Ealey burst onto the scene during UGA’s game against Louisiana State, and finished the season as the team’s leading rusher. He accounted for 717 yards after nine appearances and only two starts. He rushed for a career-high 183 yards on 20 carries against No. 7 Georgia Tech.
With the spring injury of junior running back Caleb King, Ealey currently sits on top of the depth chart.
“Him and Caleb are co-number ones right now,” Richt said. “I think Washaun has proven that he can play Southeastern Conference football at a very high level. He’s much better today than he was when we got him. He’s learned a lot about our system, and he’s in better condition. He’s stronger. I think he’s quicker and faster, and we’re expecting a lot from Washaun.”
Richt also spoke on Georgia Southern’s return to the triple option offense and how he expects the series against the Eagles to continue every four years.
“As of right now we plan to continue to do that,” he said. “Now that coach (Paul) Johnson’s (running the triple option offense) at Georgia Tech, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for us to get a little taste of it before we play that game. I’ll say this – Georgia Southern is the type of team that’s good enough to beat you. We’ll be excited about that day when it comes because we know we better get ready for a battle. Teams that are used to winning are hard to beat period, and Georgia Southern has that type of tradition. I’m sure it will come back here in the very near future.”
The next scheduled matchup between the two teams takes place in 2012.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.