Spots still up for grabs at Georgia

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ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia broke from the camp portion of its preseason on Saturday with some personnel decisions left be made before the Aug. 31 opener at Clemson.

Kolton Houston, eligible to play for the first time in his career, is competing for the starting right offensive tackle spot with John Theus, offensive line coach Will Friend said.

Kenarious Gates has solidified his position as the starting left tackle with probably the best camp of any lineman, Friend said.

Georgia has a clear pecking order at quarterback with Aaron Murray as the starter and Hutson Mason as the backup.

Bobo said that Brice Ramsey could be the No. 3 quarterback and still be redshirted. Christian LeMay and walk-on Parker Welch are competing with Ramsey.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sat out Saturday’s scrimmage because of a sore shoulder, while Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw was off target in his first action since off-season foot surgery.

“I guess he bruised it, but it’s fine,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said of Clowney’s shoulder. “We weren’t going to play
him anyway.”

Backup quarterback Dylan Thompson was 5 of 7 passing for 74 yards while Shaw was 3 of 10 for 27 yards with an interception.

Brandon Wilds led the backs with 34 yards on five carries.

VANDERBILT: Police have two more of the former Com­modores in custody following their indictment on five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery involving an unconscious student at a campus dormitory in June.

Brandon Vandenburg, 20, and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, 19, were booked into Davidson County jail early Saturday morning.

Vandenburg’s bond is $350,000 for a total of nine charges, including tampering with evidence and unlawful photography.

Safety Cory Batey, 19 of Nashville, was arrested Friday and also is being held on $350,000 bond. Defensive back Brandon Banks, 19 of Brandywine, Md., has yet to be taken into custody.

Authorities announced the indictments Friday. Vanderbilt dismissed the players from the team June 29.

TENNESSEE: In Knoxville, Tenn., Woody Quinn quit football after his freshman year in high school to pursue a volleyball career that led him to Pepperdine. But he often wondered what might have been and eventually switched back to his first love.

Now he’s on the verge of completing an improbable journey from a Malibu, Calif., volleyball court to Neyland Stadium.

“It was hard for me to watch football, thinking ‘I wish I could do that,’ or ‘I think I could do that,’” Quinn said.

After transferring from Pepperdine to California Baptist, where he played volleyball for one year, Quinn talked his way onto the Santa Ana (Calif.) College football team and showed enough potential to earn a scholarship offer from Tennessee.

Quinn is seeking to replace Oakland Raiders sixth-round draft pick Mychal Rivera as the Volunteers’ main tight end. Quinn, a 6-foot-6, 253-pound junior, is behind junior Brendan Downs on the depth chart.

As a former volleyball player, Quinn certainly has leaping ability. He also possesses the athleticism required of the tight end position in today’s game.

Quinn has seen how Gonzalez, who played basketball and football at California, has become a Hall of Fame level NFL tight end with the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs. And Gates, a former Kent State basketball player, develop into a Pro Bowl performer with the San Diego Chargers and how Graham has achieved stardom with the New Orleans Saints after playing four years of basketball and only one year of football at Miami.

“There seems to be a lot of interest in that sort of athlete at that position - a goal-line jumper and a guy who can beat you with his feet, let alone having a 6-6 frame that you can put some weight on,” said Santa Ana coach Geoff Jones, who isn’t related to Tennessee coach Butch Jones.

The question is whether this former volleyball player can shake off all the rust that developed during his time away from football.

Tennessee coaches want to make sure Quinn adopts a football mentality again. They need him to become a more physical player. Butch Jones has continually called out Quinn while walking around in practice with his microphone

“He’s not where he needs to be, but we do see improvement,” Butch Jones said. “The ‘want to’ is there. He’s an individual with great character, extremely competitive. That will come with time. He just needs to continue to practice and live in that area, that arena all the time.”

Quinn understands the criticism. When he switched sports, Quinn knew he’d need time to make the adjustment.

“You hear people say football is a war, you’re a gladiator, this and that,” Quinn said. “When you cross the line, it’s different. That’s been a huge mental focus for me. I’ve been having trouble sleeping at night because I start thinking of stuff (I can do better). I feel myself starting to sweat.”

Quinn has beaten long odds just to get to this point.

He had transferred once before when he approached Santa Ana’s Jones about joining the football team. A look at Quinn’s frame and transcript convinced Jones to take a chance on him.

“He came out of nowhere,” Geoff Jones said. “He wasn’t a recruited football player. ... He came out of the blue.”

Quinn’s statistics at Santa Ana weren’t particularly impressive. He caught 15 passes for 252 yards and one touchdown. But he also displayed a combination of speed, size and athleticism that impressed former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley’s staff.

“The tight ends that can run and catch and block – the complete package – those tight ends are difficult to find,” said former Tennessee safeties coach Josh Conklin, who now is defensive coordinator at Florida International. “Sometimes you find them in basketball players, for instance, or in this case a volleyball player who’s played some football.”

Conklin visited Quinn in California while knowing his job was in jeopardy. After he got fired, Conklin recommended Quinn as someone the new staff should pursue. Butch Jones continued recruiting Quinn, who committed to Tennessee in January.

Quinn has come a long way, but he still has far to go.

“I still haven’t done anything,” Quinn said. “Getting here was a small part of my goal, but my dream is to go beyond it as well.”

Tennessee defensive lineman Maurice Couch was on crutches and wearing a walking boot on his right foot during Saturday morning’s practice session. Butch Jones wasn’t made available after the practice session to offer an update on injuries, though he will speak after Saturday night’s scrimmage.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: In Starkville, Miss., Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney was one of the Southeastern Conference’s most productive freshmen last season, providing a ferocious presence in the middle of the Bulldogs’ defense.

His trick to such early-career production: He didn’t have to think much. Veteran Cameron Lawrence did a lot of that for him.

But now Lawrence is gone – off to pursue a career in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. So McKinney and the other linebackers are ready to prove they can handle the mental side of the game, too.

Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said McKinney is becoming comfortable with Xs and Os during preseason camp, and that should lead to even more production this season.

“He has embraced it,” Collins said. “He knows what every kid on our defense is doing.”

The 6-foot-5, 235-pound McKinney was second on the team with 102 tackles last year, behind Lawrence’s 120.

The sophomore has emerged as the leader of a group that’s got several experienced veterans like Matthew Wells, Deontae Skinner and Ferlando Bohanna.

It’s a position loaded with talent for the Bulldogs. Collins said he might have 10 linebackers capable of helping the defense on Saturdays.

“I’m very lucky to have the group of guys that I have,” Collins said. “The (players) I have in my room embody everything that this program stands for <0x2014> relentless effort, competitiveness, great attitude and getting better every day. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys I coach every day. They come into meetings, there’s 12 of them sitting there wired, ready to get better. It’s not like that everywhere.”

Collins is in his first season as Mississippi State’s sole defensive coordinator after spending two years as a co-coordinator and linebackers coach.

He brings an infectious energy to the field, bouncing around among the players even on the 95-degree days so common during August in Starkville. The Bulldogs are trying to replace several high-profile defensive players from a year ago, including Lawrence and cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay.

Collins and the other assistants have developed a light-hearted system called “juice points,” which are given to players when they make a big play or show exceptional energy on the field.

Collins said McKinney almost always leads the pack in the subjective scoring system and that in many ways he’s an extension of the coaching staff on the field.

“Benardrick is just a ball of energy,” Collins said. “He is everything this program stands for from a leadership, attitude and character standpoint.”

McKinney said he’s aware that his production needs to improve during the coming season, but it might not necessarily show in more tackles or sacks. Instead, he’s helping put others in position to be successful.

That means just as much time spent in the film room as on the practice field.

“I like to be a leader,” McKinney said. “I like to see other people make plays before I make them. I’m not a selfish player. The coaches are going to put me in position to make plays, so all I have to do is make them.”

Collins said McKinney’s role as a facilitator is even more vital because several SEC programs use the trendy high-tempo offense.

Defensive players are often on the field for several plays at a time because there’s no time for substitutions, meaning decisions have to be made quickly when players are tired. The Bulldogs will get a test in the season’s first weekend against Oklahoma State’s high-scoring offense.

“It’s very important for me to get everybody lined up,” McKinney said. “If we have one mistake, these hurry-up offenses can gash you for a big play.”

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