Commentary

Bulldogs starting to look scruffy

Players growing turnover-battle beards; they must shave if they lose TO margin

Updated: October 5, 2011, 12:54 PM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

ATHENS, Ga. -- Aron White plans to grow a lumberjack-style full beard before football season ends. If he does, he might have teammate Shawn Williams to thank for allowing his luxurious facial hair to blossom.

Georgia coach Mark Richt has a simple rule regarding players' facial hair this season: If the Bulldogs finish with more turnovers than their opponent in any game, the entire team is required to shave.

[+] EnlargeShawn Williams
Darrell Walker/Icon SMI Junior safety Shawn Williams' late-game interception against Mississippi State preserved his teammates' facial hair.
Williams intercepted a Chris Relf pass on Mississippi State's final drive last weekend, leaving both teams with three turnovers and White with the wispy beginnings of a beard that he hopes will remain in place through bowl season.

"I don't think I've cut my facial hair since we've been winning, and I don't plan to," said White, whose team won the turnover battle or finished even in each of the last three games, all wins. "Hopefully we get into December and we get into a bowl game or into a championship game, and you're looking at a bunch of hairy-bearded dudes out there. Big brawny men out there. That's the plan. I'm trying to look like the wolfman by the end of the season we've won so many turnover ratios."

The senior tight end grew a prodigious beard during the summer months -- White claims he can grow the best beard on the team -- but it drew mixed reviews among his friends.

"A lot of girls were like, 'You need to cut that ASAP,' but all my boys were like, 'No dude, you need to let it flow and let it ride,' " he said. "It got to the point where it was just really annoying, but I'd had it for so long that I just couldn't cut it."

Now it's back, albeit in the early stages, and White hopes it sticks around for a while.

"It's funny how big of a motivator that can be, but it really is, especially with the guys on our team," White said. "We don't like going around with a baby face. That's not the move, man."

White is far from the only player who appreciated Williams' takeaway. Receiver Rantavious Wooten tweeted congratulations to Williams, saying he "saved UGA players' beards for another week."

Quarterback Aaron Murray might have been the happiest Georgia player of all. Murray threw three interceptions, meaning he would have been the culprit had Georgia lost the turnover battle and the razors returned from their hiatus.

"I was like, 'Oh, please, somebody get a turnover so I won't get blamed for everyone having to shave this week,' " Murray laughed. "And then they did and I was like, 'Yes!' "

Burnette on mend

Offensive guard Chris Burnette (knee) practiced Tuesday and could contribute this weekend when Georgia visits Tennessee.

"Moved around a little bit today and I think we'll kind of play it by ear and see how it goes the rest of the week," offensive line coach Will Friend said.

Burnette started the Bulldogs' first three games, but missed the last two with the knee ailment while Dallas Lee and Kenarious Gates manned the guard spots. Friend said Burnette will pick up where he left off when he's healthy enough to return.

"He's a starter," Friend said. "He's not just a depth guy, you'd like to have him for starting purposes. If he's back and 100 percent, he left as a starter and he'll come back as a starter."

In other injury news, Richt said he expected cornerback Damian Swann (groin) to return to practice Tuesday and that cornerback Brandon Boykin is practicing this week in a green no-contact jersey after knocking some teeth loose in last weekend's win against Mississippi State. Richt said Boykin will play this weekend.

Boykin and receiver Israel Troupe (knee) both wore green jerseys during Tuesday's portion of practice that was open to the media.

Hobnail Haynes

Ten years ago this week, Verron Haynes -- with an assist from Georgia play-by-play man Larry Munson -- secured a permanent spot in Bulldogs history.

On Oct. 6, 2001, Haynes caught the game-winning touchdown pass from David Greene in the closing seconds of Georgia's 26-24 win at Tennessee. The P-44 Haynes play, in which fullback Haynes slipped out of the backfield uncovered to catch the winning pass in the back of the end zone, is better known as the "Hobnail Boot" play among hardcore Bulldogs.

Munson's emotional call -- "We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!" -- ranks among the legendary announcer's most beloved radio moments.

Haynes visited the Touchdown Club of Athens on Tuesday night to relive the moment that defined his Georgia career and gave first-year coach Richt his first marquee win as the Bulldogs' leader.

"When you look at it in perspective, I got the chance to meet with Aaron Murray this offseason working in the strength and conditioning room and he said, 'You know, we still have three plays named after you in our offense.' When that happens, it kind of brings you back down," Haynes said with a smile. "It's humbling in a way."

Seeking 100

Richt's career record at Georgia is 99-36, and Saturday could give him his milestone 100th victory.

Richt said he never expected to win 100 games when he joined the Bulldogs in 2001 but that it would be particularly meaningful to earn the win at Tennessee, where his teams lost in routs in the previous two visits. Plus a win would keep the Bulldogs in the hunt for the SEC East title.

"I never thought I'd get to 100. I didn't know if I'd get to 100 games period, but to get to 100 victories would be sweet, no doubt," Richt said. "The sweetest part of it would be if it happened this week. I would think there is a pretty good chance that this season we'll get to 100, but I sure would like it this week because it is Tennessee, and it is so important for where we are right now and the race we're in."

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.