Notebook: Beard, Long adjust to changes

ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Beard has never played offensive guard before. Neither has Austin Long.

But both Georgia offensive linemen have given it a try this month after flip-flopping roles in the last two practices.

Junior college transfer Beard played offensive tackle at every level before getting a taste of guard during spring practice. He practiced behind Dallas Lee throughout the preseason before replacing Long as the backup left tackle on Saturday, with Long moving to right guard.

That’s where they remained on Monday in the early portion of practice that was open to the media. Long practiced with the first-team offensive line at right guard in place of Chris Burnette, who shifted to center to cover for David Andrews while he missed practice with an illness.

“It wasn’t that bad,” said Long, who was a heavily recruited offensive tackle in high school and has been at tackle throughout his college career. “It was a big switch. I’ve never played guard, but the guys next to me were helping me out with the calls and everything and I picked it up. I didn’t feel as good on Saturday, but I felt really good playing it today.”

Beard said the coaching staff informed him last week that he and Long would shift positions to see if they might perform more effectively in different spots. While the differences involved in switching from one position to the other require some adjusting, Beard was happy to move back to his longtime position.

“It’s been going well,” Beard said. “I’ve just got to get back used to moving faster now.”

Neither player was sure how long the change might last or if it will be permanent, but Long said he was willing to stay at guard if offensive line coach Will Friend decides that is where he is needed most.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Long said. “I just want to do what helps the team and if that means playing guard, that’s fine with me.”

Mitchell update: Coach Mark Richt said Malcolm Mitchell has been working with receivers coach Tony Ball late in practice to prepare for an undetermined role on offense in the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo.

As he has maintained since revealing that Mitchell would split time between cornerback and receiver this season, Richt said the sophomore will play predominantly on defense against Buffalo. But Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will devise a way for him to help the offense, as well.

“I was going to actually get up with Coach Bobo and start talking about what we think the plan ought to be for Game 1,” Richt said. “Like I’ve been saying all along, I think he’ll get some offensive snaps in Game 1, but how many and exactly how much are we going to try to practice with him and perfect with him, I don’t know that yet. That’s kind of about where we are, trying to decide that.”

Getting their kicks: Richt has thus far refused to name Marshall Morgan and Collin Barber as the starting kicker and punter -- and he again refused on Monday -- but it is clear that the freshmen are heavy favorites to win those jobs.

Richt revealed on Monday that they are handling the kicks in practice that a starter would typically handle.

“They’re getting the majority of the reps right now,” Richt said. “They’re getting enough. They’re getting the amount of reps that you would give a starter. Again, I’m not going to say the positions are closed because I really don’t say that they are, but they’re getting the majority of the reps and they’re in the lead.”

Freshman DBs: Richt also said he has been pleased with the progress freshmen Josh Harvey-Clemons and Sheldon Dawson have made in the secondary.

Harvey-Clemons, one of Georgia’s highest-rated 2012 signees, has made a number of interceptions already in practice while working at safety, nickelback and the “star” position.

“Josh Harvey-Clemons is getting a ton of reps,” Richt said. “There’s no question that he’s going to be in there playing scrimmage downs and special teams downs.”

Dawson “still has a ways to go,” Richt said, but he has already flashed the physical ability to prove that he can become a solid SEC cornerback.

“Sheldon’s made a bunch of plays out there. He’s already proved to me that physically he has the tools to play that position,” Richt said. “He’s still learning and he’ll get better at what he does, but the bottom line is you’ve got to have the physical ability to play the position and stick with a receiver and that type of thing and he has that.

“He plays the ball very well, as well, and he’s got a history of the ability to play offensive football, so a lot of times that equates into a pretty good corner.”

Injury update: Tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith (hamstring), safety Marc Deas (hamstring) and receiver Rantavious Wooten (hip strain) all returned to practice on Monday.

Receiver Tavarres King (lower leg strain) also returned to practice in a limited role.

Tailback Keith Marshall left the field with an undisclosed injury during the portion of practice that was open to the media, but tailback Todd Gurley said Marshall returned to practice later in the afternoon.