Haven’t had the chance to read much G-Day reaction, so I’ll get these few observations out before I catch up. I’m sure others have made many of the same points by now – we all watched the same game.
It was what I’ve come to expect from G-Day – more frustration than anything else. Another pretty bland, low-scoring game. With the intention of keeping the defense pretty much basic, the staff probably didn’t mind the lack of fireworks. Whether it was the effectiveness of the defense or a bad day by an offense that’s supposed to be pretty loaded, those you’d consider the sure starters on offense played a very minor role. Washaun Ealey had just 22 yards. AJ Green had a few catches but not much yardage. The biggest plays of the game were by reserve tailbacks and tight ends. If you tend to buy into G-Day as any sort of indicator for the season, the first-team offense has a ways to go.
Of course the biggest buzz after the game was about the quarterbacks. It was Zach Mettenberger’s day – it seemed as if he completed a lot more than six passes, but those six completions seemed to completely reverse the fans’ perception of the quartertback position. Many of the conversations I had after the game were half-hearted attempts to rationalize the outcome:
Mett was going up against the second-team defense all day. Yeah, but… Murray didn’t do much in the first quarter going up against the same defense.
Mett didn’t handle pressure well. Yeah, but… did anyone?
It was only G-Day – one game. Yeah, but… Mettenberger’s been strong in the other spring scrimmages as well. In the three scrimmages, Mettenberger was a combined 23-36 (64%) with 5 TD and 2 INT. G-Day was his *worst* scrimmage of the spring in terms of completions.
I think for most of us, the story of the day wasn’t that Mettenberger did relatively well. He had another good day, and we should be as thrilled to see that as we were to see Carlton Thomas and Dontavious Jackson showing off the depth at tailback. The story was that Murray, heralded as he was, looked decidedly average. His deep passes were often overthrown, and he missed touchdowns to both Green and Charles. His interception was a bad mistake – a common freshman mistake of getting careless while trying to create something after a play breaks down. Even his size came into question when a pass was batted down at the line. I think it said something that the final drive of the day still had Murray and the first team offense in there trying to make something happen in a 2-minute drive. That was unusual as far as most G-Days go, and I got the feeling that the staff was trying to give Murray (not to mention the first team offense) one last chance to end the day with something positive.
That’s not to ignore Logan Gray. A few months ago, many of us had assumed he’d be a receiver by now. He didn’t light it up with the starting offense, but he didn’t make many mistakes either. His touchdown pass was a perfectly-executed play fake and bootleg (wait – I thought the new defense meant the end of those!), and he ended up with a fair 10-of-17 performance.
I guess I’m just surprised that the quarterback play and offense overall was so lackluster. Mettenberger had the best day, but he still had just six completions. They were facing a base defense that’s still being installed by three new coaches. Pressure was limited, and the QBs weren’t allowed to be hit. They won’t face more accommodating circumstances. But any semblance of a vertical passing game was absent. The starting offensive line was hardly an advantage against an uncomplicated defense that showed a lot of nickle. With the quarterback the lone question mark on an offense otherwise stocked with proven players, was it that one position that kept the starting offense from doing more?
The staff will take their time coming up with a post-spring depth chart, but I think the way they lined up tells us how things were leaning. Gray got the start with the first team, Murray had opportunities all over the field with both units, and Mettenberger spent the day with the second team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the depth chart reflect the fact that no quarterback seemed to have separated himself – will we see a co-#1 or co-#2? Look, whether it’s Gray, Mett, or Murray, I just hope settling on a starter is not dragged out until the Vandy game again.
I still maintain that the suspension of Mettenberger makes it virtually impossible that he will be the starter. It seems very unlikely that the staff would pass on the chance to give the starter experience in the season opener and then change the signal-caller within a week for a road game that’s also the SEC opener. So much of preseason camp is building routine and familiarity so that decisions come more by instinct than by thought during a game. I can’t see how it would be anything but disruptive if the starter were changed for any reason other than injury.
The progress of Mettenberger is very reassuring though. It shows a good deal of maturity for him to deal with his embarrassing arrest and still manage to have a strong spring when much might not have been expected of him. It’s also becoming a success story for the Georgia staff. Mettenberger’s size and arm can’t be coached, but he could best be described as raw and unaccomplished coming out of high school. He’s not nearly there yet, but the progress is unmistakable.
On to other observations…
One of the positions that had the most to do with our perception of quarterback play was tight end. It’s one of the team’s deepest positions, and they were central to some of the game’s biggest plays. The Black team’s tight ends came to play, and Lynch’s touchdown at the end of the first half showed that nice combination of hands and brawn you want from a prototypical tight end. On the other hand, if we hadn’t seen White or Charles before Saturday, many fans would have probably come away disappointed. White was relatively anonymous. Charles had a couple of drops and had a chance for a late touchdown on a pass that was arguably a touch too high. If depth at receiver turns out to be an issue, Georgia still has plenty of options to make a 2-TE set work.
I know Nick Williams got lit up by Coach Grantham for his role in some late-game shoving, but I liked the intensity from Williams. Williams’ 7 tackles included some of the nicer tackles in the game including a few where he slammed the ball carrier to the ground.
Several of the deep incompletions were overthrown, but the secondary also got to several others. The pass breakup in the endzone on a late Murray strike to Durham was especially good. Hamilton played well enough to all but disappear (about as big a compliment as you can pay a defensive back), and the only time I remember seeing a guy break open deep was Green.
It was really nice to see Kris Durham back out there. He had a couple of plays that reminded us how valuable his hands and long stride will be this year. Wooten looks poised for a larger role.
Justin Houston is going to handle the transition to OLB just fine. He was also effective on the edge as the defense went to more of a 4-2 look against spread formations.
I had to laugh when fans around me were grumbling about the shanked punts after the first few series. It’s not like Georgia has the Ray Guy Award winner returning or anything.
The crowd was great though. With the north stands closed, the rest of the lower bowl and club level was full. You couldn’t ask for a better day, and Bulldog fans took advantage of it.