So this is that post where we acknowledge how pointless the spring game is but write about it anyway.
What a brilliant Saturday afternoon to be in Athens. The campus can shine in its autumn colors or even a blanket of snow, a spring afternoon like Saturday is about as good as it gets in the Classic City. The track athletes we saw from as far away as Minnesota had to
Things did get off to a disappointing start. Those hoping to see a little tennis were met with the unusual news that a lack of healthy players forced Tennessee to forfeit. The Diamond Dawgs squandered an early bases-loaded situation with three consecutive strikeouts, and things only got worse at Foley Field.
After an unproductive fourth inning at Foley, a mass exodus carried fans north to Sanford Stadium just in time for the start of G-Day. The crowd was as impressive as you’d hope for on such a perfect day with much of the South stands full, a solid group on the North side, and even some sections occupied in the endzones.
On to the bullets…
- The game started slowly as the defenses set the tone, but it turned into one of the more entertaining spring games in recent memory. When you fake an extra point against no defense or have Michael Bennett attempt a pass off of a reverse, you know that things loosened up after a more business-like first quarter. The back-and-forth final ten minutes of the game were worth hanging around for. We were hoping Rome would dunk over the crossbar.
- Tight end should be relatively far down on the list of concerns. Replacing White and Charles is a big job, but Rome and Lynch both looked up to the task. Neither will be the smooth hybrid receiver that Charles was, but if you think in terms of the role of a typical tight end, Georgia has two good ones.
- Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much in another area of concern. Georgia will be replacing both its placekicker and punter, and the format of G-Day doesn’t lend itself to much evaluation of special teams. Actually, the placekicking wasn’t all that bad. I don’t recall a missed kick, and a few were from over 40 yards out. Punting was rough, and it’s safe to say that the job is Collin Barber’s to lose when he arrives on campus.
- The format also put the brakes on what otherwise would have been a dominant showing by the starting front seven on defense. No one was looking to fly full-speed into a quarterback, but the pressure was there a lot more often than it wasn’t. Washington’s midseason contributions last year keep us from calling this a breakout season for him, but offenses will have a lot to think about when they see #29 and #83 on the field at the same time – if they can handle the guys up front first.
- You look at John Jenkins and Abry Jones and you understand why there was some worry they’d they’d be preparing for an NFL minicamp this spring. Georgia’s starting defensive line should have a fun year. It also looks as if Ray Drew has found a home with his hand on the ground. Drew might have outgrown the OLB position, but his speed from the defensive end spot caused some problems. If the secondary is a concern, if only because of depth, a strong line can make things easier.
- In the running game you saw a very solid group of returning players but also why it would have been nice to get a look at Marshall. Crowell looked comfortable and confident – a big deal after spending the last half of 2011 unable to trust his legs. As good as Crowell ran the ball, his protection stood out as well. On one first half drive that resulted in a score, Crowell picked up the pass rush on three straight plays. Malcome also looked to benefit from a year’s experience and maturity. Neither broke especially long runs, and that’s hopefully where someone like Marshall can come in. Credit the defense though for preventing the big gains on the ground.
- Richard Samuel had fans searching their programs in the second half when he put on the #19 jersey and moved from fullback to tailback. He ran with the same straight-ahead style we’ve come to expect from him, and he was delivering some punishment. I do think Samuel will find more playing time at fullback though Ogletree can’t be forgotten. Samuel does give the team one of its best running options at fullback in a long time, and a quick punch from the fullback doesn’t only have to be a short-yardage play – see Ogletree’s long gain at Tech last year.
- We saw why Hutson Mason can afford a redshirt season. That’s no knock on Mason who had a very solid game (9-12, 133 yards, 1 TD) playing for both sides. LeMay looked like a capable backup to Murray, showing nice touch and running ability. As with most freshmen, LeMay will have to work on his feel for the game – when to get rid of the ball, when to protect the ball and take a sack, and how to secure the ball when he tucks and runs. For that reason I think the redshirt might come off of Mason if something long-term kept Murray out, but LeMay will be just fine in a short-term #2 role.
- As expected, the offensive line was a mixed bag. Holes were there for some nice runs, and at times the defensive pressure was overwhelming.
- Receivers likewise had a lukewarm day. There were a few nice catches – King’s score was impressive, and Wooten adjusted well to snag an early floater from LeMay. Justin Scott-Wesley made his case for some playing time, and there was an instant where his track speed threatened to show itself. Brown probably hoped for a better day aside from one devastating block, and his production didn’t do much for the breakout season talk. Whether it was the personnel or the playcalling or the effect of the defense, neither offense looked downfield much at all. Branden Smith got in a couple of times on offense, but there wasn’t much to talk about: he was a decoy on a pass play, and a play that looked like an option with he and LeMay was botched.
- Finally, it was a well-received and smart gesture to make a legend like Charley Trippi a central part of the weekend. The ovation recognizing him before the second quarter was one of the game’s loudest moments.
MORE: G-Day 2012 Stats