Although Georgia's defense dominated the team's first preseason scrimmage Saturday night at Sanford Stadium, coach Mark Richt offered a surprising twist at the end of the evening.
His staff isn't necessarily sold on the positioning within his linebacking corps.
Much offseason talk has concerned senior Brandon Miller's move from strongside linebacker to the middle, with Dannell Ellerbe at weakside and Darius Dewberry at strongside. But Richt said after the scrimmage that "it's not etched in stone right now how we'll line up at linebacker."
Miller is cross-training at strongside and the middle, while Dewberry is working at strongside and weakside and Ellerbe at weakside and in the middle.
Richt said that move is not made out of displeasure with how the three starters are filling their roles, but instead to build quality depth at each position.
"By the time the second, third scrimmage rolls around, we'll know how to line 'em up," Richt said, later adding, "It'll be a combination of those three -- whichever we think is the one that everybody feels the most comfortable at."
The possible switcheroo at linebacker doesn't change the fact that the defense owned the day, thanks in part to a rash of injuries to the young offensive line.
Senior tackle Chester Adams was already out with an ankle injury and freshman guard Tanner Strickland was on crutches with a foot sprain before the scrimmage even started. When starting guard Scott Haverkamp went down early in the scrimmage with an ankle injury, the No. 1 offensive line then featured senior center Fernando Velasco and four freshmen -- tackles Clint Boling and Trinton Sturdivant and guards Justin Anderson and Chris Davis.
"It's no fun for the offense today, really," Richt said.
The scrimmage put the first and second teams in numerous situations, running eight-play drives, one-minute drills and red-zone series. And the defense was by far the most effective in most of the situations.
Matthew Stafford was 13-for-20 passing for 125 yards and one touchdown, a 9-yarder to Tony Wilson. Backup Joe Cox was 5-for-16 for 64 yards, mostly against the starting defense.
Redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno was the top ground gainer with 36 yards on five carries. Senior Kregg Lumpkin had three carries for 12 yards and a touchdown and Thomas Brown had two carries for 4 yards.
The swagger is now back for Georgia’s defense after the offense seemed to steal it with a dynamic spring game. But Brown said he's not concerned just yet.
"I'm not taking anything away from the defense, but that's the way it is every year. The defense always wins the first scrimmage," he said. "We'll be a lot better in the second and third scrimmages."
That doesn't change the fact the defense ended the first week of preseason camp with quite an enjoyable performance.
"It was fun to watch without question, but they've got to temper their excitement because of the rookies they were going up against," Richt said.
Notable scrimmage stats
Stafford threw 20 of the Bulldogs' 46 passes, with Cox, Blake Barnes and Logan Gray splitting the other attempts.
True freshman Gray -- who was 2-for-4 for 8 yards -- threw the only other touchdown, an 8-yard fade to Kris Durham.
Barnes was 2-for-6 for 26 yards.
In addition to the tailbacks' rushing production, backup fullback Jason Johnson ran seven times for 12 yards and a score.
Sean Bailey led the receivers with two catches for 45 yards. Durham had three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown and Wilson had three for 30 yards and a score.
Backup middle linebacker Marcus Washington led the defenders with an unofficial total of seven tackles. Ellerbe and Akeem Dent had six apiece -- and Ellerbe added 1.5 sacks -- and Dewberry had five tackles.
"I think the whole defense did a good job," Miller said. "We had a lot of great effort, we had guys running to the ball, we had guys hitting, we had the whole sideline getting up for guys making plays. It was a lot to go on on defense today."
Safety Kelin Johnson forced a fumble that defensive tackle Jeff Owens recovered and defensive tackles Kade Weston and Corvey Irvin combined on a safety on a situational drill where the offense started at its own 1-yard line.
Weston moved into a first-team defensive tackle spot on Saturday ahead of sophomore Geno Atkins.
Defensive end Jarius Wynn was pleased with the defense's performance, but he wanted to wait until the coaches come back today with the results of their late-night review before he declared the day a complete success.
"I think we did good, but it's still too early," said Wynn, who batted down a pass in the scrimmage. "We'll know tomorrow."
Not to be a downer, but...
Richt said the dominant performance in the scrimmage might have removed some of the bad taste in the defense's mouth after allowing 52 total points in the G-Day game, but he gave them a grave reminder.
Oklahoma State, the team Georgia will host in the Sept. 1 season opener, won't have many of the problems the Bulldogs' starting offense had Saturday night. The Cowboys return numerous playmakers -- including quarterback Bobby Reid, receiver Adarius Bowman and running back Dantrell Savage -- from last year's dynamic offense.
"They enjoyed it and I told them to enjoy it. But I said to just temper it a little bit because we're playing with a bunch of rookies up front," Richt said. "The team we're gonna play is gonna have nine returning starters and one of the hottest offenses in the United States of America, so don't get too happy."
Adams and Haverkamp will both be out "a while" Richt said, noting his starting offensive line will not be together for at least the next week. Strickland might be out for two weeks or more, leaving the coaches few options on the line in the near future.
"It's tough. There's no veteran competition," Richt said. "We have two seniors, one junior, one sophomore. The rest are freshmen. That's all we've got."
Receiver Mikey Henderson (hip pointer), tight end Tripp Chandler (ribs), defensive tackle Brandon Wood (back) and offensive lineman Chris Little (wrist) were all decked out in green no-contact jerseys and were unable to scrimmage.
Henderson said he should be able to return early next week, possibly Monday.
"Stopping is the worst and trying to burst off of it, but I'll definitely get better and it'll definitely go away," he said. "I've just got to wait."
Defensive tackle Ricardo Crawford watched the scrimmage in shorts and t-shirt because of heat-related issues from Saturday morning's kicking scrimmage. He should be able to resume practice when the Bulldogs return to the practice field next week.
Brandon Coutu hit a 36-yard field goal and Andy Bailey hit from 44 yards in the scrimmage. ... Coutu said he's an emergency option only on the punting depth chart and Richt said Brian Mimbs and freshman Drew Butler are "about even" at this point. ... Coutu and walk-on Bo Stansell are the leading candidates for kickoff duties. Richt complimented Stansell for his performance in Saturday morning's kicking scrimmage. ... Cornerback Ramarcus Brown recorded two pass breakups in the scrimmage. ... The Bulldogs will take today off and return to the practice field on Monday.