ATHENS, Ga. – There have been times during spring practices when Georgia’s offense got competitive, and tried harder to beat the defense in the drill. The response, according to one player, has been indifference.
“(Offensive coordinator) Bobo might try to win the drill, but we’re just trying to do stuff to get us better, and work on our fundamental stuff and our schemes,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said.
That likely is a preview of what fans will see at G-Day on Saturday.
The format for the game is the same as last year: The first-team offense and first-team defense on opposite teams, going at each other, and likewise for the second-team offense and second-team defense. Bobo coaches one team, new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt the other.
But whereas last year Bobo and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had a spirited competition – with Grantham’s team coming out ahead – Pruitt’s focus will not be on winning.
“I hope (fans) see us get lined up. I hope they see us play hard every snap. I hope we tackle well. I hope we play the ball in the deep part of the field,” Pruitt said. “Just fundamental: Striking blockers, keep the ball leveraged, that’s what we’ve been harping on all spring. Hopefully they’ll see that.”
It’s important that fans not overrate what they see in Saturday’s game. Remember, last year’s G-Day saw the defense essentially beat the offense, whose star was receiver Jonathon Rumph.
When the season rolled around, the offense carried Georgia, but with little help from Rumph, while the defense struggled.
This time, the offense will also be limited by injury: Receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, tailback Keith Marshall and tight end Jay Rome are all out. In fact if Jordan Davis (knee sprain) doesn’t play, the only scholarship tight end in the game will be converted fullback Quayvon Hicks.
There’s another reason not to put much stock in the game: Head coach Mark Richt also said that – like in most spring games – both the offense and defense will hold back things they want to save for the season.
“I don’t think we’re gonna try to do a lot of things on defense,” Richt said. “We’ll try to line up and play some good solid fundamental defense. Being the fact that it is Jeremy’s first year as the coordinator, people look at our TV spring game. You know, people try to get clues on what they can figure out.
“I’m sure Clemson’ll be getting our spring game, we’ll be getting theirs. South Carolina will be getting ours, we’ll get theirs. They’ll be looking for any clue they can get that might help them over the offseason as to how to prepare. So I doubt we’ll do everything we’ll do in the fall, obviously. But I would say it’d be pretty base. Try not to trick anybody. See who can play defense.”
Ultimately, that will be the key thing to watch on Saturday: Which defensive players perform the best, and thus have the best chance to play heading into the summer.
Offensively, there are some intriguing storylines as well:
- Which quarterback – Faton Bauta or Brice Ramsey – has a better day, as they battle to be Hutson Mason’s top backup.
- Whether skill position players battling for spots can show up. That includes Hicks, tailbacks Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman, and receivers such as Rumph, Blake Tibbs, Kenneth Towns and Uriah LeMay.
- Finally, the offensive line. The guard spots still seem up for grabs, as might right tackle. But John Theus appears to have locked down left tackle after a strong spring.
"I feel like Theus at left tackle is going to be a force to be reckoned with this fall," Jenkins said.
The game will consist of four 12-minute quarters, and there will be the usual limits, especially on special teams: Instead of kickoffs, the ball will just be placed at the 25, most punts will just be marked off 35 yards, and there will be no rush on field goals and extra points.
Realistically, the first two scrimmages might be more important, because they were closed to the public. But because G-Day is in front of a crowd, players admit the intensity will be ratched up.
“There are people in the stands. You want to show out,” receiver Chris Conley said. “Hopefully the guys will take this seriously, like they have in the past. And they’ll compete.”
Jenkins said the defense wanted to give Georgia fans some hope.
“Just to showcase how we feel like, to really make amends for last year, and showcase what this season is going to be like in the fall,” Jenkins said. “And just to show off all the effort the coaches have put into us, and the effort we put into this program in the last couple months.”