I’ve had a couple of folks ask me this week: What will you be watching for at Saturday’s G-Day game?
Well, like most Dogs fans, I’ll be interested to see how the defense looks under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, particularly the secondary, though I’m not expecting to see anything but vanilla schemes in the spring intrasquad game.
As Mark Richt said this week, “I don’t think we are going to try to do a lot of things on defense Saturday. I think we’ll line up and play some good, solid fundamental defense. I doubt we will do everything that we’ll do in the fall. We aren’t going to try to trick anybody, but just see who can play defense.”
Mainly, I’ll be watching Georgia’s defenders in terms of fundamentals like tackling and covering — which is what Pruitt has stressed during spring practice — to see if there’s any obvious improvement from last season. And with a crowd of players competing for the starting cornerback spot opposite Damian Swann and the two safety spots, I’ll be interested in seeing if anyone stands out and whether Brendan Langley has progressed since last season now that he’s not having to think so much about where he’s supposed to be in Todd Grantham’s complicated defense. Plus I’ll be watching tailback-turned-defender J.J. Green, one of the most talked-up players this spring, at the nickel back position.
I’ll also be watching the reconstituted offensive line, which is replacing three starters and will be a key factor in how quarterback Hutson Mason and the running game fare this fall. Speaking of quarterback, with Mason all but locked in as the starter, I’ll be interested to see how the much more closely contested battle between Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta for the No. 2 spot goes Saturday. With contrasting playing styles — Ramsey’s a strong-armed pocket passer while Bauta is more of a running QB — it should be interesting.
And when it comes to receiving, I’ll be watching to see whether Jonathon Rumph continues to impress and how Quayvon Hicks looks at tight end.
What I won’t be doing is getting too excited or depressed based on what I see, because while it’ll be played in Sanford Stadium before something like 40,000 fans and will be televised live on CSS, the G-Day game is still basically a spring scrimmage. The “game,” consisting of four 12-minute quarters, will have the players divided up into Red and Black teams that feature the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, but there will be no sacking the quarterbacks, no kickoffs and no punt returns.
There’ll also be a bunch of players on the field you’ve never heard of, as Richt noted they will “try to get everyone some reps. Some guys may start on one side, and then they will flip jerseys the second half.”
As a fan, I don’t really want either the offense or the defense to be too dominant, since that usually indicates a team that has problems. As for how individual players do, I know some fans have gotten all worked up in the past, for instance, about one of the backup QBs having better G-Day numbers than the starter, but that’s a pointless exercise. I have faith that the Georgia coaching staff, whose jobs ride on the results, start the best quarterback they have.
Mainly, what my brothers and I will be doing Saturday is enjoying another chance to watch Georgia football on what’s expected to be a warm, sunny spring day in Athens.
G-Day is really for the fans. Some schools are dispensing with spring games in favor of a perhaps more productive controlled scrimmage, but UGA seems to understand the positives of letting thousands of potential future paying customers into the stands for free to soak up some of that Between the Hedges atmosphere. That’s why they have the alumni lettermen’s flag football game (starting shortly after the gates open at 11 a.m.), stage contests at halftime and this week even had tight ends coach John Lilly tweeting for fans to submit diagrams of plays they’d like to see, from which the staff will select one to run.
The players do get something out of G-Day, though — a chance to shine in front of a cheering throng. As wide receiver Chris Conley told our Tim Tucker this week, the players look forward to having fans in the stands Saturday. “We approach it just like it’s a game. We don’t really approach it like a practice,” he said. “There are people in the stands, you want to show out.”
MORE G-DAY NOTES
A pancake breakfast sponsored by UGA’s Undergraduate Neuroscience Organization to raise money for research into Parkinson’s disease is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Hall, immediately adjacent to Sanford Stadium. Tickets to the all-you-can-eat breakfast are $5 and can be bought at the door. All proceeds will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Also, the UGA Student Alumni Association again will be holding a G-Day Tailgate in Tate Plaza between the Tate Center and the UGA Bookstore from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The pre-game festitivites will include barbecue, refreshments, giveaways, performances, an appearance by the Redcoat Band and more. … Surface lots around the stadium will be open to the public Saturday and handicap parking is available in the Tate Center lot and East Campus lot. Fans can enter the stadium through Gates 2, 4, 6, 9 and 10 beginning at 11 a.m. While admission is free, the UGA Athletic Association is again teaming up with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia for a canned food drive. Canned food donations will be accepted at Gates 2, 4, 6 and 9. … Fans attending Saturday’s game will experience intermittent wireless service in the stadium because of an ongoing project to upgrade wireless communications inside Sanford. The upgrade is expected to be finished in time for the season opener against Clemson. … Saturday also will see the Spec Towns National Team Invitational at the UGA track complex on Lumpkin Street and the Diamond Dogs will face Tennessee at Foley Field at 4 p.m. in a game rescheduled in order to allow fans who come to the G-Day game to attend.
ICE AGE HAS ARRIVED IN ATHENS!
The UGA club hockey team played its first home match on the new ice rink at Athens’ Classic Center Wednesday night, playing host to Georgia Tech, and Blawg reader Connor Kelly reports the Ice Dogs crushed the Jackets, winning 6-3 before a packed house of 2,100 at the sold-out arena. On hand were UGA President Jere Morehead and athletic department representaives.
Reports Connor: “It was an action packed night, with big hits, great goals, and cheering fans. The game started with a deadlock score of 1-1 after after the first period. The Ice Dawgs took over in the second period with two power-play goals and never looked back, cruising to an easy victory over the hated Yellow Jackets.”
Connor adds that “fans of all ages seemed to enjoy the intense atmosphere and fast-paced action of hockey in Athens. After seeing the success that was tonight, I can only expect bigger things for the Ice Dawgs next fall!”
The hockey team will play a regular schedule of home games at the Classic Center starting in September.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg