Something that new UGA defensive coordinator (and quote-machine-in-the-making) Jeremy Pruitt said the other day brought home to me the futility in trying to use spring practice storylines to predict regular season fall headlines.
Talking about his resistance to giving out honors this time of the year, Pruitt said about spring defensive MVP Ramik Wilson and Coffee County Hustle Award winner J.J. Green: “To me, those awards are spring awards. Those two guys may end up being starters, leaders or whatever, or they may not play. It’ll be up to them between now and fall camp.”
While I think he was laying out the extreme possibilities just to make a point — the likelihood of either Wilson or Green not playing this fall seem remote — Pruitt’s attitude is in line with what Georgia has experienced in recent years.
Last year, all the spring talk about the big hits freshman safety Tray Matthews was laying on folks at the Woodruff Practice Fields and the way Todd Grantham was talking about building his defense around spring MVP Josh Harvey-Clemons had fans salivating over the prospects of a shutdown secondary.
Well, we all know how that worked out. While Harvey-Clemons had a decent year when he wasn’t being suspended, he never really lived up to expectations, and now he’s no longer on the team. As for Matthews, he couldn’t stay healthy long enough to really develop into a top-notch safety.
Also last year, junior college transfer receiver Jonathon Rumph turned in the standout performance of G-Day, with four receptions for 98 yards, including two touchdowns. Come the regular season, he also had injury trouble, progressed slowly and never really became the difference-maker a lot of folks had hoped he’d become.
Looking back over spring reports the past five years, I see several storylines that never turned into much. In 2012, the word was Isaiah Crowell had matured and was ready to be the dominant running back Georgia’s offense needed. By fall, he was gone. Oh, and that spring the big story was Malcolm Mitchell switching to defense, which didn’t last long thank goodness.
And remember the three-way quarterback battle of 2010, and how all anyone could talk about after the spring game was Zach Mettenberger? He didn’t even make it through the spring as a Bulldog.
And then there was little Carlton Thomas tearing it up at tailback in 2009’s G-Day game. That wound up being more a symptom of Georgia’s offensive anemia at the time than anything positive.
Back to this spring. Green made the switch from a crowded tailback corps to the defense and wowed everyone with not just the speed with which he made the transition, but also his effectiveness and aggressive play, especially in the nickel back position. Hopefully, this will be an instance where the spring story carries over, but G-Day was no indication because an injury kept Green out.
The other player who’d been drawing strong notices this spring was last year’s G-Day star, Rumph, but his spring game was not that impressive, hurt by a couple of drops. He’s a big kid and a senior, so I’m hoping that proves to be just a bad day and he does become a contributor in the regular season.
Of course, then there are the feel-good G-Day stories of a couple of walk-ons: wide receiver Clay Johnson, who came out of nowhere to grab five passes, and cornerback Aaron Davis, who started on the first-string defense and had a pretty good day. Of the two, Davis probably stands the better chance of actually getting some playing time in the fall, since Georgia will be pretty well stacked at receiver.
Like Pruitt said, you never know; it’s just spring ball.
JUNKYARD MAIL CALL
Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at email@example.com.
Find me on Facebook.
Follow me on Twitter.
— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg