If you’re looking for definitive answers about a football team, spring practice isn’t the time or place. That’s what fall is for. Yet Georgia’s spring practice, which ended with the G-Day game on Saturday, provided a few revealing threads:
1. The offensive line is benefiting from the experience young players gained the past couple of years.
Example: Cordy Glenn. When the offensive coaches named their spring MVP, they chose the left guard, who enters his junior season with 23 UGA starts already.
“Early on, obviously as a freshman, he had to depend on a lot of guys next to him to help him out,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “Now he pretty much knows what we’re doing, and he’s able to execute and then use his God-given ability to dominate. And that’s what kind of player we think he can be.”
Bobo said the entire first-team offensive line -– left tackle Clint Boling, Glenn, center Ben Jones, right guard Chris Davis and right tackle Josh Davis –- had a strong spring. The group will be reinforced if Trinton Sturdivant, who started as a freshman in 2007 but missed the past two seasons because of knee surgeries, and Tanner Strickland, who missed last season because of shoulder surgery, return this summer as planned.
2. Todd Grantham is . . . intense.
G-Day offered little insight into Georgia’s new 3-4 defensive scheme, but it did provide a good glimpse of the new defensive coordinator. Grantham is a fiery presence on the sideline –- even in a spring intra-squad game.
“Well, anytime you’re playing, it’s important, and that’s the thing I wanted to get across to our players,” Grantham said. “Any time you step on the field, it’s important you do your job. And our job is to hold people to low numbers and to stop people.”
“That’s what you want . . . a guy that’s got some fire in him,” said head coach Mark Richt, known for his low-key sideline demeanor. “I think it’s probably good to have somebody who’s a little more outwardly excited. I do get excited on the inside, but it’s good to have that energy on the sidelines.”
3. Three NFL-bound defensive tackles will be sorely missed.
Defensive line coach Rodney Garner was reminded of the talent lost from last season’s line when he looked up at practice one day last week and saw Geno Atkins visiting. “I was, like, ‘As big a headache as you were, I’d sure love to have that headache back,’” Garner said with a laugh.
The loss of three senior defensive tackles –- Jeff Owens, Kade Weston and Atkins -– and the transition to the 3-4 defense made the spring difficult for the D-line. Practices ended with a No. 1 unit of DeAngelo Tyson at nose, Abry Jones at left end and Demarcus Dobbs at right end. Of the three, only Dobbs has started a college game, and he admits the 3-4 is a different world for him.
“We’re making some progress . . . but we’ve still got a ways to go,” Garner said. “DeAngelo and Abry, they’ve been role guys. Now you got to step up to the plate and be the guy. It’s different being a guy and the guy.”
4. Washaun Ealey is going to be even better than last season.
You didn’t see it in the G-Day game, mostly because the coaches didn’t want opponents to see much, but the rising sophomore tailback had a terrific spring by all accounts.
Ealey ran for 717 yards in nine games (two starts) last season and seems hungry for much more. He is in better shape, has a better grasp of the offense and is working with better “tempo and confidence,” Richt said.
As for the other half of last season’s tailback tandem, Caleb King missed the final week of spring practice, including G-Day, because of a sore, swollen knee. “We think he’ll be fine in a week or two and able to do everything all summer,” Richt said.
5. The quarterback debate is just beginning.
You’ll get a real-time gauge on the quarterback race, as well as the competition at all other positions, when coaches unveil their post-spring depth chart, probably late this week. But the spring’s fluctuating performances suggest the Aaron Murray-Logan Gray-Zach Mettenberger battle will remain fluid -– and hotly debated, to be sure.
“Ultimately, everybody’s going to have to compete again during fall camp, go out and take reps and make plays and run the offense again,” said Gray, the only quarterback in the program who has ever taken a snap in a college game.
Truth is, the quarterback debate won’t subside until one player proves himself unequivocally in games that count. A key question in picking a starter, Richt said, is: “Can he handle the pressure of the job?” And “this is just the beginning,” Richt added, “of feeling the pressure of the job.”
Good news from UGA today on the G-Day injury front:
Both players “should be fine,” UGA said.
UGA’s annual tour of Bulldog Club meetings around the state begins next week. All stops on the “Dawg Days” tour start with social hour at 6 p.m., followed by program at 7 p.m. Here’s the schedule and who’ll be attending from UGA:
April 22 in Columbus: Mark Richt, Mark Fox and Damon Evans
April 28 in Savannah: Richt and Fox
April 29 in Augusta: Richt and Fox
May 12 in Macon: Richt and Fox
May 13 in Statesboro: Richt
May 26 in Albany: Richt
May 27 in Griffin: Richt
July 26 in Atlanta (Cobb Galleria Centre): Richt, Fox and Evans
More details, including locations and contact info, are here.
OK, your turn: What did you take away from Georgia’s spring practice?