Probably the biggest surprise of the spring has been the play of nose guard Kwame Geathers. The 6-foot-6, 341-pound sophomore had been largely written off after an unspectacular freshman campaign. But he went out and was named defensive MVP by the coaching staff for spring practice, then backed that up with four tackles — including two for minus-8 yards — in the spring game.
So what happened?
“He probably heard Big John Jenkins was coming into town to take his job,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said after the game. “That probably lit a fire under him.”
Jenkins is the 350-plus-pound JUCO All-American nose guard the Bulldogs signed to much fanfare out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. It has been generally assumed Jenkins will win the starting role. Except, that is, by Geathers.
“It was motivating,” Geathers said. “I’m ready for him to come in. He’s going to help this team out. Even though he’s coming in to compete with me for a job, he’s going to help us as a team. But it did motivate me a good bit.”
Said Grantham: “I think he’s gotten better every practice.
Joe T provides real incentive for G-Day
As has been the tradition of the G-Day Game, members of the winning team gets a steak dinner while the losing team has to have beanie-weanies. But that meal actually wasn’t taking place Saturday night.
“I’m not sure when that meal is going to take place,” Richt said. “The real incentive is the winning team is probably going to be excused from one of Joe T’s workouts.”
Joe T is Joe Tereshinski, Georgia’s new strength and conditioning coordinator.
Christian LeMay delivers game-winning drive
Freshman Christian LeMay was impressive in leading the Black Team on the 75-yard, game-winning drive. But anyone who thinks that was a sign of an impending quarterback controversy for the backup role behind Aaron Murray might want to think again.
“I think Christian LeMay right now is only competing with the playbook,” Richt said. “Really you can’t play that position unless you know what you’re doing. I wouldn’t even say it’s a competition right now. In the fall, I’m sure it will become more of one.”
In that vein, Murray’s current backup Hutson Mason also had a good day and talked about how much more comfortable he felt Saturday than at any other time.
“Actually I’m really surprised I’ve caught on this fast,” said Mason, a sophomore from Marietta. “It seems like it just clicked for me. In the fall I was kind of rushed into things and didn’t really have much of a window to learn it. Now I feel like I know everyone’s position instead of just mine, which you have to know as the quarterback.”
Mason (6-3, 200) was 9-of-16 passing for 109 yards and threw an interception. LeMay (6-2, 200), a midyear enrollee from Matthews, N.C., finished with 38 yards on 3-of-6 passing and displayed a surprisingly strong arm.
Murray had a typically solid day: 12-of-17 for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Richt was disappointed with quarterback play
Richt said afterward he was disappointed with quarterback play. Not the ones in the game, mind you, but the four former UGA quarterbacks who competed in a skills contest at halftime.
David Greene, D.J. Shockley, Matthew Stafford and Eric Zeier got five tries to throw a football into a 50-gallon trashcan 35 yards away, through a tire from 12 yards away and to fans picked out of the stands who ran pass patterns. Stafford — the No. 1 pickin the 2009 draft — won the competition. But Richt wasn’t impressed.
“I would’ve liked to have seen those guys throw at least one in the bucket,” Richt quipped. “That was kind of embarrassing. But the wind was blowing I guess. I wish those guys would have thrown it a little better. That was the only disappointment I had.”
Lettermen were very involved in the 2011 G-Day. There was a flag football game featuring former players before the game and dozens hung out on the sidelines and in the stands.
“Seriously, I can’t tell you how fun it was to have all those former players here,” Richt said. “It’s good to see those guys and great that they want to come back.”
So what about running backs?
Richt: “You saw Kenny Malcome make some nice runs. He had some space and he took advantage of it. He has always finished runs well, which has been what we always liked the most about Kenny. When he makes contact he’s normally knocking somebody back and running through a tackle. I saw some of that.
Malcome led the Black Team with 39 yards and scored the game-winning TD on a 12-yard run. The Red Team’s Carlton Thomas led all rushers with 48 yards on 13 carries. Richt also said he was pleased with Caleb King, who had 30 yards on five carries.
There were ball security issues again. The Red Team had four fumbles and lost three, including one by Thomas inside the Black Team’s 5 on the game’s opening drive.
Who is Connor Norman?
The real star of Saturday’s game was walk-on defensive back Connor Norman. Wearing No. 11 for the Black Team, the rising sophomore from Duluth had five tackles, three pass deflections and a highlight-reel interception.
“We weren’t sure at all what we had with Connor,” Richt said. “We knew he was able to play safety and the nickel position. You could tell he was never afraid to come up and make a play as far as tackling. That was a very athletic interception and you saw good instincts. Sometimes a play like that will catch the eye of a special teams coach.”
‘Dream Team in the house’
Many of the members of Georgia’s “Dream Team” 2011 recruiting class were in attendance, including 5-star prospects Isaiah Crowell and Ray Drew. Richt credits their presence for some of the strong performances of returning lettermen this spring.
“They realize there’s a pack of Dogs coming in to try to get playing time and win jobs and things of that nature,” Richt said. “I think that’s going to ignite and excite this program.”
Defense dominates in Boise State’s spring game
Boise State, the Bulldogs’ opponent in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in September, also held its spring game on Saturday. Attendance was 14,445.
Utilizing a defense vs. offense points-earning format, the defense won 21-13. The defense scored its points on six three-and-outs, five sacks, one interception and two red-zone stops, according to Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman. One of the Broncos’ issues in 2011 is finding new play-makers at the receiver position. Sophomore wideout Geraldo Hiwat took the early lead in fulfilling that role with five catches for 97 yards. And the play of star quarterback Kellen Moore was described as “unimpressive.” The 6-foot, 190-pound senior was 5-of-14 for 50 yards, often missing completions by inches.
You can read Cripe’s full report in the Idaho Statesman by CLICKING HERE.
This & That . . .
Saturday’s attendance of 43,117 set a G-Day Game record. The previous record of 42,458 was set in 2009. . . . Chase Vasser and Alec Ogletree led all tacklers with 7 apiece. . . . Defensive end Reuben Faloughi had three sacks. Grantham also lauded DE Derek Lott, who had two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. . . . Boise State, Georgia’s opponent in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Sept. 3 at the Georgia Dome, was conducting its spring game Saturday night. Kickoff was set for 7 p.m. EST.
For the first time since, well, nobody really knows, the UGA Redcoat Band played from its new perch in the west-end bleachers at Sanford Stadium. The move was recommended by first-year AD Greg McGarity, who thought it would provide better acoustics. Previously the bad sat on the North side next to the student section. “I went to that side during the game just to listen and I think they could actually hear the band over there for the first time,” McGarity said.