ATHENS – Georgia held its first formal scrimmage of the spring Saturday at Sanford Stadium. And while the defense dominated as it has been throughout, there were some positive signs for the offense.
Namely, Jay Rome.
The redshirt freshman tight end from Valdosta got loose for two touchdowns, including a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone that had coaches and players buzzing long after the two-hour scrimmage concluded.
“It was pretty acrobatic,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He had to kind of turn his body and reach back and snag it. He landed off his feet and the ball didn’t come out.”
Rome’s other touchdown came on a 30-yard pass from Hutson Mason down the middle of the field, a la Orson Charles.
“I ran a little seam route up the middle,” Rome recounted. “I don’t know if it was a broken coverage or what but I looked up and there was nobody in the middle and I just reached up and caught the ball and jogged in. There was nobody around.”
But it was the short touchdown catch during goal-line work at the end of the practice everybody was raving about.
“I ran a corner route to the back pylon and Parker [Welch] put it high for me and I went up to catch it,” Rome said. “It was a really high ball but I was able to get up there for it. I attribute that to basketball. I don’t know if I could’ve gotten up there last year when I had all that extra weight on me. Coach [Mark] Fox made a point to run that off of me and I think that helped.”
Afterward, Rome was beaming. Topping off the whole day was the fact that his father, Valdosta legend and Clemson two-way star Stan Rome, was there along with little brother Justin, 9.
“I just told myself I was going to come out and play hard and just have fun at today’s scrimmage,” said Rome, who ESPN rated as the top tight end prospect in the country last year. “That’s the biggest thing me and my dad were talking about, just having fun. I talk to him probably two or three times a day.”
With Charles, Aron White and Athur Lynch ahead of him last season, Rome redshirted and decided to go out for the Georgia basketball team. He played sparingly in a backup role as a forward and missed much of the Bulldogs’ off-season football work the first three months of this year.
“The transition from basketball wasn’t nearly as hard as the transition to basketball,” Rome said. “I came back and I was in really good shape. I just had to get back to being really physical and stuff like that. I’ve been staying after practice trying to catch a lot of extra balls just trying to catch myself back up and getting used to it.”
Rome wasn’t the only young offensive player to turn heads. Several Bulldogs mentioned that true freshman tailback Keith Marshall looked good, especially on one particular run.
“Keith Marshall showed why he was the number one running back,” senior wideout Tavarres King said. “He broke a long one up the middle that was pretty nice.”
Georgia’s No. 1 offense drove the length of the field against the No. 1 defense on the opening drive but failed to get in the end zone after reaching the 1 and had to settle for a field goal.
“The offense came out with a bang today,” nose guard John Jenkins said. “You could tell they were fighting. Overall it was a good scrimmage.”
Quarterback Aaron Murray agreed.
“Bobo was very happy with us at the end,” Murray said. “It wasn’t perfect but, for being a first scrimmage, I thought it we looked very impressive offensively. We had some great drives, made some great plays in both the passing and running game. So I’m happy with how far we’ve come in two weeks.”
Following are what coach Mark Richt referred to as the Unofficial/Official stats. You have to keep in mind the scrimmages are not conducted like a real games. Most of the work is situational. So for what it’s worth . . .
THE “UNOFFICIAL/OFFICIAL” SCRIMMAGE STATS
Murray 9-18-1, 74 yards, 0 TDs
Mason 5-12-0, 59 yards, 1 TD
LeMay 2-7-1, 44 yards, 0 TDs
Welch 2-6-0, 2 yards, 0 TDs
Bingham 0-1-0, 0 yards, 0 TDs
Harton 8-24 yards
Karempelis 8-22 yards
Marshall 5-18 yards
Crowell 4-19 yards
Malcome 4-13 yards
Bradberry 4-14 yards
Scott-Wesley 3-51 yards
Lynch 3-17 yards
Brown 2-17 yards
King 3-21 yards
Rome 1-30 yards, TD
Mitchell 1-20 yards
Malcome 2-yard TD
Crowell 1-yard TD
Rome TD catch
S. Williams 4.5 tackles, INT (34-yard return)
Drew 4 tackles, TFL
B. Smith 4 tackles, TFL
Thornton 3.5 tackles, 3 sacks
Vasser 3.5 tackles, 2 sacks
J. Jones 3 tackles, 2 sacks
Rambo 3 tackles
A. Ogletree 3 tackles, 0.5 sack
Mitchell 3 tackles, TFL
Swann 3 tackles, sack
Commings 3 tackles, TFL
Gilliard INT (2-yard return)
R. Lowe sack
G. Smith sack
K. Geathers 0.5 sack