Current players impress amidst chatter of star newcomers

The curtain came down on Georgia’s spring practice with Saturday’s annual G-Day game.

Black team running back Brandon Harton (20) pushes for a few extra yards as the Red team’s Alec Ogletree brings him down during the G-Day game on Saturday.
Richard Hamm

The next time the team plays a live game, its "Dream Team" recruiting class will be a reality as they join the Bulldogs who are already in the program.

Several players from the previous couple of recruiting classes – including Kwame Geathers, Alec Ogletree and Ken Malcome – showed that they may have the goods to make an impact themselves this season.

"I think the guys that are here currently realized there’s a pack of dogs coming to try to get playing time and try to win jobs," Georgia coach Mark Richt said after the Black team beat the Red team 18-11 before an announced G-Day record crowd of 43,117 in Sanford Stadium. "I think that’s really going to ignite and excite the program."

Geathers, who plays the same nose guard position as junior college signee John Jenkins, certainly looked inspired this spring when he was named the defensive MVP.

He showed why on Saturday with four tackles, including two for a loss, and a forced fumble to help lead the Black team.

Ogletree, the top recruit from last year’s class who moved from safety to inside linebacker this spring, tied for the tackles lead with seven, including a couple of big hits.

Malcome, a redshirt freshman who is among the tailbacks vying for carries in a group that top recruit Isaiah Crowell will join, scored the winning touchdown on a 12-yard run with 2:53 to play.

"No, it doesn’t really bother us," Ogletree said of the buzz about the new crop of players coming to town. "We’re the guys that are here right now and we have to work like they do. It’s basically just coming out here and competing every day."

Georgia went 6-7 last year, but the recruits have raised hype so high for the upcoming season that begins Sept. 3 against Boise State in the Chick-Fil-a Kickoff Game that game organizer Gary Stokan touted the Bulldogs as "preseason top-25" team in a video message on the scoreboard before the game.

"I think they’ll make a big impact because they’re very talented, they’re hungry," Richt said.

"They want to come in and play. I don’t think this group is coming in thinking I’m going to wait my turn.

" … I would think a lot of guys would be preparing harder from this point until those guys show up. I don’t think they’re going to wait until they show up to start getting ready. They’re going to start getting ready on Monday. We’ve kind of let it be known that no one’s job really is safe."

Jenkins was among the recruits on hand Saturday, but Geathers had already heard the transfer’s name for weeks.

"It motivates me a lot," Geathers said. "I’m ready for him to come in. He’s going to help this team a lot, along with me."

Geathers went up against center Ben Jones on Saturday just like he has much of the spring.

"There was a little bit of pressure on me," Geathers said. "After you get an award, people tend to shut down. I tried to come out and keep going."

Said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham: "It’s a good example of competition and how it brings out the best in us."

Geathers had a hard time getting on the field last season, but Grantham says he’ll find ways to use 340-pound Geathers and 361-pound Jenkins, even if it means they play together.

"We’ll keep them fresh," Grantham said. "I think it’s important to keep your big guys fresh. That way in the fourth quarter they can stop the run, they can push the pocket, they can rush the passer."

Added Richt: "(Geathers) probably heard big Johnathan Jenkins was coming in town to take his job and I’m sure that lit a fire under him to a certain degree. That’s what competition does. That’s what we’re trying to re-establish here."

Ogletree delivered a big hit on tailback Brandon Harton in the second quarter for a 3-yard loss, and another on fullback Bruce Figgins early in third quarter following a catch.

"It was pretty good," Ogletree said. "That’s what I’m basically known for."

Grantham likes Ogletree’s move from safety as much as he did before the spring.

View more photos from G-Day.

"There’s no question in my mind, he’s going to be an outstanding linebacker," Grantham said. "I’m looking forward to seeing him play in our system."

Coaches considered playing Malcome last year as a freshman. He had three carries for 29 yards on the final drive.

"It’s great to see Ken do that at the end of the game," Bobo said. "He’s just been real frustrated because he hasn’t had a chance to show himself this spring because of his injury. Today he ran hard and looked a little bit like we saw in the fall."

Richt said he thought Caleb King "did well" in rushing for 30 yards on five carries. Washaun Ealey, the leading rusher the last two seasons, did not play due to a pulled hamstring.

"I thought overall those guys ran the ball pretty good, but it was nothing to shake the world, "Richt said. "I’m not sitting there saying that guy’s the starting tailback. We’ll definitely have a competition in the fall."

However, Crowell will be front and center.

"These guys coming in, they are talented, there’s no doubt and there’s a bunch of them," Richt said. "They can’t help, but make us better. I can’t speak for every veteran, but they understand they’re going to have to either hold onto their job or win their job."

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