There will be no steak for the winners this time and maybe less sizzle today at Georgia‚Äôs G-Day game because some of the most intriguing storylines of the spring won‚Äôt be on display due to injuries.
‚ÄúYou know what?‚Äù Georgia coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre just going to play ball for the love of the game and for the love of playing between the hedges for family and friends and the fans and TV.‚Äù
Fans won‚Äôt get a first glimpse of Malcolm Mitchell playing cornerback. Freshman tailback Keith Marshall won‚Äôt see a single carry.
Both are out due to pulled hamstrings.
So why check out the Black team (which features the starting defense) and the Red team (which includes the starting offense) clash at 3 p.m. in a glorified scrimmage shown two hours later on CSS on tape delay?
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre expecting to put on a show of what this team is going to be for the season,‚Äù inside linebacker Christian Robinson said. ‚ÄúEverybody‚Äôs expecting this team to be a top-rated defense and one of the top teams in the nation. … If you want to get a good look, get down close next to the team and see how well we‚Äôve improved from last season, I think this is a good time to come watch.‚Äù
After a player draft last year created some excitement, the coaches returned to picking sides.
Isaiah Crowell, who hasn‚Äôt missed a practice this spring after battling injuries as a freshman, and Ken Malcome will be the featured tailbacks.
‚ÄúKen Malcome‚Äôs had a great spring,‚Äù offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. ‚ÄúI see a really, really big improvement in that football player.‚Äù
Richt said the reward of steak and lobster for the winning players and beanie weenies for the losers has been ditched this year ‚Äî turns out some players preferred the beanie weenies anyway.
Richt wants it to be a festive day for all.
‚ÄúI always talk about it being a celebration of Georgia football and that‚Äôs what I want it to be,‚Äù Richt said.
Said sophomore defensive end Ray Drew: ‚ÄúAny opportunity to go out there and put on a show for the fans and for the coaches is a good day.‚Äù
Asked what he hoped to get out of the day, Bobo said half jokingly: ‚ÄúI hope nobody gets injured.‚Äù
Here are five things to watch:
1. Unproven defensive backs:¬† With Bacarri Rambo, Sanders Commings and Branden Smith facing suspensions at the start of the season, lesser-known players will be under the gun. Today‚Äôs another chance to show something to coaches.
Cornerback Damian Swann was named a most improved player on defense this spring. Sophomore safety Corey Moore will try to build off his nine-tackle, one-interception showing in last week‚Äôs scrimmage.
Safety Connor Norman was picked as the spring outstanding walk-on from the defense and he could be called on for significant snaps in games.
‚ÄúConnor has shown his value back there, knows where to be, knows how to make the adjustments we need,‚Äù defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.
Devin Bowman, who has worked behind Commings at boundary corner, said he‚Äôs improved on getting his hands on players and being physical.
‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt get to play last year at all, so this is my first experience being in a big stadium with a whole lot of fans,‚Äù the redshirt freshman said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs really exciting.‚Äù
Senior safety Shawn Williams is sidelined today with a knee injury.
2. Big John, Kwame and defensive ends:¬† Georgia‚Äôs 350-pound nose guards have been a handful for the centers and guards this spring. At least John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers will be on different teams today.
Jenkins said he understands the playbook better, which has allowed him to play ‚Äúfast and dominant.‚Äù
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs my first G-Day, my first spring game,‚Äù said Jenkins, named defensive co-MVP for the spring with star linebacker Jarvis Jones. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs almost like it‚Äôs my first game playing for Georgia. My heart is pounding.‚Äù
Georgia‚Äôs defensive line is formidable with ends Abry Jones, Cornelius Washington and backups Garrison Smith and Ray Drew.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got a lot of veteran guys across the D-line,‚Äù Washington said. ‚ÄúAnd we‚Äôve got some young guys making some big plays, too. Mike (Thornton) has really been standing out to me in practice. Just the way he gets off and how physical he is. To me, we‚Äôre stacked.‚Äù
3. The development of the offensive line:¬† The starting five for now will line up on the Red team ‚Äî left tackle Kenarious Gates, left guard Dallas Lee, center David Andrews, right guard Chris Burnette and right tackle Kolton Houston.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got better as a unit and I feel like we‚Äôre going to treat Saturday like a real game,‚Äù Gates said.
Will backups like Austin Long, Watts Dantzler, Hunter Long and Mark Beard crack the rotation?
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got a lot of film to study and see who‚Äôs getting closer to proving they can play for Georgia,‚Äù Richt said.
G-Day counts as the final of 15 spring practices. Burnette and Lee could line up at center with the Black team line.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to approach it as a work day,‚Äù offensive line coach Will Friend said.
4. Tight end tandem: Orson Charles and Aron White have exited. The time is now for Arthur Lynch and redshirt freshman Jay Rome.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm excited to see Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome,‚Äù Bobo said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a big opportunity for them losing two guys that played the last three years basically exclusively.‚Äù
Lynch said he‚Äôs approaching G-Day as just another practice.
‚ÄúI hopefully have been here long enough that I know what I‚Äôm doing,‚Äù the redshirt junior said. ‚ÄúJay‚Äôs eager to get out there and prove some things.‚Äù
5. The quarterbacks: Today will be the closest thing to a game this year for junior Hutson Mason because unless starter Aaron Murray gets injured, the plan is for Mason to redshirt.
What kind of spring has Mason had? Coaches named him co-offensive MVP with Murray.
If Mason does redshirt, the competition to back up Murray looks like it will be between redshirt freshman Christian LeMay and walk-on Parker Welch. Freshman Faton Bauta won‚Äôt play due to a minor knee injury
It shouldn‚Äôt be a long day for Murray. Bobo said he‚Äôs likely to only go for a quarter or quarter and a half.