There will be no steak for the winners this time and maybe less sizzle today at Georgia’s G-Day game because some of the most intriguing storylines of the spring won’t be on display due to injuries.
“You know what?” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We’re 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.”
Fans won’t get a first glimpse of Malcolm Mitchell playing cornerback. Freshman tailback Keith Marshall won’t 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?
“We’re expecting to put on a show of what this team is going to be for the season,” inside linebacker Christian Robinson said. “Everybody’s 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’ve improved from last season, I think this is a good time to come watch.”
After a player draft last year created some excitement, the coaches returned to picking sides.
Isaiah Crowell, who hasn’t missed a practice this spring after battling injuries as a freshman, and Ken Malcome will be the featured tailbacks.
“Ken Malcome’s had a great spring,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “I see a really, really big improvement in that football player.”
Richt said the reward of steak and lobster for the winning players and beanie weenies for the losers has been ditched this year — turns out some players preferred the beanie weenies anyway.
Richt wants it to be a festive day for all.
“I always talk about it being a celebration of Georgia football and that’s what I want it to be,” Richt said.
Said sophomore defensive end Ray Drew: “Any opportunity to go out there and put on a show for the fans and for the coaches is a good day.”
Asked what he hoped to get out of the day, Bobo said half jokingly: “I hope nobody gets injured.”
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’s 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’s 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.
“Connor has shown his value back there, knows where to be, knows how to make the adjustments we need,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.
Devin Bowman, who has worked behind Commings at boundary corner, said he’s improved on getting his hands on players and being physical.
“I didn’t get to play last year at all, so this is my first experience being in a big stadium with a whole lot of fans,” the redshirt freshman said. “That’s really exciting.”
Senior safety Shawn Williams is sidelined today with a knee injury.
2. Big John, Kwame and defensive ends: Georgia’s 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 “fast and dominant.”
“It’s my first G-Day, my first spring game,” said Jenkins, named defensive co-MVP for the spring with star linebacker Jarvis Jones. “It’s almost like it’s my first game playing for Georgia. My heart is pounding.”
Georgia’s defensive line is formidable with ends Abry Jones, Cornelius Washington and backups Garrison Smith and Ray Drew.
“We’ve got a lot of veteran guys across the D-line,” Washington said. “And we’ve 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’re stacked.”
3. The development of the offensive line: The starting five for now will line up on the Red team — left tackle Kenarious Gates, left guard Dallas Lee, center David Andrews, right guard Chris Burnette and right tackle Kolton Houston.
“We’ve got better as a unit and I feel like we’re going to treat Saturday like a real game,” Gates said.
Will backups like Austin Long, Watts Dantzler, Hunter Long and Mark Beard crack the rotation?
“We’ve got a lot of film to study and see who’s getting closer to proving they can play for Georgia,” 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.
“We’re going to approach it as a work day,” 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.
“I’m excited to see Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome,” Bobo said. “It’s a big opportunity for them losing two guys that played the last three years basically exclusively.”
Lynch said he’s approaching G-Day as just another practice.
“I hopefully have been here long enough that I know what I’m doing,” the redshirt junior said. “Jay’s eager to get out there and prove some things.”
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’t play due to a minor knee injury
It shouldn’t be a long day for Murray. Bobo said he’s likely to only go for a quarter or quarter and a half.