Mark Richt said he doesn’t know how Georgia’s offensive line will look once starting guard Chris Burnette returns this preseason after missing the spring following shoulder surgery.
Red team quarterback Aaron Murray throws a pass during the second half of the G-Day spring football game on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
“Where does it all end up? I don’t know,” the Georgia coach said after Saturday’s G-Day game. “We’re just going to try and get the best five out there and hopefully have a little bit of a rotation as well.”
There were a combined nine sacks credited to the defense, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo didn’t pin that on the line.
“I thought they protected well,” Bobo said. “I thought we did a poor job at quarterback of getting rid of the ball or throwing the ball away. One time we missed a hot that was a sack on the quarterback. A lot of times we were holding the ball too long. I thought the offensive line protected well and the quarterbacks did a bad job.”
The big news this spring was John Theus moving to left tackle, where he worked with the starters on Saturday.
Bobo said the best offensive tackle right now isn’t Theus.
“Right now the best tackle we’ve got playing is Xzavier Ward,” he said. “(Kenarious) Gates would probably be the best but he’s having to play guard.”
Ward, a 6-foot-7, 293-pound redshirt sophomore, is much stronger now as a pass protector than as run blocker, Richt said.
None of the offensive linemen were made available for interviews Saturday.
Richt thought the pass protection held up. Neither Richt nor Aaron Murray were concerned with the sacks because it’s hard to determine in games when the quarterbacks can’t be tackled.
“I thought they played well today,” Murray said. “It’s tough to get a feel when quarterbacks can’t get tackled. It’s hard to know what’s going to happen in a real-life game.”
Richt said the running game was “kind of hit or miss with how well we blocked up front.”
The different combinations on the offensive line this spring in an effort to gain depth and compete made the line more vulnerable, Richt said.
Bobo said Theus still isn’t 100 percent after undergoing foot surgery this winter.
“I think it’s great that we’ve got more than five guys that we feel good about,” he said. “When we get all those guys healthy we’ll see how it shakes out.”
Receiving corps will get reinforcements
Georgia was shorthanded in its receiving corps Saturday but doesn’t expect to be come preseason practices, Richt said
Leading receiver Malcolm Mitchell is expected back in a matter of weeks, not months, after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Michael Bennett, returning from a torn ACL, is running routes in practice on the side and could go without limitations as early as June.
Freshman receiver/tailback Tramel Terry, also coming off a torn ACL sustained in December, could practice in August without limitations.
“He really wants to play this year and I think there’s a good chance that he will,” Richt said.
Defensive lineman John Atkins was on crutches with an undisclosed injury and cornerback Devin Bowman was shaken up early in the game but returned. Richt said about a half hour after the scrimmage ended that he hadn’t seen director of sports medicine Ron Courson yet. “That’s a really good sign” of no significant injuries, Richt said.
Freshman inside linebacker Ryne Rankin was held out of the game. He tweeted that he has a low and high ankle sprain. “Y’all will see me in the fall!” Cornerback Sheldon Dawson (hamstring) and linebacker Brandon Burrows (concussion) also did not play.
Defensive line makes noise
Richt spent the second quarter of G-Day in the radio booth.
“So far the defensive front has been very stout on both sides,” Richt observed on the air.
Defensive end John Taylor had two sacks and nose guard Chris Mayes, linebackers James DeLoach, Jordan Jenkins and Ramik Wilson, defensive ends Garrison Smith and Sterling Bailey and cornerback Reggie Wilkerson had a sack each.
“I thought some guys controlled the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “I saw some physical play there, particularly with our backups on the other side.”
Battle goes on for No. 3 QB
Richt and Bobo considered allowing the quarterbacks after Murray and Hutson Mason wear regular jerseys and be allowed to be hit Saturday.
That, Richt said, would have better suited Christian LeMay, who rushed for 10 yards on one carry but was 0 for 6 with an interception passing.
“If he’s in the games next year, he’s going to be able to use his wheels and that changes a lot for him and for us as how we would call the game.”
Parker Welch, competing with LeMay for the No. 3 job, was 4 of 8 for 103 yards and a touchdown.
“Even though Parker had a good day, I wouldn’t sit there and say he’s nailed down that spot,” Richt said
Safeties rack up awards
Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said he was “shocked” to be named the MVP on defense. Tray Matthews, another safety, was most improved on defense.
Matthews, from Newnan, delivered big hits this spring, including on Justin Scott-Wesley last week in a scrimmage that the receiver said bruised his chest and lung.
Harvey-Clemons is working as the starting strong safety and at the “star” position covering the slot receiver in the nickel package.
Matthews “has the range and the skill-set to be a free safety,” Grantham said. “He’s physical so that means he can drop down in the box so he’s not one dimensional. … He’s young, man. Let the guy go play. I’m really pleased with where he is.”
Other spring awards: receiver Chris Conley (offensive MVP), fullback Quayvon Hicks (most improved offense), offensive tackle Xzavier Ward (True Grit offense), receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (Coffee County Hustle offense), Bailey (True Grit defense), Wilson (Coffey County Hustle defense), receiver Clay Johnson (0utstanding walk-on offense), defensive end Clint Kirk and defensive back Tristan Askew (outstanding walk-on defense).
Bulldogs add commitment
Georgia picked up a commitment from a 2015 prospect on Saturday.
Wide receiver/tight end Christian Owens from Griffin High School committed to Richt before the G-Day game.
“Georgia is my dream school and that is where I want to go, so it was easy,” Owens said. “Georgia has showed me that they want me there, so I committed to them.”
The 6-foot-5, 203-pound Owens was offered this week. He projects as a tight end or big receiver.
His coach Steve Devoursney said Owens “is probably the most coachable kid I have ever had. …Georgia got a good one.”
Freshman inside linebacker Reggie Carter, from South Gwinett, continued to come on this spring. He had seven tackles and an interception for the Red team. He had an interception in each of the three scrimmages. “He’s a downhill backer that when he tackles guys he squares them up,” Grantham said. “He’s a guy who understands what happened the last play and can make corrections.” Grantham said that Carter could compete for a starting spot. …Todd Gurley didn’t have much of a workload rushing. He ran for 25 yards on four carries. “He’s got to do a good job this summer of working hard and getting himself in shape,” Bobo said. “Not that he’s not in shape, but I think he’s a little heavy. He’s got to trim down a little bit and get ready to go this fall.” The 6-foot-1 Gurley said earlier this spring he was up to 234 pounds. … The new secondary Bulldog logo was painted on the 25-yard lines Saturday and on some T-shirts given out to fans attending the game.
MORE FROM G-DAY
Bulldogs find plenty to be pleased with in G-Day scrimmage
Chris White: Scrimmage or not, QB Mason the winner
JUCO transfer Rumph highlights wide receivers’ G-Day production
Harvey-Clemons enjoying new challenge at safety
G-Day notebook: Offensive line remains a question mark
Slideshow: G-Day spring football game
VIDEOS FROM G-DAY