Neither the Southeastern Conference’s leading tackler last season nor Georgia’s sack leader were called a starter publicly by coaches as the Bulldogs finished spring practice on Thursday.
There are plenty of starting jobs up for grabs on defense, especially in the secondary.
On the other side of the ball, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo isn’t sure who his starting five on the offensive line will be for the season opener against Clemson on Aug. 30, but he said his starting quarterback had an impressive spring.
“I’m confident in one guy right now and that’s Hutson Mason,” Bobo said of his quarterbacks.
Mason, the fifth-year senior who replaced an injured Aaron Murray as the starter in the final two games last season, completed 68.9 percent of his passes in Georgia’s three scrimmages with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I thought Hutson had an outstanding spring, really stepped up in the leadership department” Bobo said. “He had great command of the offense, was extremely accurate, came every day prepared to get better. Even today was one of his better days, the last day. I thought he was extremely focused. I expect him to take that confidence that he gained this spring and his leadership abilities and apply it to the summer.”
Mason showed more zip on his passes, Bobo said, thanks to using his lower body better and was more settled in the pocket while still being able to make plays when protection broke down.
“Very few interceptions, very few forced balls,” Bobo said. “Quite frankly with depleted skill around him. Still got a lot of guys (injured), guys have gotten gassed a little bit and hadn’t been full speed just for us to practice and he’s done a nice job finding ways for us to still move the ball.”
It’s more unsettled on defense as seemingly nobody has proven themselves after 15 practices with new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and an entirely new defensive staff.
Inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler was asked about his presumed starters, first-team All-SEC pick Ramik Wilson, who had 133 tackles last season, and Amarlo Herrera, who had 112 tackles.
“No. 1, they’re not starters,” Ekeler said. “That’s jumping the gun right there.”
He said others are competing for starting jobs and the position will add incoming freshman Detric Dukes for preseason practices.
“Shoot, who knows?” he said. “It’s open competition. The culture around here, Coach Pruitt is going to get it exactly the way he wants it. Guys are going to play their tails off. They’re going to do it the right way and guys who want to do it are going to be a part of that are going to say, ‘Giddy-up, let’s roll.’”
Sophomore outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who led the Bulldogs with 6.5 sacks last year, seems sure to start, but Richt wouldn’t name any in the third week of April.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that for sure anybody on defense right now,” coach Mark Richt said. “I’m not 100 percent sure.”
If a depth chart does come out, Richt made it seem like it will be far from concrete.
“I’d be shocked to get a lineup anytime soon,” he said. “Even when camp starts, we’ll line them up but I would think it will move around before we settle on it.”
Richt said there isn’t much doubt that J.J. Green, the No. 1 nickel back who moved from tailback this winter, “will help us. I’m pretty certain that he’ll stay on that side of the ball.”
Safety Tramel Terry, who has worked as a backup after moving from receiver, made “slow progress” this spring until he was sidelined by a hamstring injury. Richt indicated that he would remain on defense but also said he wouldn’t count out a secondary player moving to offense after coaches discuss personnel.
Georgia had two practices this week to finish up spring ball after G-Day, including the final one in shorts Thursday.
“I kind of challenged them to finish,” Richt said. “They could have had one of two attitudes, ‘Hey, this is the last day let’s just get it over with,’ or ‘Let’s try to get better.’ I think they did. … They practiced hard with a lot of enthusiasm. They finished on a high note.”
Richt had a message for the players.
“I told them, ‘We’ve got a long way to go,’” Richt said, “but I think they at least know what the coaches are expecting from them and they have from now until camp to get better.”
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