Neither the Southeastern Conference‚Äôs leading tackler last season nor Georgia‚Äôs 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‚Äôt 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.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm confident in one guy right now and that‚Äôs Hutson Mason,‚Äù 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‚Äôs three scrimmages with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
‚ÄúI thought Hutson had an outstanding spring, really stepped up in the leadership department‚Äù Bobo said. ‚ÄúHe 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.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúVery few interceptions, very few forced balls,‚Äù Bobo said. ‚ÄúQuite frankly with depleted skill around him. Still got a lot of guys (injured), guys have gotten gassed a little bit and hadn‚Äôt been full speed just for us to practice and he‚Äôs done a nice job finding ways for us to still move the ball.‚Äù
It‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúNo. 1, they‚Äôre not starters,‚Äù Ekeler said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs jumping the gun right there.‚Äù
He said others are competing for starting jobs and the position will add incoming freshman Detric Dukes for preseason practices.
‚ÄúShoot, who knows?‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs 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‚Äôre 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, ‚ÄòGiddy-up, let‚Äôs roll.‚Äô‚Äù
Sophomore outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who led the Bulldogs with 6.5 sacks last year, seems sure to start, but Richt wouldn‚Äôt name any in the third week of April.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm not going to sit here and say that for sure anybody on defense right now,‚Äù coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not 100 percent sure.‚Äù
If a depth chart does come out, Richt made it seem like it will be far from concrete.
‚ÄúI‚Äôd be shocked to get a lineup anytime soon,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúEven when camp starts, we‚Äôll line them up but I would think it will move around before we settle on it.‚Äù
Richt said there isn‚Äôt much doubt that J.J. Green, the No. 1 nickel back who moved from tailback this winter, ‚Äúwill help us. I‚Äôm pretty certain that he‚Äôll stay on that side of the ball.‚Äù
Safety Tramel Terry, who has worked as a backup after moving from receiver, made ‚Äúslow progress‚Äù this spring until he was sidelined by a hamstring injury. Richt indicated that he would remain on defense but also said he wouldn‚Äôt 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.
‚ÄúI kind of challenged them to finish,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúThey could have had one of two attitudes, ‚ÄòHey, this is the last day let‚Äôs just get it over with,‚Äô or ‚ÄòLet‚Äôs try to get better.‚Äô I think they did. … They practiced hard with a lot of enthusiasm. They finished on a high note.‚Äù
Richt had a message for the players.
‚ÄúI told them, ‚ÄòWe‚Äôve got a long way to go,‚Äô‚Äù Richt said, ‚Äúbut I think they at least know what the coaches are expecting from them and they have from now until camp to get better.‚Äù
Follow Marc online at twitter.com/marcweiszer.