UGA Football: Defense shows encouraging signs in first preseason scrimmage

There were positive signs for the Georgia offense in how it moved the ball down field.


Georgia defensive players run a hitting drill during the first day of fall practice at the UGA Woodruff Practice Fields on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in Athens, Ga. (Richard Hamm/Staff) OnlineAthens / Athens Banner-Herald

The Bulldogs defense could feel good about not allowing a touchdown pass and a lack of big plays given up. No run went for more than 19 yards.

When the first preseason scrimmage was over Saturday evening at Sanford Stadium, both sides had reason to be happy.

“I thought it was one of those scrimmages where it was kind of like a draw,” said quarterback Hutson Mason, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 104 yards. “Offense did some really good things and then the defense did some really good things.”

And a draw for a defense that has a new coordinator in Jeremy Pruitt and is working in plenty of new faces in the secondary might be considered a win.

“The offense may have caught a couple of balls, but our defense got them on the ground,” coach Mark Richt said. “That was very encouraging. …It wasn’t like a scoring fest at all. There was a lot of execution offensively, but there weren’t a lot of points to show for it. I thought both groups did very well.”

“Pruitt has those guys doing a lot of things,” said tight end Jay Rome who had 3 catches for 39 yards despite missing some practice time this past week with a sore foot. “I really can see a lot of energy on the other side of the ball. It’s really exciting. I’m really excited to see what they’re going to be able to do in a gametime situation. I’m kind of tired of playing against those guys. I’m ready to hit another color.”

The scrimmage, which was closed to the public and media, was played three weeks before the Bulldogs open their season against Clemson in a top 20 matchup. It was even held at the same time of day in the early evening.

In a twist, the starting offense went up against the starting defense and the No. 2 offense against the No. 2 defense.

“We wanted to put the best on the best,” Richt said.

That usually is only done at Georgia in the spring.

Richt said the only touchdown drive came at the start on an 11-play march. Another long drive by the No. 1 offense resulted in a field goal.

Freshman tailback Nick Chubb led all rushers with 52 yards on seven carries. Tailback Keith Marshall, returning from a torn ACL, had a scrimmage-best 56 receiving yards on three catches. Star Todd Gurley had only five carries for 13 yards and a touchdown.

Defensive end Sterling Bailey led the defense with eight tackles. Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins had five tackles and three sacks.

Mason said Pruitt’s defense is similar to the one Todd Grantham ran previously except on passing downs.

“I think that’s just kind of Pruitt’s philosophy,” Mason said. “He wants to get as many athletes on the field as possible with the best match-up. You see a lot more team unity, you see a lot more discipline, you see a lot more guys hustling to the ball. That’s the improvement in the new defense that you’re going to see this year. You’re going to see a defense with a lot more attitude and a lot more effort.

Pruitt’s defense is forcing fumbles, Mason said. Freshman cornerback Malkolm Parrish was credited with a fumble recovery that was forced by Tim Kimbrough.

Mason said the longest play was probably a bomb from Brice Ramsey to Isaiah McKenzie of at least 30 yards.

Ramsey was 8 of 16 for 134 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Faton Bauta was 7 of 12 for 102 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions.

“We didn’t take many shots,” Mason said. “We ran the ball quite a bit, but we were just really effective in what we were doing. …It’s great to hit a long bomb and score but that’s how you break defenses down. We want to push tempo, tempo, tempo, if you get a first down or even two first downs, that defense is tired. That’s why we like to push tempo and get up there and snap it.”

Georgia was missing its biggest deep threats with Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley out after knee surgeries and Chris Conley limited to only going in 7-on-7 work Saturday.

“Right now we’re a little banged up at receiver,” Mason said.

“Granted, we don’t have 26 (Mitchell) and 86 (Scott-Wesley) out there going deep,” Rome said, “but they are doing well on the deep ball threat.”

After practicing 11 times over nine straight days since camp began, the Bulldogs at long last get Sunday off before six more days in a row.

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