While Malcolm Mitchell works at cornerback this spring, Georgia needs some others to step up catching passes.
A couple of players who have yet to take a snap in a real game for the Bulldogs showed signs of production in Saturday’s closed scrimmage.
Tight end Jay Rome had a pair of touchdown catches — including one for 30 yards — and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley led all players with 51 receiving yards on three catches.
In a spring where the defense has mostly had its way, the offense found some encouraging signs.
“I do think the offense is picking it up, getting better,” coach Mark Richt said. “The defense is still getting the upper hand for the most part. They had some chinks in their armor today that I’m sure they probably weren’t happy about.”
Still, the defense was credited with 12 sacks, although quarterbacks were down by touch, not tackle. Defensive lineman Mike Thornton was credited with three sacks and linebackers Jarvis Jones and Chase Vasser had two each.
Mitchell had three tackles, including one for loss, at cornerback and had a catch for 20 yards at receiver.
Quarterback Aaron Murray said that Rome, who played on the Bulldogs basketball team this winter, “made some great plays” in the closed scrimmage.
One, Richt said, was “a pretty acrobatic touchdown catch” in the corner of the end zone during the goal-line portion of the day.
“I’m happy with how far we’ve come in two weeks,” said Murray, who completed 9 of 18 passes for 74 yards with an interception. “We’ve still got to keep working. We’ve got two weeks left.”
Safety Shawn Williams led all tacklers with 4 ½ and returned an interception 34 yards. Defensive end Ray Drew had four tackles, including one for loss.
Scholarship numbers a concern
Another day, another Georgia player transfer.
This time, Richt announced Saturday that reserve safety Marc Deas is leaving.
The reason given, just like in the case of defensive end Derrick Lott Friday, was to seek more playing time elsewhere.
“There were no discipline issues, there were no problems,” Richt said. “No academic issues. They were just really looking for an opportunity to play. … I’m just telling you straight-up, they felt like their chances of playing weren’t going to be good.”
That makes three players to transfer since the first day of spring practice when tailback Carlton Thomas decided to go.
The number of players on the roster for this coming season that will have arrived on scholarship is now at 72. The NCAA permits programs to carry 85 scholarship players.
Richt conceded that the dwindling numbers are cause for concern in an area like special teams.
“Definitely,” Richt said. “You need as full of a boat as you can have. You want to make sure you have enough guys out there to do all of your special teams work and everything, but that’s part of the reason we’re making sure … that every guy from the starters on offense and defense down through the scout team, these guys are getting work.”
There have been six players transfer since late September, including four defensive backs.
The others are cornerback Derek Owens, safety Jakar Hamilton and cornerback Jordan Love.
Georgia also dismissed three reserves — including two defensive backs — in February after a theft in a campus dorm room.
Richt said he spoke to Deas Friday. The redshirt sophomore from Kissimmee, Fla., played in 14 games last season, mostly on special teams, making three tackles.
“Both kids love Georgia, we love them,” Richt said of Deas and Lott. “They just didn’t feel that it was going to happen for them during the time frame they were here, so they decided to move on and go where they felt like they would have a better chance of playing. That’s their choice to make.”
Christian Robinson said he didn’t scrimmage because he was “banged up” after getting hit by a helmet under his arm Thursday. Another inside linebacker, Amarlo Herrera, was dealing with a “stinger,” Robinson said.
“It’s a normal spring when you’re hitting,” Robinson said. “We’ll be back this week.”
Dallas Lee, who has worked at center this spring, also did not scrimmage for an undisclosed reason. He was on the sideline, but did not dress. David Andrews and Chris Burnette rotated at first-team center.
Nose guard John Jenkins returned after missing two practices to complete a project that was due Friday. He said he needed extra time to meet with a professor during practice time.
This and that
Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips told the website TigerNet.com that he expects the Tigers will play their home-and-home series as scheduled with Georgia in 2013 and 2014 despite ACC team having to accommodate nine conference games. “Bottom line is this — we are going to play Georgia,” Phillips said. “I can’t tell you how we are going to put all of the pieces together, but we are going to play Georgia in 2013 here, and in 2014, we are going to Athens. We’re committed to the Georgia series. … Richard Samuel worked mostly at fullback Saturday, Richt said. He left Jarvis Jones impressed. “Charging Richard Samuel with battery to my shoulder lol” Jones tweeted. … Isaiah Crowell had four carries for 19 yards in the scrimmage. “Isaiah ran the ball hard,” Murray said. Brandon Harton led all rushers with 24 yards on eight carries and Keith Marshall had 18 on five rushes. … Georgia returns to practice Tuesday.