What to watch for during Georgia’s spring game

At a time where there’s talk in college football circles about doing away with spring games, there are compelling reasons why Georgia’s G-Day game today is worth watching.

It’s the only chance before the Aug. 30 opener against Clemson for fans to get a look at a Georgia defense revamped under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and three other assistant coaches brought aboard this winter.

They can see for themselves what starting quarterback Hutson Mason says he’s discovered about the defense this spring going up against them.

“I see guys hustling, rallying to plays,” Mason said. “Some of that you didn’t see last year. I see a lot more effort and intensity by far. I mean, it’s night and day.”

Coach Mark Richt said he thinks Pruitt’s unit will probably be pretty vanilla since G-Day will be televised on CSS and fair game for opponents to scout. But Richt said the Bulldogs will play “some good, solid fundamental defense.”

Pruitt certainly hopes so.

“I hope they see us get lined up,” Pruitt said. “I hope they see us play hard every snap. I hope we tackle well. I hope we play the ball in the deep part of the field. Just fundamentals, striking blockers, keeping the ball leveraged. That’s what we’ve been harping on all spring. Hopefully they’ll see that.”

Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said improvement should be apparent.

“I think they’ll see a lot less confusion between us all as a unit and just more unity and a little bit of that nastiness and attitude,” Jenkins said. “More people hustling to the ball, a lot less people watching things happen and a lot more guys running full speed and playing their hearts out.”

There’s plenty more to keep an eye on in the 1 p.m. scrimmage in Sanford Stadium:

• The battle to back Mason as the No. 2 quarterback between Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey.

“I do want to go out there and play my best and do the best that I can, throw touchdowns, run some touchdowns,” Bauta said. “Whatever the case may be. Regardless, I want to run the offense, do it well, minimize mistakes, minimize bad plays and play football and have fun.”

• The fight for starting jobs at offensive guard, which should continue into preseason camp when freshmen get their shot. Greg Pyke has moved into a first-team right guard role and Brandon Kublanow and Zach DeBell are competing at left guard.

• Jobs galore to be won in the secondary, where walk-ons have run with the first-team and starters from last year have been relegated to the third team.

Pruitt moved walk-ons Aaron Davis and Lucas Redd ahead of Shaq Wiggins and Tray Matthews as G-Day approached.

• Special teams improvements. The spring-game format — no kickoffs, no punt returns, no rushing on extra points and field goals — won’t be the best place to get a read on how having co-special teams coordinators may pay off this fall but the punting candidates, Collin Barber and Adam Erickson, will put their best foot forward.

“I’m just going out there competing doing my best that I can do,” Barber said. “I know he’s going to do the same thing. It’s whoever’s more consistent because consistency is key at this level. Whoever is more consistent is going to play.”

• And any chance to see star tailback Todd Gurley, whether it’s for five carries or 25, means a big play could be about to happen.

It’s just a glorified scrimmage, right? Not for the players.

“It being my last G-Day, kind of taking it all in, realizing how quick it goes by,” Mason said. “It goes by so much quicker than high school and I’ve had a blast and I love it.”

Mason will have family coming in from out of town.

So will J.J. Green, who has worked as the starting star nickel back and gotten a look at safety while dealing with an ankle injury of late.

“I told my whole city to come out to the G-Day game,” Green said. “I told my whole town. I put it on Facebook. I want everyone to come to the G-Day game. It’s going to be a wonderful weekend and I hope it’s a sunny day.”

Jenkins called G-Day a platform “to make amends for last year and to showcase what this season is going to be like in the fall and to just show off all the effort that the coaches have put into us and all the effort we’ve put in this program the last couple months or so.”

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