Thoughts from the 35, sunny G-Day edition

Beautiful weather and nobody getting hurt are always good places to start with Georgia’s spring game. But there were other happenings worth noting.

These players in particular stood out to me:

  • Kwame Geathers.  For once, somebody lived up to the spring practice hype.  Bigger, stronger, better technically?  Yes to all of those.  And he’s still got room to improve.  While better, he’s not yet consistent with keeping his pad level down; when he didn’t, Ben Jones was usually successful at turning Geathers from the play.  Still, two things stood out for me – the insanely quick step he took to his left to shoot the gap between center and right guard to blow up a running play and the double team the Reds ran on him on their touchdown drive.  How often have you seen d-linemen get double teamed in a G-Day game?
  • Alec Ogletree.  Good move, Coach Grantham.  ‘Tree has all the makings of being a dominant player at his new position.
  • Branden Smith.  Who would have thunk that he would have been the early success story of the new S & C regime with that badass stiff arm he displayed?  A much more physical player than what I saw last year, I was amazed at how confident Smith looked on offense, considering that the coaches didn’t have him practicing there this spring.  Dude is still fast, by the way.
  • Christian LeMay.  I understand he’s raw (they had to take him out after the touchdown drive because he didn’t know any of the two-point conversion plays), but, wow, I saw plenty to like.  Live arm, good pocket presence and just enough mobility to keep defenses at bay.  Once he gets the playbook down, he’ll move past Mason and be Murray’s successor.

And here are some positional observations:

  • Quarterback.  Mixed bag.  I think mixing the first and second teams with the selection format they used for G-Day affected their play, but it doesn’t explain everything I saw.  Mason is clearly more comfortable and looked smooth on some drives, but also made some bad throws and bad decisions.  Murray looked comfortable, but also forced a couple of throws.  Nothing to get worried about, but nothing to get excited about, either.
  • Tailback.  If I’m Isaiah Crowell, I left the game thinking I’ll certainly have the opportunity to chase a starting job in August.  Carlton Thomas is nothing more than a change-of-pace back who could be productive if the coaches ever admit that.  Caleb King looked smooth and slightly quicker.  He’s a nice back, but I don’t see him as a game changer.  Ken Malcome looked quite good against the scrubeenies, but I’ll withhold judgment until fall practice.
  • Fullback.  I liked what I saw out of both Ogletree and Figgins, especially the pass catching ability both displayed.
  • Tight end.  Loaded.  Just flat-out loaded.  Which is a good thing, because…
  • Wide receivers.  An underwhelming bunch.  Tavarres King looked pretty good, but the rest were serviceable at best.  You watch Marlon Brown and think he ought to be a player – he’s got the size, good speed and his route running has improved noticeably, but he lacks consistency catching the ball.  You sense there’s opportunity here for Branden Smith and some of the incoming freshmen to make a contribution.
  • Offensive line.  It’s probably just me, but I didn’t leave the game wanting to slit my wrists over this group.  The Red team’s o-line looked good on their first series.  Watching Ben Jones battle Geathers all day was definitely entertaining.  Yeah, there were plenty of sacks on the day, but that’s what you get with spring game rules.  I think this was the other area where the team selection rules had an impact.  By no means am I predicting greatness, but I think Friend will be able to cobble together a functioning unit from what I saw.
  • Defensive line.  There is a definite possibility that what was a defensive weak link last season turns into a 2011 asset.  Geathers’ development is the big story, of course, but there were a lot of kids who looked ready to contribute.  Throw John Jenkins into the mix and I think Grantham may have that line depth he’s wanted.
  • Linebacker.  Lots of potential, but still a work in progress, I think.  Run support was solid, but I saw players struggle covering tight ends and fullbacks.  Still, the overall impression was that there’s plenty of talent with the new infusion of players like Ogletree, Jones and Samuel.  And Cornelius Washington clearly looks more comfortable in the defense this year.
  • Secondary.  With so many players missing, it’s hardly worth commenting on the position.

Unless you’re a Zach Mettenberger fan, you never want to read too much into a Georgia spring game, so take this for what it’s worth, but I left Athens yesterday very optimistic about the defensive front seven and worried about the wide receivers.  So when does fall practice start?

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36 Comments

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36 responses to “Thoughts from the 35, sunny G-Day edition

  1. SCDawg

    “I didn’t leave the game wanting to slit my wrists over this group.”

    You have to have watched the awful O-line play last year to be encouraged by that statement.

  2. TennesseeDawg

    WR is to me the biggest concern. We seem to have no #1 since Marlon Brown can’t get it together. King is nice but not dangerous enough as a goto guy. Hopefully Smith can step up and fill the void. Secondary should get better with healthy bodies. DL and LB looking very promising.

  3. Since you brought up the offensive line, been meaning to ask y’all what your take on Stacy Searles is? Were you sad to see him go to Texas?

    Thanks.

    • Silver Creek Doug

      From my standpoint, I wasn’t too upset to see him leave.

      I had heard how he was the best OL coach in the country, was really going to improve our OL, etc. I never seemed to get the hype. I know he didn’t have the greatest talent to mold, but he didn’t really seem to get the best out of them either.

      It was time for a different voice.

    • NCT

      Yeah. What Silver Creek Doug said. I have never been able to get out of my head a short comment I read somewhere from an LSU fan right after we hired Searles. He wrote something about how he wasn’t that sad to see Searles go because his lines always were slow starters and took several games of each season to get it together. I never went back and tried to analyze LSU games to verify the comment, but my experience as a Georgia fan suggests that LSU fan knew what he was talking about.

    • Red Blackman

      Mr. Lacoosh,

      Consider this, not only was he the coach of an underwhelming unit of top prospects, he was also the running game coordinator. Check Georgia’s standing in that department during the SS years….I think you will get your answer.

  4. Irishdawg

    I’m impressed by the linebackers most of all. They ALL looked big and fast; Ogletree seemed like he couldn’t wait to obliterate someone in the fall and Richard Samuel looked like a comic book character.

    Murry may have forced a couple of throws, but he looked pretty damn good overall. He had a couple of long passes that got either dropped or batted at the last second. He’ll be fine.

    I was looking to see what the new strength program results were and wasn’t disappointed. I thought most of the guys looked much stronger.

  5. Bulldog Bry

    So is Chase Vasser the spring hero that we never hear from again? Dude had a pretty good day.

  6. S.E. Dawg

    I was there too. Agree on the receivers. I know he’s an early enrollee and a true freshmen, but Chris Conley dropped one that was placed right in his hands. He may make that catch 9 times out of 10 but he dropped it I was like, this is not good.

  7. baltimore dawg

    you can close your eyes for the play and know whether or not ogletree made the tackle: i don’t recall another player really having such a distinctive “pop” at contact.

  8. Irishdawg

    “i don’t recall another player really having such a distinctive “pop” at contact.”

    see Blue, Greg. I always expected him to actually behead someone.

    • NCT

      Ah, Blue. I just clicked over to Wikipedia (yeah, I know, but it has its limited uses) to see where he’s landed (the CFL). While there, I read a paragraph about the 2002 and 2003 defenses, including their national rankings in various categories. Sigh.

    • baltimore dawg

      i disagree. blue was a tremendous hitter, of course, but my point really was about how the contact sounds–less of a thud, more of a whack. higher pitch or something. noticed it last year, but it really stood out yesterday, i thought.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Thomas Davis used to “run through” the offensive player. One minute the RB was there, the next minute he was gone and all one saw was the blurr/back of Davis’s jersey.

      Or course, Blue and Jermaine Phillips were great hitters too. You’ll recall Phillips started out as a WR, but made so many big hits on special teams he was moved to S – and performed great.

      • Zdawg

        I will add that Thomas Davis was the most fundamentally sound and consistent one of the bunch. Never saw him miss a tackle trying to make the big hit.

  9. shane#1

    I have a strange feeling that Big John may be backup to Geathers. How would you like playing center against both those guys?

  10. Irishdawg

    shane,

    Grantham is savvy enough to work out packages where both guys get on the field at the same time. I just hope they’re both healthy for Tech, because that much size in the middle could absolutely crush that option.

    • Macallanlover

      +1. When you stop the A dive on Johnson’s option, especially when you get any penetration, the play is blown up by allowing it to be strung out for the DEs and backers. We did that in 2009 and GT never moved the ball consistently against us. That is the one game I would definitely have them in the gap between nose and center. As you said though, they both need to be healthy at that point.

      • shane#1

        New blocking rules may hamper Tech’s attack as much as an Andre the Giant in the middle.

        • Macallanlover

          If we use SEC officials, it is unlikely they will be aware of new rules, nor can we assume they will enforce any rule, much less correctly. But you are right, they could hurt GT in other games.

  11. thewhiteshark

    All the people who believed that Mettenberger should have won the job last year also believe that Wes Van Dyk should start at running back. After all, he did average eight yards per carry yesterday. Right? Right?

    On a less sarcastic note. Didn’t learn much yesterday but I do think the defense is going to be much better, particularly the front seven. It does also appear that Joe T’s training program is paying off. Branden Smith looked much stronger running the ball. I’m not too concerned about the offensive line. Eight sacks seems like a lot, but since touches don’t count in the fall that’s a suspect number when you have a quarterback as mobile as AM.

  12. Zdawg

    I got a good shot of that Brandon Smith stiff arm you mentioned…

    Brandon Smith stiff arm

  13. Hobnail_Boot

    Conley’s gonna play this year. Kid is fast as hell and Coach Richt made it a point on CSS to mention that he rarely drops anything.

  14. Macallanlover

    As expected, the format prevents you from having any strong feeling, yeah or nay, since we did not see the players work together as a cohesive team, but there were a handful of individual jugements you could make that were comforting:
    1. Kwame is significantly fitter, and improved, as reported. He will be a force if we can avoid injury. Having him and Big John together on the DL makes me salivate, but I have to admit I see that as a four man front.
    2. We may need that beef up front to tie up the big uglies. As impressive as the speed was at LB, I don’t see a big enough, bad enough, stud that will make opponents not want to challenge us up the middle. In other words, without an Odell type MLB, I still feel we will be vulnerable to a power running game between the tackles in a 3-4. So putting the two big lads in the middle to pinch the center/guards area, will allow us to put those fast mobile, stingers we have to defend the areas outside the tackles.
    3. I have to admit I have been wrong all along about Carlton Thomas. I thought until mid-season last year he was a Noel Devine type scat back who would become a valuable weapon in our offense but he has had enough chances, CT will never be Barry Sanders, or even a shadow behind Devine. Sorry for him because he just doesn’t seem to have the talent but has worked hard against all odds.
    4. Mason was so visably smoother than last year that I am very comfortable with him as a back up QB. Let Murray run when his instincts say take off, we have two QBs that can run this offense in 2011. Red-shirting Lemay and putting some pounds on him will serve him well after missng the senior season in HS. He certainly looks like he could become “the man” in year 3-4 but we just didn’t see enough yesterday. You have to like him for coming to UGA after seeing Murray play so well last season. There were easier paths to starting time, so playing for Richt/Bobo had to mean something to him.
    5. Receivers are not as big a concern to me, we have a lot of athletes on board and the use of our TE’s and a slotted Orson Charles will make us a pretty good passing team regardless of which combinations of receivers rise to the top. We may not have a Top 5 NFL pick on the horizon, but as a group we should be OK.
    6. The biggest concerns that I continue to have about the 2011 team is the secondary and running game. Nothing yesterday alleviated those fears, but then those two are very dependent on seeing the actual units work together. Who knows about our offensive line? Looks good on paper, but then it looked great on paper last year and fell on thier face. And I haven’t felt good about UGA’s ability to defend the pass since Marino and Blackledge beat us in the Sugar Bowls. We have just never been great on pass defense at UGA, unless our front seven had the passer on his rump. Looks very iffy again, and we continue to fall for good play action and pump and go. Opening play yesterday and BOOM, same old, same old.

    We could be anything from 10-2 winning the East, all the way to 7-5 after starting out 0-2 and never getting it together. Yesterday showed us very little, maybe that is the purpose. If so, keep it a closed scrimmage and accomplish something for the team. G Day needs some work, it is a great opportunity for a big weekend extravaganza that seems wasted to me.

  15. W Cobb Dawg

    On TV one play stood out to me. Dawgs had 3rd & 16 after advancing to the 20. Dooley was in the booth and Belue asked what he’d call. Dooley says, “I’d go to the endzone”. The QB then threw to the WR on the sideline for a 3 yard gain.

    • Wonderful-Ohio-on-the-Gulf Dog

      In all fairness. Grantham called the play on the field. Maybe he callled what he’d LIKE our opponents to call under similar circumstances.

      • W Cobb Dawg

        Hope you’re right. Nothing drives me nuts more than marching all the way down field, then not even trying for the endzone (or first down) and settling for a FG. I truly hope that type of passive playcalling is in the same graveyard as directional kick-offs.

        • Wonderful-Ohio-on-the-Gulf Dog

          Yes, it stinks to leave four points on the field. Especially when four additional points would have made a difference in, what, three losses. Nine and four sounds a lot better than six and seven,

    • Scott W.

      Yes, leaving points on the field during the spring game is truly heart breaking.

  16. The Running Game & the OL remain my biggest concern. Second & long, We should be able to run it up the middle. Everyone else does, & sets up play action passes. The passing game & the DBs will not be the problem.

    • Wonderful-Ohio-on-the-Gulf Dog

      Dawg 39 is right.

      The DBs aren’t the problem. Stewart and Belue were calling DBs’ names we haven’t much heard before and these unfamiliar guys were making some pretty good plays. More important, they weren’t getting totally burned.

      Murray, et al. would have lit up the scoreboard if the secondary is as pouous as some have suggested.

      The O Line, runners fumbling at the wrong times, and receivers failing to catch catchable passes: those are Georgia’s concerns going into the fall.

      Grantham has done an awesome job on defense.