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?