Good crowd, beautiful weather. No serious injuries in the game. (J.J. Green got his wish as far as the weather went, but wasn’t so lucky as far as his ankle goes. He and Trey Matthews kept each other company for most of the day.) Pre- and post-game festivities were up to their usual standards for me, so all in all, it was another day in paradise.
On to the bullet points.
- Offensive line. I didn’t leave the stadium in a state of wrist-slitting despair over the o-line, so that’s certainly progress of a sorts. The main reason for my lessened pessimism is the noticeable improvement in John Theus’ game. He looks bigger and more fit. His mechanics are better. And he’s playing with an obvious sense of comfort that I didn’t see out of him last year. He was the only lineman who was able to handle Leonard Floyd’s pass rush consistently; he did that by getting his hands on Floyd quickly and using leverage to keep him under control. Greg Pyke is a big kid with some strength. He had a couple of pancake blocks I noticed. I do get the sense that he’s still feeling his way around the offense, but he looked serviceable. David Andrews is David Andrews. The rest of the line is still in flux. Beard played a good bit at left tackle. They ran all sorts of kids out of the left guard spot, including Houston, and it’s pretty obvious that no one has stepped up to take charge of the slot. Still, I thought the Red team line held its own as long as they weren’t facing all out blitzes. The Black team line struggled a good bit more, but some of that can be chalked up to how much depth there is on the defensive line. Overall, let’s leave things at “work in progress”.
- Running backs. There’s no other way to say this: Georgia’s depth at tailback is sick. A.J. Turman impressed me as a tough runner with good instincts who can catch the ball a little, too. Brendan Douglas looks as solid as ever. As far as Todd Gurley goes, he may not be 100% healthy yet, but he looked physically fit and commanded the defense’s attention every time the ball was snapped. He was every bit as dominant as you’d expect. (Except for blitz protection, that is.) No offense to Leonard Floyd’s supporters, but there’s little doubt that Gurley is the best player on the team. All told, when you consider what’s going to be added to the mix this fall, it’s hard to see how they’ll have enough footballs for all the backs.
- Receivers. Bennett and Conley are money, plain and simple. Reggie Davis has gotten stronger. His route running is more polished. He looks like he’s ready to become a real contributor in the passing game this season. Rumph inexcusably dropped a couple of balls, but he, too, looks more comfortable with his routes. My biggest concern with this group was the inconsistent blocking downfield I saw. If Georgia’s going to use the short passing game as much as we saw Saturday, that’s an area that’s going to have to improve.
- Quarterbacks. The coaches can insist all they want that they’re hoping to generate some competition for Hutson Mason, but it’s nothing more than a convenient fiction. The reality is that there’s a noticeable gap – more like a yawning chasm, really – between Mason and everyone else. He’s the only one of the bunch who looks like a serviceable SEC quarterback right now, so you’d best hope for his continuing good health and well-being. My only real knock on him from what I saw is that he still struggles with the deep ball. (Bennett bailed him out on one overthrow with a sensational catch, but a properly thrown ball would have resulted in an easy touchdown.) Other than that, he’s more than capable of leading the offense. He showed good command and nice touch on his short and intermediate throws. He avoided turning the ball over. (Given how good his surrounding cast looks to be, that’s a big deal.) He was also the only quarterback out there who went through his progressions on a consistent basis. Bauta’s arm strength is nothing special. He struggled with his mechanics. Ramsey certainly has a live arm, but he too has a way to go with his mechanics – several of his passes sailed – and reading a defense. Park looks like a kid who’s been on campus since January, but there’s some talent there. Next year’s G-Day game should be interesting.
- Defensive line. Another area where depth is impressive. The Red team line included Ray Drew, who couldn’t be blocked for much of the day. The Black team line looked good, as well. Pruitt seems to use four-man fronts more than Grantham did, so I saw a good bit of Leonard Floyd with his hand in the dirt. Floyd isn’t doing any more pass coverage and looks way more comfortable out there as a result. Another kid to keep an eye on is Davin Bellamy, who backs up Floyd and showed me something Saturday. I don’t think Georgia’s defense is going to have a problem generating a pass rush this season.
- Linebackers. Herrera and Wilson looked solid. Herrera blitzed a lot yesterday and showed good timing on the delayed blitz, getting at least one sack in the process, as I recall. Neither was asked to do much in pass coverage, which, again, is a hopeful sign of what to expect.
- Defensive backs. It was tough to get a good gauge on this group, with Matthews’ and Green’s absences, but depth certainly looked shaky. There was a lot of rotating going on, so it was clear that the coaches were using the game to do plenty of on-the-fly evaluating. Still, I noticed a few things. Swann looked comfortable playing the star position, which is no real surprise. Aaron Davis turned out to be more than Pruitt’s pet rock; his coverage skills and mechanics are solid. He’s also got good size for the position. I’m not proclaiming him a starter in the fall by any means, but he certainly looks like he could be a contributor. Corey Moore made a couple of good plays. In any event, I don’t think there’s any question that some of the defensive backs coming in for fall practice will have a real shot at cracking the two-deep.
- The G-Day format doesn’t lend itself to much here. The punters, with the exception of one kick that Barber really got his leg into, were disappointing. Morgan looked fine. His one miss was on a long one where he was a little wide, but he had plenty of distance.
- Overall, there did seem to be a more business-like approach to this year’s G-Day. No doubt much of that can be attributed to Pruitt’s stated purpose of using the scrimmage more for evaluation purposes than as a competition, but I got the same sense of things on the other side of the ball. There was clearly an emphasis on the passing game, which makes complete sense if you’re probing the weakest areas of the team, depth at the secondary and back-up quarterback positions. And it was pretty obvious there was a reason for all the shifting personnel on the offensive line. I left the game with the sense that the coaches got more out of this G-Day game than its immediate predecessors.
- It was amusing to see that the coaches were in mid-season form with the officiating. There were a couple of questionable pass interference calls and Reggie Davis clearly got away with a push-off of Davis on his touchdown catch, but still…
- Quayvon Hicks looked like he was coming along catching the ball, but I was a little disappointed with his blocking.
- This year’s walk on star on offense was receiver Clay Johnson, who made a sensational catch with Quincy Mauger grabbing his facemask. Don’t know if that’s enough to crack what’s going to be a ridiculously deep rotation once the injured players are back, though.
- But Uriah LeMay looked good enough that he may be tossed into the conversation at receiver.
- Tramel Terry played a little safety and didn’t look nearly as lost as he’s been making himself sound.
- Speaking of not looking lost, the defense actually covered the freakin’ wheel route. I don’t care if that was only in a scrimmage.
- However, the defense did get burned on a Reggie Davis reverse that was nicely handled on offense.
- As far as simplification goes, there was much less hand waving going on than was the case last season.
- It didn’t dawn on me until the ride home, but there were far fewer missed tackles than we’ve been used to seeing, too.
- That’s a very good thing, because Pruitt is clearly more aggressive committing his defensive troops to the line of scrimmage than Grantham was. Linebackers played closer and there were a lot of one-safety coverage looks. If you think the rush and attacking the line of scrimmage were key components to Georgia’s success on defense before, they look to be an even bigger deal now.
- I didn’t miss Grantham’s towel.
- As far as the fan-friendly experience goes, I’ll keep my mouth shut about loud intrusive music as long as McGarity promises never to inflict that Mascot Gallop experience on us again. That whole embarrassment was beneath the dignity of Hairy Dawg, who doesn’t really possess much dignity to start with. And I will point out that the fans enjoyed the frisbee catching dogs that were the halftime entertainment way more than the music or the frolicking goobers. Word to the wise, man.