Yeah, it was a little nippy out there last Saturday. That aside, it’s hard to bitch about Saturday in Athens without feeling a little churlish, so I’m not gonna go there. The game, as usual, was entertaining without being a profound look at what’s coming.
One noticeable change in vibe came from the lack of excitement at the quarterback position, something we’d been accustomed to feeling under Smart. This year, there’s no drama — it’s Jake’s job, period. Curiosity substituted for hype. Maybe that’s what gave this G-Day a more relaxed feel in some ways.
There’s no point in getting in depth about things like playcalling, since the coaches didn’t, either, but this is an Observations post, so I’ve still got a few bullet points just dying to meet you:
- Noticeable in warmups was the strength and conditioning work being put in; I don’t say that in a preseason happy talk manner, either. There were kids all over the place who were obviously bigger than they looked last season, kids like Cook, Jackson and LeCounte, to name just a few. The first team o-line is mammoth.
- Again, I’m cognizant of what this must sound like, but the biggest takeaway on the day for me is the overall talent level. It’s the highest I’ve ever seen in Athens. Based on what I saw from other spring games, there isn’t another program in the East close to Georgia’s level right now, and very few nationally. Stack enough stud recruiting classes and you’re bound to wind up there. Georgia’s there.
- The most pleasant surprise of the day was the depth in the secondary. Stokes isn’t quite at Deandre Baker shut down level yet, but he’s getting there. LeCounte was more physical and, better yet, did a good job wrapping up tackles. He’s clearly been hearing what Smart’s been saying. What really impressed, though, was what I saw from the second team. They lined up true freshmen at one cornerback spot and safety and had a JUCO transfer man the other cornerback position. All acquitted themselves well. Cine is going to push for a starting spot all season long and I loved how confident Stevenson looked. Overall, I thought the defensive backs played more aggressively than we saw last season, which is probably due to more depth, more experience and the coaching change. Baker’s gone, but I can’t say I’m worried.
- I don’t know that I’d call it an area of concern, but the group that stood out least Saturday was the receivers. Some of that was due to Robertson’s last minute absence due to illness, but I didn’t get the sense that the quarterbacks are really all that comfortable with anyone past Holloman and Woerner. Landers clearly illustrated what the scuttlebutt about him all spring has been — flashing talent, but not consistently. He’s only going to play as much as his hands let him. Let’s just say that I left G-Day thinking there’s plenty of opportunity available for the kids coming in this summer.
- Jesus, is D’Andre Swift gonna have a year this year. He didn’t play much, but he didn’t have to. He burned a very good defense a couple of times with that patented change of direction move and he flashed his jets. With that offensive line blocking, hoo, boy.
- Herrien isn’t as dynamic a rusher as Swift — hell, who is? — but he showed what an effective weapon he is in the passing game. Learn to love the wheel route this season, folks.
- To answer the question does Georgia really field two complete offensive lines that are as good as any in the conference, I’d have to say, nah. The left side of the second team line had issues with pass protection, and, for that matter, so did Mays when the second team defense got aggressive with the pass rush. (Yes, Virginia, Georgia did blitz on occasion.) That being said, there’s no question Pittman can plug and play Mays and Salyer with the first-string line without losing much. Speaking of the first-string line, they didn’t get the opportunity to mash much (or, using the preferred expression, impose their will), but I don’t think there’s much to worry about in that regard.
- Speaking of the offensive line, the funniest thing I saw was Clay Webb, all 6-3, 295 pounds of him, looking like the runt of the litter out there. Talk about everything being relative.
- As for the quarterbacks, well, while I wouldn’t say the backups dazzled, I would say they did manage to lower my anxiety level. Mathis is physically gifted for the position with a more polished delivery than I expected. His arm strength is more than adequate and he can run. He’s also raw and is definitely a work in progress with regard to all the things you’d expect a true freshman quarterback with a month of practice to lack. He’s clearly a redshirt candidate, but with the four-game rule now, I’ll be curious to see over the course of the season if the coaches pick a spot here and there to deploy his skill set.
- I don’t know that I’d call Stetson Bennett a beast, but, all in all, he had a good day out there. He’s bigger now than he was in his first stint, which certainly doesn’t hurt. He displayed a nice touch on his passes and throws a very catchable ball. (Maybe that’s why he completed the only deep ball to Landers.) He also had my favorite play of the game, a pass to Herrien where as he was rolling out saw that Herrien had position on Dean and motioned him to go downfield a little more for the catch. That took a little chemistry. Do I feel like if Fromm went down with an injury, Georgia wouldn’t miss a beat with Bennett? Can’t say that I do, but I feel okay that Bennett can run the offense competently when it comes time to take Fromm out with a decent lead. And, no, that’s not a backhanded compliment. Protecting Fromm this season is kind of a big deal.
- The only thing you need to know about Fromm’s day is that he didn’t get hurt.
- The d-line neither surprised nor disappointed, which isn’t that bad a thing to say when you consider who they were up against. Jordan Davis had his moments, but a couple of times I did wonder about his stamina.
- As far as the outside linebackers go, there’s a wealth of talent. All you need to know is that Cox lined up on second team and had a disruptive, dominant second half. Johnson made Thomas work, which is all I needed to see. Smith is a little smaller than I thought, but, damn is he solid. He made a great tackle on Swift. Biggest surprise is that the one kid who doesn’t look any bigger than he was last year is Adam Anderson; he’s still got that burst, though.
- The story at inside linebacker was Nakobe Dean, who is as quick and fluid as advertised. He’s also a true freshman, as advertised. Still, that physical talent says he’s going to crack the starting lineup sooner or later. The only other ILB who made an impression on me was Monty Rice.
- I mentioned some of the second team DBs who stood out, but the first-stringers more than held their own. Stokes and Holloman had some epic battles all game long. Campbell is coming on, but still gives more cushion on occasion than I like to see (and Fromm took advantage of that more than a time or two). Reed was solid, outside of that Herrien stiff arm. There looked like a coverage screw up on Bennett’s touchdown pass to Holloman, but when you hold an offense around six yards a pass attempt, you’ve had a good day.
- No point in spending much time on special teams, except to mention that Rodrigo’s still got the big leg and Camarda chipped in with a nice long-distance field goal, as well.
- Best of all, nobody got hurt.
And now, we wander in the desert for the next few months. On that note, anything you want to add, add in the comments.