ATHENS -- Mark Richt wasn’t impressed with the way junior running back Todd Gurley was practicing earlier in spring practice.
“I thought he started slow,” he said. “Early practices, I thought he was ho-humming it a little bit.”
That all changed this week when Richt said he was very encouraged by the way his star running back performed throughout practice. Gurley impressed coaches again Saturday as Georgia held its second spring scrimmage, a week before the team’s annual G-Day spring game.
Gurley rushed the ball only three times for 14 yards last week, but he collected 10 carries and 67 yards on Saturday.
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“He had some good runs (Saturday),” senior quarterback Hutson Mason said. “The first drive, he broke one for probably 25, 30 yards. It’s good to see Todd evolve and in good shape.”
Gurley’s increase in yardage can be credited to improved offensive line play from the previous scrimmage. The line was the same as that scrimmage except for sophomore Brandon Kublanow starting at left guard over junior Zach DeBell. Last week, the offensive line gave up four sacks and seven tackles for loss, according the Richt’s stats. This week, only one sack was announced, which came from Ray Drew.
“Pass protected a lot better. I think there is probably less pressure brought,” Richt said. “We did a lot of third-and-medium and third-and-long (last week). That’s kind of the down where the defense can come at you a little bit, and we didn’t handle that very good.”
Mason was helped by the offensive line play, as well, and went 12-for-16 with 136 passing yards and a touchdown.
This was the second scrimmage in a row that Mason had not committed a turnover, and it looks like he is separating himself from the pack.
Redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey got the second-most snaps and went 9-for-21 with 114 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Faton Bauta was 1-for-5 for one yard and interception, while freshman early enrollee Jacob Park was 1-for-3 for 6 yards.
Even though Ramsey got the most snaps next to Mason, Richt is not ready to give him the job just yet.
“That one is kind of hard to judge,” Richt said. “You have to try and factor in how much protection is this guy getting, how much time does he have to make this throw. Are these guys dropping balls, are the receivers he is with struggling with what to do, or get separation?”
Jonathon Rumph continued his strong spring Saturday with six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. The senior wide out received increased reps in the scrimmage as senior Michael Bennett sat out with a sprained ankle. Also joining Rumph with touchdown receptions were sophomore Reggie Davis and junior Quayvon Hicks, who played with the No. 1 tight ends Saturday due to a Jordan Davis injury.
“He’s getting better,” Mason said. “Quayvon has always struggled with his hands, you throw it to him and sometimes you’re like, ‘Come on, man.’ I tell you this week in general, everything he is catching he is tucking, and it looks a lot more crisp.”
The offense put up more passing yards than it did last week, but that can be credited to the nice weather rather than stormy conditions. Mason said the offense carried a more balanced approach Saturday, but the defense played with more energy than it did last week.
Sophomore Tray Matthews led the team with nine tackles and started next to sophomore Quincy Mauger at safety. Mauger had an interception of Ramsey, and sophomore linebacker Reggie Carter had the other pick off a tipped ball.
Senior Ramik Wilson continued to be a force after leading the SEC in tackles last season. Wilson collected seven tackles in the scrimmage and drew some praise from Gurley.
“That boy Ramik, I can never get away from him,” he said.
This season, Gurley will try to escape the perceived mediocrity that has surrounded the football program in his two years with the team. His practice efforts this week are a direct correlation to his thoughts regarding this season.
“We’re just tired of just being mediocre and going to the SEC championship game, going to the bowl game and losing,” Gurley said. “We are just trying to start something and buy into the system.”