G-Day performance not ‘up to standard I want to play at,’ quarterback Jake Fromm says
More than a week has passed since Georgia took the Sanford Stadium turf for its G-Day spring game, and about four months remain until college football is seen again.
That’s quite the wait for many Georgia fans, so let’s pass the time (a few minutes of it, at least) by reviewing what was a rain-filled day of festivities on April 20.
If you want to read those takeaways, no worry — we have you covered.
While I wasn’t able to partake in the Bulldogs’ spring game this season, I watched from nearly 800 miles away in Texas where the sun was beaming and the gymnastics team competed in the national championships. It was a nice change of pace, but there was also some fear of missing out.
So, I flipped on the tape and watched the ESPN broadcast (thank goodness for technology and streaming services) with media members microphoned as referees, former Georgia offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb cracking jokes in the broadcast booth and a lighthearted showing for fans across the nation to see.
It was an enjoyable watch, best seen through the interactions with Kirby Smart and sideline reporter Maria Taylor. Smart, as many know, isn’t one to reveal much and has a stoic demeanor around local media. This was different, and it was fun to see.
It started with Smart joking around at a guest referee, where he broke down nearly every offensive play and played along with the crew for a possession. Taylor, however, predicted the drive’s result with a touchdown run by Brian Herrien and Smart thought a sack was incoming — typical for a defensive mind, right?
Let’s take a look at G-Day with a second glance, starting on the defensive side.
Dan Lanning and Mel Tucker differ in many ways
If a coach is doing enough to warrant a picture-in-picture view spotlighted on his face, then you know he’s having some fun on the sideline. That was the case for newly-named defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. A lot of Georgia players said there are mirroring similarities between Lanning and Mel Tucker, now the head coach at Colorado.
But their mannerisms? Try the exact opposite.
Tucker was stoic and serious. He might smile here-and-there (for those Braves’ fans, he’s no Nick Markakis and that’s a relief), but instead he would stand during plays with his arms crossed and an emotionless stare. Lanning is that plus about 10 shots of espresso.
Lanning is honed in, but loud and vocal. This is a spring game, keep in mind, where not much can be taken away and the only thing at risk was a meal of beans-and-weenies. Nevertheless, the meal of steak and lobster must’ve been important as player development. Lanning brings a youthful surge of energy, and showed it by waving his headset microphone up-and-down multiple times during pre-snap, yelling during a play then following with more reaction.
One moment it was a fist bump after Eric Stokes had a pick-six, and the next was a disappointing head shake after the Red team made its way into the end zone. Jermaine Johnson, however, was to the rescue on that drive with a third-down stop in the red zone.
Lanning had reason for excitement, however, as Johnson, Smith, and Dean were with the first-team as early enrollees.
Smart’s so-called havoc on display
On the opening day of spring practice, Smart mentioned a need for havoc. It was hard to pinpoint what the fourth-year Georgia head coach was in search of because he’s said in the past, sacks aren’t the only priority and there are other ways to see defensive success.
On a live stage, there were more hints as to what “havoc” meant — especially when the TV broadcast made it a point of mention on every defensive possession. But Georgia showed that early and in volume.
It’s not only pressuring the quarterback and getting sacks (although two newcomers Johnson and Smith could do a fairly-decent job of that this season). Georgia’s so-called havoc was seen by Stokes’ interception after wrestling for possession and waltzing into the Bulldogs’ end zone.
It could’ve been quarterback pressures as Jake Fromm, Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis were limited in their time to survey receiving options.
One area where I saw it best, though, was in pass break-ups. It jumped off of the screen (some pun intended) and Stokes, sophomore Tyson Campbell and Mark Webb — at the STAR for the Black team — all recorded at least one.
No Baker, no problem. Bulldogs have secondary options
A lot of Georgia’s reliance in the defensive secondary was on former cornerback Deandre Baker. He was the lockdown guy who hadn’t allowed a touchdown in two years, and good luck if you try to throw at him. He’s walked through the doors and finished a career, and the Bulldogs got a taste of the new-look secondary only a few days before Baker donned a New York Giants jersey as a first-round draftee.
From the outset, the first-team defense has its core in place. That includes younger names like Campbell, Stokes and Webb and is rounded out by the older presences of J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte (yes, it’s strange to call them veterans already). There were two moments that could’ve been to Georgia’s favor: Campbell, after being picked on and eventually benched, looked like a force, and Stokes ball-hawking tendencies continued to show.
Georgia’s recruiting prowess came into play with the production of that group. It’s a testament to the fact that bringing in a horde of highly-touted recruits will pay off and be fruitful (not everyone is great in year one, but that’s been noted before).
Some glimpses of guys who could contribute in the secondary were also seen on the Red team. Other than an egregious pass interference penalty from Divaad Wilson, most of the signs were positive. Early enrollee Lewis Cine led the defense with eight tackles, sophomore Latavious Brini had an interception at safety and Tyrique Stevenson saw play early and often.
▪ Former Georgia strength staffer Aaron Feld (now at Oregon) had some sideline competition in the mustache game during G-Day. An unidentified sports’ medicine staffer (if you would like to identify yourself, I will happily commend your facial hair efforts), rocked the handlebars and a curly-headed ponytail. That’s quite the fashion statement here in 2019.
▪ A special teams’ tidbit: Georgia’s return game obviously will have a different feel with wide receivers Mecole Hardman (Kansas City Chiefs, second round) and Terry Godwin (Carolina Panthers, seventh round) now in the NFL. It’s hard to tell with no live kickoffs, but Peach County product Kearis Jackson might’ve had an opening touchdown return in live action, and running back James Cook was flashy in that role for the Black team.
▪ As mentioned above, it was a pleasant surprise to see Smart have some fun. His GIF-worthy “Look at this! Look at this! Look at this!” reaction when singling out ESPN personality and guest referee Molly McGrath made the television viewpoint worth it.
▪ Georgia fifth-year defensive tackle Michael Barnett posted an Instagram photo from G-Day as he stood on the sideline without pads, a jersey and shoulder tape. His following caption indicates a potential injury, but nothing further is known at this time.