ATHENS – Kevin Sherrer was asked this week what he and his fellow Georgia coaches were looking for in Saturday’s spring game. He answered by listing effort, mental energy, toughness and good technique.
He did not mention stats or position battles.
“Because it is a glorified scrimmage,” said Sherrer, the team’s outside linebackers coach. “The calls will be pretty minimal from both sides. It’ll be pretty vanilla. We’re looking for guys that are willing to play and get after it.”
OK, that’s a coach. The players surely see the G-Day game as much more, right?
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“It’s nothing but another scrimmage to us,” center Isaiah Wynn said.
And that was from someone who is involved in a starting spot competition.
Still, there is plenty to watch for the tens of thousands of Georgia fans who will be in Sanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Part of it, surely, is just a football fix, at the midway point of the eight-month offseason. But as for those stats and position battles, here are the highlights, starting with the spot on most everyone’s minds:
This is the first time since 2010 that the starting quarterback is still an open question on G-Day. The favorites are Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta, with redshirt freshman Jacob Park seeking to make it a three-man competition.
And thus every pass by those three will be watched closely, at least by the fans and media.
This is just one of three scrimmages, one day out of 15 this spring. The only difference is, this is the one the general public will see, so which quarterback fares best Saturday could warp public perception of the battle.
Head coach Mark Richt has said he’s not likely to name a starter after spring practice. It’s possible the competition could carry all the way through the season opener, against Louisiana-Monroe. Why rush a decision if no one is the clear starter?
But does all this mean that no one will pay attention to the quarterbacks Saturday? Of course not.
Ramsey’s ability to avoid turnovers will bear close watching. So will Bauta’s arm strength. And people will watch everything about Park, still a relative newcomer, although this is his second spring.
Senior Malcolm Mitchell is the go-to player, as long as he’s healthy. But whoever wins the quarterback competition needs more weapons, and preferably some reliable pass-catchers, after the graduation of sure-handed Chris Conley and Michael Bennett.
Heading into Saturday, the receivers who have had the best spring are sophomore Isaiah McKenzie and junior Reggie Davis, according to assistant coach Bryan McClendon. The position was riddled by injuries this spring, but among the other healthy players to watch Saturday are senior Justin Scott-Wesley and junior Kenneth Towns.
Still, this game could end up featuring more of the tight ends, who are in deep supply. Sophomore Jeb Blazevich, senior Jay Rome, and freshman Jackson Harris have all had strong springs.
NEW DEFENSIVE PLAYERS
The buzz around the defense this spring hasn’t been the known standouts, such as outside linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Carter, or even safety Dominick Sanders. It has been about the early enrollees who have made early bids to see playing time.
Defensive back Jarvis Wilson, the freshman from Mississippi, drew early raves from veterans.
Two players have impressed at both inside and outside linebacker: junior college transfer Chuks Amaechi and freshman Natrez Patrick.
Defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter, a four-star recruit, has been about as good as expected.
But the one who should draw the most curious eyes is UAB transfer Jake Ganus, a senior. Does Ganus have a chance to start at inside linebacker? So far, it appears he does.
THE BIG PICTURE
New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer shows off his offense, or at least what he’s willing to show of it. How different will it be from Mike Bobo’s? Players have hinted at more use of the tight end, but otherwise the changes have seemed minimal.
The first-team offense is expected to match up with the first-team defense. Does one unit look ahead of the other?
But even if it does, remember that two years ago on G-Day the defense had a better day than the offense. Remember how that turned out once the season arrived?
It’s one of many lessons about the importance of this game.