Saturday’s G-Day game on a glorious spring day at Sanford Stadium in Athens provided an extended glimpse at the work-in-progress that is the 2015 Georgia Bulldogs. Not a lot of questions about the team were definitively answered, but that’s pretty much the case at just about every G-Day, which is essentially a controlled scrimmage with no kickoffs, punt returns or hitting of the quarterbacks allowed.
My brother Tim and I were among the announced free-admission crowd of 46,815 (sounds like one of those figures the late Dan Magill used to pull out of his, uh, tennis hat), and we thoroughly enjoyed watching the alumni play flag football while the colorful Bobby Poss cracked wise, followed by the game between the Red (featuring the first-team offense and second-team defense) against the Black (first-team defense and second-team offense). Here are my main observations in the form of responses to questions I’ve gotten from folks who weren’t able to attend.
How does the quarterback battle look?
Ongoing. Brice Ramsey got the start with the first-string offense, but he and Faton Bauta ended up rotating between the Red and Black teams. They’re obviously still in a tight battle for the starting job and both had their good and bad moments Saturday while operating an ultra-vanilla offensive scheme. Ramsey showed his arm strength and down-field capability with a couple of long throws but generally had a quieter day (5 of 9 for 174 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown) than did Bauta (16-of-25 for 171 yards, including a 25-yard TD strike to tight end Jordan Davis). Ramsey also overthrew some open receivers and got away with a ball that easily could have been intercepted. Bauta seemed comfortable mostly staying in the pocket and, unlike last year, wasn’t free to take off running since he was wearing a black noncontact jersey.
Jacob Park played exclusively with the Black team and looked much more like a QB still learning the playbook than did the other two, as he went 10-of-15 for 92 yards and the game’s only interception. Walk-on quarterback Sam Vaughn got in only for the Black team’s opening series of the second half.
The QBs all wore black jerseys and it’s fair to say that a few of the day’s numerous whistle-sacks might not have been sacks if they could have taken off (particularly Bauta and Park), but at the same time many of the sacks appeared to result more from the quarterbacks holding on to the ball too long rather than poor offensive line play.
What about the competition for a starting center?
Still getting there. Sophomore Isaiah Wynn still seems to have the edge, since he played center for the first-string Reds while senior Hunter Long was with the Blacks, but Wynn also had the game’s only bad snap, sending one sailing over Ramsey’s head on the third play of the game. He settled down after that, though.
What about the running game, and did Nick Chubb play much?
Chubb only had three carries for 34 yards and one touchdown on a 17-yard run where he looked like a man among boys. As my brother put it, “He’s on a whole other level.” He also caught three passes and dropped another.
Most of the running by Brendan Douglas for the Reds was of the a-couple-of-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust variety (12 carries for 21 yards) while the Blacks’ A.J. Turman had a pretty good day going against the second-string defense, with 26 carries for 106 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown scamper on which he outran a defender. He also had the game’s only fumble, though. Sony Michel and Keith Marshall didn’t play.
What about the defense?
Other than giving up a couple of long pass plays and that touchdown by Chubb, the first-string defense looked good, and, despite being hampered by the whistle being blown whenever they got near a QB, the pass rush, looked awesome. Between the two defenses, there were 14 tackles for loss, including eight sacks. And true freshman defensive back Jarvis Wilson had the game’s only pick, which he returned 53 yards. Reggie Carter led the Black team with eight tackles while, somewhat surprisingly, freshman Natrez Patrick led the Reds with eight. I’d say the defense looked on track at this point.
Any really exciting moments?
Besides Turman’s long run, Wilson’s interception return and Chubb making it look easy on his touchdown, the most excitement was generated by Ramsey hitting speedy Isaiah McKenzie on that 72-yard scoring strike. Unfortunately, McKenzie pulled a hamstring, which meant he was done for the day, but he looks likely to be much more than just a kick returner this coming season. Ramsey also had another very nice throw on a 60-yarder to Reggie Davis.
Not so special, especially since half the game (returns) was missing. The punting was mediocre, despite there being no rushing of the kicker, and placekicker Marshall Morgan appears to be still getting used to not having Adam Erickson as his holder. He missed a 42-yard attempt to end the first half but later made a 25-yarder. The Blacks’ Patrick Beless wrapped up the scoring with a 37-yard field goal with 58 seconds left in the game. All the PATs were successful.
Overall, as Mark Richt said after the game, “It’s so hard to try and judge what kind of a day it was when you go Georgia against Georgia while working your first, second, and third units because it’s just a lot of guys getting a lot of reps. When things were executed properly on offense, it was pretty to watch. Defensively, I thought that the guys for the most part played well as a unit. They tackled well and batted some balls down at the line of scrimmage.”
Your average G-Day, in other words.
POOCH KICKS: The team’s warm-up routine before the game appeared to have been tweaked a bit. … Among those on the sideline were former Dawgs Chris Conley and Todd Gurley, both of whom drew ovations from the crowd when shown on the big video screen. … The alumni flag game ended up in a 22-22 tie when Richard Samuel caught a TD pass on the final play. … The Redcoats played from the stands and the only other halftime entertainment was a jokey race between some lame made-up “mascots” that was won by Petey the Peanut. No Frisbee-caching dogs or passing contest between former star quarterbacks this year, unfortunately. … Mark your calendars: This year’s Countdown to Kickoff fan fest is set for July 11. … Someone appears to have neglected to tell the UGA and Athens-Clarke police that there was a football game in town Saturday, resulting in a lack of traffic direction (and hopeless gridlock) afterward.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.