Pretty typical G-Day game, huh? Unlike some other schools, I feel like our spring game really is just the last scrimmage of the practice...we don't really tweak the rules to allow for more scoring, or give points to the defense, or whatever. Outside of a couple of trick plays that I doubt we will see much of once the games start for real, this was just the team lining up and running the things we have been working on.
Let's look at the things I was looking forward to and see how they turned out:
- Glorious High Definition. I was pretty happy with the ESPN broadcast...it was a nice little commercial for UGA football: Coach Richt in the booth, the Herbstreit-Stafford interview at halftime (where he managed to plug Richt/Bobo for any young QB's out there looking for a launching point for their NFL career: We don't run any of that sissy-boy spread football here...we play big boy football, just like they do in the NFL). Only thing I would have hoped for was that they were a LITTLE more familiar with who is who...I know it's the spring game, and they probably did around ZERO research beforehand, but maybe their spotter could at least be able to identify guys who are on the 2-deep?
As a side note, I though Stinchcomb sounded great. Nessler said in an interview beforehand that this was kind of a "mini-audition," and I think he probably helped himself. I loved the self-deprecating joke about that clip being the only time he blocked Kearney all game....it's funny cause it's TRUE. Maybe we'll see him instead of that imbecile Robert Smith on College Football Live next year?
- All four quarterbacks. We did in fact get a good look at all four. I thought Cox looked pretty good, other than he is LOTS shorter than I remember. They list him at 6-1, which is ridiculous. If he's 6-1, then so am I (I'm a quark shy of 5-9, if any of you ladies were wondering). He was accurate, he made good decisions for the most part...we'll have to get used to the fact that we no longer have Staff's cannon arm back there, but all in all I was pleased with his performance.
I was probably most impressed with Logan Gray. Very accurate, nice touch...the ball that Troupe dropped (more on that later) was about as pretty a pass as you can make, and would have been a sure touchdown. I think he ended up 6-9, and at least two of those incompletions were drops. Also, we didn't really get to see his full skill set, since they weren't running him at all due to his green jersey. If he's performing like this all the time, then he'll provide Joe C with good competition all year, although I still think the QB1 position is The Ginger Assassin's to lose.
As for the freshmen, I though Aaron Murray looked really good (and he was JACKED...apparently he worked out upper body a lot while rehabbing his leg injury). The throw he made where he was scrambling to his right and whipped a perfect 25 yard strike down field showed a glimpse of his ability...I think the future is in good hands.
Mettenberger didn't get a lot of opportunity, only throwing three passes. He completed none of them, plus he threw an UGLY interception. I think he is the most likely to redshirt, since he is far more raw than Murray, but he has all the physical tools you can ask for. He is making a huge step up as far as quality of both teammates and opposition, so he'll have a learning curve.
- Caleb King/Carlton Thomas. Neither of these guys really shined on Saturday, but I didn't see anything that would make me nervous, either. The defense played really well against them, so they didn't get a lot of opportunities in the open field or anything like that. I would have liked to see more, but I still feel the same way as I did before Saturday: We're going to miss Knowshon's heart and spirit more than we miss his considerable talents. There's a good bit of talent left in our stable of running backs, and I think with the improved offensive line our running game will be just fine.
- The secondary. Kind of a mixed bag here...the good first. I think Bryan Evans looks very comfortable at safety, and his experience and speed are going to be a big help for us. Sanders Commings is freaking huge, and I think he may be a playmaker at the nickel corner spot.
As for the bad, there sure were a lot of guys running free over the middle...if our receivers had held on to a few more balls, we may be lamenting how poorly our secondary played. Part of the problem there was that the QB was getting quite a bit of time, allowing those routes to come open, but they were a few too many soft spots in that zone for my liking.
So, I am still a little concerned about the secondary, but we still have some guys who are learning in some of those roles (Evans, Commings, Brandon Boykin), so there is ample opportunity for improvement.
- Defense as a whole. Well, I didn't ask for much...just look like you want to be there and you have a clue. They definitely fulfilled those expectations. I was happy with the effort, and there seems to have been a focus on the fundamentals this spring, which I appreciate. The most encouraging development was probably the play of both Justin Houston and Marcus Washington. If those guys continue to grow into legitimate pass rushers, and then add Jeff Owens alongside Gino Atkins, our defense will be vastly improved.
First of all, the wide receivers...I'm not really concerned about the dropsies for two reasons. Number one, several of them were by guys who I don't think we're going to be counting on to catch many passes this year. The one exception to that was Aron White, who I think is projected as the starter at TE, but we also have Bruce Figgins returning from injury and also uber-athlete Orson Charles arriving in the fall. Israel Troupe had a couple of drops as well, which was a little concerning, since we may need him to step up in the absence of Kris Durham.
The other reason I'm not really concerned is that, by all accounts, this has not really been a problem in the spring and they just had one bad day. The fact that this one bad day occurred in front of 42K fans and was captured by ESPN cameras will, of course, cause us all to obsess about it for the next 4-5 months, but it doesn't necessarily indicate a trend.
Something Coach Richt said in one of his sideline interviews really stuck with me while I was watching this...we have about 20 guys who did not participate Saturday due to injury who will be ready to go by the time fall practice gets here, as well as 20 incoming freshmen. That means there will be FORTY more bodies available in fall practice than what we had in uniform on Saturday. So, let's not get too hot and bothered about what we saw on Saturday. Take that team we just saw and add:
Those were some of the injured. Not to mention Marlon Brown, Branden Smith, Washaun Ealy (hopefully), Orson Charles, Abry Jones, Chris Burnette, etc, etc...
The pont is that the team that takes the field on September 5 may just barely resemble the one we saw on Saturday. So while it sure was fun to get to watch football played between the hedges on Saturday, I certainly don't think we can draw any conclusions about what this team is going to be. That being said, I definitely thought there were more positives than negatives, and I can't wait for kickoff!! Only 144 days away!!