G-Day pregame blog: Updates and observations

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The scene 15 minutes before kickoff at Sanford Stadium.

Live from Sanford Stadium for the spring game at Georgia, here are notes, updates and observations in advance of G-Day.

2:00: Gametime

They played up the Red vs. Black team angle in preagme intros, having each of them come out of their own tunnels, the Red team first and the Black team a minute later.

I’m on record favoring the Black team, considering its second-team defense is better than the second-team offense. But that’s also assuming the first-team offense really has improved this spring and the first-team defense has slackened.

Crowd-wise, my guess is somewhere between 50-60,000.

Note: This will be the last update on the pregame blog. Please go here for further updates.

1:50 p.m.: Crowd update

Barring something very unexpected, this will not be another 93k day. And it might fall well short of that.

We’re about 15 minutes from kickoff, and there are still open seats in about one-third of the lower section. The middle sections are only now starting to have people fill in, and the very upper sections are basically empty.

Now last year they hit the 93k with a late influx of people, but you could’ve seen it happening, as the bridge was packed with people. Now it’s not.

The guess right now is the minimum turnout will be 45,000, but the ceiling is around 70,000. Which would still be a lot, by the way.

1:45 p.m.: Recruits galore

I was just on the sideline, hobnobbing and such, and can safely report that a ton of high school prospects are at this game. I did not personally see Zamir White, but he’s the big name here this weekend.

There are also a bunch of signed/incoming players here, including William Poole, Netori Johnson and Isaiah Wilson.

1:15 p.m.: Different Dawg Walk

Whether it’s permanent or not we don’t know immediately, but players arrived at Sanford Stadium for the Dawg Walk in their uniforms. This is different than last season when Kirby Smart had the players arrive in suits and ties. A lot of fans have complained about that because they — and their kids in particular — can’t readily identify their football heroes in coast-and-tie. We’ll ask afterward if this was just a G-Day thing or something that will continue in the fall.

For what it’s worth, Ben Cleveland was dressed out in red for today’s game. The big redshirt freshman offensive lineman from Toccoa had missed the last week or so of spring practice for an undisclosed injury. He had been competing previously as the No. 2 right tackle and sometimes at guard.

Fans will notice that Jonathan Ledbetter is much more svelte these days. The junior defensive end has trimmed down a great deal since last season when he played the last six games of the year. He has been a standout for the defense this spring.

A prediction

The Black team will have a good day defensively, especially stopping the run.

This is based on a closer look at the makeup of each teams. Consider this match-up: The Red team has the second-team offensive line, which apparently will not include tackle Ben Cleveland, and it will go against what supposedly is the second-team defensive line, but which includes Julian Rochester, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle and David Marshall. Those guys all started some games last year.

The Black team defense already has outside linebackers D’Andre Walker and Chauncey Manac, who could have a field day. And while the secondary starters are on the Red team, the Black team has some solid defensive backs: Tyrique McGhee, Deangelo Gibbs, Richard LeCounte and Jarvis Wilson.

If Jake Fromm and Elijah Holyfield have a good day, considering all that, that should say a lot about them.

12:10 p.m.: Injured players out?

Several players known to be dealing with injuries are not on the depth chart that was passed out, which may indicate they will not play: Receiver Riley Ridley, tight end Jeb Blazevich and tackle Ben Cleveland.

And of course inside linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive lineman Trent Thompson are out, as they’ve been all spring.

Noon: Depth chart observations

Georgia has included a depth chart for each team – which is a depth chart in and of itself, as the Red team is the first-team defense and the Black team is the first-team offense. But there are still some interesting nuggets within those depth charts:

  • The first-team star on the red team is Aaron Davis, thought to be a starter at safety. In his place as a starting safety is J.R. Reed, the transfer from Tulsa who earned some compliments from Kirby Smart earlier this spring. So file that away. Early in spring Tyrique McGhee and Deangelo Gibbs were the main contenders at the star – the team’s lone vacant defensive starting spot – but both of those players are on the Black team. McGhee is the first-team star and Gibbs a second-team corner.
  • The offense is divided into four receiving spots: X, Z, Slot and Y. The Y is tight end. The other three are receiver spots, and the Black (first-team offense) goes this way: Javon Wims at X, Terry Godwin at star and Michael Chigbu at Z. The Red team receivers include Jeremiah Holloman (X), Tyler Simmons (Z) and Mecole Hardman (slot).
  • The second-team offensive line (otherwise known as the Red team’s first-team line) goes left to right: D’Marcus Hayes, Kendall Baker, Thomas Swilley, Chris Barnes and Aulden Bynum … What’s interesting about that is Barnes at guard, rather than center, where he’s been working this spring.

11:30 a.m.: What am I here to see?

In case you missed it, here were my “Five Things to Watch” from today’s game. But if I may add a few items …

The receivers. What kind of role does Terry Godwin have, just in the slot or as a regular wide receiver too? (I suspect the latter.) Who ends up having the next-biggest role on the Black team, which is the first-team offense? (It won’t be Riley Ridley, who’s not expected to do much because of his foot injury.) And of particular interest is the receivers on the Red team, where Jake Fromm has the least experienced group of receivers, but several with intriguing upside: Mecole Hardman, Tyler Simmons and J.J. Holloman.

The second-team O-line vs. front seven match-up: Do outside linebackers D’Andre Walker and Chauncey Manac have a big day, especially with second-team right tackle Ben Cleveland uncertain to play? This will be the Red offense vs. Black defense. And if Walker and Manac are very active, then Fromm is immediately tested as far as decision-making and quick release under pressure.

Other young players on defense. Barring some surprises, the first-team offense is basically set heading into the preseason. But which backups could really make a move today? Walker and Manac are talented but are blocked by Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter. What about early enrolling defensive backs Deangelo Gibbs and Richard LeCounte? And what about early enrolling inside linebacker Monty Rice, or redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Tae Crowder.

11:25 a.m.: Off the field, a hit to recruiting

Kirby Smart might be in a bad mood a few hours before the game. Georgia’s 2018 recruiting class just took another significant hit, with a four-star prospect flipping to LSU.

Jeff Sentell has the details. 

11:20 a.m.: Another 93k day?

Probably not. The traffic around the stadium wasn’t that bad, and there wasn’t as much tailgating as last year at this time. Yes, there’s still a long way until the game, so you never know.

But even if it falls short – I’d put the over-under betting line on attendance for around 70k – then it puts into context how amazing a feat it was to fill this place last year.

11:15 a.m.: Nice day for a game

It would be incorrect to say you couldn’t have picked better weather for the game, because in an ideal world it would be 10 degrees cooler. But other than that, yeah, it’s a really nice day to be outside.

The skies are blue, there’s little to no wind, and it should be in the low 80s around kickoff.

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