Georgia was back on the practice field Saturday on a beautiful spring day. The sidelines were filled with coaches in town for the annual clinic. Even 4-star wide receiver Dominick Blaylock was on hand — despite the fact he won’t officially enroll at UGA until the summer. The scene could almost be described as a festive atmosphere, but the players might not’ve been having as much fun as everyone else.
That’s the subject of today’s DN90.
Former UGA running back Keith Marshall had a humorous response to a hip-hop star on Twitter this week about whether spring practice is enjoyable for players. Marshall’s response left little room for doubt regarding his true feelings.
Marshall’s comments also bring to mind something former Alabama All-American Mike Johnson said this week on DawgNation Daily about how what happens behind the scenes during spring practice isn’t always as sanitary as what gets shown in team-issued videos.
“There’s a lot on the line,” Johnson said. “You’re not preparing for a game. You’re not worried about, ‘hey… this guy’s got to be healthy on Saturday and we need him to put our best foot forward.’ It’s ‘hey… this guy’s coming for my job or this guy’s trying make me look bad.’… I’ve got to lay it out there. There’s a lot on the line, and I had a lot of bruised temples at the end of the day [from fighting with teammates].”
There’s no evidence any UGA players have come to blows this spring, but we can assume they’ve been forced to match the intensity of their teammates — which is the standard UGA coach Kirby Smart has set for the program.
Smart summed up his feelings on position battles at the beginning of last year’s spring practice.
“For me, there’s competition at every position, Smart said. “You know that. We talk about it all the time. Our kids in this room know that. There will be changes on the depth chart throughout. There will be tough competitions. What we’re trying to do is get every guy on our team to play better. It’s not about who we play next year. Right now we’re worried about us.”
That attitude creates a powerful atmosphere, and it’s easy to see why some players might not love it — even if it’s a necessary part of the process.
However, there’s at least one aspect of spring practice that might be preferable to the practices that happen later in the year.
“The weather’s not quite as brutal in the South as it is in some of the fall camps,” Johnson said. “The temperatures are a little bit better… I think — mentally — that allows you to focus a little more on your craft… You’re worried about getting better. It’s a huge opportunity and [the heat] is not quite as grinding as when you get into fall camp.”
The weather was quite pleasant in Athens on Saturday. The guests in attendance seemed to be having a great time.
However, the players were still sweating plenty.
Click the video — linked above — for more of what Marshall and Johnson had to say about spring practice challenges.