ATHENS — Greetings from Sanford Stadium, where it’s a beautiful Saturday morning. Kirby Smart will make his home debut as Georgia’s head coach, Jacob Eason will make his college debut as a starter, Sony Michel will probably make his season debut … lot of debuts, huh?
Check here for continuous updates and observations in the lead-up to kickoff.
11:53 a.m.: Almost time for kickofff
That’ll be a wrap for the pregame updates. Now feel free to switch over to the live in-game blog, which will be up at kickoff. Enjoy!
11:45 a.m.: Sony Michel warming up
It’s fairly obvious by now that Michel will play, it’s just a matter of how much. He was getting snaps with the first team during some 7-on-7 work. (Nick Chubb is still the starter, but Michel was being mixed in.)
11:42: Weather conditions
An observation from Seth down on the field: It’s very, very hot. And it’s going to get hotter as the game begins and goes on.
Thank goodness they decided not to wear black jerseys for this game.
11:40: The most important update of the game
Kirby Smart is wearing a visor.
Carry on with your day.
11:35: Eason popular, but …
Jacob Eason received a big ovation when he was announced as the starter. It was only tied for the second-loudest ovation, however.
Kirby Smart received at least as many cheers when it was announced he was coaching his first game “back between the hedges.”
And the biggest cheer came when Nick Chubb was announced as the starting quarterback.
11:32 a.m.: A new starter on the offensive line?
Junior Dyshon Sims was announced as the starter at right guard, rather than Lamont Gaillard. That’s a curveball, as Gaillard not only started last week but was going with the first team during practice this week.
We’ll see if that holds. Gaillard was getting first-team snaps in warm-ups too.
11:30 a.m. Snapper update
With Trent Frix being out as long snapper today due to injury, UGA just announced that Glenn Welch will now handle those duties. Welch is a junior fullback from Jesup.
11:07 a.m. Holder update
Eason still holder for placement kicks, it appears from pregame warmups.
11.02 a.m.: Eason/quarterback update
Expect to see a lot of Eason today, and that is not at all a condemnation of Greyson Lambert. It’s about getting Eason ready to perform at a high level. He’s not so far. And that has less to do with his ability to hit a 20-yard out route than it does pure operation times.
Look at today’s contest as a bit of a try-out game for the freshman quarterback. The coaches are looking for dramatic improvement in Eason’s ability to get the call from the sideline, get it communicated in the huddle and then change it or get it off with time to spare on the play clock. So far Eason has been pretty deficient in that regard and he needs to get much better if the Bulldogs are going to turn him loose in a SEC night road game such as they’ll have next week in Columbia, Mo.
With that in mind, fans need to understand that even though Eason might be very productive throwing the football today, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the starting quarterback the rest of way. Lambert is extremely proficient from an operational standpoint and that will be important heading into these next couple of games. But as you’ll see in today’s game, he’s a very good teammate he’s also working hard to help Eason in that regard.
10:50 a.m.: Long snapper update
OK, we’re probably worrying too much already about the long snapper situation, but it’s worth passing along that with Trent Frix out, Glenn Welch and Nick Moore are practicing long snaps. Both are fullbacks, but at least Welch has a background in snapping: He was a center at Wayne County High School, where he snapped the ball to Greyson Lambert.
10:45 a.m.: Uniform update
Nicholls State is wearing white jerseys, white pants and silver helmets.
Georgia, of course, is wearing red jerseys, red helmets and … britches that still aren’t quite silver.
10:35 a.m.: A previously-unknown injury to report
Long snapper Trent Frix is out of uniform and in a walking boot. That wasn’t mentioned or noticed during the week. A walk-on, Frix was awarded a scholarship during the preseason. Frix handled snaps on punts, field goals and place kicks last week against North Carolina.
Who’s the backup long snapper? Good question. There’s none listed on the depth chart, and none on the roster provided Saturday. There are four on Georgia’s online roster, including John Courson, the son of longtime Georgia athletic trainer Ron Courson.
10:15 a.m.: A note about postgame interviews
This may be inside baseball, but it’s also a warning about what to expect after the game.
In years past, interviews were inside the team locker room. They’ll now be outside the locker room, in a tunnel in between the locker room and the field. So videos and TV footage may be darker. And the players will be less spread out, making it a rather … condensed, let’s say, scene.
As for which players, we’re told the 12 “most requested players approved by Coach Smart” will be available. The last part is key, as we’ll find out whether Smart chooses to let the man of the hour, Jacob Eason, talk. And 12 would be a lot of players, considering only about 20 players have been available this year.
9:50 a.m.: Dawg Walk
In years past, we could report from the way the team entered the stadium whether certain players were or weren’t playing, based on whether or not they were in uniform. No more.
Players are now entering in suits, so that serves no indication. Oh well, now we have to wait just a few more minutes until the team comes out for warm-ups. (And even then, as last week showed with Sony Michel, players warm up when they’re not going to play.) That’s especially the case for this game, a home non-conference game, when Georgia can suit up its whole roster if it wants.
9:45 a.m.: Traffic update
Chip reports that his commute into the stadium was longer than normal. A noon start and a weak opponent usually depresses turnout. But that may not matter right now with Jacob Eason effect, and the excitement off last week and the new coaching era.
9:40: Another Sony Michel update
Been told by another source close to the team that “he’s definitely playing.”
9:25 a.m.: Captains
Georgia’s captains today: Reggie Davis for offense, Davin Bellamy for defense, and Ryne Rankin for special teams.
9:15 a.m.: Sony Michel update
As reported Friday, all signs point to the junior tailback being cleared to play. Now it’s just a matter of how comfortable the coaches are using him, and if so how much. Michel would probably play every snap if it was up to him. It won’t be.