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Georgia football key position battles
Spring practice and G-Day provided us with a few possible answers as to who will fill out Georgia football’s starting lineup when the regular season rolls around this fall. For instance, it’s safe to say Monty Rice is the heir apparent to Roquan Smith at inside linebacker. Likewise, Ben Cleveland and Isaiah Wilson seem to have staked their claim to starting gigs on the right side of the offensive line.
The obvious caveat here is that a lot can change between now and no job is ever safe under Kirby Smart. But we certainly have a better idea right now of what the first team will look like than we did before spring practice.
Of course, questions still remain in a number of spots. So we’re taking a look at what I think will be the key position battles of the fall.
Cornerback — Deandre Baker is an All-SEC player and locked in at No. 1 corner. But there’s still a battle being fought to start opposite him. Tyrique McGhee had the lead coming into spring, and did nothing to hurt his cause at G-Day with a Black team-leading 6 tackles. William Poole II made a nice play to intercept Jake Fromm. Eric Stoke did well in man coverage despite getting beaten by Matt Landers for a touchdown on a jump ball. Mark Webb was making plenty of noise before an injury kept him out of G-Day.
But the strides those guys made may not matter once 5-star corner Tyson Campbell arrives this summer. If he’s as good as advertised, he’ll immediately insert himself into the competition at corner. Ditto that for rising sophomore Deangelo Gibbs if and when he returns to the team.
Left guard — News broke Tuesday that guard Pat Allen plans to transfer from Georgia. While that will hamper the offensive line a bit depth-wise, it shouldn’t have much of an effect in the grand scheme and no effect for the first team.
Although the first-team offensive line seems sorted out, there was some experimentation with the Red team’s (first-team offense) line throughout G-Day. This spring, the first-team line has generally consisted of Andrew Thomas (LT), Kendall Baker (LG), Lamont Gailliard (C), Ben Cleveland (RG) and Isaiah Wilson (RT). Although I can imagine Wilson losing the job at RT, I’m most doubtful about Baker remaining first-team left guard.
As I said, there was plenty of experimentation at G-Day, but there was more experimentation at left guard than any other spot along the line. Solomon Kindley, who started at right guard for more than half the 2017 season, subbed in for Baker two series into the game. Those two seem likely to battle for the starting gig on the left side through summer workouts, fall camp and maybe on into the season. They’ll also have to hold off some talented freshmen. Early-enrollee Trey Hill looked strong at guard for the Black team, and fellow 5-star guard Jamaree Salyer arrives on campus this summer. The position battle at guard is only going to get tighter.
Punter — Cameron Nizialek set a new standard last season for Georgia punters and at the moment, it looks doubtful any of them will be able to meet that standard. Nizialek averaged nearly 45 yards per punt last season, and none of the three punters used at G-Day touched that average. Bill Rubright and Michael D’Angola each averaged roughly 37 per punt. Marshall Long, the favorite on the roster entering the spring, averaged 35 yards per punt on three punts, but did have a long of 49 yards. Long averaged 38.7 yards per punt in nine games in 2016 before a dislocated knee ended his freshman season.
Out of that group, there seem to be no good options. Or at least no great, Nizialek-level options. But, like in all these position battles, there is hope in the form of a talented freshman. Signee Jake Camarda was ranked the top punter in the recruiting Class of 2018 and should add an instant spark to the punter competition. I have no idea if he can come in right away and out-punt those other guys, but I like to think his presence alone will let a fire under them.
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UGA-Tech baseball game rescheduled
Because of inclement weather, the Georgia-Georgia Tech baseball game originally scheduled for Tuesday night at Russ Chandler Stadium will now be played Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Atlanta.
The No. 20 Diamond Dogs (27-13) carry a four-game winning streak over the Jackets (22-19) heading into the contest. Georgia swept the in-state series last year and claimed Game 1 earlier this year in Athens.
When students become teachers
For those of you tired of hearing about how much Kirby Smart has copied Nick Saban over his first three years in Athens and the continued Sabanization of Georgia football, this info from Bud Elliott of SB Nation is sure to give you the warm and fuzzies:
Alabama’s coaches are also using social media en masse for the first time. Insiders think this is a reaction to Georgia’s social media presence.
Coach Kirby Smart has copied the Saban blueprint almost step-for-step, with the exception of social media. Georgia coaches routinely post videos of themselves cutting up, having fun, etc. Alabama isn’t looking to cede its image as the program most resembling the NFL, but it’s now trying to pitch itself as able to have fun as well.
“I think [Saban]’s pissed about the perception and narrative that he’s slowing down,” John Garcia Jr., who covers Alabama and Southeast recruiting for 247Sports, told Elliott. “And I think he’s pissed about finishing No. 6 in the rankings. He won’t say it that way, but every time someone says he can’t do something, there’s a renewed energy.”
Odds & ends
Here’s some stuff from DawgNation you may have missed Tuesday, including posts in recruiting and the NFL draft.
- 2018 NFL Draft preview: Roquan Smith leads Georgia’s deep defensive class
- How can UGA pull nation’s No. 1 center Clay Webb out of Alabama?
- Priority UGA target Kyle Hamilton has made his college decision
- UGA recruiting: Rankings go north and south for 5-star commits, key targets
- Smart turns $2,500 check for speaking engagement into donation to South Carolina foster home
Dawgs on Twitter
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) April 24, 2018
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) April 24, 2018
— Tom Crean (@TomCrean) April 24, 2018
My heart aches for this forlorn pup.
the saddest awoo pic.twitter.com/p7etuaZUew
— fuchs (@fuchstraumer) April 24, 2018
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