ATHENS — The Georgia passing game is in good hands, and a reloading defense isn’t as bad off as some might have feared.
Those were the two major takeaways from the Bulldogs’ annual G-Day Game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, won by the first-team offense (Red Team) over the first-team defense (Black Team), 28-23.
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The final score wasn’t as important as the execution and growth of many young players, most of whom are stepping into considerably larger roles at a time Coach Kirby Smart is pressed to produce a national championship.
RECAP: JT Daniels wins shootout with Carson Beck in G-Day
The pressure to win the big prize is internal, of course. In this instance, Smart is surely aware quarterbacks like JT Daniels don’t come along too often, and they probably don’t stay after the sort of season the Bulldogs are expected to have on offense in 2021.
Here’s a “report card” reflection on the immediate takeaways from the scrimmage, and what was learned at each position group.
JT Daniels was magnificent with his decision-making and throws. Carson Beck looked like the No. 2 QB with his fluid movement and big arm, though Brock Vandagriff’s physical talents are obvious, and one wonders what he’ll look like once familiar with the offense. Stetson Bennett, wiley as ever, was first to get his team on the scoreboard. Yes, each QB but Daniels had a turnover, but there was nothing alarming.
Running backs (B-)
The Bulldogs’ crowded backfield was solid though not sensational, none able to break off a run longer than 9 yards on their 24 combined attempts. Zamir White and Kendall Milton proved capable pass catchers, but neither appear as fluid catching the ball or as dynamic in the open field as James Cook (6 catches, 61 yards). Daijun Edwards looked good on his limited touches.
It’s important to put into perspective the receivers were facing an inexperienced secondary that was playing vanilla coverage, and there were still miscommunications and dropped passes. Freshman Adonai Mitchell made nice catches (7-105), but there were six other throws intended for him that he didn’t catch, including two drops. Demetris Robertson had 4 catches for 88 yards, but his catch radius remains limited, and his footwork was off on a ball ruled caught out of bounds. Kearis Jackson did not appear to be 100 percent, but the tough WR leader caught all 4 balls thrown his way for 50 yards. Arian Smith, who splits his time with track, didn’t catch either of his targets and was overthrown by Beck.
Tight ends (A)
Georgia fans looking for a position group to be excited about can focus on the tight ends, where man-child Darnell Washington was once again on display. Washington’s catch-and-truck for 51 yards was the highlight of the day for at least one sportswriter, and his hands and focus were also impressive on his TD catch. Brock Bowers proved clutch with a big third-down catch for 25 yards. John FitzPatrick had just one catch, but he’s expected to be a go-to target for Daniels once the season is underway.
Offensive Line (C)
It looked like a group where players have been changing positions a lot — because they have — and the synchronization suffered. There were good moments, but also times that made one wonder if this group can adequately protect Daniels. Xavier Truss had two false starts, and Warren McClendon was beaten by Nolan Smith for a sack. The head coach noted how this unit got pushed back off the ball, something that hasn’t happened to Georgia offensive lines under Smart. There were 6 sacks yielded.
Defensive line (A-)
Smart said he’s concerned about Jordan Davis being overweight, and it’s valid, Davis looked a half-step off and made just one stop. Jalen Carter (4 tackles) and Devonte Wyatt (2 sacks) impressed, and Zion Logue had a sack, a batted pass and a fumble recovery. Travon Walker also had a sack and 4 tackles. Nolan Smith had 6 tackles and a sack. Tramel Walthour had 5 stops. This is the strength of the team, even with Davis being a bit off his game.
Quay Walker changed numbers (to No. 7) and his assignment efficiency, making a team-high 8 tackles and looking like the answer at middle linebacker. Channing Tindall missed an open-field tackle and finished with four stops, a talented player who remains a work in progress. It was encouraging to see freshman Smael Mondon log 5 tackles. Graham Collins had a QB sack.
It’s a work in progress, to the extent signee Javon Bullard was the Red Team’s leading tackler with 7 stops, while second-year safety Major Burns had 6. Lewis Cine had 5 stops and an interception to lead the first-team DBs. Ameer Speed had 7 tackles and 2 PBUs, but also, got his feet tangled with Demetris Robertson and gave up a 59-yard TD. Jalen Kimber cemented his status as CB1 exiting spring drills. Dan Jackson had an interception, and Kelee Ringo flashed with a big hit on defensiveness receiver Ladd McConkey.
Special teams (I)
It’s an incomplete grade. There was no tackling in the return game, so it was hard to evaluate much of Kearis Jackson or Ladd McConkey fielding punts and kicks. Jake Camarda is an All-American punter, but he missed all three of his field-goal attempts (42, 44, 57). Jack Podlesny made his only attempt (35).
Georgia looked like a well-coached team missing dynamic players at key spots. It could be a matter of the long, physical spring session taking juice out of players’ legs. The Bulldogs looked well-drilled, but not necessarily crisp or explosive. The schemes were vanilla on offense and defense, so it’s hard to know just what to expect against Clemson on Sept. 4, and that’s the way Smart likes it.
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