If JT Daniels’ stellar passing performance was the main story coming out of G-Day, what sophomore tight end Darnell Washington did might be the next best thing for Georgia.
He finished the game with four receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. Washington’s physical dominance was on display in the game, as defenders seemed to bounce off of him when making contact.
But perhaps most encouraging was the ways in which Georgia deployed Washington on the afternoon. Georgia showed it was willing to get creative in how it used the 6-foot-7 tight end.
DawgNation’s Connor Riley explains how Georgia’s willingness to get creative is the key to unlocking Washington’s immense potential.
After going back and watching the tape from Georgia’s G-Day game, there’s even more reason to be encouraged about what Washington might be able to do this fall.
Georgia moved Washington around quite often on Saturday. They split him out wide. They put him in the slot. Yes, they still had formations where he started with his hand on the line of scrimmage but there were also times where he was lined up in bunch formation as well.
On Washington’s five targets in the game, only two came with him lined up like a traditional tight end. The 51-yard catch came when he was split wide. His touchdown catch came when he ran a post route out of the slot. No two targets for Washington came on the same route combination.
As Washington continues to get a better understanding of the Todd Monken offense, it appears Georgia is willing to get more creative with how it uses the sophomore tight end.
“He’s a weapon. We’ve got to find ways to be able to utilize him, both in the passing game and in the run game,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “Because he’s a weapon in both.”
Related: Darnell Washington’s G-Day performance was very encouraging for Georgia offense
Positive update on George Pickens
For as well as Washington and freshman Adonai Mitchell played on G-Day, the pass-catchers that did not play were of far more importance to Georgia’s success in 2021.
Jermaine Burton and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint both dressed out but did not play in the scrimmage. Fellow sophomore Arian Smith was also wearing a white non-contact jersey on the afternoon.
Then there was wide receiver George Pickens. He recently had surgery on his torn ACL and was walking without crutches.
DawgNation’s Mike Griffith caught up with Cole Cubelic, who worked on the sidelines on for G-Day, to get a better update on what the future looks like for Pickens.
Cubelic, who worked the sideline during the SEC Network telecast of G-Day, explained why he’s confident Pickens will return.
“That’s such a common injury in sports today that as long as things heal on track, and from what I heard he didn’t have any other damage to the knee, it was pretty much a clean ACL tear, which I’ve had,” Cubelic said.
“You can do a lot of the conditioning before you get back to compete, your body can be ready once that thing gets healed up, so there are ways to make that happen.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said shortly after news broke of Pickens’ torn ACL that there was a chance Pickens could be back, but it would be completely in the hands of the medical staff.
Over the last two seasons, Pickens has led Georgia in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. He had the potential to easily be one of the top wide receivers in the country.
Related: ‘More probable than doubtful’ George Pickens returns for Georgia, per ESPN analyst
Without Pickens to start the season, Georgia will lean heavily on Burton, Kearis Jackson and others to replicate what Pickens brought to the offense.
What to make out of freshman performances
For Georgia’s 16 early enrollees, it was their first chance to play in Sanford Stadium in front of fans.
No one had a better day than Mitchell, who caught seven passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. A number of 5-star prospects also made their debuts as Brock Vandagriff, Amarius Mims and Smael Mondon all turned heads.
DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell provided a deeper look at those 2021 signees and how they played on G-Day.
What’s more important? Snaps or starts? Both are important, but there is a reason why certain players start the game and stay on the field for the biggest plays. That’s because the coaches trust them to play winning football by what they have seen on the practice field.
There are common instances where the scheme fit based on each opponent allows for a different starting rotation as well. Georgia started out many games in “12” personnel last season or with five DBs on the field.
Here is the list of the true freshmen Bulldog starters for G-Day
- TE Brock Bowers (Black team – No. 2 offense)
- OLB Chaz Chambliss (Black team – No. 2 defense)
- OT Amarius Mims (Black team – No. 2 offense)
- WRAdonai Mitchell (Red team – No. 1 offense)
- ILB Smael Mondon (Black team – No. 2 defense)
It should be noted that two of Georgia’s top defensive signees, 5-star linebacker Xavian Sorey and 4-star cornerback Nyland Green did not play due to injuries.
Related: Georgia football G-Day freshmen report: Red 28, Black 23
Georgia may not be reliant on any of the 2021 signees to start right away but you can bet a handful of them will make plays over the course of the season.
Adonai Mitchell’s performance isn’t a flash in the pan
Georgia very much made it a point to get the 2021 signee involved in the passing game. Mitchell led Georgia in targets, receptions and receiving yards.
Part of Mitchell’s inflated role can be explained by the injuries to Pickens, Burton and Rosemy-Jacksaint.
But DawgNation Daily host Brandon Adams explained why the performance from Mitchell isn’t just a one-off, but rather indicative of future success.
Related: Buzz around Adonai Mitchell after G-Day more than just typical hype
Mitchell was a 3-star signee in the 2021 signing class but he perhaps may have been under-ranked, especially when he did not play football during the fall of 2020.
If Mithcell is able to replicate his G-Day success in the fall, the Bulldogs could have a gem on their hands.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation