ATHENS — And now, we wait.
G-Day and spring practice are in the books for the Georgia Bulldogs. And while that’s probably a good thing for those 100-plus players and coaches who have been going at it pretty hard the last five weeks, that’s not necessarily a great thing for the Bulldog Nation, which I gather can’t see and hear enough about coach Kirby Smart’s program.
As of Monday, it is exactly 100 days until Georgia’s opens preseason camp. It will be 131 days before Georgia kicks off the 2018 season against Austin Peay. That may seem like a long time, but it really will be here before you know it.
Do not fear, for we here at DawgNation have lots of plans to keep your football appetites sated as we entire football purgatory.
In the meantime, I wanted to put a bow on spring football and G-Day with some final observations. Post your comments and questions below and I’ll be sure to reply just as soon as I can.
Justin Fields and the quarterbacks
I’m going to go out on a limb here. I don’t think we’ll ever see Justin Fields get sacked 7 times in a game in his career, not at Georgia and not when he’s playing in the NFL in a few years.
That’s what they had down for him on the stat sheet Saturday from G-Day. The Red defense was credited for bringing down Fields 7 times for minus-41 yards. Of course, the scrimmage was conducted under non-contact rules for the quarterbacks, and referees were instructed to be quick on their whistles. They were, as the 11 combined sacks of the quarterbacks attests.
I went through a replay of the game, and if I had to guess how many of those plays would have resulted in actual sacks of Fields, I’d put it at one, maybe two. Fields was never blindsided and anticipated all the pressure he incurred. A couple of the sacks were basically one-handed touches and, at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, I don’t see Fields going down with many one-handed grasps. One time he got swallowed up inside the tackles with nowhere to go, another time he ran out of bounds for a short loss, which counts as a sack. Conversely, Fields had a long run of 22 yards and might’ve gone a while longer on that run and one other.
Here’s another observation I made: Georgia didn’t exactly turn Fields loose. I’m not sure what the motivation was, but coaches just didn’t call any deep balls for him. He had 18 completions in the game (on 33 attempts) and they came primarily on check-downs, slants, wide-receiver screens, quick outs, and dig routes. Retrospectively, that’s kind of disappointing because we’ve heard so much about Fields’ “cannon” arm. But he did show some nice touch, pocket awareness and instincts.
I may be wrong, but I think I saw him under center only twice. The rest of the time Fields operated out of the shotgun. But he did make the 15-yard touchdown pass to Matt Landers off play-action from under center and it was a well-placed ball on a deep fade. Great catch by Landers, too.
As for Fromm, it looked like he simply had a bit of an off day throwing the ball. The pick-6 by Deandre Baker was simply an overthrown ball on a short route to Mecole Hardman. His other interception, made by William Poole II, was a misread and shouldn’t have been thrown. But Poole made a nice play on the ball.
Wide receivers will be just fine
My cohort Brandon Adams and I differ a little bit on this observation, but I think Georgia’s wide receivers will be just fine.
Yes, there were more drops Saturday than you’d like to see in any contest, but that’s really not that unusual for the spring. I expect this unit to be considerably more sharp come the fall. Also, the Bulldogs were economical in the use of their primary targets. Understandably, Terry Godwin spent most of the day on the sideline nursing what we’re told are minor groin and knee injuries. But Godwin should be 100 percent in short order, and when he is, he has proven to be one of the most reliable receivers in the SEC.
Meanwhile, Georgia didn’t target its other primary receivers very often, either. Hardman had just 1 catch and Riley Ridley had 2. One of Ridley’s, you might note, was a 57-yard touchdown from Fromm. Ridley would’ve been credited with another 44-yard score — and thus 116 yards receiving overall — if he could have held on when his head slammed into the Sanford Stadium turf.
No, Saturday was mainly for Georgia’s offensive coaches to get a look at the less tried-and-true receivers. Ahkil Crumpton, the second-year transfer from California, led all receivers with 5 catches for 60 yards, and looked remarkably like Isaiah McKenzie with a 34-yard catch and run of Fields pass over the middle. Jeremiah Holloman also showed some flashes, finishing with 59 yards on 3 catches showing a knack for making tough catches in traffic. Freshman early enrollee Kearis Jackson had just 1 catch for 5 yards but created a lot of buzz in camp this spring and drew some oohs and aahs on a punt return he ran about 2o yards up the field to catch.
Senior Jayson Stanley was unable to run down a deep ball from Fromm on the first series but, unbeknownst to many, he’s actually one of the Bulldogs’ fastest players and, with some confidence, could prove to be a real threat this season. He had 4 catches for 30 yards. Meanwhile, the No. 1 offense threw the ball to backs Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield a lot. That’s something we can expect to see with D’Andre Swift in the fall. The sophomore tailback didn’t play because a groin pull.
Defense might surprise us
Lastly, I came away fairly impressed with Georgia’s defense. For the game, the Black team was considered the No. 1 defense. But one must keep in mind that these forces will be joined in the fall, and the combination therein looks like a pretty good defense to me.
Most of Smart’s concern coming in was with the secondary and the defensive line. It was hard to tell much about the play of the defensive front, as there were very few straight rushing attempts. But the defensive backs overall played surprisingly well.
Poole’s interception came while playing the star position, and he actually switched sides to play for both teams. Added together, he finished with 3 tackles and a pass breakup in addition to the pick. Tyrique McGhee led the Black defense with 6 tackles. Eric Stokes, despite giving up the TD to Landers (he actually had good coverage) was impressive in man coverage and was credited with 2 pass breakups.
Considering as much as Georgia was putting up the ball — 81 times between the two teams Saturday — the defensive backs held up pretty well. They had 13 pass breakups and 4 interceptions.
The thing to remember about the 2018 Bulldogs is they remain a work in progress. Seventeen more freshmen from the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in America will join the team for summer workouts the first of June. There are a lot of players Georgia’s coaches are eager to see out of that group, including cornerback Tyson Campbell, guard Jamaree Salyer, linebacker Quay Walker and punter Jake Camarda. You can bet some of those guys will figure prominently into Georgia’s fall plans.
For now, we’re left to speculate about all that — for a while. We’ll just have to enjoy doing that over the next 100 days.