ATHENS — Georgia football backups appeared to be getting an early start at practice in anticipation of ample playing time against FCS Murray State on Saturday.
There were some UGA substitutions in the 30-6 win over Vanderbilt on last Saturday, but nothing like fans figure to see in this weekend’s game against the Racers at Sanford Stadium.
The game kicks off at 4 p.m. on Saturday and figures to be a blowout, the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs favored in their home-opening game by at seven touchdowns.
Coach Kirby Smart knows better than anyone how valuable third-year starting quarterback Jake Fromm is, and the steep drop-off in experience and talent at that position should Fromm get injured.
It’s a good bet Fromm will be out of the game by the end of the third quarter, if not sooner.
That could be why the Bulldogs were working on RPOs with backup quarterbacks Stetson Bennett and Nathan Priestley during the 7-minute media viewing portion of practice.
Tailback James Cook, who regularly practices as the “Wildcat Formation” quarterback, was also working snaps a QB with Georgia’s starting tailbacks.
Smart talked about wanting Fromm to get the ball downfield more when defenses crowd the line following the Vanderbilt game.
But Smart has traditionally starting running time off the clock when the score gets lopsided against inferior opponents, often handing the ball off time and time again to prevent the clock from stopping.
This will mark the 14th consecutive season Georgia has scheduled an FCS opponent, certainly not optimal for season-ticket holding fans.
Last year’s opener against FCS Austin Peay was such a route that the coaches agreed not to play the full 60 minutes, cutting the game five minutes short at 45-0.
Smart, however, claims there’s a value to playing the smaller, overmatched schools in blowout home games.
“It’s their opportunity to fund their program,” Smart said, asked about buy-games like the upcoming one on Saturday. “I certainly want to try help support them, not at the cost of our fanbase not getting what they want. There’s a medium in there.”
The value for Georgia is getting backup players an opportunity to compete on game day.
Incoming freshmen like Dominick Blaylock and Kenny McIntosh, who traveled to Vanderbilt but did not play, will likely get work.
Other Bulldogs who wouldn’t ordinarily do more than contribute on the scout team should also get repetitions once Georgia is up by five touchdowns.
It not only makes for a happier locker room, but it also provides a chance for Smart and his staff to build depth and spark competition.
Julian Rochester update: Rochester was wearing a brace on his right knee during defensive line drills, but he looked to be taking reps at full speed. Rochester traveled to Vanderbilt, but he did not play.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Rochester opened the 2018 season as the starter. He started 12 of 14 games at defensive tackle, suffering a torn ACL in the Sugar Bowl.
Jamaree Salyer update: Salyer, who missed more than a week of practice with a lower body injury, was working second team at right tackle.
Salyer did not appear slowed in the combo-blocking drills the offensive tackles performed with the tight ends on Wednesday.
DawgNation Murray State week