Georgia practice report: Justin Fields debut, coaches in new roles, one player out

Jim Chaney-Georgia football
Jim Chaney working with the tight ends during Tuesday's first Georgia spring practice of 2018.

ATHENS — Justin Fields took snaps under the watchful eye of James Coley, his new position coach. Jim Chaney worked with his new unit. Brenton Cox and other early enrollees moved through drills. Andrew Thomas took his place at left tackle.

The new version of the Georgia football team was on display Tuesday afternoon as it took the field for its first spring practice. As a few members of last year’s SEC and Rose Bowl champion team watched from the sideline, those who remain ran through their first practice with a few of their touted newcomers.

(Side note: You will see a version of the term “5-star early enrollee” four times in this story.)

Here are some notes and observations from the media viewing period, which lasted about 13 minutes:

  • Cox, a 5-star early enrollee, was working with the outside linebackers and wearing a No. 1 jersey. Cox has been listed as both an outside linebacker and defensive end, but for at least this practice was working outside. Cox, listed at 6-foot-4 and 250, looked a bit thinner than that, and at least to this eye better suited for outside linebacker.
  • Fields, another 5-star early enrollee, is also wearing No. 1, as expected, working with Jake Fromm and walk-on quarterbacks Stetson Bennett and John Seter. They were coached by Coley, back working with the quarterbacks after two years coaching Georgia receivers. Coley looked at home, with analyst Jay Johnson also watching from the side, as he did last season.
  • Chaney, still the offensive coordinator, was indeed working directly with the tight ends in his new role as their coach. He could be seen hunched down and working closely with Isaac Nauta, Charlie Woerner and the other tight ends.
  • The first-team offensive line did not offer any big surprises: The right tackle was redshirt freshman Isaiah Wilson, while Thomas was at left tackle, moving over after starting every game at right tackle last season. That has been the plan for awhile. The three interior spots were as they finished last year: Kendall Baker at left guard, Ben Cleveland at right guard and Lamont Gaillard at center.
  • Freshman Cade Mays, another 5-star early enrollee, was working at right tackle and wearing No. 77, which had been Isaiah Wynn’s number.
  • Sam Madden, a junior offensive lineman who has played sparingly, was not seen at practice.
  • Natrez Patrick, the beleaguered inside linebacker who missed last year’s playoff run due to disciplinary suspension, was practicing.
  • One tangible benefit for being able to hire a 10th assistant coach: Scott Fountain, in his new role as the special teams coordinator, was working with the kickers and punters. The past two seasons Shane Beamer, who was special teams coordinator and tight ends coach, worked with the tight ends during the early periods while the kickers and punters worked without a full-time assistant coach.
  • Kevin Butler, the student assistant coach the previous two seasons, is still with the team and working with the kickers, at least during the spring.
  • J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte were the first teamers at safety during one drill. Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee were the top two corners. None of that is surprising. It wasn’t apparent who was working at star yet.
  • Zamir White, a 5-star tailback and early enrollee, was working on the side, doing light sprints. White is working his way back from knee surgery late last year.

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