ATHENS – Beyond transfer policies, open records legislation and satellite camps, Kirby Smart has had actual football to deal with in his first spring as Georgia’s head coach.
Ten practices are now in the books, and on film, with G-Day now looming closer, a week from Saturday. There will be plenty of time to write about the big picture, and what culture change Smart is trying to make, as well as the schematic and philosophical differences from the Mark Richt era.
For the purposes of this story, however, let’s focus on personnel. Here are the most noticeable takeaways so far on emerging players, those closing in on starting spots, and basically what we’ve learned so far:
1. Inside linebacker duo?
Reggie Carter, back after shoulder surgery, and Natrez Patrick, building on a strong finish to his freshman season, have grabbed the inside the track to start at inside linebacker.
The arm injury to Roquan Smith, which has limited him this spring, may have helped. But Carter, a junior, has always been known for his intelligence, speed and nose for the ball. Patrick started the final two games of last year, and has looked good this spring.
Davin Bellamy, meanwhile, appears close to cementing a spot at one of the outside linebacking positions. Lorenzo Carter is probably still the man at the other spot, but still has work to do.
2. Tailback depth down, but … Chubb
Nick Chubb’s health is really the biggest football story of Georgia’s spring so far. Yes, he’s only been taking carries in non-contact drills, tending only to run straight ahead. That’s a long way from being able to change direction and get tackled in a real game.
But it’s also a long way from a couple months ago, when merely no longer needing crutches was the story.
Tae Crowder, the redshirt sophomore, also appears to have taken advantage of more reps this spring, with Brendan Douglas (wrist) also limited, and starter Sony Michel protected. Smart has been worried about not having enough healthy bodies at tailback, but that’s a short-term problem. It’s looking more likely that he’ll have his star back in some limited form for the start of the season.
3. Jacob Eason isn’t being handed anything.
The five-star recruit has worked with the third team most of the spring, only occasionally moving up to second team. He’s done well, but not enough to vault past Greyson Lambert or Brice Ramsey quite yet. None of this should be surprising, as Eason should be preparing for his prom in Lake Stevens, Wash.
Lambert would probably still be the starter if Georgia had a real game this week. He’s impressed Smart and the coaches with his command of the offense and the huddle, an area Ramsey still appears lacking. But the first real game isn’t for another five months, so there’s plenty of time for Ramsey – or Eason – to catch up.
4. Offensive line stability?
The first team for the revamped front five looked the same for all 10 practices: Kendall Baker, a redshirt sophomore with no career starts, at left tackle, with senior Greg Pyke moved to right tackle after two years starting at right guard. The interior has senior Brandon Kublanow at center, flanked by guards Isaiah Wynn and Dyshon Sims.
Could it change between now and the opener? Of course, but the only incoming player expected to make a run for a starting spot is tackle Tyler Catalina, the graduate transfer from Rhode Island.
Smart said Tuesday he wasn’t happy yet with the production of that starting five. But apparently it’s been decent enough so far not to replace anyone.
5. Terry Godwin is ready
Georgia needs to replace Malcolm Mitchell, by far its leading receiver last year, and all indications are that Godwin, the second-leading receiver as a freshman, is stepping into the role. When Georgia runs offensive sets during practice viewing periods, a good rule is to look and see if Godwin is out there. If he is, that’s almost certainly the first team.
Godwin may only be 5-11, but he’s fast, has good hands and is dependable. He’ll be used out of a lot of different spots on the field by new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
As for the other receivers – besides junior Isaiah McKenzie out of the slot – well, that remains an open question going forward, along with plenty else.
G-Day, Georgia’s annual spring football scrimmage, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Sanford Stadium. Check back here daily for DawgNation’s G-Day coverage brought to you by Georgia United Credit Union.