ATHENS — For all practical purposes, it was just a regular practice for the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. But it was an open practice and it was in full pads and it was at Sanford Stadium and a couple of thousand UGA fans attended.
So in that respect it wasn’t a regular practice at all. Speaking beforehand — he wasn’t available afterward — Georgia coach Kirby Smart said he expected the mere fact that they were at Sanford Stadium and fans were in attendance to turn up the intensity on the proceedings. And that appeared to be the case as the two-hour plus exercise was indeed spirited and competitive.
And the fans who endured the 90-degree heat, got rewarded with a few early glimpses of some new talent.
The player that probably attracted the most attention in that regard was D’Andre Swift. The true freshman tailback from Philadelphia wowed the crowd on back-to-back plays with moves that got him deep into the secondary in early 11-on-11 work. Swift looked just that — fast — wearing his No. 7 jersey and running with the third-team offense. However, it was still Nick Chubb and Sony Michel getting the majority of work with the No. 1 offense.
Also standing out in drill work was late acquisition Ahkil Crumpton. Similar in stature and physical attributes, the junior college transfer plays remarkably similar to former receiver Isaiah McKenzie, whether it’s out of the slotback position or catching and returning punts. Based on the hints provided earlier in the day by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, it’s in the latter role we’re likely to see Crumpton most.
Mecole Hardman, another receiver who gets a lot of work in the slot, also had some stand-out moments. Twice he got loose for touchdowns working with the N0. 1 offense in scrimmage situations against the No. 1 defense. Once was due to a missed tackle and the other time by getting behind the defense with speed.
Defensively, linebacker Roquan Smith was very active and difficult for the offense to block. Overall, it appeared the defense won the battle against the offense in the run game and red zone.
Afterward, the thousand or so fans — many of whom had been at the stadium for hours to get their picture taken with the mascot Uga X — were rewarded by forming long lines in the four corner aisles of the stadium to get autugraphs from the players. Like last year, no pictures were allowed and fans could only use handed-out posters for autographs. But overall the operation seemed to go much smoother than last year, when hundreds waited only to miss out the chance to get an autograph. And coach Kirby Smart added 15 minutes to what was originally scheduled to be a 45-minute session when it was apparent not every fan was going to get served.
Following are some other observations from Saturday’s practice:
- Hard to draw a lot from the quarterback competition. Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm and Bryce Ramsey all had good moments and bad moments in the passing the game. Receivers didn’t help by running some bad routes occasionally. Sam Vaughn, Stetson Bennett and John Seter also took reps.
- The first-string secondary on Saturday at least was Deandre Baker and Malkom Parrish at the corners, Aaron Davis at the star and J.R. Reed and Dominique Sanders at the safeties. It appeared sophomore Tyrique McGhee came in when the Bulldogs went to a “dime,” or six-DB package.
- The first-team offensive line remained unchanged: LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Pat Allen, C Lamont Gaillard, RG Solomon Kindly, RT Dyshon Sims. Second team in that order was D’Marcus Hayes, Kendall Baker, Thomas Swilley, Aulden Bynum, Ben Cleveland. Third string was Andrew Thomas, Justin Shaffer, Sean Fogarty, Netori Johnson, Isaiah Wilson.
- Sophomore wide receiver Tyler Simmons injured his left wrist early in the practice and left the field with trainers. No other information was immediately available.
- There seemed to be no other significant injuries. Offensive lineman Sage Hardin, defensive lineman Michail Carter and receiver J.J. Holloman did not participate due to unknown injuries. It’s been reported that Hardin has a hamstring injury.
- Punt returners were Crumpton, Terry Godwin, D’Andre Swift and Willie Erdman, in that order. Godwin stayed very, very busy on offense and special teams.
- Other than punt returns, Georgia did not do any special teams work.
- This was practice six of a possible 29 before the Sept. 2 season opener against Appalachian State. The Bulldogs will get their first off day Sunday and resume practice on Monday.