ATHENS – Kirby Smart was sending a message on Saturday. He was sending it to Georgia’s players and also to the thousand or so supporters who were able to watch the Bulldogs’ scrimmage at Sanford Stadium this past weekend.
The message was delivered in several ways, but it was the senior receiver Javon Wims who found himself as the unexpected messenger.
Very early in Saturday’s scrimmage, quarterback Jacob Eason connected with Wims on a beautiful 53-yard touchdown pass. Right after crossing the goal line, Wims decided to celebrate with an impromptu back flip.
While this got a few oohs and ahs out of the excited spectators, it evoked a different response from the Bulldogs’ young head coach. In a word, he went ballistic.
Slinging aside his head set and playsheet and whatever else he had in his hands at the moment, Smart made a beeline to Georgia’s statuesque wideout and ordered him to stand in the northwest corner of the end zone facing away from the field like a parent might a toddler in timeout. No doubt that was humiliating, but Wims probably would have preferred to have remained there as opposed to what happened next.
Smart directed Wims up into the stands to start running the steps at Sanford Stadium. He would do that for the next hour and half — at least. In so far as anybody can tell, Wims never did return to the field of play on Saturday.
Later, when Smart was addressing Magill Society members after the scrimmage, he told them that was the kind of undisciplined behavior that caused Georgia to lose to Tennessee last season and that he wasn’t going to stand for it this year. You might recall Rico McGraw being flagged for his helmet-less foray onto the field to celebrate UGA’s go-ahead TD catch with 10 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs did not stay ahead.
I’m telling you all this second hand. Media didn’t get to watch the scrimmage, of course, because, well, that’s just the way it is nowadays, I guess. Well, I take that back. Reporters were offered one 6-minute period of observation time in the university facility built on state land. But it was only during drillwork and it allowed only enough time to take role.
But a thousand or so “friends of the program” did get to watch entire scrimmage. Mainly, they were members of the Magill Society (individuals have donated at least $25,000 to the football program or $10,000 in the last year), UGA’s official sponsors and family and friends of players.
Fortunately I happen to be friends and/or acquaintances with of a lot of these people. I go to church with a few of them, so I believe them to reliable sources.
I thought I’d share with you today some of their observations about Saturday’s scrimmage, starting with that rather notable early interaction between Smart and one of his starting wideouts. Besides, it’s not like I’m giving away any state secrets here. One can find any of this information in great detail in the chatrooms and fan forums of all the various fan pages, including ours. You can be sure that Georgia’s opponents subscribe to and monitor all these websites daily, just as the Bulldogs do for all their opponents. That’s just another way they utilize these battalion-sized support staffs.
Anyway, there were several tidbits of interest I heard that are worth sharing. Including:
- The practice was long and hot. It lasted more than three hours from beginning to end.
- The defense was thoroughly dominant. Again. That’s kind of been the narrative of this entire camp, but it was particularly apparent when the Bulldogs when to 1 vs. 1 with the offense and defense. Yes, the offense made some plays here and there and did better on third down, but the defense won most of the battles.
- Eason continues to struggle with accuracy. The sophomore quarterback looked very good in warmups but missed some open receivers deep during the scrimmage. He did make a nice scramble and throw for a touchdown to Riley Ridley early in the scrimmage.
- Georgia’s run game struggled overall. Smart said afterward that tailback Sony Michel was “a little banged up,” and that apparently is because he got bent backward during a tackle midway through the scrimmage. He would return, however.
- Freshman D’Andre Swift had some nice runs again but appeared to have tweaked an ankle. He was riding a stationary bike and was limping afterward. Linebacker Juwan Taylor was also “banged up” during the scrimmage but did return.
- Wide receiver Mecole Hardman played some quarterback in Georgia’s Wild Dawg formation, as Seth Emerson reported earlier in the week. He also caught a long TD pass from quarterback Jake Fromm. Fromm also had a long completion to Riley Ridley and had another good long ball dropped by Mark Webb.
- Hardman was the first up on kickoff returns and there was some buzz about a long kickoff return to about midfield or so by Jayson Stanley. Terry Godwin was first up on punt returns, followed by junior transfer Ahkil Crumpton. The starting receivers with Ridley expected to miss the first game were Wims, Godwin and Michael Chigbu.
- Graduate transfer place-kicker David Marvin made a 57-yard field goal and a 47-yard field goal and apparently is giving incumbent Rodrigo Blankenship all he can handle in that battle. Blankenship also made a 47-yarder and they alternated handling kickoffs. So that race is truly “neck-and-neck,” as Smart has described it.
So that’s just a little more detail than what Smart offered in his post-scrimmage briefing with reporters this past Saturday. Take it for what it’s worth, I guess.
Fortunately it won’t be long now before we’ll all get to see everything we want to know about the Bulldogs for ourselves. We’re just a little over two weeks away from Georgia’s home opener against Appalachian State on Sept. 2.
Speaking of which, I talked on the phone to App State head coach Scott Satterfield on Monday (check back for stories on the Mountaineers this week) and he told me he’d heard that Georgia’s offensive line was looking even better than last year’s group in preseason practices.
Wonder where he’s getting that?