041622 Athens: Georgia tight end Oscar Delp (4) runs after a catch pursued by Georgia defenders during the G - Day game at Sanford Stadium Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Athens, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Georgia QB Carson Beck looked better than Stetson Bennett on G-Day; honest takes by position

ATHENS —Georgia football coach Kirby Smart didn’t want to name any standouts or players he was impressed with immediately after the G-Day Game.

Smart indicated it was too soon with not enough film review, and he likely didn’t want to create any controversies or generate any hype.

RELATED: Kirby Smart explains why he doesn’t need to announce his starting quarterback

Smart, like most every other football coach, wants to control the narrative: A player isn’t great until he says he is, and what happens behind closed trumps any football you see in the public forum.

Fine, but the G-Day Game on Saturday did leave some initial impressions that are worth talking about.

Quarterback

Carson Beck played better than Stetson Bennett in this scrimmage. The 6-foot-4 Beck looked fluid, got through progressions quickly and delivered passes with more accuracy more consistently than the 5-11 Bennett.

This is not a challenge as to who should start -- Smart has laid down the law!

RELATED: SEC Network star wonders, what if Bennett gets outplayed on G-Day?

But Bennett’s height seems to limit his field vision and effectiveness on short-to-intermediate passes over the middle, even while he throws a beautiful fade and wheel route.

RELATED: Kirby Smart says UGA offense more than numbers

Smart talks about Bennett’s mobility but he was sacked three times and didn’t make any plays with his feet.

The head coach is also big on the experience Bennett brings to the table, but that experience didn’t prevent him from throwing two passes that were intercepted and having four other attempts batted down at the line.

Smart said Friday Bennett had cleaned up those sorts of mistakes, and then on Saturday Smart indicated the QB stats don’t matter, essentially shrugging off Bennett’s 43-percent completion percentage.

Bennett did play against the first-team defense -- a group replacing five of seven starters on its back end -- but he also had the first-team offensive line to protect him, the first-team receivers and backs to make plays and the most dynamic offensive player in the game, Arik Gilbert.

Oh, and did anyone else notice Brock Vandagriff -- who was efficient though not spectacular at QB -- was the leading rusher in the game? Vandagriff’s 28-yard run was one of only two runs longer than 10 yards on the team’s 33 carries.

Running backs

Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards looked better than the running back duo headed for the NFL did at this point last year.

Running back is another position at Georgia where the numbers don’t matter with seniority and experience being the key the past two years.

McIntosh’s vision and cut-back ability and Milton’s power were on display on G-Day, and Edwards was so shifty he left Nyland Green grasping at air in a one-on-one open-field showdown.

The Bulldogs might need another body for depth, but the top three in the rotation look elite.

Tight ends

There was a time the tight ends got grouped in with the receivers, but these Georgia Bulldogs have changed all that.

Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington, Arik Gilbert, Oscar Delp and Brett Seither — wow!

Gilbert is going to be a Red Zone problem, as ESPN analyst Greg McElroy pointed out how Todd Monken ran Gilbert on the post route four times for two touchdowns and two pass interference penalties — all opponents surely took note.

RELATED: Arik Gilbert will be a weapon, ESPN analyst explains why

Delp was a pleasant surprise, catching passes with the ease of a receiver and running over defenders in Gronk-like fashion.

Seither was an inch short of catching a well-placed Bennett pass for a touchdown.

Receivers

Remember these guys? They might look like third fiddle among the skill position groups, but they are still good enough to keep most secondaries honest.

Kearis Jackson was back in 2020 form with a 100-yard day, rekindling memories of when he was Bennett’s first read.

And how about Arian Smith turning on the jets for a 65-yard catch from Beck in one of the more exciting plays of the day.

A.D Mitchell (2-28) and Ladd McConkey (1-3), the starting perimeter receivers, were conspicuous by their relative absence, Monken surely wanting to get other receivers looks.

Dominick Blaylock’s fantastic return from two ACL injuries and a hamstring continued with a solid 5-catch, 67-yard day.

Offensive Line

What’s to say? Always best when it’s a quiet day for the offensive lineman with no one called out for obvious missed blocks or assignments.

Like umpires, offensive linemen are best when not noticed.

Defensive line

Four batted down passes were a plus for the defensive line, which Smart pointed out had the benefit of a pass-heavy scheme.

A physical run game would have likely slowed down the pass rush and made for a tougher day for this talented, reloading group.

Rising star Nolan Smith looked good but not elite coming off the edge. It’s a safe bet the former No. 1-overall ranked recruit will have one of the better offseasons entering into what amounts to a contract year after returning for the 2022 season.

Jalen Carter? Now, he looks elite, and if Carter works hard alongside Smith this summer, he’ll be a Top 5 NFL Draft pick in 2023.

RELATED: Kirby Smart had plenty to say about Jalen Carter before the end of the game

Linebackers

Jamon Dumas-Johnson, the linebacker known as “Pop,” looked every bit the real deal with his team-high seven tackles.

Dumas-Johnson doesn’t have the quickness of Nakobe Dean, but his hits pack a big punch.

There’s work to do for the other linebackersm or this will be a position of steep drop-off from the elite 2021 group that’s departing.

Secondary

Incoming freshman cornerback Daylen Everette impressed the head coach with his 5 tackles and run support, looking the part of the likely starter opposite Kelee Ringo barring an incoming portal transfer.

Returning team captain and starting safety Christopher Smith was on top of several plays, but he appeared a half-step off or a half-step behind, perhaps an indicator he’s not back to full speed.

Ringo continues to show improvement in coverage, his humble attitude and approach clearly serving him well.

Special Teams

Seeing Arian Smith back for kick returns has to strike fear in opponents, and Ladd McConkey’s quickness and moves make him appear just as dangerous in the return game.

It’s unclear why Georgia would continue to have McIntosh and Jackson back on kick returns if depth at running back and receiver are indeed a concern.

It would seem the Bulldogs have plenty of other capable options to return kicks this season, and McIntosh — who was injured returning kicks two seasons ago — and Jackson can contribute to special teams in areas with less risk of injury.

Jack Podlesny was good from 24, 28 and 33 yards on his field goals with a meaningless 48-yard miss. Podlesny is solid, and he’s going to be the starting kicker regardless of what happens in practice as Smart places great value on experience at all positions.

Jared Zirkel was good from 36 and 27 yards, including the game-winner.

Coaching

Scrimmages are scripted, but to Smart’s credit, he didn’t back off the pressures on his offense even though it made his starting quarterback look bad at times.

Smart made it clear he’s got Bennett’s back, he’s the unquestioned starter, regardless of who does what behind him on the depth chart.

It was wise to limit the run plays where linemen seem to get rolled up into and players get concussed with massive collisions.

The more wide-open pass game was more entertaining for the fans and provided receivers and tight ends great opportunities to showcase their skills.

This G-Day Game was a success from the standpoint there were no major injuries, and Smart and his staff know for sure the team’s areas of concern.

Leave a Comment