ATHENS — At long last, after more than eight months of preening and prognosticating, the Georgia football season kicks off on Saturday night, with upset-cultured Appalachian State the opponent at Sanford Stadium. Here are updates and notes in the lead-up to the game, including personnel and other news.
6:10 p.m.: Ridley and Holyfield
Receiver Riley Ridley and tailback Elijah Holyfield are in uniform and participated in some warm-ups. It didn’t seem that Ridley was doing as much as he normally would, for what it’s worth, but he was still participating. Holyfield got at least one rep during final team drills.
It would still be a surprise to see either guy play, and it would mark a change in longstanding UGA student-athlete drug policy. We shall see.
I write this while Bacarri Rambo is calling the dogs on the field here. Incidentally.
5:55 p.m.: Secondary update
Freshman Richard LeCounte is at first-team safety in Georgia’s nickel lineup.
Sophomore J.R. Reed, who is starting at safety in the 3-4 lineup, moves down to star in the nickel.
Senior Aaron Davis and junior Deandre Baker are at cornerback, with senior Dominick Sanders at the other safety.
5:48 p.m.: Offensive line update
It looks like Dyshon Sims is working with the first team at right guard. Solomon Kindley is with the second team.
And Sims was also announced as the starter at right guard.
The rest of the first-team line is the same as it’s been: LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Pat Allen, C Lamont Gaillard, RT Andrew Thomas.
5:45 p.m.: Sony Michel …
Is warming up while his music is blaring over the loudspeaker. They’re playing one of his songs, which I’m guessing is named “Attack the Day,” and cites Kirby Smart.
5:05 p.m.: A couple kicking notes
Long snapper Trent Frix, who has missed some preseason with a hamstring injury, is in uniform. So is Nick Moore, who is the long snapper when Frix can’t go.
The kickers are out there on the field right now warming up, and at the moment I don’t see Marshall Long, the sophomore who Kirby Smart has said isn’t 100 percent back from the knee injury that ended his freshman season. Long has been participating in practice, but graduate transfer Cam Nizialek will be the starting punter.
EDIT: Long is now out for warm-ups, so he’s in uniform.
Nizialek, incidentally, is holding for Rodrigo Blankenship on field goal tries in warm-ups. Last year Jacob Eason was the main holder.
4:45 p.m.: Tommy Tuberville
The former Auburn/Ole Miss/Texas Tech/Cincinnati head coach is here calling the game as an analyst for ESPN. It’s sort of weird to turn to my left and see him over there, talking with play-by-play man Mike Patrick.
The last time I saw Tuberville in Athens, by the way, he was eating at Fuzzy’s before testifying at the Jim Donnan trial. Tuberville was asked to list his coaching stops, and afterwards he smiled and said: “It’s sorta hard to keep track of us.”
4:20 p.m.: Some attire notes
Freshman offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson was decked out in an all-red suit. The Brooklyn kid bringing some style down south.
Wide receiver Javon Wims was sporting a bow tie. And that’s all I’ve got right now on that front, to be honest. Back to football updates. Hopefully.
4:15 p.m.: Malkom Parrish update
The senior cornerback is in crutches and a walking boot during the Dawg Walk. So that would appear to rule him out for this game … and put him in serious doubt for next week at Notre Dame.
The players aren’t in uniform yet for the walk, as Kirby Smart brought the tradition of having players wear suits for the game. So we’ll only know officially about any players being out once warm-ups begin.
3:20 p.m.: A depth chart!
Georgia’s first depth chart of the season is here, on the flip card provided to the media. How much stock to put it in … eh. Well, I wouldn’t consider it 100 percent what the two-deep will be for this game, but it’s a good guide. It’s fairly similar to the depth chart I guessed at this morning. Some observations:
- Andrew Thomas is indeed the first-team right tackle, ahead of Ben Cleveland.
- Solomon Kindley is the first-team right guard, with Kendall Baker his backup. However, at left guard it’s listed as Pat Allen “or” Dyshon Sims. That would seem to validate … seem to at least … that the reason Kindley wasn’t getting some first-team reps this week was an injury, and he was being treated delicately.
- Malkom Parrish is listed on the depth chart at left cornerback – as in it’s Parrish “or” Aaron Davis – but I don’t expect Parrish to play, because of his injury. Davis is also listed as the first-teamer at star “or” freshman Deangelo Gibbs. The right safety spot, meanwhile, is listed as J.R. Reed “or” freshman Richard LeCounte.
- I’m assuming that Davis will be the left cornerback, and if you go by that, then it’s Gibbs at the star … but I wouldn’t rule out LeCounte starting at safety and Reed at the star. Either way, it appears a freshman is starting somewhere.
- Terry Godwin is listed as the punt returner, ahead of Mecole Hardman and Ahkil Crumpton. Meanwhile, the kick returner is listed as Hardman “or” Sony Michel.
- Riley Ridley is listed on the depth chart as a second-team wide receiver, behind Javon Wims. But if Ridley plays today that’s a story in itself, as it would mean that UGA has changed its drug policy.
- Godwin is listed as the other first-team wide receiver, ahead of Michael Chigbu. And at the slot, Hardman is a first-teamer, ahead of Crumpton.
3:05 p.m.: Quick pregame thoughts
This reporter just got to the press box and snapped the requisite photo of the field. It’s good to be back up here for another season. Fans are already crowded around the west end beyond the stadium, getting ready for the Dawg Walk – which for construction reasons this season will be much earlier than usual. (It’s at 4 p.m. today.) And the Redcoat Band, probably loving the heat, just walked by lugging its instruments.
As for what to expect today, I’m on record thinking Georgia will win this fairly convincingly, and there won’t be much nervousness here in the fourth quarter. That’s for three reasons:
- Georgia is the better team.
- The Appalachian State name factor will work in the Bulldogs’ favor, as this will be the last Sun Belt team they’d ever overlook.
- In Kirby Smart’s bumpy first year, two of the good moments were the season opener against North Carolina and the bowl win over TCU. Those were two games that Smart and his staff had an entire offseason and then a month to prepare.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t some frustrating moments today for the home team. App State does have talent, and its small-but-quick defense could make some plays.
Everyone, of course, will be watching to see how Georgia’s offense, and especially the offensive line, fare today. I’m also on record expecting moderate improvement this year. But that’s one of those wait-and-see moments.