As we've noticed, our fans seem to be really, and I mean really, like extremely very much so, even to being a bit worried, excited about Georgia starting spring practice. Well, so are we in the dawgsports staff. And while our fanposts have been blowing up with great work after great work (see the links, and more), we'd be lazy as dawgsports.com staff if we didn't add our own contributions on top of the wonderful work you guys have been giving us.
Well, spring practice began, and Mark Richt was happy.
"Overall, the tempo was great," said head coach Mark Richt. "The attitude was good. Everyone was coaching hard, everybody was playing hard."
Saturday was the first practice of spring, and for 13 early enrollees, with the Dawgs taking the fields at Butts-Mehre again on Tuesday before popping the pads a couple times a week until concluding with the glorified practice that is G Day on April 6th. As much as fans focus on the one they get to watch in Sanford Stadium, the 14 preceding it are just as critical to the development of the young players, and for the team as a whole.
Among the big things to see this spring will be:
- The battle to replace Murray in 2014. Hutson Mason is back off his redshirt season, and seems the heir apparent right now. Christian LeMay was highly touted coming out of Charlotte, but has failed to make much of an impact. He's now had enough time in the system to start making a move, and there's no time like the present to make it. Brice Ramsey enrolled early, and he has all the talent to be the QB of the future after a likely redshirt season. Some (like myself) expect him to acclimate himself quickly in the spring, summer, and fall, and move to the top of the chart by this time a year from now. Then of course, there is the one non-traditional pocket passer of the bunch in Faton Bauta. The 6'3, 220+ pound signal caller out of Florida has some around here all curious about different packages to utilize his size and powerful rushing ability in addition to his strong right arm. We've got 4 strong candidates behind Aaron Murray, so now would be a good time to let the senior spend time with other, more pressing matters (*cough*), and let them get in plenty of work to see who can emerge from the pack.
- Who starts on defense? With so many returning starters on the offensive side of the ball, who we'll see on the field come fall isn't near the question mark that we see for Todd Grantham's group. Garrison Smith comes back to fill one spot on the DL, and Amarlo Herrera returns after a strong sophomore season starting, while Damien Swann is the lone returning starter in the secondary. Aside from those three, the battle is on to determine who gets to hit some Clemson Tigers the most on August 31st. Josh Harvey-Clemons could be at S or at LB. Early enrollees were a high priority for D, as Ryne Rankin and Reggie Carter are hoping to get action alongside Herrera. Chris Mayes and John Atkins are in the locker room now, hoping to put their hand in the dirt with Smith on the DL. Quincy Mauger, Tray Matthews, and Reggie Wilkerson looked to get a jump on the large DB class we just signed replacing the NFL bound CBs Sanders Commings and Branden Smith and Ss Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams. Rising sophomores James Deloach and Sheldon Dawson were working at starting OLB and CB on Saturday according to Marc Weiszer. You have emerging star Jordan Jenkins trying to fill the immense shoes Jarvis Jones left behind (the soon to be first round NFL pick JJ was throwing out the first pitch at a Braves spring training game yesterday by the way). Ray Drew will be looking to break out in his junior season after biding his time behind Abry Jones and others the last two years. We'll have a lot of extremely talented young men wanting playing time this fall, and impressing the coaches over the next month will go a long way in earning it. No one is going to win a starting job off spring, as we'll still have summer workouts and fall camp (when guys like Leonard Floyd, Shaq Fluker, Kennar Johnson, Shaq Wiggins, and several others join the competition), but you have to put in the work in January, February, March, etc if you want to be playing in September, October, and on through January.
- Get ready. As mentioned above, we've got 7 new players working in on the defensive side of the ball, getting their first taste of an SEC practice. We've also got Ramsey, as well as Jonathon Rumph, Aulden Bynum, Josh Cardiello, and JJ Green getting their feet wet on the offensive side of the ball. The 13 new players who enrolled early (Tramel Terry will be unable to practice as he recovers from a knee injury) are getting work as they try to win playing time this fall. They will all have their ups and their downs, but the growing pains they endure this spring means they have that many less to go through come fall. Oh, and on April 6th, we get some tailgate practice in for fall. Some clean those smokers now.
- Proving me wrong, again and again. We've already mentioned two mistakes I've made. James Deloach is working at OLB, and I've long said I expect the big man to end up along the DL. JJ Green is another where I've been shown to be incorrect in my assumptions. I said he'd play a lot of CB, and while he has the ability to do so, it appears the staff thinks of him as an offensive threat. As you can see in the linked profile, the young man from Camden County certainly can make plays with the ball in his hands. He's getting work at TB right now, as we're missing Keith Marshall, Brandon Harton, and others from the offensive backfield. Mark Richt says he'll likely play a lot of slot receiver when the fall gets here, but the versatile playmaker could impact games at a number of spots. Injuries are always a concern in spring, which brings me to....
- Don't get hurt. Often the most important thing coaches want in spring practice, everyone to make it to the other side in good health. We've already seen injuries hit the offensive backfield, and the offensive line (as you may have seen in the opening paragraph's links). Football is a physical, collision sport, and injuries happen. While guys will certainly pick up bumps and bruises, what you don't want is anything that will linger into later this summer, if not take a guy out for the season come fall. You want them to work hard, hit hard, but you also want them healthy. If someone misses a day here and there, don't worry, because spring is a time to be extra cautious with recovery, when you can give other guys work without effecting game preparedness.