Spring practice gets underway tomorrow, but don’t expect it to be a time of information and updates on what the team will look like come fall. Pro Day was last week for NFL hopefuls, but aside from practice number 1 is tomorrow and the finale coming on April 22nd with G Day, we have no idea when practices will be. Because Georgia isn’t telling anyone.
Yes, it seems a bit odd and with not much reason for withholding that information. But then there’s not a whole lot of reasons we need it either. It’s practice. Players aren’t that enthused about it, because there are no games to look forward to at the end of the week or opposing players to enjoy hitting someone else for a change when games are played. And unless someone gets significantly hurt, relevant news is pretty minimal if non-existent being so far away from the season, with so much time for 18-23 yr old young men to grow and develop or fall back.
But that doesn’t mean stuff won’t get done, so with that in mind, let’s discuss a few of the things we won’t be learning before August or so.
The skinny QB isn’t as thin as he was on arrival with 12 months of college life, college food, and SEC workouts under his belt. But after a decent if nothing special season as a freshman, the signal caller from across the country looks to firmly make his mark on the program. Jake Fromm has arrived early from Warner Robins, and will push him as the only other scholarship QB on the roster. Fromm is said to be a gym rat type player, and born commander in the huddle, and will force Eason to improve or get passed eventually. But #10 will have a 12 month head start, and had about as good a freshman season as one could ask for if we’re wanting to place higher hopes on the newest newbie in town. Eason can now begin to work with his receivers, and settle in behind a hopefully improved offensive line, with veterans like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel joining him in the backfield for impact plays. The honeymoon is over for Jacob, and an SEC East title will be expected sooner rather than later.
As mentioned above, that offensive line needs to settle down in front of Eason, or Fromm for that matter, for the Georgia offense to start scoring the points needed to win big games. D’Marcus Hayes is already on campus, and looking towards solidifying the troublesome edges for us at one of the two OT spots. Isaiah Wynn and Lamont Gaillard return as starters, and Dyshon Sims joins them after gaining considerable experience. But we’ll need to replace Brandon Kublanow at C, arguably the most overlooked spot that is critical to an effective offense, as well as both OTs from last season. Even the returning starters have question marks positionally, as Gaillard may slide to C and handle the snaps, while Wynn could end up at LT, or LG, or RG, or maybe C. So Sam Pittman will have his work cut out for him in determining what players need to slot where, as he looks to work in Hayes, redshirt freshmen like Solomon Kindley and Ben Cleveland, and figure out where impact prep stars like Netori Johnson and Isaiah Wilson can be best used in their first few weeks this fall.
But regardless of which quintet makes the cut up front, the offensive line simply has to do a better job next season both protecting the QB and opening lanes for running backs like Chubb and Michel if there are going to be silver britches on the field of Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 2nd.
Sure, there are concerns up front with Trenton Thompson’s health key among them. And a defensive backfield is usually about as good as the pass rushers in front of them, putting some onus on Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Natrez Patrick, and others to get more pressure in opposing backfields. But this past signing class showed just how much of a priority it is for Kirby Smart to get better DB play on the field. Early enrollees Richard LeCounte and DeAngelo Gibbs will both be expected to contribute early and often during their freshman falls, while elite athlete Mecole Hardman is going to add some ball handling duties back on to his plate. Hardman will also be looking to take on a larger role at CB, along side returning starters Aaron Davis, Malkom Parrish, and Dominick Sanders. While we replace little more than one year wonder Mo Smith at the star position, there is plenty of room for improvement for a unit that can be hopeful of leading one of the top defenses in the country next season.
Punter Cameron Nizialek, a transfer from Columbia, I believe is on campus and going through spring practice, but fellow grad transfer David Marvin won’t be in town until later. Rodrigo Blankenship is still here though, just not on scholarship yet. And Trent Frix will be in his final season deep snapping this fall, so that spot is covered nicely. But while most fans focus on the battle for playing time at place kicker and punter, the Dawgs will also be needing to replace both return men in Isaiah McKenzie and Reggie Davis. Hardman is definitely in that mix to replace them, particularly Davis in kick off returns, but there will be several others in that competition. Perhaps Sony Michel or Elijah Holyfield get extra touches that aren’t available in a crowded backfield with Nick Chubb getting his carries too, and DB signing Eric Stokes has shown Hardman level speed plus similar big play ability as a return man once he gets graduates high school and steps on campus.
What was hoped to be a position of just improving feel, as kids like Riley Ridley and Isaac Nauta get more time to work with fellow rising sophomore Eason, now gets a little brighter spotlight on it with Ridley getting in legal trouble. Newcomer Jeremiah Holloman brings elite athleticsm, and gets a head start on the others in a large WR class this past February, but getting separation from DBs and holding on to passes was a problem offensively last season. So between Holloman, and returning players like Michael Chigbu, Jeb Blazevich, Javon Wims, and Jayson Stanley, we’re going to need others to step up around Nauta at TE to ease the pressure on Eason to make Brett Favre caliber passes in to tight spaces with the ball for a completion down field.
Just remember, no news is good news for the next 5+ months. And as always, GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DAWGS!!!!!!