ATHENS, Ga. — A new-look defense and an already proven offense will be on display in today’s G-Day Game.
The annual scrimmage usually closes the book on Georgia spring football, but not this year. The practices will spill into next week before wrapping up.
That’s unusual, but G-Day as usual will be a chance for young players to strut their stuff.
Don’t expect to see star players (like tailback Todd Gurley) getting a heavy workload.
No, G-Day is more about seeing if the hype from the practice fields will carry over between the hedges in Sanford Stadium when fans are in the stands.
Cornerback Damian Swann, defensive end Garrison Smith and inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera are the core that remains from a defense that was hit hard by the loss of NFL-bound seniors and three underclassmen departures, including Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree.
The defensive players are embracing the challenge.
“It’s just a year to rebuild, but it’s not a year to take a step back,” said sophomore cornerback Sheldon Dawson, who is nursing a pulled hamstring and is not expected to play today. “We’re not taking any of these days for granted. ... We know we’ve got a target on our back, but we also know that we’re young.
That doesn’t stop us. That makes us hungry and aggressive.”
Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins is in line to replace Jones as the top pass-rusher, and several players have stepped up and seem to be on the verge of solidifying starting jobs.
Junior Ramik Wilson, who has worked at both outside and inside linebacker before this spring, is establishing himself alongside Herrera.
“I’d be thrilled if Ramik could continue to improve like he has,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I think he’s comfortable in there. I think that’s more of a natural position for him. Hopefully he’ll keep coming on.”
The rebuilding of the defense began in January, Jenkins said, with extra time in the film room and newcomers absorbing the playbooks.
“They’re playing with a lot of intensity, playing with passion,” backup quarterback Hutson Mason said. “They know what they’re doing.”
The defense also has several early enrollees learning and trying to establish spots on the depth chart.
Tray Matthews had just about nailed down the starting free safety spot even with three spring practices to go. Reggie Carter and Ryne Rankin have added depth at inside linebacker.