ATHENS, Ga. — The build-up may be dialed down just a tad from the first G-Day under Kirby Smart last year, but that doesn’t mean Georgia’s spring game today won’t offer up a chance for fans to get a read on this team or just hang out with tailgate buddies.
After an 8-5 season, Smart’s squad will be on display for what is officially the 15th and final practice of the spring.
The weather should at least cooperate for the 2 p.m. start. The forecast calls for temperatures to reach the mid to upper 80s for what may not quite be another 93K day inside Sanford Stadium.
“Hopefully we can pack it out again,” tailback Nick Chubb said. “Maybe it’ll happen, maybe not. I hope so.”
Georgia players and coaches have taken to social media to encourage fans to flock to G-Day again.
“I feel like we can make it happen again,” outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. “I’m just looking for a great atmosphere and a chance to compete.”
No matter if it’s ultimately 60,000, 80,000 or filled up.
“I like for our kids to have a great environment to play in all the time,” Smart said. “I think you find out more about kids when they have to play in front of great environments.”
Here are some things to know for G-Day:
Red vs. Black
For this year’s game, Georgia has emphasized fans taking sides.
It’s branded G-Day as “Red vs. Black,” which it has pushed for weeks.
The starting defense is Red and will go up against the starting offense which will wear Black. The second units will also face each other.
“It’s a game,” inside linebacker Reggie Carter said. “You’ve got to be up for it, offense and defense. Just go out there and compete.”
Well, it’s not a real game but it’s the closest thing to a game that players will experience until the real deal begins in September.
“I want it to be tight,” Smart said. “I’m hoping we can get these two quarterbacks in some two-minute situations.”
Playing close to the vest
Quarteback Jacob Eason described some new wrinkles installed to get more out of what often was a lackluster Georgia offense as “little tweaks that go a long way. That’s how I see it.”
Getting the ball in playmakers’ hands by lining up running backs like Sony Michel and Brian Herrien in the slot to catch passes is part of the changes.
“I don’t know many people that do everything in the spring game,” Smart said. “We’ll limit defensively, we’ll limit offensively. We’re not going to come out there and just do everything.”
Can offense finish as it started?
Star tailback Chubb says the offense “has made a lot of progress this spring,” which means the defense needed to step up its game.
“I think it kind of caught us off guard as a defense,” Lorenzo Carter said.
That group has missed two of its best players in linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive tackle Trenton Thompson this spring due to medical issues. They won’t go today.
“I feel like we’ve been doing better, keep fighting,” Lorenzo Carter said. “Coach Smart’s been challenging us, he doesn’t want us complacent. That we’re complacent is a trigger word, it kind of makes us a defense pretty heated.”
The competition for starting nickel back between Tryique McGhree and freshman Deangelo Gibbs continues. They are both listed on the black team today.
A day for younger pups to shine
Getting Chubb and Michel to September in tip-top shape is more important than getting them heavily involved in a spring game. So figure there won’t be a bunch of touches for them Saturday.
“That’s coach’s decision,” Chubb said. “I don’t know. I’ll be ready.”
The top two running backs have taken part in the two spring scrimmages to an extent.
“We’ve been available,” Chubb said. “We caught a lot of balls.”
Sophomores Herrien and Elijah Holyfield should continue to be showcased like they were in the scrimmages, where both made big plays.
“They’re running the ball hard, are explosive, they can block, pass, catch the ball and run the ball,” Chubb said.
O-line’s spring progress
Many of Georgia’s offensive linemen were over at position coach Sam Pittman’s house for a meal Easter weekend.
“We did eat him out of the house,” offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn said laughing.
The offensive line’s improvement is one of the biggest spring stories.
Smart said there is a good “core group” which includes left tackle Isaiah Wynn, left guard Pat Allen, center Lamont Gaillard, right guard Solomon Kindley and right tackle Dyshon Sims.
“I’m never content or happy with where we are, especially across the board on the offensive line,” Smart said. “I think we improved from day one to day 14. We definitely improved in that unit. …Have we upgraded from what we had? I don’t know that. There’s no way to know that. I can’t measure until they get out in a game and do it.”
Allen and Kindley have helped give Georgia moore oomph in its run blocking.
“They’re going to scratch and claw and do whatever they need to get done the job at hand. It’s nothing but respect,” Lorenzo Carter said. “They’ve played out of position, been moved around a lot. They’ve done a great job each day just coming out attacking. They’ve forced the defense to step up.”
Jake Fromm and Mecole Hardman
If Eason was the main attraction last year (along with the new head coach on the sideline), this G-Day offers the chance to see another freshman quarterback.
Jake Fromm has impressed off the field and shown the ability to be an effective passer. Eason has responded by having a good spring, improving his accuracy and showing growth at the position.
Now Fromm will be get a chance to make his first impression.
“We’re going to let the quarterbacks play,” Smart said.
This is the first chance for Georgia fans to see Mecole Hardman as a wide receiver and perhaps in the wildcat. The sophomore was a backup defensive back last year but has played strictly offense for the past few weeks.