There was not a crowd of 93,000 people, and there was not an actual opponent that Georgia was playing on Saturday at Sanford Stadium. Nonetheless, a football game between the hedges happened. And even if it was just a scrimmage, it was a nice relief with the number of games that have been canceled in college athletics over the last 13 months.
A socially distanced crowd of just over 20,000 people filed into Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium for Georgia’s “G-Day” spring game. The Red Team, mainly composed of the offensive starters, defeated the Black Team 28-23, which consisted of the first-team defense.
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels picked up where he left off after his impressive finish to last season. Daniels looked much more comfortable in the second half, accounting for 324 yards passing on the day with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Of those yards, 201 came in the second half, highlighted by a 59-yard strike to Demetris Robertson for a touchdown.
Daniels noted his inexperience with spring practices, as he has dealt with injuries and the process of transferring while spring practice was already canceled because of COVID last year. He raved about the valuable experience that this spring had brought him and his teammates.
“It’s 15 practices worth of reps with the guys you are going to be playing [with],” said Daniels. “If you’ve got something that you want to work on based on last year that you saw… you have all spring to do it without waiting a whole year. There has been a lot of overall improvement to me personally.”
There have been many questions this spring about Georgia’s inexperienced secondary. Ameer Speed and Jalen Kimber lined up as the starting cornerbacks with Latavious Brini at STAR. As expected, Christopher Smith and Lewis Cine were the starting safeties for the Black Team. It’s tough to judge defensive backs because spring games tend to be very pass-oriented, as Kirby Smart said, meaning there are many reps targeting that position.
It was a good day for the Red Team receivers, including a breakout performance from freshman early enrollee Adonai Mitchell. Mitchell showed his “twitchy” skills described by Daniels, with seven catches for 105 yards on 13 targets. There were a few balls that Mitchell failed to haul in, but he made up for it by bringing in a 24-yard touchdown reception to end the first half.
“We lost George [Pickens], and it forced him to play more, but man, he picked it up fast,” said Smart on Mitchell. “We’re really excited about [Adonai] and think he’s a really good player. The last probably three practices of spring ball were his best practices.”
Veteran receivers Kearis Jackson and Robertson both scored for the Red Team as well. Jackson emphasized the importance of yards after catch/contact earlier in spring practice and came through today breaking a tackle on his nine-yard touchdown catch. Robertson was relatively quiet to start but racked up 88 yards on four catches in the second half.
Quay Walker led the black team defense with eight tackles and had one tackle for loss. Nolan Smith and Travon Walker both racked up sacks. Those are two players who will fill important roles on the Bulldog defense this fall. Georgia’s highly-touted front seven was on display, even creating inside pressure with players such as Devonte Wyatt, who had two sacks.
“That defense gives you everything, every down,” said Daniels who has faced them the entire spring. “Starting with that front seven, it’s absolutely elite. A little inexperienced in the secondary but don’t hold that against them, there is a lot of talent there.”
One of the more interesting parts of spring games is when fans and media members get a look at backup quarterbacks in game situations. Redshirt-freshman Carson Beck and early enrollee five-star Brock Vandagriff both got reps on the Black Team. Beck threw for 236 yards but struggled with some overthrows that would have been surefire touchdowns. Vandagriff only attempted nine passes, showing off his legs with a couple of runs.
After an injury-riddled spring, Smart reported that there were no major injuries in the game. Now, Georgia will turn to summer workouts and seven-on-seven play before the season opener on September 4 in Charlotte against Clemson.
“We’ve got a long way to go to get where we need to go and have to find some depth at positions and have got to get better at some other positions,” said Smart. “But I thought our guys really competed hard today.”