The Georgia Bulldogs entertained a crowd of nearly 47,000 people in Athens this past weekend for the annual G-Day Spring Game, where the first-team defense and second-team offense (Black Team) and first-team offense and second-team defense (Red Team) scrimmaged against one another. This year, the Black Team defeated the Red Team 24-17 – and though ultimately Georgia couldn’t lose to itself – let’s take a look at the winners and losers from G-Day 2015.
Winner: Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta
A couple weeks ago, the UGA quarterback race looked like a three-headed monster with Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park all fighting for the starting job, but it appears that race is down to two. Ramsey and Bauta split reps with the Red and Black teams, and both showed they can effectively lead the offense. Ramsey completed 5 of 9 passes for 174 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown to speedster Isaiah McKenzie. Bauta threw a lot more passes, going 16 of 25 for 171 yards and a touchdown. The expectation is the quarterback battle will go deep into August – potentially even spilling over into the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. Both quarterbacks need to show the capability to be consistently accurate and effective to earn the playing time, but expect the thrill of the chase to bring out the best in the two signal callers.
Loser: Georgia’s Special Teams
It’s relatively hard to judge special teams in a scrimmage game, but the Dawgs’ performance during G-Day likely left fans a little underwhelmed. If you’re a Georgia fan, you know this team of late has played in its fair share of back-and-forth, close games. One missed field goal, a bad punt or the inability to flip the field with your special teams play in a game like that could be the difference between a win and a loss. At G-Day, the punting was nothing spectacular and Marshall Morgan missed a 42-yard field goal. The Dawgs have some work to do to address what actually was generally an area of strength last season.
Winner: Nick Chubb and ‘Running Back U’
Ok, there are a number of schools that claim they are the true ‘Running Back U’, but it’s no secret Georgia has been bringing in talented running backs for years. Herschel Walker? Garrison Hearst? Todd Gurley? The list goes on! Chubb is just the latest in a line of great backs, and this sophomore put up some very Herschel-like numbers last season. During G-Day, Chubb only carried the ball three times, rushing for 34 yards and a touchdown, but this fan base already knows what they’re getting with him. A stud. There was absolutely no reason to risk injury by playing him. Instead, fans were treated to the talents of A.J. Turman, who missed all of last season with a foot injury after being redshirted in 2013. Turman gained 106 yards on 26 carries, scoring two TDs with one fumble. Turman showed a desire to stand out in the already crowded backfield, and it was good to see him healthy. With Sony Michel, Brendan Douglas and Keith Marshall back this season, Georgia is beyond stocked at the running back position for at least the next couple seasons. Stay healthy, young running backs!
Yep, you read that correctly. Hamstrings were a loser at G-Day this year. The goal for any team coming out of its Spring Game is to avoid injuries or setbacks at key positions. Georgia saw its third wide receiver this spring go out with a hamstring injury, as Isaiah McKenzie pulled up lame after he crossed the goal line for a 72-yard score. McKenzie had some injury concerns last season, and receivers Charlie Hegedus and Shakenneth Williams are both down with bum hammies. Maybe even some fans pulled a hamstring hiking up the Sanford Stadium steps. In all seriousness, think about all the injuries Georgia is facing right now. McKenzie, Hegedus, Williams, Leonard Floyd (shoulder), Davin Bellamy (shoulder), Keith Marshall (various), Sony Michel (various), etc. Yes, there is plenty of time before September 5 against the Warhawks, but the early injury bug is a bit concerning.
Winner: UGA’s Newcomers
The Dawgs have a slew of early enrollees – and a big transfer – in Athens, and they have not disappointed. Jake Ganus – the UAB transfer following the school’s decision to shut down its football program – continues to show that he can be a force on defense. Freshman Natrez Patrick led the Red Team with eight tackles. Freshman Jonathan Ledbetter continued to show his ability to hurry the quarterback. There was a lot to like about Georgia’s newbies at G-Day, and it’s very likely that many of them will be household names because of their solid play on the field, sooner rather than later.
Loser: Jacob Park
In every race, there is a winner and a loser. Though the quarterback race is not over – as discussed above – Park has fallen behind as the clear third-string quarterback. Park did not see any reps with the first-team offense during G-Day and he was 10-of-15 for 92 yards and an interception. Though many expected Park to make a run at the starting role with his big arm and major upside, it’s pretty clear he still needs some time as the understudy – and that’s ok! The future looks bright for Park, and Georgia gains nothing by pushing him into a role for which he’s not ready. Some time in studying film, some game action in low pressure situations and continuous review of the playbook will do just fine for Park this season.
Winner: Isaiah Wynn and Hunter Long
For the same reason as Ramsey and Bauta, Wynn and Long were winners from G-Day because they have a competition on their hands for the team’s starting center position. As with the quarterback race, the competition should make both Wynn and Long better in the long run, regardless of who actually starts – and that can only be good for Georgia. Wynn – a sophomore who has little experience playing center before coming to UGA – seems to have the edge over the senior Long, but there is a lot that goes into the center’s role, so expect a lot more work to be done by both parties. Center is a pretty important job, in case you didn’t know…
Main Photo: ATHENS, GA – NOVEMBER 15: Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs carries the ball against the Auburn Tigers at Sanford Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)