It was colder than anyone would have liked, and a little too wet, too, but everyone still left Sanford Stadium with a smile on their face Saturday. Football was back in Athens for Georgia’s spring football game, and there was plenty of good stuff to see.
It was the final day of spring practices, the last of the dress rehearsals to get prepared for a fall season that should be thrilling and intense, with goals of SEC and national titles once again being very real.
Here are three things I liked from the spring game, won by the Red, 22-17 over the Black:
1.Defense continues to create scoring opportunities
One thing that stood out in Georgia’s 2018 season was how often the defense put up points early in games to get the Bulldogs off to good starts. It happened again Saturday in the spring game.
On the first possession for the Red team, which was led by quarterback Jake Fromm, cornerback Eric Stokes ripped the ball out of the hands of wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman and took it to the house for a touchdown.
It was a nice memory from a year ago, where Georgia’s defense started the scoring in two critical SEC contents back in September. All-American cornerback Deandre Baker picked off a pass on South Carolina’s first drive in the SEC opener and led to a touchdown. Tyson Campbell, the freshman 5-star recruit a year ago, did the same at Missouri, stripping the ball and returning it for a touchdown.
Stokes, who worked his way into the starting lineup late in the season in 2018, is expected to lead the secondary this year. He played well all day, knocking down several balls. He also did a great job of stopping a touchdown on the Red’s second drive. Fromm threw a fade route into the right corner of the end zone, but Stokes high-pointed the ball and knocked it away, forcing a field goal attempt.
2. Running backs were dangerous in passing game
There’s been plenty of talk all spring about how much new Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley likes the short passing game, and this is a perfect fit with this group, since so many of Georgia’s running backs are great receivers.
Fromm’s first touchdown scoring drive was fueled by big passing plays to his backs. He connected with D’Andre Swift on a third-down play that moved the chain and the scoring play was a good throw to Brian Herrien in the right flat. Herrien beat a tackler to score from 13 yards out.
Swift, Herrien and even James Cook are all excellent pass catchers, and we’ll see a lot of them catching he ball in the fall. It’s going to be especially important early as a very young wide receiving corps gets comfortable.
3. Spotlight always starts and ends with quarterbacks
It’s hard not to focus on the Georgia quarterbacks, because it’s an interesting room right now after Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State.
Fromm is clearly the starter, a third-year guy now who will be a Heisman Trophy candidate. But who comes next in the pecking order is still to be determined among all the fresh faces.
Stetson Bennett is back in Athens after a year at a junior college, and he played well Saturday. Bennett made a great throw to wide receiver Matt Landers before halftime. That was encouraging, because the throw was perfect, but Landers also finished it. He had two drops earlier, and that’s something that continues to derail his ascension up the depth chart.
Freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis showed his ability to run, but he also made some nice throws, too. “He’s got a nice release,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “He really throws the ball well.”
He has great speed and showed it on a trick play, too. Landers threw a reverse pass to Mathis for a 39-yard touchdown. To call it a big play is an understatement. Mathis is 6-6 and Landers is 6-5.
Bennett switched the Red team in the fourth quarter and threw a beautiful touchdown pass to give the Red the lead. He threw a laser to Holloman, who finishes it off for a 43-yard touchdown.