What I saw from Dawgs, Tide, Vols, Tigers on spring game Saturday
Yesterday, I wrote a column that highlighted what I wanted to see from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and LSU in their spring games.
As is usually the case, there’s intrigue at the game’s most important position. I was really interested in the quarterback derby for the Volunteers, as Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano are competing to take over for Joshua Dobbs.
Getting away from the QBs, the Bulldogs are desperate to find more reliable receivers after having trouble reeling in passes the last two years. On the other side of the ball, the Crimson Tide have to retool their secondary with cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety Eddie Jackson no longer on the roster. Both will be difficult to replace.
As for the Tigers, most of the focus is on new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Needless to say, he inherits more talent than he ever had at Pittsburgh and N.C. State. But it’s time for the Bayou Bengals to step into the 21st century.
On a spring Saturday that loosely resembled what we can expect to see in the fall, he’s how I’m now answering my own questions.
The receiving corps left a lot to be desired for the Bulldogs last year, plus Isaiah McKenzie is no longer in Athens after leaving early for the NFL.
To say the least, it wasn’t a good start for the receivers. Michael Chigbu dropped a contested ball on second down and then ran a poor route on third, which resulted in an overthrow and a three-and-out on the Black team’s initial drive.
On the Red team’s primary possession, Tyler Simmons fumbled after making a short catch, dropped a pass that hit him right in the hands and then gator-armed what could’ve been a big play downfield because he heard the safety’s footsteps. In a sloppy first quarter, neither squad had a wideout win a one-on-one matchup.
Finally, on the first snap of the second period, Javon Wims was credited with a 47-yard gain for Black when he outfought his defender on a go route. Shortly thereafter, Red got a 42-yard touchdown from Jeremiah Holloman on another fly pattern.
Overall, UGA still has concerns at wideout. On the bright side, it’s time to get exicted about Holloman, who is only an early-enrollee freshman.
Half of last year’s starting secondary is gone, as Humphrey bolted for the pros and Jackson ran out of eligibility.
It certainly wasn’t a good beginning for some of the fresher-faced DBs. Quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa took a lot of shots downfield in the first half since their receivers were repeatedly beating single coverage.
In particular, converted wideout Trevon Diggs was getting torched on go routes repeatedly at the corner position. Even if he picked off Hurts in the second quarter, the ball just happened to find him in the end zone. Almost immediately thereafter, he went back to being a step or two slow over the top and giving up long completions.
Corner Aaron Robinson (above) felt the wrath of early-enrollee freshman pass catcher Jerry Jeudy. On back-to-back plays in the second quarter, Jeudy went up and over Robinson for a pair of big gains. The second resulted in a gorgeous 29-yard TD strike.
Hurts and Tagovailoa combined to complete 13 passes of 20 yards or more, which suggests that the defensive backfield has a lot of work to do.
Fans of the Volunteers are no doubt happy to see Dobbs rising up draft boards, although that does little for their current QB situation.
It was an abbreviated performance, but Dormady, a rising junior, was quite impressive with a perfect 10-of-10 in the first half for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns. The second half had to be canceled due to lightning in the area.
Making lots of different throws from all kinds of platforms, Dormady connected with wideout Jauan Jennings for a 1-yard TD in the first quarter and then a 19-yard score to tight end Ethan Wolf in the second. While he isn’t regarded as much of an athlete, he moved in and out of the pocket rather well and displayed sound footwork.
As for Guarantano, a redshirt freshman, he’s being hyped as the next big thing in Knoxville. But he was only 4-of-5 for 41 yards and simply didn’t look as smooth as Dormady did at the controls, plus he got sacked twice.
It’s possible that Dormady has been somewhat underrated in this battle and Guarantano has been a bit overrated. Dormady seems to be the clear leader for now.
If the Tigers are ever going to revolutionize their archaic approach, then it needs to be done now under Canada.
Word out of Baton Rouge this spring is that the defense has had trouble with Canada’s new system, which is predicated on deception and features a ton of pre-snap shifts and motion. That’s a change from the previous OC, Cam Cameron.
Bad weather also put a damper on this one, as the second half had to be moved indoors and out of the public eye, but the Purple and White teams combined for only 135 total yards on 48 offensive snaps the first 30 minutes. That’s a measly 2.8 yards per play. Incumbent signal caller Danny Etling was an awful 4-of-13 for 53 yards with an interception.
Even Derrius Guice, the heir apparent to the departed Leonard Fournette in the backfield, managed just 12 yards on 6 carries and 1 reception for 5 yards. Canada’s two offenses were 2-of-11 on third down and allowed 5 sacks.
Did the scheme feel new and improved? It did to some degree. However, if the end results are the same, it’s all window dressing.