(Athens, Ga) – The defense created more havoc than last year – It has been a theme under new Defensive-Coordinator Dan Lanning, the first defense played with a “havoc” mentality, including a pick six by Eric Stokes on stating QB Jake Fromm’s second pass of the game. The biggest loss on defense from last season is the departure of Deandre Baker, but the Dogs look to be in the capable hands of Stokes, who entered the starting line-up late last year and Tyson Campbell, who started 11 games as a freshman. Both looked sharp in the first two drives against the first-team offense.
Two enrollee linebackers, Nolan Smith and Nakobe Dean had strong games. These two are going to be special. While Roquan Smith was dominant in Coach Kirby Smart’s defensive schemes in 2017, this will be like having two Smith’s on the field at the same time. Dean recorded five tackles, second-highest number on the black team, while Smith had two tackles.
The back-up quarterbacks played well. While Fromm’s day wasn’t his best, there is not debate who the star will be. The back-ups proved that Georgia can lose transfer 5-stars back-to-back (Jacob Eason to Washington to Washington and Justin Fields to Ohio State) and still be solid. Stetson Bennett looked sharp all day and had some special throws and early enrollee D’Wan Mathis showed poise and quickness. The highlight of the game was the Matt Landers 38-yard TD pass from the receiver position back to Mathis. A little spring game trickeration.
While everyone wants to see what the nuances are between the departed Jim Chaney and first year offensive coordinator James Coley. One difference appeared to be the use of the running backs in the passing game. Brian Herrien scored the first offensive touchdown of the game on a pass out of the backfield from Fromm. Ever the perfectionist, one should give Fromm some credit as he may have faced the best defense he will see until the 2019 SEC championship game.
Much of the focus on the offense has been on the rebuilt receiving corps. Unfortunately, one of the most intriguing pieces of spring, Demetris Robertson, did not play because of illness. Trey Blount, John FitzPatrick and Charlie Woerner lead the day with five catches each. Landers seemed to be the emphasis of the offense for much of the day and had a nice 52-yard catch from Bennett.
The defense had seven total sacks, one for the Black team and six for the Red. In addition to the Stokes interception, Latavious Brini picked off a Mathis pass.
Senior Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship had one short field goal (23 yards), but more impressive was starting punter Jake Carmarda nailing a 49-yard one. Gives the team some confidence if something happens to Blankenship on a SEC road game in 2019.
Overall good performance, a great crowd braved the cool and rainy weather to see one of the top contenders for 2019. No one was injured, and Coach Smart was able to host a large group of top recruits. Perhaps the best news of the day came after the game, when four-star lineman Akinola Ogunbiyi from Kempner, Texas verbally committed to the Dogs, picking them over Oklahoma.
There are three seasons to college football, regular season, spring practice and recruiting. They are all three constantly intertwined, one allows ushers in the next.
I have covered local, college and professional sports for 12 Local and Regional Newspapers over the past four years. A lifelong Georgia Bulldog fan (I attended my first game in 1978 when I saw the Dawgs beat Baylor), I love to find the compelling story lines that make the game so great.