ATHENS, Ga — The 2011 edition of G-Day was played in front of a record crowd of 43,117 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Athens.
This game had a little different feel to it, after Mark Richt decided to mess with the format of the game. Instead of the 1 offense and 2 defense vs. 1 defense and 2 offense, Richt decided to pick captains for the teams, and hold a playground style draft.
Aaron Murray and Brandon Boykin picked the Black team, and Ben Jones and Christian Robinson picked the Red team.
“I think it was fun,” said Murray of the new G-Day format. “It was a little hard with so many guys injured. I think it adds a little spice, adds a little more competitive nature to the whole game and I think guys responded and had some fun out there.”
Looking back at the game, the game did have more of a competitive nature to it, with the winning team receiving a steak and lobster dinner, while the losing team would eat a beans at hot dog meal.
As a whole, the defensive side of the ball on both sides had the upper hand, while the offenses of both sides struggle, especially in the first half.
Starting quarterback Aaron Murray finished G-Day with 122 yards and 1 touchdown while throwing 12-for-17.
Murray’s backup, Hutson Mason went 9-for-16, 109 yards, and 1 interception. True freshman Christian LeMay threw for 38 yards on 3-for-6 passing.
The quarterback position featured a battle between Murray, Zach Mettenberger, and Hutson Mason, but heading into the 2011 season, there is no such battle.
Murray looked good during G-Day, moving around the pocket well, and finding receivers. Even though Murray wasn’t with is entire first offense, which probably had a little to do with the mediocre numbers.
“We got to keep working, keep gelling from an offensive standpoint,” said Murray about what the offense needs to do heading into Boise State. “From day one to day 14 [of spring practice], the offense made some tremendous strides.”
Mason struggled at times, and underthrew a ball that was intercepted on a great play by Connor Norman.
LeMay is “battling the playbook” according to head coach Mark Richt, and if the season started today, Mason would be the backup quarterback.
“Your time is now,” said running back coach Bryan McClendon about his message to the running backs. “You have to show us as coaches that you are ready to play.”
Following the 2011 edition of G-Day, the running back position remains up for grabs.
Washaun Ealey, the leading rusher from 2010, sat out of the game due to an injury.
Caleb King, the second leading rusher from last year, only got 5 carries for 30 yards with a long of 19.
Carlton Thomas led the running backs with 48 yards on 13 carries, including a five yard touchdown run. However, Thomas also fumbled the ball twice including one inside the five yardline.
Ken Malcome, a powerful, downhill running back, finished the day with 39 yards on 7 carries including a 12 yard touchdown run.
“[Ken Malcome] looked tremendous,” said Aaron Murray. “He’s a powerful back. If it’s fourth-and-one, fourth-and-two, he’s going to put his shoulder down and get those yards.”
With the plethora of running backs already in Athens, this position seems to be one of strength. That position will only get stronger in the fall with the arrival of top running back recruit Isaiah Crowell.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
Following the loss of A.J. Green and Kris Durham, the top two receivers from last year, the wide receivers will have to step up and replace what is gone.
Tavarres King, who made the switch from split end to flanker, caught 5 passes for 62 yards including a long of 19.
Marlon Brown, who said that he feels sorry for whoever is behind him because he is not giving up his spot during the season, caught 4 passes for 47 yards with a long of 19.
Israel Troupe caught 1 pass for 26 yards, and Michael Bennett caught 1 pass for 9 yards. Incoming freshman Chris Conley did not catch a pass and Rantavious Wooten did not play.
Overall, the wide receiver position failed to impress during G-Day, and they have a lot of work to do heading into the 2011 season.
The strength of the receiving game appears to be the tight end position led by Orson Charles, Aron White, and Arthur Lynch.
Charles finished with 4 receptions for 41 yards, White finished with 3 receptions for 44 yards, and Lynch finished with 2 receptions for 22 yards.
Although he made the move from tight end to full back, Bruce Figgins caught 2 balls for 7 yards.
The Georgia Bulldogs don’t have a receiver that is as talented as A.J. Green coming back, and they won’t have a receiver that is as important as A.J. Green was last year either.
The wide receiver position is up for grabs, and expect Aaron Murray to spread the wealth around to all of his receivers.
From an observational standpoint, it is hard to judge the success of the offensive line. The big guys don’t have any numbers in the stats to look at.
With that being said, here is a breakdown of how the offensive line breaks down heading into the 2011 season.
Ben Jones will be the starting center and Cordy Glenn will most likely be the starting left tackle following the ACL injury to Trinton Sturdivant.
The other three positions is where it gets interesting, and offensive line coach Will Friend has one requirement for the other three positions.
“You have to find a way to get your best five out there,” said Friend
A.J. Harmon and Justin Anderson will battle for the right tackle position, with Justin Anderson holding a slight edge.
Chris Burnette and Justin Anderson will compete for the right guard position, with Burnette in the starting position now.
Kenarious Gates and Kolton Houston will fight for the left guard position that is up for grabs.
This positions are how it looks now, and could change multiple times heading into the season opener against Boise State.
After being named the defensive MVP for spring practice, redshirt sophomore Kwame Geathers had a very impressive G-Day performance. He finished with four tackles, including two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
What makes his performance even better, is the fact that he did it while going up against starting center Ben Jones.
“He probably heard that big John Jenkins was coming to town to take his job, and I’m sure that lit a fire under him to a certain degree,” said head coach Mark Richt.
Geathers wasn’t the only impressive defensive lineman, and DeAngelo Tyson also had an impressive day finishing with two tackles and a pass defended.
The projected starter for the other end spot, Abry Jones, also finished the day with two tackles.
With the improvement of Geathers and the incoming prospect Jenkins, the coaches were able to move Tyson over the defensive end spot.
Geathers and Jenkins will battle for the nose position, but both of them will play in the fall because with that type of position you rotate often to keep fresh legs on the field.
Of all the positions at G-Day, Geathers and Tyson led the most impressive positional unit.
“In the 3-4 defense, you have to have linebackers that are playmakers,” said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
Following the performance of G-Day, there is potential for this linebacker core to be a unit of playmakers.
Alec Ogletree, who made the move from safety to inside linebacker, looked very impressive at his new position finished with seven tackles.
Another player who made a position change also impressed on G-Day, as Jarvis Jones made his debut in front of Georgia fans.
Jones didn’t disappoint either, being involved in many plays, and recording a sack late in the game.
Christian Robinson, one of the captains for G-Day, was out for the later part of spring with a concussion. He finished with one tackle and a pass defended.
Chase Vasser led the Black team defense with seven tackles and a fumble recovery.
The entire front seven of this Georgia defense is much improved from a year ago, and coach Grantham knows that things are different in year two.
“Anytime you have continuity it’s a good thing,” said Grantham. “You can tell from day one that the communication was better, guys were talking.
The secondary was the hardest position to judge, based on the amount of injuries to this unit. Brandon Boykin, Sanders Commings, and Jakar Hamilton all did not play on G-Day.
The secondary was so banged up that Eric Elliot and walk-on Connor Norman started at safety.
Shawn Williams, the first person chosen on the team drafted by Murray and Boykin, finished the day with three tackles, a pass defended, and a forced fumble.
After being named the most outstanding walk-on, Connor Norman had one of the more impressive performances of G-Day.
Norman, although undersized at 5′10”, 203 pounds, finished the day with five tackles, three passes defended, and one interception.
Redshirt sophomore Corey Dunson led the entire secondary with six tackles and a forced fumble.
This unit will get tested very early in the season as they go up against Kellen Moore and the Boise State Broncos to begin the 2011 season.
There was no live special teams play during G-Day, so the fans and coaches didn’t get a true look at any of the return units.
However, there were still punts and field goals, and as a whole, the unit performed very well.
Blair Walsh made his only field goal of the day, making a 43-yard attempt late in the first quarter. Brandon Bogotay also connected on his only field goal attempt, making a 33-yarder early in the second quarter.
Senior punter Drew Butler punted twice for a total of 87 yards, and an average of 43.5 yards.
Looking ahead to the 2011 season, the special teams appear to be a strength of this Georgia Bulldogs team as senior punter Drew Butler, senior kicker Blair Walsh, and senior returner Brandon Boykin play their final seasons in Athens, Georgia.