ATHENS—For the seventh practice of the spring, the Bulldogs held a scrimmage closed to the media, while no players were later available for comment. However, the head Bulldog of them all eventually addressed the press, detailing his team’s initial scrimmage of the year.
Head coach Mark Richt first mentioned leading all rushers with 87 yards on 15 carries was A.J. Turman, a sophomore who has yet to see playing time while redshirting in 2013 and missing all of last season due to toe surgery. Richt promptly followed Turman’s stat line by explaining the unorthodox spring scrimmage might have produced some “skewed” statistics primarily because of the abundance of players featured, and offensive production.
“Let me just say this, we had ones, twos, and threes (offensive and defensive units),” Richt said. “We had a lot of plays—more plays than we had a year ago the first [scrimmage]. So, we scrimmaged a long time.”
Senior fullback Quayvon Hicks, who has carried the ball only 19 times his entire Georgia career, was the scrimmage’s second-leading rusher with 71 yards on 9 carries. Hicks, who also saw time at tight end last spring, has recently been lining up at tailback since the recent loss of sophomore Sony Michel to a shoulder injury. Even sophomore quarterback Brice Ramsey, who remarkably didn’t have a single rush (carry, scramble, or was sacked) last season even though attempting 39 passes, “scrambled a couple of times.”
Richt added junior Keith Marshall didn’t play at all because of a “hamstring issue,” while sophomore Nick Chubb had “no stats” and was used only on third-down plays to focus on his pass protection.
“Earlier in the spring, we had a bunch of jumping offsides offensively,” Richt said. “But today, [the offense] cleaned it up really, pretty good. … The offense cleaned up a lot of the things that’ll get you beat—those self-inflicted wounds.”
As far as the passing game, Ramsey, who worked with the first unit, completed half of his 32 passes for 237 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Redshirt freshman Jacob Park, the third-unit quarterback, attempted just 7 passes, completing 4; however, because he was allowed to attempt “a couple of bombs,” he passed for 187 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown to Matt Price. Price, a redshirt freshman from Snellville, Ga., was also on the receiving end of a 60-yard completion from Park.
Still, at least by the numbers and although Richt said the team’s top three quarterbacks displayed “flashes [of brilliance] by all of them at times,” perhaps the best passing performance was by the Bulldogs’ second-unit signal caller, junior Faton Bauta.
“Your quarterback has to be a leader—there’s no doubt about that,” Richt responded when asked if the leadership Bauta has displayed in the spring helps him in the competition for the starting position. “Faton is a good leader; he’s a hard worker.” Bauta completed 17 of 30 passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The scrimmage also featured the team’s eight early enrollees, who had performed well as a group during the spring entering today. “I’ll say this about the mid-year kids, they’re talented guys,” Richt said of the early enrollees. “Do we think they have the tools to be really good players? We really do. But, they’re heads are still spinning right now—dealing with a bunch of newness.”
Defensive standouts included two of these newbies, linebacker Jake Ganus and defensive back Jarvis Wlson. Ganus, a senior transfer from UAB, totaled a scrimmage-high 10 tackles, including one for loss, one interception, and a pass breakup. Wilson, a true freshman from Tupelo, Miss., had five tackles, including one for loss, and two pass breakups.
Still, on this sunny afternoon, it was the offense which shined—an offense which, Richt admitted, had struggled in the spring while hindered by injuries at the receiver position. The head coach noted that during the first three practices, the Bulldogs had dropped “like 90 balls” from pass attempts; however, there were “only a couple” today. Senior Justin Scott-Wesley had a scrimmage-high eight receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.
According to Richt, Scott-Wesley is one of just seven or eight healthy receivers on the entire squad, which had to be spread amongst the three units. “We’re really hurting at receiver right now—just numbers,” Richt said. “We may have to enlist a defensive back [at receiver] or something, just to kind of help us get through practice right now.”
Despite the injuries, Richt appeared upbeat and pleased about his offense’s performance this afternoon: “We looked more like an offensive unit today [than before],” he remarked. Beginning Tuesday, or the next time the Bulldogs take the field, and especially a week from today, or their next scheduled scrimmage, Georgia, and certainly its head coach, hopes to keep up its springtime offensive prowess.