A sports editor’s takeaways from G-Day 2018
After 104 days of wondering what could have been, football finally returned between the hedges of Sanford Stadium Saturday afternoon for G-Day.
Though the game was little more than a glorified practice, 82,184 Dawg fans flocked to Athens for a preliminary look at the 2018 version of the Dawgs.
To the average viewer, and even in the stat sheet, the game was boring, with the Black team defeating the Red team 21-13. But for fans watching closely, several things stood out during the game.
Here are my five takeaways from the game that officially kicks off UGA’s 2018 revenge tour.
1. Justin Fields is going to be special.
Disclaimer: I’m not calling for a quarterback controversy, nor am I saying that Jake Fromm’s job is in danger.
But to anyone with two eyes watching G-Day, one thing was clear: Justin Fields is the real deal.
In his first appearance Between the Hedges, Fields threw for a touchdown and an interception while completing over 50 percent of his passes Saturday.
But the part of Fields’ game that impressed me most was his ability to improvise when things broke down. Several times, Fields wiggled out of would-be sacks and turned them into positive plays.
Despite being the backup going into the season, his athleticism may force the coaching staff to get him on the field in some capacity this fall.
2. Don’t worry about the defense.
Each year, Kirby Smart preaches that every team takes on a new identity, and the defense appears to have internalized this.
Despite losing Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy and others to the NFL Draft, the defense didn’t miss a beat.
Richard LeCounte III, William Poole III, Devonte Wyatt and Monty Rice looked ready to take over where this unit left off. And the defensive line, which was criticized all spring for a lack of depth, looked dominant at times Saturday.
It’s not time to say this group will be as dominant as last season’s, it’s not a stretch to believe that this year’s defense should be one of the better units in the conference and in the country.
3. Fromm is fine, too.
As Fields dazzled with the second-team offense, the first team, led by Jake Fromm, struggled at times Saturday.
The offense only combined for 287 yards, and Fromm tossed a couple of bad interceptions. The Dawgs also struggled to run the ball, with Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien only combining for 57 yards.
The run game’s struggles can be attributed to the design of Saturday’s game plan, as it was clear the coaches wanted to see both teams throw the ball around.
It’s also worth noting that Fromm’s receivers dropped two touchdowns, and they went against a first-team defense that seems to be picking up right where they left off in 2017.
For Dawg Nation, it’s not time to start pressing the panic button on the offense or to start calling for a quarterback change, especially when the offense went against what may be one of the best defenses they’ll see all year.
4. The future looks bright.
While common for teams to host recruits for their spring games, it’s incredibly uncommon to host recruits in front of more than 80,000 fans.
But that’s exactly what UGA did Saturday, as Dawg Nation came out in full force to give prospective players an authentic game day experience in mid-April.
Having this many people come out in anticipation of a glorified practice should tell recruits just how much they’ll be loved and appreciated by the fan base if they decide to continue their careers in Athens.
5. Tom Crean isn’t Kirby Smart.
At halftime, UGA’s new basketball coach Tom Crean got to officially address the Bulldog faithful about his plans for the program’s future.
However, Crean’s first address to Dawg Nation could have gone better.
Granted, he didn’t get booed off the field. But the crowd’s awkward applause, which seemed to ask, “Are you done yet?” between Crean’s statements, was almost as bad.
The big takeaway here is that Crean obviously doesn’t possess the same crowd appeal of Kirby Smart. Luckily for him, the seats in Stegman won’t be filled based on his ability to give crowd-stirring speeches. And if he can win some games, Dawg Nation will love him all the same.