Rarely, if ever, has a position battle been won or lost based on a player's performance in the G-Day spring football game, but the University of Georgia will still draw in excess of 20,000 fans - depending largely on the weather - for today's annual scrimmage game, signaling the end of spring practice, at 1 p.m. today at Sanford Stadium. Admission is free.
The purpose of this game is directly contrary to the regular season. The score only matters to the players on the field, if even them. Even if it's a close game in the second half, third stringers and walk-ons will have their chances to play, some for the only time all year in Sanford Stadium. The name of this game is to avoid injuries that could carry over to the start over summer or, even worse, the regular season. Even if there is a position battle (like at running back, offensive line and defensive back) those will be settled mainly away from the attention of the fans.
The G-Day game itself is just that: a teaser for what to expect next season. And Bulldogs fans are in agreement that it has to be better than the 6-7 mark posted last season for coach Mark Richt to keep his job.
Aaron Murray, a sophomore, is already the Bulldogs' starting quarterback for 2011, but will share time on the black team during G-Day with incoming freshman Christian LeMay in this the third and final scrimmage of the spring for Georgia's coaching staff to evaluate talent. For the red team, sophomore Hutson Mason, who will likely be Murray's backup in the season opener on Sept. 3 against Boise State, along with Parker Welch and Greg Bingham will share time taking snaps.
Last year, there was a little more competition between the quarterbacks in the spring between Murray, Logan Gray (who recently transferred to Colorado) and Zach Mettenberger, who was later dismissed from the program and now plays at Louisiana State. This year, Murray is firmly entrenched in the starter's role.
The newest wrinkle to the G-Day game this season is that players drafted rosters on Monday. In the past, the first team offense would line up against the second team defense and visa versa. With the players drafting their own roster, a first team tackle may line up beside a second team guard.
Avoiding injuries is the name of the game in the G-Day scrimmage. Coaches already know what the talent looks like that they'll take into summer practice. G-Day is an exercise for fans to come in and see what the team looks like in a simulated game situation. The first two scrimmages of the spring were also held at Sanford Stadium, but were closed to fans and media.
With the players drafting rosters the black team may have the QB advantage, but the red squad seems much stronger along the offensive line.
First teamers senior Ben Jones (center), senior Cordy Glenn (left tackle), sophomore Kenarious Gates (guard), junior A.J. Harmon (guard) and fifth-year senior Aron White (tight end) are all on the red team. Potential starters on the black team offensive line are Justin Anderson (right tackle), and Chris Burnette and Brent Benedict, both guards.
The offensive line has been particularly hard hit for Georgia this spring with left tackle Trinton Sturdivant suffering his third career ACL injury last Saturday during the team's second scrimmage. With his injury, probably a college-career ending one, Glenn is almost certain the role of starter on the left side of the line.
Even though the running back position is the most hotly contested position for the fall, it will have very little drama in this game. Junior tailback Washaun Ealey will be sidelined with his hamstring injury. And a major player for the starting spot in the fall, Isaiah Crowell, is finishing up his senior year in high school. That leaves Caleb King, Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas as the top names in the backfield for the G-Day game.
A number of players will be held out of the spring game with injury. Safety Bacarri Rambo (MCL) and Ealey (hamstring) are likely to be out of action. Linebacker Christian Robinson and free safety Jakar Hamilton have suffered concussions this spring, while middle linebacker Alec Ogletree has endured a groin injury. Redshirt freshman safety Mark Deas was injured during the spring with a tweaked hamstring.