Georgia football fans will get their first look at the 2009 Bulldogs at 1 p.m. Saturday at the annual G-Day scrimmage at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs, dividing into two squads, will play the simulated game in front of a national television audience on ESPN this season, signaling the end of football practice until the summer sessions begin in August.
The Bulldogs went through this spring without the hype of the 2008 season, when they entered Week 1 against Georgia Southern with the preseason No. 1 ranking hanging over their heads. This season, the Bulldogs aren’t going to enter with nearly the same expectations after coming off a 10-3 season and win against Michigan State in the Citrus Bowl.
Still, there’s talent left in Athens as 14 starters return: seven on offense, six on defense and a place kicker.
Taking center stage at G-Day will be fifth-year senior quarterback Joe Cox as he approaches his first season as the starter. Cox is looking to fill the void left by junior Matthew Stafford, who declared for the NFL draft earlier this year. The backup at quarterback is sophomore Logan Gray, who spent last season working on special teams.
Incoming freshmen Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray will compete for the No. 3 spot at quarterback.
Georgia fans will also get a taste of the battle brewing for the starting running back position. Caleb King, a sophomore, was the presumed candidate to fill the hole when Knowshon Moreno finally made it official he was going to the NFL a few months ago. However, redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas (5-foot-7, 165 pounds) has shown flashes of excellence during the spring, including running through some defensive linemen during practices.
Sophomore Richard Samuel and incoming freshman Washaun Ealey will provide some stability to the running back position without a superstar in the mix this season.
Other positions Georgia fans will watch closely include wide receiver with two returning starters and one of the nation’s top recruits coming in; the offensive line with four returning starters; and defensive tackle where the Bulldogs go five deep.
On defense, the Bulldogs are also anchored by junior linebacker Rennie Curran, who is on the Butkus Award watch list for 2009. Junior strong safety Reshad Jones decided to come back after flirting with entering the NFL draft earlier in the year, and senior cornerback Prince Miller returns to anchor the weakside.
The Gwinnett Braves, the Triple-A minor league affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, open their first season in northeast Georgia on Thursday at the Charlotte Knights, a Chicago White Sox affiliate. The G-Braves’ first home game is April 17 against the Norfolk Tides. The team’s new stadium can hold 10,400 fans and is located on Ga. Hwy. 20 one mile west of the Mall of Georgia in Lawrenceville.
Their opening day roster includes highly touted major league prospects starting pitcher Tommy Hanson and relief pitcher Kris Medlen. Eight members of the Atlanta Braves’ 40-man roster will open the season with Gwinnett.
In high school sports it’s an abbreviated schedule this week with spring break. High school baseball is the main attraction in prep sports with teams trying to catch up on some missed games the past two weeks, on the front and back end of the week. Lumpkin County has a challenging weekend with games against Creekview and North Hall on the docket.
Most area soccer, tennis, golf and track teams will have the week off.