ATHENS, Ga. – Here are some thoughts while examining the matchups presented by the drafted G-Day rosters for Saturday’s 1 p.m. spring game at Sanford Stadium.
Ken Malcome figures to be the Black team's top running back if Washaun Ealey isn't healthy enough to play Saturday.
WHEN THE BLACK TEAM HAS THE BALL
-- Quarterback Aaron Murray jokingly said a few trades were discussed between team captains, but that “Coach Richt wasn’t having that at all.”
One of the deals Murray wanted to make was to get Ben Jones on his team, because he is the center Murray is accustomed to taking snaps from in practice and games. Since both players were named captains, Jones must instead work with backup Hutson Mason, while Murray is left with backup centers Chris Burnette and Kolton Houston.
“I haven’t really taken too many snaps with Chris,” Murray said. “We’ll definitely get some extra snaps during the week to make sure we don’t have any problems.”
-- Orson Charles is the lone scholarship tight end on the Black team. That means he’ll probably have a very busy day as a pass-catching target for Murray, but he’ll have to do it lining up mostly at tight end, rather than off the line as a wide receiver.
-- Otherwise, G-Day represents big opportunity for Marlon Brown, Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley, given that the top cornerbacks for the Red team figure to be relatively inexperienced players like Jordan Love and Derek Owens. Sanders Commings is on the Red team, but if he’s healthy enough to play, he’ll probably be used at safety because …
Jarvis Jones is one of the top players leading the Red team.
-- Thanks to injuries, the Red team one has scholarship safety – Marc Deas – healthy for the game. (And even he was a photo finish because of a hamstring injury)
-- Depth is obviously going to be an issue for both teams, but especially on the lines. I’m only counting four healthy scholarship offensive lineman for the Black Team: Burnette, Houston, Brent Benedict and Justin Anderson. It’s anyone’s guess where those four will line up throughout the game and who will be around to help them.
-- Watch out for the Red defense on the edge. Ends Abry Jones and Derrick Lott are capable. Murray will also have to deal with Red team’s OLB tandem of Jarvis Jones and Cornelius Washington. But depending on the health of Christian Robinson (concussion), walk-ons like Kosta Vavlas and Jason Veal could be playing a lot as the ILBs.
WHEN THE RED TEAM HAS THE BALL
-- Arguably the marquee one-on-one battle of the afternoon will be Red center Ben Jones against Black nose tackle Kwame Geathers. Players and coaches have been talking about this matchup all spring, since Geathers has made real strides and has been pushing Jones, a senior and long-time UGA starter.
-- The Red team has a solid four of Jones, Cordy Glenn, Kenarious Gates and A.J. Harmon on the offensive line (though the fifth player is likely to be a walk-on). The group will match up against Geathers, Garrison Smith and DeAngelo Tyson. Keep an eye on this. If the Black defense has its way against the likes of Glenn, Jones and Gates, that will demonstrate how much the defensive line really has improved. If the Red offense steam-rolls, it will boost confidence in the offensive line after Trinton Sturdivant's injury.
-- It’s kind of a shame for Carlton Thomas that he wound up on the Red team, since there would have been more opportunities for him on the other sideline. As it stands, he’ll have to share carries with Caleb King on Saturday.
Watch out for Richard Samuel on the Black team's defense.
-- Two young break-out offensive players could have big days: Look for Zander Ogletree to have plenty of opportunities and responsibility as the lone fullback for the Red team. If Aron White remains sidelined at tight end, the same could be said of Arthur Lynch.
-- Brandon Burrows has gotten a lot of reps this spring as the signal-calling ‘Mike’ inside linebacker. So if Alec Ogletree can play with a groin ailment, the Black defense should be pretty formidable up the middle. Shawn Williams (the draft’s No. 1 pick as the only healthy scholarship safety) is a big help there, especially if Jakar Hamilton (concussion) is actually able to play. Not only that, Connor Norman and Lucas Redd have been the walk-ons used most with all the injuries at safety, and they are both on the Black team as well.
-- Given an almost universal lack of depth in this format, the Black team's defense is actually very deep at the 'Mo' inside linebacker. Even if Ogletree is limited, Richard Samuel and Mike Gilliard are both solid options there. Either would be a much better fit on a Red defense that is without much help at ILB.
-- The squads are positioned for Michael Bennett to be a featured player in the offense. Israel Troupe has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, and Tavarres King is the only other scholarship receiver on the Red team.
SO WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Given the rash of injuries this spring, a lot will be decided when final determinations are made on who will be given the green-light to play.
But on paper, the Red team is outgunned. It needs to use a strong offensive line to control the game while getting big days from the two Kings – Caleb and Tavarres – and its defensive standout Jarvis Jones.
While there may not be much to be gained on the ground for the Black team, the passing attack could be scary. If the Black team’s young offensive line can hold it together long enough to allow Murray time to throw, the big-play threat is definitely there for Brown, Charles, Conley and Wooten against a depleted, young secondary.