Myself and a friend had the privilege of attending the second scrimmage on Saturday along with a tour of the new West endzone upgrades. Here's what we observed....
First of all, the new locker room and recruiting lounge are insane. The locker room runs basically the width of the field. Pictures you see don't do it justice for how large the facility is. The lounge up top can hold over 200 people with a gaming area and it's lined with 90" TV's along the top of the walls. It has a balcony on the outside that overlooks the Dawg Walk area where recruits will stand to watch. Previously they were at Tate or the other end where it starts. Now they'll be on top of the action, literally. When the recruits walk in they are greeted by a foyer where all the uniforms are on display as well as the SEC and Rose Bowl trophies and interactive video's promoting UGA. Across the top there's a stock market type ticker with all former Bulldogs in the NFL and their career earnings. Quite impressive. The best part, however, is Kirby's office in the locker room. He has his own lounge where he will presumably get the commitments. No stone was left unturned. The Uga statue that previously was on the East endzone is now on the West endzone concourse at the "North" tunnel along side the Olympic torch and some other historic items as a little homage to UGA/Sanford Stadium. In addition to all of that, the 100 level has been upgraded as you've probably seen by now with graphics along the previosuly boring gray walls and images of historic plays with a portion of Munson's call. These things are long overdue and we've finally got the appropriate people in place to make it happen. You'll notice now in the East endzone we've recognized the retired numbers and National Championships that can also be backlit at night. I think we're the last sport organization in the world to do this. Better late than never! The East endzone used to have temporary bleachers where the recruits sat, that area has now been turned into some field suites and the home locker room is a lounge for the field suite members. The recruits will now sit in the West endzone along the sides of the tunnel where the team will run out. Yes, the opposite endzone as you've seen your entire life. It's going to be a great change.
To the scrimmage.....
The first thing you immediately notice is the size of the team. Everyone is huge. Everyone is fast. Everyone is good. No slight to the Rhett McGowen's of the world, but they don't exist on this roster. Even the Aaron Davis' or Brendan Douglas'...they were major contributors and did a fine job, but this roster doesn't have them. It's a loaded roster. I say this as a compliment to the current team not bashing previous players or staff. Example, the third team WR's were Matt Landers and Tommy Bush...I think we all expect at least Landers to contribute this season and he was running 3rd team most of the day, but also got work with the ones. Just goes to show how deep the roster is.
It was very interesting to watch all the coaching that goes on. So many voices yelling at once and getting their message across in a timely manner. It's the same as gameday when you see the coaches, where they are standing and how they are coaching but you don't hear it on gameday like we did in a basically empty stadium. I can't imagine how chaotic it is on gameday with 90,000 people in there.
Speaking of time, Kirby wastes none. For example, and I'm sure this is fairly common, but I never saw it at a handful of practices before Kirby's arrival; the opening kickoff of the scrimmage was booted out of the endzone by Rodrigo and to avoid a wasted rep, there's an assistant standing beside the return man (Mecole) and once the ball passes him the staffer hands the ball to the return like a handoff and it's a live (thud) return until the returner is touched/bottled up. Everyone gets work. No wasted reps.
Jayson Stanley also got work at kickoff return and he looks really good running the football. He did however miss a short kickoff where he ran up to field the ball about 10-12 yards in front of the goal line and dropped it. The kickoff team was right on top of it and made the scoop and score. Otis Reese if I'm not mistaken. Who by the way is as advertised. He's going to play. I can't express enough how big the team is. The secondary finally looks like a Bama/LSU secondary. Big, long bodies and very athletic.
Sticking with the secondary, a player to watch is 29 Chris Smith. The buddy I was with sat with Smith at Gala earlier this year and gave me a heads up to watch him based on words his high school coach said, which was basically, this kid is gonna play. I was pretty unfamiliar with him, but now having watched him, I believe he will play a lot. He got tons of work and he was all over his man every snap. One particular play he was on D-Rob who ran about a 9 yard hitch and the ball probably shouldn't have been thrown his way, but it was and I have no idea how D-Rob made the catch because he was COVERED UP, but credit to D-Rob and his ability, he made the play. It was encouraging to see both those guys compete at a high level.
D-Rob got some touches but nothing out of the ordinary. We didn't get to see him show off but it's easy to see he's a weapon.
There was hardly any running. It was all pass. The OL is good, but the DL is really good. After the scrimmage I'm not really concerned with the defense. They're big, fast, athletic and knew all their assignment's. Keyon (Brown) Richardson had a big day and was in the backfield all day. A birdie told me Pruitt once told him he would never play a down at Georgia. Unfortunately that's been fairly accurate, but here's to hoping he has a strong season.
Staying on defense, Deangelo Gibbs got most of the work with the first team at star. LeCounte was also out there a lot and I would say the first team secondary from my view was Baker, Campbell/Webb, Gibbs, LeCounte and Reed. Also getting a lot of work with the ones was Chris Smith and Eric Stokes. The second/third teams were Jarvis Wilson, Speed, Bishop, Poole, Brini and the others I mentioned that worked with the ones in no particular order. Tyson Campbell is impressive. I think he might start. The DBs were heavily rotated 1's-3's, clearly some position battles going on.
The ILBs were Natrez and Monte Rice. I feel pretty good about those two. After that it was Juwan Taylor who's getting a lot of work with the 1's, Quay Walker, Nate McBride, Tae Crowder and I believe Channing Tindall. Quay Walker is a specimen. He looks like Rolando McClain. Maybe it's his number. Excited about him.
The DL/OLBs were the usual suspects. Jay Hayes will be a great addition to the DL rotation. D'andre Walker is bigger than last year and looks like he's ready to break out. Walter Grant looked good in coverage several times.
Cox and Anderson are freaks. The lone play I personally saw Zamir run the ball, he bounced outside and Cox just ate him up. It was a big league play.
Anderson is FASSSST. He explodes off the ball and will be a force sooner than later. I'm interested to see how quickly he makes an impact, for Cox I think it's immediately.
Malik Herring had a nice pick where the pass was batted and he tracked it down with a diving INT about 15 yards behind the LOS. He looks great. Really excited about him. Tae Crowder also had a pick. Cannot remember who the QB was. Seems like it was Fields during the "Fastball" period where they run as many plays as they can in a certain amount of time. Not the 2-minute drill or Nascar, a literal portion of practice where they go lightning fast until told to stop.
Offensively - Crumpton played A TON and he had a big day. He's not afraid to go over the middle or get in traffic. He caught everything and once ran away from everyone...except JR Reed who tracked him down from the other hash at about to 10 yard line. It was roughly a 50 yard gain. Exciting to see on both sides of the ball there.
Godwin rode the bike all day but was in pads and participated in sprints at the end. Couldn't get an update on him from anyone.
The OL is MASSIIIIVVVVE. But man are they in some serious shape. Specifically Isaiah Wilson. I don't think I've ever seen anyone like him not on the WWE. Gaillard is the smallest by far and he's not real small but he clearly doesn't look like the rest of them. Salyer and Trey Hill got a lot of work too. I think they might contribute at some point this season.
I was really impressed with John Fitzpatrick. He had a nice day and one particular play caught a crossing route and took off down the field and had a loud collision with Ameer Speed in which Fitzpatrick won. Wasn't quite Herschel and Bill Bates, but fun to see nonetheless. A gain of about 30 yards. He can flat move for a big guy.
Justin Fields is clearly a future star, but to me, Jake Fromm is clearly the starter. His command and his reads, his poise, etc were all ahead of Fields Saturday. Fields was really good when he could throw to the first read. He was step behind the WR on a lot of throws and sometimes looked to be just throwing to the person or spot he was most comfortable with. Having said that, he probably should have connected with Ridley for a 40-50 yard TD but I think Ridley lost the ball, at least I'm hoping he did. Fields put it on the MONEY and Ridley ran a beautiful post-corner and got plenty of separation but seemed turned around in the endzone, but the ball landed DIRECTLY next to him. Would like to see Ridley step up and make some of those plays down field.
Stanley wasn't in the receiver rotation really...He did get banged up on a special teams play and I don't remember seeing him after that, but prior to he wasn't in the rotation that I remember.
Mecole has beefed up and looks great. Looks more explosive than last year.
On the Zamir injury. I'm sure you've seen by now, but he was the gunner on a punt and the injury was fairly non contact away from the ball. He was engaged with Mark Webb and towards the end of the play Webb was just kinda trying to shed Zamir and he went to the ground and immediately grabbed his knee. I hate it for him. I have a myriad of thoughts on it but I'll keep them to myself for now.
On the punting - Camarda's first punt was an absolute bomb. After that, not so much. This is the position to watch for the remainder of fall camp IMO.
Rodrigo was Rodrigo. He missed one wide right from about 40 yards but the others were easy money and he looks to have some more velocity on his kicks.
JAMES COOK. He's legit. He's a different back. I probably cant tell you anything you haven't read, but I saw it with my own two eyes. He's a player. He's fast, he's shifty, he's strong and he can catch. He probably had 20 touches. If he didn't it seemed that way. He's for real.
Swift clearly has a different body than last year. He's built like Sony. He's not small.
Holyfield and Herrien are absolutely shredded. Both looked good when they had opportunities, but James Cook was the star of the RB's mainly because he had so many more touches.You will love him.
Finally, at the end of practice they lined up on the goal line and had to do 20 yard sprints while starting in a 3-point stance. There were 3 groups. OL/DL, Specialist and LBs, then Backs/Receivers. Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson beat everyone on the line every single time in their group and Thomas was a good step ahead of Wilson. He's really athletic. Justin Fields won every single sprint for the backs. It was really cool to see the team finish and give great effort after a really physical scrimmage. They're in tremendous shape.
I came away very impressed with the roster and less concerned about the losses on defense outside of Roquan. I had a friend do a house blessing for a current players mother in the Spring, and the player told my buddy the 2017 roster would be the least talented roster Kirby has moving forward. I don't think this guy was around for 2016, ha. I say that to say, after seeing the newcomers and how much legit action they got in the scrimmage, I believe it. I'm less concerned about the losses of Bellamy and Carter than I was and I'm definitely not concerned about the losses in the secondary. I am however mildly concerned about ILB and depth. What obviously remains to be seen is can these super talented guys come up with the game changing plays that Bellamy, Carter and Roquan did time after time last year? Talent is in place to be very good for a long, long time but what happens when the lights come on? We'll see.