No conflict with Easter. No conflict with the Masters. Tons of expectations after winning last season’s Sugar Bowl and finishing No. 2 nationally.
Those are three big factors that could result in Georgia’s largest G-Day crowd ever when the Bulldogs hold their 15th and final spring practice today at 2 p.m. There are factors working against that notion, however, that have cropped up in recent days.
Neither quarterback Matthew Stafford nor tailback Knowshon Moreno may play even 10 snaps, and weather.com is calling for a 100 percent chance of rain this afternoon in Athens.
“I hope a lot of people show up,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. “That would be fun. The more people at the game, the more exciting it is for our players and the more it feels like a real game. I’ve mentioned to the players that it will probably be one of the biggest crowds in a while. There will probably be people here from around the nation that wouldn’t normally be here just because of some of the expectations.”
When asked what would happen if thunder and lightning accompanied the predicted rain, Richt said, “My feeling is that we’d just shut it down.”
Georgia does not have attendance records for every G-Day game, but the largest crowd is believed to be in the 30,000 range. The largest spring crowd of the Richt era was 25,134 in 2004, when quarterback David Greene and David Pollack were nearing their senior seasons.
The Bulldogs return 17 of 22 starters from last season’s 11-2 team and could land the first preseason No. 1 ranking in program history.
Richt said Wednesday that the G-Day format likely would consist of 10-minute quarters but revised that Friday to eight-minute quarters. A slew of mostly minor injuries, he reasoned, was the chief reason for the change.
The Red team, which contains most of the top offensive players, will not only have limited use of Stafford and Moreno but will be without fullback Brannan Southerland, guard Clint Boling and receivers Mohamed Massaquoi, Kenneth Harris and Tony Wilson. The Black team, which has the top defensive talent, will be without defensive tackle Jeff Owens, defensive end Jeremy Lomax and linebackers Marcus Washington and Darius Dewberry.
Four former Bulldogs — D.J. Shockley, Greg Blue, Frank Ros and Kevin Butler — are serving as honorary coaches today, and the tradition of the winning team eating steak and the losers getting beanie weenies will continue.
Today will be the first opportunity for Bulldogs fans to get a glimpse of Caleb King, who was rated by Rivals.com as the nation’s No. 8 tailback in the 2007 class and redshirted last season. King will not be the only new tailback, as Richard Samuel and Dontavius Jackson will be on display after enrolling in January.
Another early enrollee, receiver Tavarres King, will not play after developing a knee infection this week.
“It’s nothing serious, but it did swell up a bit,” Richt said. “I know a number people were excited about seeing Tavarres, but they’ll still get to see a couple of our mid-year true freshmen.”
Richt said this week that the secondary has been the most spirited group of the spring. Asher Allen, Prince Miller, CJ Byrd and Reshad Jones are the projected starters, but there is plenty of depth there with Bryan Evans, Ramarcus Brown, Quintin Banks, Vance Cuff and John Knox.
The defense has dominated the offense in recent weeks, but defensive coordinator Willie Martinez isn’t about keeping score as much as developing contributors.
“We were able to finish how we finished last year because we had depth and were able to use a lot of personnel, whether it was defensive line, linebacker or in the secondary,” Martinez said. “You’re going to have injuries. That’s going to happen, so preparing yourself for that will enable you to keep consistency and progress. The challenge for us, and it will continue through the summer and fall camp, will be to develop a solid two-deep.”
Tickets for G-Day are $5 and will be on sale at Sanford Stadium beginning 12:30 p.m. at Gates 2, 4, 6 and the main gate located below the Sanford Drive bridge.
“A good G-Day game is a crisp game without a lot of penalties and fumbles,” Richt said, “probably without a lot of scoring and for everyone to come out healthy.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...