New Georgia defense tests veteran offense

New Georgia defense tests veteran offense

April 6th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera believes the young defense has held its own this spring against a veteran Bulldogs offense.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

'UGA DAYS' COMING TO CATOOSA

The Chattanooga area has been included in this year's "UGA Days" spring tour, which includes 12 stops.

Football coach Mark Richt, basketball coach Mark Fox and outgoing university president Michael Adams will be speaking at the Catoosa County Colonnade on May 7. The Catoosa County Colonnade is located at 264 Catoosa Circle in Ringgold.

Georgia will pit starters against starters during today's G-Day spring football game, which will provide a sizable challenge for a youthful defense.

The Bulldogs return 10 starters from an offense that racked up a school-record 6,547 yards and 529 points last season, though only eight will suit up today. Receiver Malcolm Mitchell is out after tearing his meniscus in last Saturday's scrimmage, while right guard Chris Burnette has been sidelined all spring after undergoing shoulder surgery in January.

That's still significantly more than the four returning starters from a defense that could have as many as 10 players drafted later this month.

"I think we've done pretty well to this point," junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said earlier this week. "We have all the young guys on the same page, and they're working hard the way that we've worked hard before. I think we have done a pretty good job of that."

The G-Day game starts this afternoon at 1, and it will be televised by CSS.

Last year's G-Day contest was held before an announced crowd of 44,117 at Sanford Stadium, with the Red team defeating the White 32-31. The White pulled within a point on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Christian LeMay to tight end Jay Rome with 59 seconds remaining, but a two-point conversion from LeMay to Rhett McGowan was incomplete.

"Over the years, our scores aren't usually a high-scoring affair," coach Mark Richt said. "We always try to put our best on the best so that it becomes more of an even game."

G-Day will consist of 12-minute quarters, and there will be no kickoffs. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each half and after scores, and every punt will be marked off 35 yards.

Georgia will be the first Southeastern Conference team to hold its spring game. Florida was scheduled to have its spring contest today but instead will hold an open practice since only five of 11 scholarship offensive linemen are healthy.

"When you have your coordinators come back and the majority of your staff, it's a lot easier just to roll into spring ball," Richt said. "We were able to get started relatively early, and that's just a sign of having the continuity that we have. Because of that, I think the players know what each player expects, and the coaches have a very good standard of what we want to get accomplished on a daily basis."

The Bulldogs will practice twice next week to wrap up spring drills, but Richt said neither of those workouts would include any tackling.

How the defense stacks up against Georgia's vaunted offense is the biggest point of interest today. The Bulldogs have had several youthful defenders receive praise from coaches this spring, most notably safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons, cornerback Sheldon Dawson, outside linebacker James DeLoach, and ends Sterling Bailey and Ray Drew.

"We want to make sure that everyone goes out there and does their responsibility and that we all have fun," Herrera said.

Then there are the seven quarterbacks. Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason are the top two, but today could help determine the pecking order down the line.

"It's a huge day for them," Murray said. "They're all trying to earn that spot and trying to be the guy that travels, too. I think we take three or four quarterbacks to a game, so you want to be able to travel to all the games. That's always fun."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.