There are occasions during preseason camp when simply playing someone to a draw can raise eyebrows.
Take Georgia, where the nation's top scoring defense from a year ago is facing an offense having to replace quarterback Jake Fromm, running back D'Andre Swift and tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, who each bypassed remaining eligibility and became NFL draftees. Redshirt sophomore Owen Condon is vying for the right tackle spot relinquished by Wilson, the 29th overall pick to the Tennessee Titans, and his practice chores include lining up against outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson.
Johnson was the nation's No. 1 junior-college prospect in the 2019 class who pressured Ian Book into throwing incomplete on Notre Dame's final play last September and caused a key second-quarter fumble at Auburn in November.
"Going up against each other this year, just like we did last year, I think Owen has gotten a lot better, because I know I have," Johnson said this week on a Zoom call. "For him to be able to match me sometimes is quite impressive. I know he's come a long way from his injuries, and just to persevere and fight for that spot is respectable."
Condon arrived in Athens as a little-known talent out of Oklahoma City. As the nation's No. 32 tackle prospect and the No. 446 overall recruit, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, he was the lowest-rated signee of Kirby Smart's top-ranked 2018 class other than punter Jake Camarda.
Now he's competing with redshirt freshman Warren McClendon and freshman Tate Ratledge for the chance to start.
"Owen Condon has really stepped up and done some good things," Smart said after Saturday's scrimmage. "Owen hasn't been healthy since he's been here. He's been a pleasant surprise in terms of competitiveness, intelligence and toughness. We would like for him to play with a little bit more power and be able to move people."
Injuries have indeed contributed to Condon's obscurity to this point.
The 6-foot-7, 310-pounder has played four games in two seasons. He saw action as a freshman against Vanderbilt, Massachusetts and Georgia Tech — contests the Bulldogs won by an average score of 51-20 — and was able to redshirt under the NCAA four-game maximum rule.
Last season, Condon played 15 snaps in the 55-0 rout of Arkansas State before sustaining a torn labrum that required surgery, so simply staying healthy is every bit the motivation now as earning significant playing time.
"It's great to be back for sure," Condon said. "I feel really good right now, and I'm moving as well as I have in my life. I'm a lot leaner. I'm moving a lot better, but I've also gotten stronger as well."
Condon and the rest of the offensive linemen are getting ready for a unique Sept. 26 opener at Arkansas.
The Razorbacks are under the guidance of Sam Pittman, who was Georgia's offensive line coach the past four seasons before leaving in December. Matt Luke, the Ole Miss head coach from 2017 to 2019, quickly replaced Pittman and assisted the Bulldogs during their 26-14 dumping of Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
Condon said the transition has been seamless, but the opener is certain to be awkward.
"It's going to be weird for sure, since he's the one who recruited me," Condon said.
TV times announced
Georgia now knows the starting times and television networks for four of its 10 regular-season games. The Bulldogs will play Arkansas on the SEC Network (4 p.m. Eastern), and their home opener against Auburn on Oct. 3 will be televised by ESPN at 7:30 p.m.
CBS has used its one prime-time telecast for Georgia's trip to Alabama on Oct. 17, while the annual Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville will again be on CBS with a 3:30 kickoff.