Georgia Football: Three storylines ahead of G-Day scrimmage
Georgia’s spring practice schedule will conclude Saturday with its annual G-Day scrimmage.
Here are three of the most important storylines entering Saturday’s events:
Georgia’s backup QB situation
Bulldogs’ sixth-year senior quarterback Stetson Bennett will be the starter entering the 2022 season.
Regardless, the battle for the backup position is very important because it sets the program up for the future. Three possible options could fill that role in redshirt sophomore Carson Beck, redshirt freshman Brock Vandagriff and freshman Gunner Stockton.
Beck and Vandagriff are likely the top candidates because they have been in Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s system longer than Stockton, who is an early enrollee.
Bulldogs’ head coach Kirby Smart said in a recent press conference that Beck has progressed a lot throughout spring practice.
“He’s not nervous about what the call is, what’s my read, what’s the motion, what’s the shift,” Smart said. “He’s very cool, calm and collected and does a good job of managing those things with the offense. So, he has earned some confidence and earned some confidence with the players.”
Beck appeared in four games last season. He completed 10-of-23 pass attempts for a total of 176 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Beck also averaged 7.7 yards per completion.
Vandagriff, who is a former five-star prospect, served as the team’s scout team quarterback this past season. He only appeared in two games this past year and didn’t complete a pass.
Still, Smart likes what sees from both the veteran signal-callers.
“I am really pleased where both of those guys are,” Smart said earlier this spring. “It is just amazing how far they have come from this time last year to right now. It is like, ‘oh my gosh!’ Brock probably even further because he was a little younger. Carson did get that COVID spring. They are both really in their second spring but they have come so far.”
Filling holes on the defensive line
The title in the sub-headline says it all.
Replacing former standouts Jordan Davis, Travon Walker and Devonte Wyatt will be a huge task. However, that’s why Smart and Georgia defensive line coach Tray Scott have recruited so well.
Possibly the most talented member of the Bulldogs’ 2021 defensive front returns in rising junior Jalen Carter. The Apopka, Fl., native totaled 37 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks last season. Carter also had a pass deflection and a blocked field goal in 2021.
Smart recently said Carter’s skills are ‘oozing.’
“The talent is oozing,” Smart said of Carter earlier this month. “Now, it’s a matter of if can he play every play with maximum intensity and be able to sustain it? He was in a three-man weave triangle last year, and it was easy to sub him (out) because you weren’t having a big drop-off on the field. We need him to play more snaps this year. We need him to be on the field, we need him to be active, and we need him to play first, second, and third (down) in a row. Not first and second and then some thirds. Can he do that?”
There’s also Zion Logue, who is a 6-foot-5, 295-pound defender, that is a force on the interior part of the line.
Smart recently said that Logue has been making strides at becoming a leader this spring
I think what’s good about Zion is he’s a great leader, a great kid,” Smart told reporters in March. “He is the perfect example of a guy that has matured and he’s grown. He used to have academic problems during his freshman year, wouldn’t go to this, wouldn’t — and now for the last year, he’s not on lists. He handles his weight, he practices really hard, and he’s hit a strength, a little bit extra strength in the weight room that’s going to help make him a better player. We got high expectations for him. He’s going to take on a larger role, but his role may not be the same as what those guys were.”
Georgia center Sedrick Van Pran-Granger said in March that Logue is a lot to handle at practice.
“Don’t kill me for saying this, but I think Zion is a version of a combination of I guess I would say JD and Devonte,” Van Pran-Granger said. “He’s in between both of them. He’s fast, he’s strong. He’ll catch you off guard with his quickness but he’s also strong in the run game.”
There are also guys like Nazir Stackhouse, Tymon Mitchell and Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, among others, that are expected to take on bigger roles this upcoming season.
Can Brett Thorson develop his skills and replace Jake Camarda?
Brett Thorson, a 22-year-old Australian native, signed with Georgia during the Early Signing Period in December.
He went from playing Aussie rules football and working on his parent’s farm, to practicing with the defending national champions as the team’s new punter within a year.
Smart and his staff hope that Thorson can replace former SEC Special Teams Player of the Year Jake Camarda.
“Replacing Jake (Camarda) will be key,” Smart told reporters on April 2. I thought he (Brett Thorson) had some good punts today and he hit his directions, which is very important. If you have to punt left, you have to hit it left, and if you have to punt right, you have to hit it right. We call that our ‘field zones.’ I thought he did a good job of doing that. So far this spring, Brett has been a pleasant surprise. Probably not where Jake was last year but he has done a really good job. He has had a really smooth transition.”
Smart said that Thorson is adjusting to the rules of college football, but is also bringing in his own style.
“It is just punting," Smart said. "There is nothing special about what he is doing. I think when you think about Australians, you think of rugby punting when they roll and punt. From obviously watching it he can do that and that is something that we will explore but that is not what we are working on right now. We are working on our different protections, different looks, checking protections and allowing him to kick under pressure. That is the thing that he has not been able to simulate, to kick under pressure.”
Camarda finished as the program’s career leader in punting average with a mark of 45.78, which surpassed the nation’s 2009 Ray Guy Award winner Drew Butler’s average of 45.4.
So, Thorson has big shoes to fill. Literally.
Either way, Georgia placekicker Jack Podlesny is positive that Thorson’s ability can fit the mold.
“He’s a stud,” Podlesny said. “He came in the first day and competed his butt off. I can’t say much more about that. It says a lot to come from Australia within a day of his birthday and get to work.”