With starting quarterback Aaron Murray back, it was a good day for the offense in Sanford Stadium, players said.
“I thought we dominated the day,” said Murray, who missed the first scrimmage earlier in the week while attending an awards banquet. “Don’t write that too much in the paper. I don’t want the defensive players to get mad at me, but I thought the offense kicked butt today.”
Murray completed 13 of 21 passes for 159 yards with a touchdown and interception and Hutson Mason was 8 of 14 for 154 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the scrimmage closed to the media. The defense got the better of the offense in Tuesday’s scrimmage.
“We had them pretty good today,” said receiver Chris Conley, who had six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Murray said the starting offense scored either a field goal or touchdown on every possession, but Georgia coach Mark Richt liked what he saw on both sides of the ball.
He said the defense did well in third and fourth down situations and said during the nine spring practices so far, it’s been fairly even.
“I thought the scrimmage was outstanding. I thought the guys really had fun today,” Richt said. “I thought they competed well. I think we’re still a little bit undisciplined with a little extracurricular activity after a couple of plays. Things get heated up and guys get after it a little bit after the whistle blows. I’d rather have them a heartbeat than try to get them to go.”
Keith Marshall (25 yards on four carries) and Todd Gurley (14 yards on three) averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
Conley’s catches included one of third down in traffic that he almost took the distance. The junior has nine catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the two scrimmages.
“I feel like as a scrimmage goes on, as a game goes on, his conditioning is better than most everyone on that field,” Richt said. “Just like at the bowl game when he caught that little middle screen and took off. It looked like he ran a 4.2 (40).”
Freshmen inside linebacker Reggie Carter had five tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.
“He’s got a good attitude towards contact,” Richt said.
Murray called his interception “bullcrap,” and said it should have been negated by a defensive holding on Conley.
“Well, the ref didn’t see it,” said sophomore cornerback Sheldon Dawson, who got his third interception in the two scrimmages. “It was a pick. He threw a pick.”
Long, Dawson out injured
Offensive lineman Austin Long is out for the rest of spring practices after re-injuring his hand and Dawson likely is, too.
Dawson was the only reported significant injury from the scrimmage, pulling a hamstring, which Richt said could put him on the shelf for the rest of the spring.
“I’ll try to get some treatment in and work on it,” Dawson said. “I don’t like thinking negative but it is what it is. If it’s bad, I’ll know I have to rest. I don’t want to, but I’ll just have to get ready to roll in the summer.”
Long, who was working as the first-team right guard in Chris Burnette’s absence, underwent surgery for a broken right hand on Friday after injuring it during Thursday’s practice. Long sustained a fracture of the same hand during bowl practices in December.
Freshman cornerback Reggie Wilkerson also had an interception. Dawson said he would be the guy to step in for him.
“Right now, I’m watching Reggie Wilkerson and I see a lot of talent,” Richt said. “I see a guy that’s going to be able to do it, but he’s taking his lumps. It’s just hard to be a rookie out there and get used to what it takes.”
Sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons’ role on the defense is coming into clearer focus.
Harvey-Clemons is the starting strong safety now, Richt confirmed, and Harvey-Clemons said he moves into the “star” position in Georgia’s nickel package.
“I feel like I know where I’m going to be at and where I’m going to play and what they expect out of me,” Harvey-Clemons said.
In his role as the star, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Harvey-Clemons said he is responsible for covering the slot receiver, helping the safety and blitzing.
“It’s kind of just like an outside linebacker really,” he said. “If it’s a team that runs like Alabama, we’ll probably be base most of the time, but if it’s a team that throws a lot we’re playing a lot of nickel. It really depends on the gameplan.”
Freshman Tray Matthews, who has crated buzz this spring, is working as the starting free safety.
“Our safeties have been playing great,” Dawson said. “We’re young, but we’re playing great.”
This and that
John Theus, who started every game at right tackle last season, got some first-team work at left tackle during Saturday’s scrimmage, according to video footage sent out from Richt’s twitter account Saturday afternoon.
Matthews was credited with two tackles in the scrimmage. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins said that he delivered a hit that knocked out receiver Justin Scott-Wesley briefly and even delivered a hard hit to Reggie Wilkerson while trying to break up a pass. “Tray’s definitely got his spot down after today,” Jenkins said..
Redshirt freshman quarterback Faton Bauta has not thrown in either of the scrimmages because of triceps tendonitis. Christian LeMay completed 5 of 11 passes for 31 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 19 yards on two carries.
Richt said redshirt freshman John Taylor is best suited for end now, but “things could change once some of the guys that are coming in might make a difference.”