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Georgia football: 5 players to watch during spring practice

Georgia football: 5 players to watch during spring practice

Georgia football: 5 players to watch during spring practice

Georgia football: 5 players to watch during spring practice

Georgia football-Jonathan Ledbetter-spring practice

Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.

Spring practice: 5 Bulldogs to watch

The first phase of the long offseason slog is officially behind us. Spring practice begins Tuesday in Athens. After three months living in a college football-less wasteland, we get three weeks of actual, honest-to-God football — actual, honest-to-God football that we don’t get to watch, but beggars can’t be choosers — then G-Day to tide us over through the summer and Phase 2 of the dreaded offseason.

The Bulldogs lost stars and role players after last season and have plenty of work to do replacing both. So to get you ready for the next few weeks, I’m listing five players to keep any eye on during spring practice.

With the all the young talent Kirby Smart has accrued in his first three seasons as coach, this list could be 30 players long. There are just so many young players on this roster who could be potential stars, that if I listed them all, we would be here until G-Day. But these are five players I believe can undoubtedly change the course of the 2018 season, one way or another, if they work hard enough and prove themselves in the spring.

Mark Webb, CB — It surprised most who follow the program when it was announced last season that Webb, a 4-star WR out of high school, switched to corner midway through his freshman season. But reviews of Webb’s transition to defense have been nothing but positive. There’s an opening for another starting corner opposite Deandre Baker, and Webb is right in the mix. He already has the length, speed and ball skills you dream of from a defensive back. All Webb needs is some seasoning and he could be the total package.

Jonathan Ledbetter, DE — Ledbetter has been a fixture along Georgia’s defensive line during all three of his seasons in Athens, and that won’t change his senior year. He’ll start at DE just like he did a year ago. I included him because I figure he’s the best bet to step up as a leader on the defense. The departures of Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Dominick Sanders, Aaron Davis and others has left the defense without any established leaders. As one of the few veterans of a young defense, and as a player has done plenty of growing up over the last three years, it’s time for Ledbetter to step up and fill that void.

Marshall Long, P — One of the most underrated additions of last offseason was the transfer of Cameron Nizialek from Columbia. During his one season at Georgia, Nizialek was about as good as you can ask a punter to be, finishing his lone season as one of the best punters in the SEC. Now the Bulldogs are back to square one and again looking for a punter. Long started some games as a freshman in 2016, splitting time with Brice Ramsey. In the fall, Jake Camarda, one of the top punter recruits in the country, will arrive on campus. If Long is going to prevent being beaten for the starting job for a second, and likely final time, he’ll need to perform well and create some separation this spring.

Riley Ridley, WR — Ridley is one of the most enigmatic players on this roster. He showed plenty of flashes of brilliance during his freshman season, and many, me included, had him tabbed to step forward as one of the top receivers on the team in 2017. Instead, he regressed, with only 8 catches and 156 yards through the first 14 games of the season. But in the National Championship, against Alabama and his brother, Tide receiver Calvin Ridley, Riley once again flashed that star quality, with 6 receptions for 82 yards. Now comes a crossroads: Will Ridley become one of Jake Fromm’s top targets, as he was against Alabama, or get lost in the shuffle once again?

Justin Fields, QB — You knew we couldn’t get out of here without talking about Fields. Just as Fromm vs. Jacob Eason was the story of last spring, Fromm vs. Fields will be the story of this one. There is an added wrinkle, though. Both Fromm and Eason are drop-back passers who don’t run outside some improvisation or the odd read-option.  Fields was born to run. He’s a truly gifted athlete who brings something different to the team than Fromm. There’s a reasonable chance we could see some form of a two-QB system next season, with Fields used the same way Tim Tebow was used in his freshman year at Florida. But we won’t know how reasonable that chance is until we find out whether or not Fields is a ready-made SEC quarterback.

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UGA women’s hoops season ends in Round 2 of NCAA Tournament

Spring practice could not have come at a better time because Georgia’s basketball season is over.

The Lady Dogs fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 66-40 loss to fifth-seeded Duke Monday night in Athens. It was an inexplicably off night for the Lady Dogs. A disastrous second quarter put Georgia in a hole it couldn’t climb out of, and Duke was basically able to run the clock out in the second half to advance to the Sweet 16.

Although the end was inglorious, it was a fantastic season for Georgia. Joni Taylor had some growing pains in her first two seasons as coach, but she seems to have the Bulldogs moving in the right direction, back toward national prominence. Next season, the Lady Dogs should be just as good. They’ll lose senior Mackenzie Engram, the leading scorer this season, but that’s about it. They’ll come into next season a year wiser and with NCAA Tournament experience under their belts. Expect them to be hosting first- and second-round games again next March.

Spring practice storylines

Seth Emerson of DawgNation ran down some of the biggest questions facing Georgia football as spring practice begins. Make sure you read what Emerson has to say about each, but these are the questions you should keep in mind throughout the spring.

  • Is the Fromm vs. Fields QB competition for real or just hype?
  • Where does Georgia turn to replace Nick Chubb and Sony Michel?
  • Who will start along the offensive line?
  • How does Georgia replace all the talent lost on defense?
  • What role do the new assistant coaches take on?

Odds and ends

With spring practice, there’s plenty to read about regarding UGA football. Here are some posts from DawgNation you may have missed on Monday.

Dawgs on Twitter

Good dog

You will never be as chill as these two.

Miss a previous edition of Good Day, UGA? Get caught up here.

The post Georgia football: 5 players to watch during spring practice appeared first on DawgNation.

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS — New Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean has finally pulled the trigger on naming a second assistant basketball coach. Joe Scott, most recently an assistant coach at Holy Cross, sports 16 seasons of head coaching experience at three Division I schools. He joins Chad Dollar on the Bulldogs’ staff. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said in a statement released by the school. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” Said Scott, also in a statement: “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family. The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott was tabbed one of the nation’s top-20 “Xs & Os” coaches in a survey of his peers by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman in 2013. He was head coach at Air Force for four seasons, Princeton for three campaigns and Denver for nine seasons. He also has served as an assistant coach at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross. All told, Scott sports 27 years of collegiate coaching experience. Before breaking into the head coaching ranks, Scott was an assistant coach at Monmouth during the 1991-92 season and at Princeton from 1992-2000. While at Princeton, Scott helped the Tigers to five consecutive postseason appearances, with trips to the 1996, 1997 and 1998 NCAA Tournaments and the 1999 and 2000 NITs. The Tigers won three Ivy League titles from 1996-98, including perfect 14-0 records in the final two seasons. Princeton upset defending national champion UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament and ranked as high as No. 7 nationally in 1998 en route to earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest ever for an Ivy League team. The post Georgia’s Tom Crean finally settles on a second assistant coach appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia basketball and Tom Crean have hired a second assisstant coach, this time in former Princeton head coach Joe Scott. The school released a statement on the hiring, with a statement from Crean. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” In addition to serving as the head coach at Air Force, Scott also has head coaching experience at Princeton and Denver. As an assistant Scott has worked at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross, where he spent the past two seasons. Scott is a Princeton alum. “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family,” Scott said. “The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott will join assistant Chad Dollar in helping Crean. Dollar’s hire was announced earlier in April. Crean replaced Mark Fox, who had been the coach at Georgia since the 2008-09 season. The post Georgia basketball announces hiring of assistant coach Joe Scott appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia held their final actual practice of the spring at the Woodruff Practice Complex on Thursday. Under clear skies and relatively cool temperatures, the Bulldogs were working out in shorts and helmets and were scheduled to for about two hours. The next time they get together and play as a team will be during G-Day Saturday at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m., ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Actually, it will as two teams. UGA on Thursday released its split rosters for the Red and Black squads for Saturday’s intrasquad game. This year, Georgia’s No. 1 offense, led by quarterback Jake Fromm, will be the Red team. The Black Squad will be led by the Bulldogs’ No. 1 defensive unit — and freshman quarterback Justin Fields, of course. Fromm’s Red squad will be protected by the first-string offensive line — which included both Solomon Kindley and Kendall Baker to play left guard. It will also feature juniors Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien at tailback and Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman at wideout and Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner at tight end. Fields’ No. 2 offensive unit will have walkons Prather Hudson and Ian Donald-McIntyre in the backfield and will feature a receiving corps of Ahkil Crumpton, J.J. Holloman, Kearis Jackson, Matt Landers and Tyler Simmons. Of course, the Black team will be hanging its hat on a defensive team led by Tyler Clark, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, Jonathan Ledbetter, Julian Rochester and Malik Herring and inside linebackers Juwan Taylor, Tae Crowder and Nate McBride. D’Andre Walker, Robert Beal and Walter Grant will man the outside linebacker positions. The secondary for the Black squad has Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee at the corners, William Poole at star and J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte III at the safeties. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs appeared to be going through normal drill work and play-polish in the early portions of practice on Thursday. Following are a few observations: Senior Terry Godwin was going through regular drill work with the receivers but appeared to be a bit gimpy in doing so. He had a reinforced brace on one knee and a regular sleeve on the other. Cornerback Mark Webb was not practicing after suffering a knee injury of undisclosed severity on Tuesday. Indications are it’s not a “major” injury. D’Andre Swift was going through bag drills with the running backs and did not exhibit noticeable limitations. He is dealing with a groin injury, according to coach Kirby Smart. Defensive tackle Michael Barnett (knee) was not at practice again, assuring that he’ll miss G-Day. Justin Young, who missed practices last week due to a minor knee sprain, has been able to practice and might be able to play. One area lacking depth that has not been much discussed is deep snapper for special teams. The Bulldogs technically have just one on the roster in redshirt freshman Oren Morgan of Toombs County. But senior fullback Nick Moore also snaps to the kickers. Former tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were watching Thursday’s practice from the sideline and having a good time commenting on what they say. Asked which tailback they expected to be the leading rusher for the G-Day Game on Saturday, they simultaneously said “Prather Hudson.” Hudson is a redshirt sophomore walkon from Columbus. Recently-matriculated receiver Javon Wims was also at practice watching his position group. All of them plan to attend on Saturday, with Chubb conducting an autograph-signing at the bookstore.   The post Practice report: Jake Fromm to lead Red against Justin Field’s Black squad on G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Don’t be surprised if you see players being shuffled around a lot and playing in somewhat unfamiliar positions Saturday, especially on defense. Spring practice is a highly experimental time as it is, but injuries have forced Georgia’s hand in some key areas on the football field. As a result, you’re likely to see some defensive ends playing tackle, some tackles playing nose guard and some safeties playing cornerback when the Bulldogs conduct their annual G-Day spring intrasquad game at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m. Saturday, ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Georgia has been hit with injuries along the defensive line and in the secondary this spring. Defensive end Justin Young and tackle Michael Barnett have been out for most of the spring with what coach Kirby Smart calls “minor” knee injuries. This Tuesday, cornerback Mark Webb suffered what’s characterized as a non-serious knee injury, but he won’t be available for game simulation on Saturday. He’ll be joined on the sideline by senior safety Jarvis Wilson, who has a sprained foot. As a result, Georgia will have to do some mixing and matching in order to keep a competitive 22 players on the field at all times. The Bulldogs have 111 players on their spring roster, but that includes six kicking specialists or holders and 36 walk-ons, including three quarterbacks not named Stetson Bennett. The point is, not all of those players are going to play and many won’t get significant amounts of time. Junior David Marshall, who played in 14 games at defensive end last season and started three, has been playing inside at tackle. Likewise, defensive tackle Julian Rochester has been cross-training at nose guard. Just a week ago, the Bulldogs moved redshirt sophomore Chris Barnes from offensive guard to the defensive line to shore up depth. “We’re just a little short,” said Marshall, who logged 52 tackles and 3 1/2 quarterback sacks last season. “But it’s next man up around here, so we’ve got to tough it out.” Smart hasn’t been thrilled with the end result. At different times this spring he has complained about the defense not being “stout enough” against the run. “We’ve certainly got to get better at defending [the run], especially against big, physical people like our offense,” Smart said. “But the way to do that is you’ve got to have big people to combat big people with, and we don’t have a lot of big guys. So, we’re looking to recruit. We’re trying to find 290-[pound]-plus guys that can help us become more stout. For us to play the way we want to play we’ve got to have physical guys in there.” In terms of interior defensive linemen that are on scholarship, Georgia has just eight. Freshman signees Jordan Davis and Tramel Walthour won’t join the team until this summer. Smart said he’d like to sign four in the Class of 2019. Georgia also is missing Deangelo Gibbs and is down to 10 scholarship players in the secondary for the scrimmage. By specialty, it breaks down to five corners and five safeties. As always, some from both groups work at the “star” or nickel back positions. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker also could pluck a linebacker to play in the back third. That has required proven veterans such as junior safety J.R. Reed and senior cornerback Deandre Baker to do a lot of on-field coaching when they’re facing off against Georgia’s high-octane offense. “It’s always good to see these young guys grow,” said Reed, who started all 15 games at strong safety last season. “My goal is to really mold these young guys and really get them up to almost be where I’m at and to get these guys that don’t know a lot to learn more.” While Georgia is expected to receive an infusion of talent when elite signees Tyson Campbell, Nadab Joseph and Otis Reese enroll in June, G-Day will be especially important for their predecessors. Sophomores Ameer Speed, Eric Stokes and William Poole and redshirt freshmen Tray Bishop and Latavious Brini have much to prove. “It’s their time,” Smart said, “and they have to step up or they’ll be replaced by the people coming in.” Low numbers overall are not unusual for spring games. After all, the majority of the incoming recruiting class hasn’t joined the team yet. In Georgia’s case, it has 17 more players on the way. In the meantime, the players that are present and accounted for aim to give the expected crowd of 78,000 a show of some sort. “We like to see all the fans come out and support us,” Marshall said. “We’re going to come out and show great effort hopefully we’ll see how the season will go this year.” The post Injuries have left Bulldogs a little light on defense heading into G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.