G-Day celebrating spring sports

The football game will be missing a few stars

Updated: April 13, 2012, 11:09 AM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

ATHENS, Ga. -- As spring football winds to a close, Georgia's fans are preparing for the lonely 20-week wait until the Bulldogs once again take the field at Sanford Stadium.

Saturday's G-Day game (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3) will have to tide them over until the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo, but they shouldn't expect much in the way of fireworks -- even by spring game standards.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Dale Zanine/US PresswireAaron Murray will lead Georgia's offense, but explosive plays might be down.
Yes, Red Team quarterback Aaron Murray and the starting offense will be on the opposite side of the ball from Black Team outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and the starting defense. But injuries and depth questions have the Bulldogs focused more on getting through the game without issue than on putting on a show.

"[My goal is] just that everybody gets a chance to play ball between the hedges, and it's a beautiful day and the fans get a chance to see us," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I always talk about it being a celebration of Georgia football, and that's what I want it to be."

Beyond that, the day will serve as a celebration of Georgia's spring sports programs. Saturday's weather forecast calls for sunny weather and clear skies over the various athletic venues where Georgia teams will compete.

In addition to G-Day, there is a women's home tennis match against Tennessee, a home track meet, a letterman's flag football game before G-Day kickoff, and the Georgia baseball team will host Ole Miss. The baseball game is the only event that will require paid admission.

From that aspect, Saturday is shaping up as an enticing day for families to visit campus, but the football component might be a bit lacking. Hamstring injuries will prevent two of the game's potential headliners -- new freshman tailback Keith Marshall and converted cornerback Malcolm Mitchell -- from participating. Also out with knee injuries are safety Shawn Williams and freshman quarterback Faton Bauta.

"It would've been nice to see Keith," Richt said of Marshall, who was the No. 5 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150 when he signed in January. "It was good to see him just the little bit we got a chance to see. He's definitely a guy who we feel like we did a good job when it comes to recruiting -- a talented guy, a hard-working guy."

Otherwise, fans will have the opportunity to observe their favorite players like Murray and Jones. They can check out the progress made by redshirt freshmen like tight end Jay Rome and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley. They can begin forming opinions on which of the new starters on the regrouping offensive line might make an impact. Or they can gauge how players shifting to different positions are faring in their new roles, like outside linebackers-turned-defensive ends Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew.

Although he played last season as a true freshman, Drew said he is also excited about the opportunity to participate in his first spring game.

"With it being my first G-Day, of course there's excitement," Drew said. "I remember coming here last year and watching it [as a signee], and now it's hard to believe that it's gone by just that fast and now I'm actually going to be out there contributing to it."

But fans should probably not expect to see two clearly defined teams competing hard for the right to be called G-Day champion. Linebacker Christian Robinson said the game itself is "going to be a little more like a scrimmage on the Saturday before G-Day," while Richt said as many as five to 10 Bulldogs could play on both teams.

"There's going to be a lot of guys playing both sides," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "We've just got some depth issues and there's really going to be kind of a glorified scrimmage, but there will be quarters and we'll have sides and stuff like that, but a number of guys will have to put on both jerseys and play for both teams."

Offensive line coach Will Friend said Tuesday that the two-way players could include centers David Andrews, Dallas Lee and Chris Burnette.

As members of the first-team offense, all three players are listed on the Red Team roster. In addition to their roles as backup centers, Lee and Burnette are also the starting left and right guards, respectively. So when the Bulldogs trot out their second-team line with the Black Team, those players will also have to switch sides to share the center responsibilities," Friend said.

Saturday's expected team flip-flopping has even removed the traditional reward to the winning team and punishment to the losing team -- a steak and lobster dinner for the victors and Beanee Weenees to the losers.

Not that any Bulldogs will apparently shed any tears over the game's decreased stakes.

"We're just going to play ball for the love of the game and for the love of playing between the hedges in front of family and friends and the fans and TV," Richt said. "We're not doing steak and lobster.

"The problem with that is half the kids like the Beanee Weenees better than the steak and lobster, so it just doesn't seem to be a good motivator."