Dean Legge / Dawg Post

Legge's Thoughts: UGA's Open Practice

ATHENS - This is just my view of the way UGA’s rare open practice went today.

I will admit that I couldn’t possibly see everything during today’s practice as there were hundreds of moving parts… and it was impossible to see every thing all at once. I will focus in on the parts that I saw which impressed me most. 

Praise… 

1. Jacob Eason’s one throw to the corner of the end zone at the start of practice is the type of throw that makes coaches fall in love with players. ?

He threw the ball exactly where it had to be thrown - leading the receiver to the corner of the end zone and throwing a strike to the back of the helmet of the defender. It was one of the nicest throws I’ve seen in Sanford Stadium in some time. 

2. Isaiah McKenzie on the jet sweep. 

That play wasn’t stopped the entire day. Kirby and company might worry a little about McKenzie’s handle on the football, but he’s a heck of a player in space and just so much faster than everyone else. It takes him no time to get to the edge. He also connected with Brice Ramsey on some nice out-route catches. 

3. I really was impressed, if that’s the way you want to put it, with what I saw out of Elijah Holyfield. 

UGA is going to need some depth at the running back spot, and it sure looks like Holyfield is going to be that person. Nick Chubb barely made much impact on Saturday. And to be clear this was a thud situation where ball carriers were wrapped, but not supposed to be taken to the ground. Holyfield made more plays in his time out there than any other running back - Chubb included. With that said… this was one practice, and Holyfield’s good wasn’t so good that he’s going to be replacing Chubb or Sony Michel.

4. Roquan Smith seemed to play well. 

He caused problems a few times for the offense. When Jacob Eason was rattled - as happened a few times in the 11-on-11 situational drills near the end of practice - Smith was the problem for the youngster at times.

5. UGA’s actual receivers - Terry Godwin, Micheal Chigbu and Jayson Stanley - really do seem like they are going go be perfectly adequate. 

That trio “appears” headed to the starting gate as the No. 1 unit. I can’t say how much the other kids will play, but even though Godwin didn’t get tons of action today he’s clearly the program’s No. 1 option there. Keep an eye on Javon Wims, who caught a nice ball from Ramsey for a TD, to possibly emerge in that group. Tyler Simmons made some plays as well. But those two and Riley Ridley have trouble lining up properly at times. 

Criticisms… 

1. Jacob Eason is trying to hit the long ball too much. 

No doubt, Eason has a great weapon in his right arm. But there are times - occasionally plays in a row - where he’s trying to do too much with the ball. That leads to interception opportunities for the defenders. 

I didn’t count interceptions today. That’s stupid unless its obvious someone is going crazy throwing picks. Keep in mind that the QBs probably threw the ball around 130 times (minimum) each today. But Eason put the ball in danger often - at least more often than you have to in order to win. Eason is going to have to be developed. No question: He’s got tremendous arm talent. But he’s going to have to develop into a quarterback… not a thrower of the football. Those are two very different things. That really showed when the team went into 11-on-11 drills. That’s when Eason, who is still developing, reverted back to relying on his arm to try to make plays when they didn’t exist. Rather than stepping into the pocket and making his decision(s) from there, Eason either ate the ball when the rush came or made a poor decision when dealing with the rush… that wasn’t exclusive to him (Greyson Lambert).

2. Special teams might be a real adventure

Mecole Hardman blocked back-to-back FG attempts… that’s not good. Hartman flashing his talent isn’t bad, but the fact that UGA’s FG unit couldn’t block well enough to prevent him from blocking kicks is a real concern. The Bulldogs didn’t punt today during practice, but that’s probably going to be wild as well. It “feels” like Eason is going to be the holder at that spot, but Ramsey was also holding as well. 

It “seems” like William Ham is leading the FG competition, but perhaps today was his day to go… I’m not sure. He had one sideways kick that was scary to witness. Other than that he did OK. I think he was about four for six from 30 yards and out when he kicked the ball. Then again two kicks were blocked… four of six is one thing; four of eight is another… Again. Adventure. 

3. Lambert’s inconstant accuracy

Again, these guys were out there throwing the ball what appeared to be 100-plus times today. There are going to be bad throws… all three QBs had bad throws and bad decisions. All three had at least one really nice throw. Lambert had the least nice throws, and he appeared to spray the ball quite often when he was facing the open end of the stadium. If Lambert is going to be the starter, and how much of that is in question I couldn’t possibly say, not much is going to change on the offensive side of the ball in the passing game. 

The thing that Lambert does best, in my view, is take control of the huddle… he will clap when he gets to the huddle. But after that he struggles a little more than you would like. He’s not without making some throws, it just doesn’t happen as often as the other two.

4. Glenn Schumann’s sweating 

I get it man. You want to workout and keep that slim, size-two figure while you are coaching. Totally get it. But, bro, you were totally wet from head to toe near the end of practice. I don’t need to know about your knee sweat. That can’t be comfortable - I’m certain it doesn’t smell nice. 

5. The defense being disorganized 

It felt like that at times. Kirby about lost it at one point when Ramsey was on the field with the offense and he appeared to have to wait on the defense to get into their set so the practice could continue. That was because Kirby, screaming, told the missing linebacker to get into his spot. That didn’t happen once. 

Overall thoughts… 

The QB rotation appeared (to me at least, and I very well could be wrong here) to be No. 1 Eason, No. 2 Lambert and No. 3 Ramsey. I’ve seen where a lot of folks have written that It was No. 1 Eason, No. 2 Ramsey and No. 3 Lambert. That very well could have been, but Eason was the No. 1 for sure today. If Ramsey was running with the No. 2 unit that means Lambert was knocked down to the No. 3s today because today should be his day with the No. 2 unit. 

Sematics. 

Ramsey had the best overall day. He and Eason made the most throws, but Lambert made some as well. Lambert, for me, is the same guy we have seen for some time. Today was much like the spring game for the other two - except with a few more mistakes in throws or judgement. 

Again, the work rate on this trio is significant. UGA needs to figure out how to get more QBs into the system. I know the staff knows infinitely more about football than I do, but I would be concerned about arm wear. I was glad to see the group finally get a break from throwing about 45 minutes into practice. 

If Eason had thrown the way he did the “wow” TD throw to the corner the entire day there would be no competition. But that’s not indicative of what he did the entire day. He’s really got to develop himself inside the pocket. That’s becoming a major concern for me as it relates to this season. Eason’s talent isn’t on display in 11-on-11 situations as often because he’s really fighting comfortability in the pocket. Lambert struggles in there, too, but we’ve seen that. We are seeing now where Eason is going to have a hard time. Again, Eason is a true freshman who is coming from the spread in Washington state. 

He’s developing - this is going to take time. 

Eason appears to hurry himself up at times; or struggle to know when to get rid of the ball in those situations. He’s fighting himself because he’s not used to this. I’m not sure how long its going to take him to do so. As Fletcher Page said in the Dean Legge Show right after the event: “I bet Dominick Sanders is back there salivating when Eason’s in because he knows he’s going to throw it deep, and he can pick it.”

Dom got him once; the second time he was barely out of bounds, or it would have been two picks in a row (or close to it). 

Ramsey threw two interceptions - all of the QBs threw picks today - so if you are focusing on that you are focusing on the incorrect thing. Just stupid QB throws. Keep in mind that, generally speaking, interceptions were really not an issue today. Each guy threw such a volume of balls that INTs were bound to happen. The question is if you are making the correct decision the bulk of the time. That was the case with Ramsey who typically stepped up into a capable and waiting pocket the offensive line was providing. During drills he ate one or two balls - holding them and running forward as to indicate that he wasn’t going to force something that wasn’t there. Another time he stepped up into the pocket and ran for what would have been at least a 40-yard run… very possible a 60-yard TD run had the whistles not blown. When Kirby talks about him bringing a different element that’s what he’s talking about. 

Ramsey consistently moved the team in 11-on-11. I have to be frank and say I’m not sure which unit he was on or going against when that happened. But he was the only QB (I can’t remember another, but I am sure it happened) who scored with his unit marching it down the field. Once was on his long run. Another time was a deep ball TD. 

So Ramsey probably had the best, most consistent day. But lets keep in mind that he was on fire (he’s not on fire right now) at the start of the camp last season, but Lambert passed him somewhere along the way - when I couldn’t say for sure. 

Ramsey needs to continue to step up into the pocket and hitting the guys who are open. I’m not sure if it was because of the unit he was running with or what, but there were times when Ramsey stepped into the pocket and had WIDE OPEN receivers… TEs for sure, but WRs as well. He slightly under threw a certain TD, which was tipped on an athletic play by the DB, but that should have been an easy score, and Ramsey played it too safe on that throw.  

Lambert’s day in the 11-on-11 was uneventful. He didn’t move his team down the field. He came in after Eason (thus me concluding that he ran with the No. 2 unit for the day), but not much happened that I remember in that time. It felt like he wasn’t on the field as much as the other two, but I could have missed something on that front. 

My big takeaways after today are as follows:

1. Can’t really know for sure what’s going on at QB, but Ramsey appears to have had a good week. Eason might be right behind him with Lambert at the back. Or maybe that’s not what’s going on at all… I really have no clue. But we’ve only seen so much. Perhaps Lambert is tearing it up when the sessions are closed to the media… I can’t know that. ?

2. UGA appears to have another RB. Elijah Holyfield 100% looked the part today. Again, not much data to work with. We can’t know if this is reality or not, but he looked quite good today. 

3. Trent Thompson certainly could be an All-SEC guy by the end of the year. Dude scares me. 

4. Mecole Hardman and others may make plays, but the returning starters in the secondary appear heading to starting at the beginning of the season as well. Again, can’t know what we don’t know about what happens behind the curtain of closed practices, but that’s what it seems like right now. 

5. Kirby coaches. He doesn’t appear to just scream for screaming’s sake, but Kirby is going to get into his defense… a lot. That group has been hounded by him quite a bit this week - particularly today. Chaney is also much, much more vocal than Mark Richt and Brian Schottenheimer were last fall. 

6. The offense sure “seems” better. At least it does after the open practice on Saturday. Nick Chubb didn’t even do anything, and it appears that the Bulldogs are going to be able to move the ball in the air, and on the ground. That’s a welcome change - if what we Saturday is an accurate view of reality. 

7. There’s nothing preventing this team from getting to Atlanta. This isn’t like last year. I’d bet UGA doesn’t get to Atlanta right now, but if the QB play is improved, and I think it will be, getting to Atlanta is hardly a pipe dream. Whoever the QB is just needs to be productive, make plays that are there and avoid mistakes. Forcing the ball or being too timid to throw it… that’s not going to work in this league.


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