UGA had its first scrimmage of the fall, Jacob Eason’s shoulder got tons of attention, a former starter left (or was asked to leave) the program and a player from another SEC institution (Alabama no less) was cleared to enroll and play right away.
Any one of those slew of items would be enough alone to talk about in this edition of What We Are Hearing, but we actually have a lot more - including updates on how those events unfolded as well as updates on Lorenzo Carter, the Dawg Walk, Nick Chubb and the QB race as it enters its final week of full-blown pre-season competition.
Where to start?
UGA must have felt good about its chances to get Mo Smith into school before the announcement was made by Alabama and the SEC. The athletic department was busy trying to get Smith enrolled as early as the middle of last week. The SEC’s seeming rubber stamp on the matter came down on Friday, so UGA was ahead of the game - at least it was planning in an optimistic way.
It was an amazing move by Smith, but particularly by his mother, who would not take no for an answer. But the entire matter reinforced some negativity by a group of insiders at UGA.
“It really shows how flawed our system is,” said one insider. “I mean this kid graduated from Alabama, and he’s being held there… I’m not sure why. I don’t say this lightly when I say the system seems somewhat like slavery. These kids get out there and do manual labor, and when they fulfill their obligations by graduating they have to beg and plead to get out of a place they just helped make millions of dollars a year. That’s (expletive) up.”
Smith will have to enroll in a graduate program that’s not available at Alabama, so no law school or business school. The most logical thing for him to enroll in would be in the medical world (not nursing) because much of Alabama’s medical complex falls under Alabama-Birmingham (UAB), not Alabama.
Smith is expected to play right away. It will be interesting to see just where he lines up for the Dawgs. He was slated to be Alabama’s starting nickelback, so that’s the spot where you would expect him to jump in at UGA. But he might be forced into some real action at safety if Quincy Mauger’s injury (he was shown with a boot on his foot) is considered serious, but judging by Mauger practicing on Monday it doesn’t appear to be serious. Smith is also going to get some looks on special teams as a return man. He might have his best shot as the kickoff return man, and perhaps spelling All-SEC PR candidate Isiah McKinzie.
One way or another Smith is going to play quite a bit this fall.
Perhaps be can be the punter. I’m getting mixed messaging on who the punter will be. Brice Ramsey has a faster operation time according to Kirby Smart, but Marshall Long has been more consistent. One insider told me last week very firmly that he felt that it would be Ramsey as the punter. Another insider followed that up over the weekend. But I’m not sure. One thing I think every well could happen is that Ramsey could be the Bulldogs’ long-ball (or traditional) punter with Long coming in to try to kill the ball inside of the 20-yard line. I’ve not been told this, but I somewhat expect both of them to punt against Carolina in week one.
Speaking of other players’ prospects of playing in game one - Sony Michel longer has a cast on his hand, but he didn’t take any snaps in the scrimmage over the weekend. Keep in mind the reporting I had, which placed him right on the edge of playing against Carolina in week one. He looks the part in every other way. Honestly, folks have to be optimistic that he no longer has the cast on his hand. We are still three weeks from kickoff. Michel playing against Carolina is a major factor on if the Bulldogs can run effectively in the Dome. He’s much better than folks realize.
Then there’s Nick Chubb, who totally looks healthy in every way. He didn’t have a great day last Saturday, but the Bulldogs didn’t ask him to do that much. Then this weekend I was told that he doesn’t look the same as he has in the past.
“Chubb just didn’t look like the guy from last year,” said one practice observer. You remember how he could be explosive and hit it to the outside? I didn’t see that as much this time.”
Another observer felt like his friend was overdoing it in terms of Chubb’s day.
“I didn’t see it like that,” he said. “No, I thought he looked fine.”
So some mixed messaging on the Chubb front. Look, the reality is that we won’t really know what Chubb is like until he cracks off his first 15-yard run… if and when that happens we will have a better idea of where Chubb really is. Until then I am going to file Chubb under the “people see what they want to see” category of things. If you want to believe that he’s not the same guy; you believe that. If you want to believe that, shit, he looks like he’s the same guy, and he is the same guy; you believe that.
I’m somewhere in the: I know what Nick Chubb can do, but I want to see it happen on a game day.
Folks have consistently said three offensive players who didn’t have major impacts in 2016 have had a good camp - Reggie Davis, Brice Ramsey and Elijah Holyfield.
Holyfield, according to many observers has had an outstanding fall camp. He backed up his solid performance in the open practice last Saturday with another good showing in the scrimmage.
“He’s the real deal alright,” said one observer. “He was the best running back out there.”
On the QB race, again, folks are either seeing what they want to see or they are believing what they want to believe. If they want to think the QB(s) will be a disaster they believe that. I don’t believe that. I think Jim Chaney, specially, has done a heck of a job communicating to the three guys he has on scholarship right now. The Bulldogs are going to likely play two signal callers in week one… I say likely - there could be just one. It feels like the players know what the situation is going into this final stretch of camp, but none of them have been informed that this is a starter.
Jacob Eason had a rough outing on Saturday - according to a lot of folks. I think the likelihood of him starting the first game seems out of reach right now. He’s just not been consistent the way Ramsey has been, and he would also have to jump Greyson Lambert and Ramsey to get the start. The problem with Eason starting this fall is and always has been time. I’m not sure why it got so out of control with folks expecting him to start, and he might still start, but his clock is seemingly clicking faster than the other guys. Eason is an exceptional prospect. I believe in Eason. I know what he can do - I’ve seen it first hand in actual game action. But his path to the starting job, right now, is either through injury or by the other two players failing. Now, its August 15th, so you don't want to overreact (like the above paragraph pretty well does). There's still three weeks until the North Carolina game. None of the three QBs seem out of it right now. If Eason is to start that season opener he needs to get going right now and put real distance between him and the other two guys.
Needless to say last year the QBs, generally speaking, did fail. But that was a different time with a coaching staff that was not willing to coach - only evaluate. That was a major failure on that group’s part. That’s not what is happening this season. The three QBs are being coached - at times quite hard. Last fall there was very little chatter on the field with the QBs. They were basically told not to make mistakes, and that if they did they would likely not play.
That is not the case right now. The volume of chatter on the field with the QBs is much higher now. Its not in Chaney’s nature to be quiet - so he isn’t. Also, the UGA OC is encouraging his signal callers to try and make plays; to think less and play more.
With two instinctual players like Eason and Ramsey on the field one would think that would lead to more plays, which it has. It has also led to some turnovers. But not as many as the general public would like to say (or exaggerate). Again, each guy threw a heavy about of balls during Saturday’s scrimmage. All three QBs had picks, but if QBs are throwing an interception every 75 throws… that’s a pretty good scenario.
Aaron Murray threw about 3% of his balls to the other team. Matthew Stafford threw about 3% of his balls to the other team. This fall camp the group, collectively, has done a pretty good job of not throwing interceptions. There have been bad practices, but, to some degree, the public only sees so much, and the folks I’ve talked to who have observed closed practices say folks are over concentrating on that. But we shall see if Carolina, a group that had 17 interceptions last season (good for No. 14 in the country) can force some mistakes in the opener. It won’t be funny to see the ball in bad places that night.
Now for the newsy section of What We Are Hearing:
Reporters didn’t notice it over the weekend, last week or even today, but Lorenzo Carter had 17 stitches placed in his hand from a gash he suffered during a practice late last week. He’s not supposed to miss any time (yet), and he likely won’t go with a cast. Obviously, Carter is a guy folks are expecting and hoping for big things from. He’s been running with the No. 1 unit the entire fall, so this is likely just a slight set back for the Norcross native. Still, 17 stitches is more than a few.
Going to UGA’s Dawg Walk the home game of the year - or even the season opener a week later? The Bulldogs will be in dress clothes when they travel from Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall over to Sanford Stadium. Dawg Walk, which started around 2006 with Mark Richt, has always featured players in their jerseys and holding their helmet and shoulder pads. That won’t be the case from here on out. It will be interesting to see when Kirby Smart will get the overdue locker room conversion to the near side of Lumpkin Street near the Tate Center. That will make the Dawg Walk even that much easier. Then again when has anything at UGA been easy?
Hard to know for sure if Greyson DB Jamyest Williams is making his final decision in a few days, when it is expected that he will pick South Carolina over the rest of the South at an announcement at his new high school. He visited UGA over the weekend, and had fun. I expect him to pick South Carolina, but to visit other schools (including UGA) over the next few months. Anyone who expects his recruiting to be over in August is crazy.