Questions Still Linger After Spring

ATHENS – There were 15 practices in little more than a month featuring a much ballyhooed quarterback competition and the frenzied installation of a brand new defensive scheme.

Yet, the crescendo of Georgia's spring practice offered only one assurance to fans desperate for a glimpse of their new team. Their wait for answers would continue for the foreseeable future.

While Zach Mettenberger grabbed the headlines as the day's top passer, head coach Mark Richt said he's a long way from naming a starter. While Todd Grantham's new 3-4 defense was on display for the first time in front of fans, the coaches kept it as vanilla as possible to ensure plenty of surprises this fall – for both the opposition and for Bulldogs fans.

"Ultimately everybody's going to have to compete again during fall camp, go out and take reps and make plays and run the offense again," quarterback Logan Gray said of the competition at his position, although his sentiments could easily describe battles across the defensive depth chart, too.

Mettenberger provided the only significant fireworks of the day, throwing two touchdown passes in the first half and looking particularly sharp while showing off his NFL-caliber arm.

But even his heroics come with an all-important caveat: He'll be suspended for at least the first game of the year, meaning even if he wins the quarterback derby, naming him the starter won't be a simple task.

Gray's aware of that, too, but he said Mettenberger's strong performance on G-Day did help to dispel a few demons and prove that, despite the setback of Mettenberger's arrest last month, he's still going to be a factor this fall.

"It's obviously been tough on him dealing with everybody talking about him," Gray said. "He's really a great kid, a good guy. Obviously he made a mistake that night, and he wishes he could take it back. But he's really staying away from anything that could get him in trouble now, focused on football, focused on school, and I think he's done a really good job of just staying low key and keeping his head in the right direction."

Richt said he'll be releasing a depth chart at each position, including quarterback, by the end of next week, but even that will simply be a gauge of where things stand now, not a true indication of how the lineup might look in September.

In truth, this spring was all build-up and no climax, according to receiver A.J. Green.

"It's just the starting point," Green said. "It's building that foundation that we have to build on coming into fall camp."

While the quarterback position is likely to be the only significant change on an offense that returns 10 starters, fans got virtually no insight into the real shakeups that came with the hiring of three new assistant coaches at the conclusion of the 2009 season.

Grantham's new scheme means players like Justin Houston and Cornelius Washington will be playing linebacker and the Bulldogs' defense will employ just three down linemen in most formations, but that was hardly the case Saturday. The defense looked more like the 4-3 employed by Grantham's predecessor on a majority of the plays, and the blitz packages never went beyond the basics.

"They still haven't even implemented a good amount of the defense," quarterback Aaron Murray said, noting that the defense has shown far more complex packages during closed practices this spring. "The first couple of games, you all are going to see some crazy blitzes. The offenses aren't going to know what to do with them. So it's going to be exciting those first couple of games to see what they can do."

Add to that a fresh approach to special teams, an influx of new freshmen arriving in June and a return to health for some banged-up Bulldogs who didn't play Saturday, including tailback Caleb King, left tackle Trinton Sturdivant and linebacker Richard Samuel, and the team fans saw at G-Day may bare little resemblance to the one that will take the field against Louisiana-Lafayette in Georgia's opener on Sept. 5.

But as surprises go, a little delayed gratification may be well worth the wait, safety Jakar Hamilton said.

"There's so much to this defense that we have in store," Hamilton said. "So to the fans, we've got a lot that's coming and that we're putting in. So, SEC, be ready."

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