Georgia defensive end Sterling Bailey led the Bulldogs with eight tackles in Saturday night’s scrimmage. (University of Georgia)
ATHENS — A lot of good things happened — and a few bad — during Georgia’s first scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday. But probably the most notable from a what-matters standpoint is the Bulldogs’ defense apparently didn’t give up any big plays.
That’s according to Georgia’s players and coaches, who relayed to reporters their accounts of a 2 1/2-hour intrasquad competition that was closed to the media.
“It was very encouraging not to give up a big play,” said junior defensive end Sterling Bailey, who led the Bulldogs with eight tackles Saturday night. “Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt talks about the offense’s big plays and I thought we did that tonight.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt and quarterback Hutson Mason agreed with that assessment.
“There weren’t many big plays given up,” Richt said. “There weren’t any touchdown passes. There were no interceptions either. The offense might have caught a couple of balls, but the defense got them on the ground. That was encouraging.”
“We didn’t really have any,” Mason said of big plays, “I think Brice Ramsey threw a deep ball to (Isaiah McKenzie), a bomb. That was probably the longest play, about 30 or 40 yards. But we didn’t really take many shots.”
Mason was 10-of-13 passing for 104 yards. Faton Bauta was 7-of-12 for 102 yards, Ramsey went 8-of-16 for 134 yards and Jacob Park was 6-of-10 for 44 yards. Tailback Keith Marshall was the leading receiver with 56 yards on three catches, followed by Blake Tibbs (3-44), Kenneth Towns (3-42) and tight end Jay Rome (3-39).
Georgia played with a somewhat depleted receiving corps as Chris Conley, Camilla’s Justin Scott-Wesley, Malcolm Mitchell, Jonathan Rumph and Jordan Davis did not participate due to injuries or other unknown reasons.
That didn’t mean there weren’t any big plays made in the scrimmage. McKenzie, the freshman receiver and kick returner from Fort Lauderdale, had a kickoff return for a touchdown. But there are conflicting reports about how much of an accomplishment that actually was.
Erik Richards, the national recruiting director for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, tweeted out that McKenzie’s run came against live tackling. Richt said afterward it was merely a “thud” situation and that tackling wasn’t allowed. However, Bailey thought the return was amazing and it didn’t matter whether it was live tackling or not.
“Oh, man, he’s fast; zero to 100,” Bailey said. “… He caught it, waited for the kickoff return (team) to get into position and he just hit the gap and took it all the way. It was full contact but, I mean, he wasa just so fast nobody was able to get in front of him. Nobody touched him.”
Bailey was among the defensive standouts, which included outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins with five tackles and three sacks, freshman cornerback Malkom Parrish was a sack and fumble recovery, linebacker Tim Kimbrough with three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble and noseguard Mike Thornton with three tackles for loss and a sack. Freshman outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter also had three tackles for loss and a sack.
Freshman tailback Nick Chubb was the leading rusher with 52 yards on seven carries and fellow freshman Sony Michel added 21 yards on five carries. Keith Marshall (5-23) and Todd Gurley (5-13) found the going a little tougher against the No. 1 defense. Richt said Chubb’s 19-yard run was the longest among the backs on Saturday.
“There weren’t many break-out runs and there weren’t many bombs that they got beat on,” he said. “So really a lot of good things happened back there. … In regard to giving up the big play, they didn’t give up any, and that was big.”