Former North Clayton High standout Amarlo Herrera has started 30 of 41 games during his career at Georgia. He is considered one of the top linebackers in the SEC. (Special Photo)
IF YOU GO
What: Georgia’s G-Day game
When: 1 p.m. today
Where: Stanford Stadium in Athens
Admission: Free, fans asked to bring a canned good item
Television: CSS and ESPN3
Format: Four 12-minute quarters with drives that start at the 25-yard line. The Red team will include the No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense, while the Black team will feature the No. 1 defense and No. 2 offense. There will be no kickoffs, and each punt will result in a 35-yard change in field position.
ATHENS — Georgia’s annual G-Day game at Sanford Stadium usually offers Bulldog fans a glimpse at its upcoming team, and an opportunity to shake off a long offseason until August.
However, today’s spring game has drawn a lot more interest because of offseason coaching moves and a new person under center.
The Bulldogs knew the day would come when someone other than Aaron Murray would be leading the offensive attack. It happened a little sooner than Georgia had hoped, but backup Hutson Mason got some experience under fire last season.
Aaron, a record-setting starter since 2009, got injured in the Kentucky game, and Mason finished out the rest of the season for the Bulldogs, who went 1-2 in those games. Georgia lost 24-19 to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day.
The hiring of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in the offseason has also drawn a lot of interest. Pruitt was the defensive leader for national champion Florida State last season, and worked at powerhouse Alabama prior to that stint.
He replaces Todd Grantham, who is now the defensive coordinator at Louisville.
“We think the spring game is going to be an exciting time,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a statement.
Fans are obviously curious to see what changes and new wrinkles Pruitt has added to a unit that returns nine starters. One of the key returnees is former North Clayton standout Amarlo Herrera, who is the starting inside linebacker. In three previous seasons in Athens, the 6-foot-2, 244-pound Herrera has recorded 219 tackles and 13 tackles for loss.
He had a career-high 112 tackles last season.
Key losses on the defensive unit are defensive end Garrison Smith and strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons.
Former Luella standout Aaron Davis has worked his way into the starting line-up at cornerback during the spring. As a sophomore at Luella, Davis garnered a lot of interest from SEC and ACC schools. However, he tore his ACL the March before his junior year. He later had a setback, suffering another partial tear.
He missed practically all of his final two seasons. Davis didn’t play in another game until the final game of his senior year, and that was at receiver.
Georgia offered him a preferred walk-on opportunity, and Davis is trying to make the most of it this spring.
“The way I look at it, if I didn’t get the injuries, I probably still would have pushed my hardest to come here,” Davis told the Macon Telegraph. “So I’m still ending up at the school I really wanted to be.”
Offensively, all eyes will be on Mason, who started two games and threw for 968 yards and five touchdowns. The former all-state player at Lassiter High in Marietta has appeared in 13 games during the last three years and has passed for 1,324 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions.
Mason will be surrounded by the majority of the talent left over from Murray’s era.
One of the key returnees is running back Todd Gurley, who led the team with 989 yards and 10 touchdowns in an injury plagued season. Backfield mate Keith Marshall is still recovering from ACL surgery, and has missed spring practice. Last season, Marshall appeared in five games with one start.
Two other notables that will not line up for the spring game will be wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley. Mitchell participated the first week of spring, but injured his other leg during drills.