On a day where most Bulldogs fans were focused on how the team would fare after the departure of top defensive stars, wide receivers stole the day in Georgia's spring game on Saturday.
The Black team defeated the Red side 23-17, but the true takeaways from these contests are never about the outcome on the scoreboard. These are spectacles for the fans on hand, opportunities to meet freshmen for the first time and be reintroduced to the team's returning superstars prior to the 2013 season.
Georgia fans got a little bit of both on Saturday. Quarterback Aaron Murray, who decided to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior season, looked as good as one would expect. Murray received most of the playing time and did most of his damage in the first half.
The veteran signal-caller completed 8-of-12 passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns in initial 24 minutes, coming back only intermittently in the second frame. His best connections of the afternoon were arguably with receiver Justin Scott-Wesley. The redshirt sophomore, who will be expected to take on an increased role in 2013, connected with Murray on the game's opening touchdown—a 16-yard strike thrown right on the money by Georgia's top signal-caller.
That being said, the day among receivers belonged to junior-college transfer Jonathon Rumph. A 3-star recruit, per 247 Sports, Rumph showed a fantastic chemistry with backup quarterback Parker Welch. The junior quarterback from Jessup connected on a deep 46-yard touchdown pass with Rumph in the third quarter on Georgia's first-team defense.
The third-quarter strike was Rumph's second touchdown of the day following a 20-yard toss to the end zone from Hutson Mason in the first half. Of all the players who took the field for the Black team on Saturday, Rumph was by far the most impressive offensively.
Mason was the catalyst for the Black side, showing poise and precision in the pocket. His long drive down the field helped capture the game for the second stringers, which should give Bulldogs fans confidence if Murray ever has to miss time.
Overall, it's pretty safe to say Mark Richt is still testing the waters with his starters. The first-team defense was in the game deep into the third quarter, and Murray's appearance late in the game was a little curious as well.
Perhaps Richt wanted to send a message. The goal this season is clear: win a national championship. With all of Bulldogs nation in attendance on Saturday, they finally got their initial glimpse of whether that goal is attainable.
All teams are a work in progress in April. But Georgia fans should feel pretty good about what they saw this spring.
Aaron Murray (QB): B
Though it was an unspectacular performance overall, Georgia fans can take solace in the fact Murray looked as good as ever on Saturday. He showed good zip on the ball on a downfield throw to Scott-Wesley, critical to his growth as a quarterback, and finished with his side's two touchdowns before taking a seat for much of the second half.
Murray came back with a national title and Heisman Trophy in mind. Week 1 remains months away, but the senior signal-caller's rapport with receivers and poise in the pocket was promising.
Jonathon Rumph (WR): A
Not even Rumph's family thought the young man would look this impressive in his first "game" with the Bulldogs. Rumph ran crisp routes, made excellent plays on deep passes and showed flashes of star potential.
It's not a guarantee that he winds up being an every-down contributor in 2013, but Rumph might just be the type of deep weapon who shifts the paradigm of a couple Bulldogs contests.
Ray Drew (DE): B+
Heading into his junior season at Georgia, Drew will finally get his chance to shine. He's expected to play a huge role in the Bulldogs' rebuilding defense, and many have called him a superstar in the making.
Drew looked the part for a solid portion of Saturday's contest. Bursting through the line, the former top recruit moved nimbly for a man listed at 284 pounds and recorded a sack with defensive tackle Chris Mayes in the second half.
Ramik Wilson (LB): A
Meet your Alec Ogletree replacement, Bulldogs fans. Ogletree and Jarvis Jones heading to play on Sundays left a massive gap in the middle of Georgia's defense, one that Wilson looked ready to fill in the spring game.
He was able to burst through the Bulldogs' offensive line on multiple occasions, including one particular drive where Wilson would have put quarterback Christian LeMay to sleep in a normal game. Just a fantastic performance from a young man to watch in the SEC next season.
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