Georgia Football Week 1 Spring Practice Report

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Georgia Football Week 1 Spring Practice Report
John Bazemore/Associated Press
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart

It's a new beginning in Athens.

After 15 years under former head coach Mark Richt, Kirby Smart has taken over and hopes to lead the program back to its first SEC title since 2005.

The Bulldogs have three practices under their belts, including a full-pad practice on Saturday inside Sanford Stadium. 

What are the early returns from the Classic City?

QB Jacob Eason Looks Like a Different Person

From the moment he recommitted to the Bulldogs after flirting with Florida in December, all eyes have been on true freshman early enrollee quarterback Jacob Eason.

The former 5-star prospect from Lake Stevens, Washington, has the chance to take over under center in his first season in Athens after veterans Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey struggled to stretch the field consistently in 2015.

He's clearly been hitting the weight room.

Eason, whose Twitter handle is "@SkinnyQB10," isn't so skinny anymore. UGASports.com's Anthony Dasher made note of the transformation on Twitter: 

He suited up in his Bulldogs gear and looked more like a seasoned veteran than a player who should be gearing up for prom in a couple of months, and he has clearly added to his 6'5", 208-pound frame.

"I'm very pleased with the offseason program, first and foremost," Smart said prior to spring practice, according to Georgia. "Coach (Scott) Sinclair and his staff have given us really good juice and energy. I'm really pleased with where the players are and the team is right now as far as (being) in shape, toughness, and doing the offseason conditioning."

The first few months for a player in a college strength and conditioning program are incredibly important. The goal isn't just to add strength and weight, it's to add the right weight and build the right strength.

Eason should consider changing his Twitter handle. He's no longer the "skinny QB." If he progresses as a passer in the way he's developed in the strength and conditioning program, "@StartingQB10" might be more appropriate. 

Sudden Lack of RB Depth

Nick Chubb is being held out of contact this spring after tearing up his knee last October, which leaves fellow junior Sony Michel and redshirt freshman Tae Crowder as the only two healthy scholarship running backs available for full contact this spring, according to Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

"(Spring is) very big for Tae," Michel said. "It’s a chance for him to take somebody’s position. It’s big for me. It’s big for everybody, anybody who gets on the field. One guy can go down, God forbid, to injury. The next guy’s up."

David Goldman/Associated Press
Former Georgia RB A.J. Turman

Part of that lack of depth is due to the sudden transfer of rising junior running back A.J. Turman, who announced his desire to transfer to a smaller school near his hometown of Orlando, Florida, last week, according to Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Injuries and a logjam prevented the redshirt junior from ever recording a carry in a real game. A star of multiple spring games, Turman found himself hampered by a toe injury and buried behind Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Chubb and Michel during his three seasons between the hedges. 

That logjam has loosened a bit with the uncertainty surrounding Chubb's health, Marshall's departure and durability questions with Michel. Carries would have almost certainly been in the cards for Turman this fall, and he would have been an integral part of the spring session for Smart.

Now Smart is left worrying about wearing out his two remaining scholarship running backs this spring as Brendan Douglas rehabs from wrist surgery.

It's not exactly the ideal situation for a first-year head coach.

Kick The Dust Up

John Bazemore/Associated Press
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart

Smart also went through his first "dust-up" as the head coach of the Bulldogs during the first week of spring practice, and it involved Turman.

Turman's release restricts him from going on scholarship at Miami and Florida, due to Florida's rivalry with the Bulldogs and former head coach Mark Richt's new role as the head coach of the Hurricanes. 

Smart clarified his stance on Turman's release, which still allows him to go to those schools if he chooses, but would force him to pay his own way. 

"I wanted to set the precedent for the future that kids would not be able to go to Miami right away," Smart said, according to Emerson. "It’s very important that we understand that, and that’s pretty much standard operating procedure when a coach leaves one place, that a kid can’t go there with the coach."

That's a change from Richt's more lenient stance on transfers, but is par for the course around the country. While it's a departure from the norm for Georgia, it's a necessary step for Smart to establish his ground rules for how things will operate within the program from a logistical standpoint.

An Early Impact

When 6'5", 327-pound defensive lineman Julian Rochester enrolled at Georgia early, he was being counted on to be an instant-impact contributor along Georgia's defensive line.

Apparently a "big" impact could be in the cards.

Rochester was running with the first-team defensive line at nose tackle on Saturday inside Sanford Stadium, according to Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph, with sophomore (and former 5-star prospect) Trent Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter

Rochester was a 4-star prospect in the 2016 class from McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia. He registered a whopping 43 tackles for loss and 23 sacks during his final two seasons in high school, according to his 247Sports recruiting profile, playing for one of the best programs in the state.  

He's the kind of defensive lineman who's more than just a space-eater in a 3-4 scheme. 

He's a difference-maker who, along with Thompson, could thrive in Athens in 2016 for a defense that finished seventh in the nation in total defense last year (305.9 yards per game).

Uh Oh

Coaches never want that late-night call from the police, but Smart got one on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Ledbetter, who was running with the ones on the defensive line earlier in the day, was arrested at 3:11 a.m. on Sunday morning and charged with underage possession/furnishing of alcohol and possessing false identification, according to Butt.

As Butt noted, he will likely be suspended for the season opener against North Carolina due to Georgia's drug and alcohol policy. 

A sophomore from Tucker, Georgia, Ledbetter had four tackles and one quarterback hurry last year as a role player and reserve for the Bulldogs. The 6'4", 251-pounder is quick off the ball and should be an impact player for the Bulldogs in 2016.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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