ATHENS — “I know but I’m not gonna say. I know but I’m not gonna say.”
That’s all we heard from Georgia coach Mark Richt the last time we talked to him. But all that’s out the window today. With Georgia-Clemson set to kickoff at 5:36 p.m. this evening, we’ll finally get to see:
- Who in the world is going to play in the Bulldogs’ secondary/ New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt experimented with an endless combination of lineups back there all the way through the last of 29 preseason practices. The final depth chart — which Richt warned not to put too much stock into — had redshirt freshman walkon Aaron Davis starting at free safety, true freshman Dominick Sanders starting at nickelback, little-used junior Devin Bowman starting at boundary corner, along with seniors Corey Moore (strong safety) and Damian Swann (strong corner). But I also expect to see junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng and true freshman Rico Johnson and some others in the game as well.
- Quarterback Hutson Mason finally gets to make his debut as a season-opening starter for the Bulldogs. The fifth-year senior insists he’s not too nervous, but he did say it’s going to be “surreal” to hear on the stadium P.A., “Hutson Mason, starting quarterback, Marietta, Ga.” Perhaps he’ll just do like Eric Zeier did back in the day: Throw up in the locker room trash can and then go out and throw for 400 yards and 3 TDs. UGA can only hope Mason’s defense plays a little better than Zeier’s did.
- John Theus debuts as a left tackle. This is no small deal, especially considering he’ll be lined up most of the day against an All-American defensive end in Vic Beasley, who had 13 tackles and 23 tackles for loss a year ago. In fact, Clemson’s whole defensive front is stout. Georgia will be countering with an offensive line featuring three new starters. But Georgia’s No. 71 versus Clemson’s No. 3 will be a matchup to watch.
- Tailback U (South) is alive and well. Georgia has always had that nickname and it has been applied with varying degrees of accuracy over the years. Well it definitely applies this year. Heisman Trophy hopeful Todd Gurley leads a cast that includes three former 5-star prospects in Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and the toughest hombre this side of the Chattahoochee River in sophomore Brendan Douglas. Nothing slows a pass rush better than running the football right at some hard-charging defensive ends, and I expect Georgia to do that quite often this evening.
- Keep an eye out for UGA’s Number 16. That’s the number worn by freshman kick returner Isaiah McKenzie. Georgia was horrific in the return game a year ago (122nd nationally in punt returns and 108th on kickoff returns). The Bulldogs have been describing McKenzie as “electrifying” in both cases and he’s going to get some opportunities in this game.
- Speaking of special teams, Marshall Morgan should be fun to watch. The junior from South Florida missed last year’s game via suspension and the Bulldogs ended up missing a field goal opportunity toward the end of a 38-35 loss. Morgan went 22-of-24 on field goals last season with long kicks of 56 and 52 and made a 60-yarder in Georgia’s final scrimmage. Fitting that this year is the 30th-anniversary of Kevin Butler‘s 60-yard kick to beat Clemson 26-23 in 1984. Could history repeat itself?
- In case you missed it, it has already rained here, which turned the inside of Sanford Stadiium into a steam bath. It was a hard rain but didn’t last long and is already out of here. So how it might affect the game I don’t know but I don’t think much. In the meantime, here’s UGA alum David Chandley providing his normal pregame forecast, but from a beach on the Gulf this year. ….