G-Day highlights a vibrant weekend of UGA sports in Athens

Credit: AJC

Caption
Here's a quick look at JT Daniels' stats during his brief time as Georgia's starting quarterback.

Credit: AJC

ATHENS – The buzz around UGA’s campus this weekend is over G-Day. More than 20,000 fans will descend on Sanford Stadium to watch Georgia’s final intrasquad football scrimmage of the spring.

But there will be other – and arguably more meaningful -- contests going on elsewhere. Up on the other side of Ag Hill, the Bulldogs’ baseball team opens a pivotal three-game series against Kentucky on Friday night. Down on South Milledge, the softball team plays host to Arkansas in a three-game set that also starts Friday. Both are top-20 matchups.

In fact, when G-Day kicks off at 2 p.m. Saturday, softball will be delivering first pitch simultaneously in a contest that will also be streamed on SEC Network-Plus.

Without question, though, it’s the football scrimmage that will dominate the attention of the Bulldog nation and the media that covers it. G-Day was, of course, shelved last year. And because of pandemic-altered schedule and Vanderbilt’s late-season cancellation on the Bulldogs, Georgia fans got to see their team play on Dooley Field only three times all of last year. They normally get at least six such opportunities.

Meanwhile, there is a lot to be excited about heading into this season. For the fourth consecutive year under coach Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs are expected to open the season as a preseason top-10 team this fall. Awaiting Georgia in that first game in Charlotte, N.C., will be Clemson, also expected to be a top-10 team.

Meanwhile, a year after having no idea who would be quarterback or how the offense might look under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Georgia has had four months to build the offense around junior quarterback JT Daniels.

Here’s an astounding fact: It will be just the second time Daniels will play before a spectators in Sanford Stadium since enrolling at UGA in June.

Add to that the anticipation of getting a first look at 16 early-enrolled freshmen in the recruiting class of 2021, and there is definitely a different vibe surrounding the game.

“The players are excited they get to get out and compete and do it in a great atmosphere,” Smart said. “You only get to go to Sanford Stadium so many times a year and we don’t practice there. So, it’s one of our three chances we get to have in the stadium.”

For taking in the relative pomp and circumstance and game-day traditions that surround G-Day, there’s no better way to see it than live and in person. While the weather will be ideal for playing football – a high of 66 degrees is forecast – there is a chance of rain. But the game itself will be streamed live on SEC Network-Plus and through the ESPN app.

The SEC Network’s regular Saturday night team of Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic will provide commentary. In case you miss the game, the SEC Network will air it throughout the spring, starting at 9 p.m. Monday.

However, you end up taking it in, be sure to keep an eye on the Diamond Dogs’ fortunes against Kentucky. Coach Scott Stricklin’s team finds itself at a real crossroads in its season. While they’re still riding the high of a series win over Vanderbilt in Nashville last weekend, the Bulldogs have yet to win a home SEC series this season.

That’s nothing to be ashamed of as the previous two home sets were against top-10 opponents Tennessee and South Carolina and neither the Bulldogs nor their coach were completely healthy. They’re much closer to that this weekend and need to make move if the goal of a third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth is to be achieved.

Stricklin juggled his pitching rotation for this series. Left-hander Ryan Webb moved up a day from Saturday starter, Jonathan Cannon will throw Saturday and Sunday is listed as TBD.

“We’ve got to capitalize on our momentum,” said Stricklin, who received a contract extension Thursday. “I thought we played real well last week at Vanderbilt and against Georgia State Tuesday. But we’ve talked about raising expectations, and I feel like we hadn’t been playing up to our potential until we got to Vanderbilt.”

The good news is all those fans coming into town for football will have a chance to see baseball at Foley Field as well. First pitch is scheduled for 7:02 p.m.

Dawg Tags: The AJC presents a daily look at the one thing you need to know about Georgia athletics today.