A socially distanced sellout for Georgia’s annual G-Day intrasquad game

Kirby Smart and Georgia players take the field for the annual G-Day spring intrasquad football game Saturday, April 21, 2018, at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Curtis Compton/Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Kirby Smart and Georgia players take the field for the annual G-Day spring intrasquad football game Saturday, April 21, 2018, at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Curtis Compton/Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

ATHENS — The lone trumpeter in the southwest corner. “Baba O’Reilly” blaring over the sound system. The Redcoat Band. The Georgia Bulldogs splitting the giant, black G-banner as they sprint through smoke onto Vince Dooley Field.

It still won’t be like a normal college football Saturday at Sanford Stadium, but UGA is trying to come as close as possible as it prepares to host the G-Day game this weekend.

Everybody wants to know if football stadiums will be allowed to fill to capacity next fall. Maybe. But, for now, it’s going to remain socially distanced seating. And in Georgia’s case, that means 20,524, which is how many spectators are expected Saturday.

“It’s going to feel much like the home games last fall, which everyone from our perspective was happy about,” said Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks of the 2 p.m. event (SEC Network-plus). “We’re still navigating through keeping everyone safe while also experiencing fun, exciting environment. That’s our priority. But I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for everyone to see our team.”

Being there is the only guaranteed way to watch everything taking place in and around the annual intrasquad contest. The Bulldogs split their roster into a Red team and a Black team, with one squad featuring the No. 1 offense and the other the No. 1 defense. The contest will be streamed online by the SEC Network and on the ESPN app.

Georgia offered G-Day tickets first to its donor base at the rate of $10 each. After accommodating those requests and reserving the same number of student tickets as it did for regular-season games last year, UGA put the remainder of unclaimed seats on sale to the general public. Those sold out in a half-day.

Georgia announced at the outset that the proceeds from the price of admission would be donated to a charitable cause. Brooks wouldn’t reveal the beneficiary when asked about it Tuesday. He’s leaving that to the players, who are choosing a designee through their “Bulldogs for Pups” initiative.

“We’ll be releasing that information soon,” Brooks said. “That was something that was important to our student-athletes, so we let the football team’s advisory group choose that. We’re going to have a special announcement, which they’ll unveil. They’ve been working on how they’ll do that. It may not be until Saturday.”

Unfortunately, traditional tailgating still will not be allowed. Fans will be directed into designated parking lots and won’t be allowed to set up tents, grills or television sets.

Of course, the star of this show will be the 2021 version of the Bulldogs. The football team is coming off an 8-2, pandemic-shortened season that saw them miss the SEC Championship game for the first time in four years. The Bulldogs will be the prohibitive favorite to win the Eastern Division next season.

For now, there remains much to work on.

“First and foremost, I’m really looking forward to G-Day, going out in Sanford Stadium and playing in front of our fans again,” junior offensive lineman Warren Ericson said Tuesday. “I just think as an offense, if we can be explosive in the pass game and be explosive in the run game, that would be huge.”

Most intriguing for fans will be a first look at the incoming freshmen. The Bulldogs signed 20 in the recruiting class of 2021, and a record number of 16 arrived as early enrollees. That allowed them to participate not only in spring practice, but in Georgia’s intense offseason strength-and-conditioning program.

That class was ranked No. 4 nationally and includes four 5-star-rated prospects in offensive tackle Amarius Mims, quarterback Brock Vandagriff and linebackers Smael Mondon and Xavian Sorey.

“I know people are excited to see the newcomers,” Brooks said. “These kids have been working hard, and this is the culmination of spring practice. So, it’s always fun to see the young men compete and get out there and play in a scrimmage. This is what they play for.”

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