ATHENS — On a pleasant Saturday in Athens with nary a cloud in the sky, the most ominous threat to Georgia’s autumn lurked in the body of Bulldogs guard Tate Ratledge.

In Saturday’s G-Day spring game, the 310-pound podcasting guard fell back into quarterback Carson Beck’s legs on a pass play, crumpling the star awkwardly to the Sanford Stadium turf. As Beck lay sprawled on the Bermuda grass, coach Kirby Smart, standing behind the play, had himself a moment.

“It was a little scary,” he said.

But Beck picked himself up – he completed a first-down pass to wideout Rara Thomas on the play – and kept on going. He played all four quarters for the Red team.

“I was good,” Beck said of the tumble. “It hurt a little bit in the moment.”

And that probably is the most important news item from the conclusion of spring practice of the powerhouse that figures to start the 2024 season ranked first in the country. The Bulldogs appeared to complete the spring game – the last practice before the team convenes for preseason camp at the start of August – without injury, most notably the all-but-irreplaceable Beck.

After the 15 practices of the spring, Smart pronounced himself “very pleased with our health coming out of it.”

And while a glorified scrimmage wasn’t the most optimal measurement for the Bulldogs’ firepower – if you don’t believe me, listen to Beck’s answer to a question about how much stock he put in it: “Honestly, not a lot. I mean, it’s just a glorified scrimmage.” – what the red-clad masses saw was impressive. After coming up short in its pursuit of a third consecutive national championship, a third for Georgia in four years hardly seems unreasonable.

It included a quarterback with pinpoint accuracy. A defensive line that, while perhaps lacking a superstar game-wrecker, will be a force. A deep group of wide receivers. And, throughout the rest of the lineup, talented playmakers.

Not one for self-inflation, Smart gave a peek into his assessment of the offense when he spoke of the challenges his secondary has faced this spring.

“When you have a good thrower and a catcher with people that protect, it’s dangerous,” he said.

The Bulldogs played the annual spring scrimmage Saturday – here's what they've learned about their team so far.

Mykel Williams, the Bulldogs’ hybrid defender, was impactful despite the defense being prohibited from laying a hand on the quarterbacks. Playing linebacker and on the line, he worked free to close the pocket, took on double-team blocks, made six tackles and made one of the highlight plays of the afternoon, tipping a pass by Beck in the air and then coming down with it for an interception.

Lanky and explosive, he looks like the problems that he has caused for the SEC for the past two seasons could be amplified this fall.

“I thought he had a really good spring from a standpoint of leadership, toughness,” Smart said.

Wide receiver Dominic Lovett was a downfield threat with seven catches for 104 yards. The assortment included a mind-melting 11-yard catch in the end zone from Beck in which he reached around defensive back Patrick Taylor, who was all over Lovett, to make the reception.

“That was just by the grace of God,” Lovett said. “I just held on. Great ball, I just caught it.”

(The touchdown closed the Red team’s deficit to 20-19 with 27 seconds left in the game. Smart elected to kick the point-after try rather than attempt a two-point play, lest he give future opponents a look at his two-point playbook. The game ended in a 20-20 tie, if you must know.)

For a team that is replacing uber-tight end Brock Bowers and likely NFL-draftee wide receiver Ladd McConkey, Lovett and his band of receivers showed off ample playmaking chops.

“There’s a lot of different ways we can attack a defense,” Beck said. “Obviously, it helps us as an offense immensely. There’s so many different guys that are going to make plays, and the good thing about it is, all of them are very selfless.”

Lovett merely compared transfer wideout Colbie Young with Calvin Johnson. Smart bragged on the group for being “bullies” on special teams.

“They lead (on special teams), they show toughness, and that’s usually the defensive back group,” he said. “And for us right now, it’s our wideouts.”

All the better for Beck, a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. On Saturday, he showed off touch, power and decision-making smarts, although he did have a few passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and was intercepted twice, something that never happened once last year in his first season as Georgia’s starter.

Georgia fans have been spoiled and have been treated in recent years to players who truly have been among the nation’s very best at their position, namely defensive tackle Jordan Davis, quarterback Stetson Bennett and Bowers. Beck could be the next.

“Taking (Saturday) out of it – I don’t even go off (Saturday) – he’s had a good spring,” Smart said of Beck. “He knows how to navigate a pocket, he knows where to go with the ball, there’s nothing he hasn’t seen on defense. I’m happy with where he is. I want him to continue to grow as a leader.”

All in all, it registered as a satisfying day for the 55,101 in attendance. The sun shone bright, the drenching of the week’s rains but a memory. A pleasant breeze blew in from the west end of the stadium. The sound of happy chatter provided a soundtrack for the ongoing blocking and tackling. Visitors could take notice of newly planted hedges ringing the field. (Nearing the end of their expected lifespan, the old hedges were removed after their installation in 1996. A news release noted that the hedges took their leave with a home record of 144-28, making them a likely first-ballot selection for the landscape hall of fame.)

The season opener – against Clemson at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the Aflac Kickoff game – is but 20 weeks away.

Wide receiver Dominic Lovett racked up 104 receiving yards and a touchdown, with Colbie Young adding 27 receiving yards and a touchdown.