Robertson adds speed to UGA’s deep wide re­ceiver group

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS SATURDAY - By Charles Odum

— Demetris Robertson “ran out of gas” when he scored on a 72-yard run the first time he touched the ball in his Ge­or­gia de­but.

That was the re­port from Ge­or­gia coach Kirby Smart.

Smart’s claim couldn’t be con­firmed by Austin Peay. No de­fender was close enough to Robertson to of­fer an ex­pert opin­ion.

Robertson’s sec­ond-quar­ter scor­ing run was one ex­am­ple of No. 3 Ge­or­gia’s newly ex­panded op­tions at wide re­ceiver and run­ning back dur­ing Satur­day’s sea­sonopen­ing 45-0 win over the Gover­nors.

Mecole Hard­man scored on a 59-yard pass from Jake Fromm . Fresh­man James Cook had runs of 36 and 26 yards.

Robertson, a sopho­more from Sa­van­nah, was granted im­me­di­ate el­i­gi­bil­ity fol­low­ing his trans­fer from Cal­i­for­nia. As a fresh­man at Cal, he had 50 catches for 767 yards and seven touch­downs and tied for fifth na­tion­ally with five re­cep­tions of 50-plus yards. He also ran sprints on Cal’s track team.

Robertson’s big run was his only chance to shine in Ge­or­gia’s de­but. The Bull­dogs open their South­east­ern Con­fer­ence sched­ule at South Carolina next week, and that may be Robertson’s chance to play a big­ger role.

Against Austin Peay, Smart could af­ford to be pa­tient. There was am­ple depth at wide re­ceiver even with 2017 starter Terry God­win sit­ting out with a knee in­jury.

Eleven re­ceivers caught 21 passes from Fromm, fresh­man Justin Fields and Matthew Downing.

Ge­or­gia also showed depth at tail­back even af­ter los­ing Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to the NFL.

D’An­dre Swift, Eli­jah Holy­field and Cook had runs of at least 15 yards. Brian Her­rien had only one carry for two yards, but he added three catches for 20 yards.

“We can do a lot,” said Swift, who started at tail­back and had a team-high eight car­ries for 43 yards and a touch­down, plus a team-high four catches for 33 yards.

“We have a lot of weapons on this of­fense,” Swift said. “That’s to our ad­van­tage this year.”

Smart said the depth at the skill po­si­tions means the com­pe­ti­tion ex­tends to less glam­orous parts of the game.

“They look at it as if they call on me to go block some­body, I bet­ter do it good or I might not be back in here,” Smart said. “The mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor is I’ve got to do great things with­out the ball, not nec­es­sar­ily great things with the ball.”

Ri­ley Ri­d­ley had three catches, in­clud­ing a 10-yarder for Ge­or­gia’s first touch­down of the sea­son. Smart said Ri­d­ley “was phys­i­cal in his block­ing.”

Swift was one of six play­ers to score a touch­down.

“We’re just so deep on of­fense with every­body,” Swift said, adding, “We can use so many peo­ple on so many dif­fer­ent things.”

Robertson didn’t have a pass thrown his way. Even so, he wasn’t com­plain­ing af­ter tak­ing a hand­off from Fields, cut­ting be­tween two de­fend­ers and sprint­ing to the end zone. He was all alone at the end of the run.

He said he told him­self, “I’ve got to go! I’ve got to go!” when he saw open field.

Robertson wasn’t with Ge­or­gia for spring prac­tice and is be­hind on his con­di­tion­ing drills. Thus the re­minder from Smart.

“In the SEC, that might not have been a touch­down,” Smart said. “So we want to en­cour­age him to keep get­ting in shape so he can turn that into a touch­down against an SEC op­po­nent.”

Sa­ban makes it of­fi­cial by nam­ing Tua Alabama’s start­ing QB TUSCALOOSA, Ala.

— Nick Sa­ban made of­fi­cial what any­body who watched No. 1 Alabama’s opener likely as­sumed: Tua Tago­v­ailoa is the Crim­son Tide’s start­ing quar­ter­back.

The top-ranked Tide’s coach didn’t wait for the ques­tion to be asked Mon­day be­fore say­ing Tago­v­ailoa will start Satur­day against Arkansas State, but even he ac­knowl­edged it wasn’t much of a se­cret.

He said two-year starter Jalen Hurts will still play a role.

“I think every­body knows that Tua’s go­ing to start this game and we’re go­ing to use Jalen’s skill-set in the fu­ture to help how­ever we feel that he can ben­e­fit the team,” Sa­ban said. “I just want to be clear with ev­ery­one that I have done this in the past where we don’t say who the starter’s go­ing to be for the first game and we give both quar­ter­backs an op­por­tu­nity to play in the game, which is ex­actly what we did in this game. Not a whole lot dif­fer­ent than what we’ve done in the past.”

It was just am­pli­fied this time be­cause of the cir­cum­stances. Hurts has a 26-2 record as a starter and has led the Tide to a pair of na­tional cham­pi­onship games.

Tago­v­ailoa was the hero of the ti­tle game against Ge­or­gia in Jan­uary af­ter en­ter­ing for the sec­ond half, guar­an­tee­ing a quar­ter­back bat­tle dur­ing the off­sea­son. The sopho­more from Hawaii was ter­rific in his first start in a 51-14 vic­tory over Louisville . He was 12-of16 passing for 227 yards and two touch­downs while run­ning for a third score.

“We make all of our de­ci­sions here based on win­ning,” Sa­ban said. “Who­ever we feel will give us the best op­por­tu­nity to go out there and win, that’s who we’re go­ing to play. Ob­vi­ously, it’s how you prac­tice, how you pre­pare. I said it at the be­gin­ning, who wins the team.

“In our opin­ion, the one player did a lit­tle bet­ter job of that so he got the op­por­tu­nity to start and we got the op­por­tu­nity to play both guys and look and see how they per­formed and we’re go­ing to con­tinue to try to help both play­ers im­prove and get bet­ter.”

It had be­come a touchy sub­ject for Sa­ban af­ter re­peated ques­tions about the starter lead­ing up to the game. Sa­ban got testy with an ESPN re­porter fol­low­ing a postgame ques­tion about the de­ci­sion.

Sa­ban called side­line re­porter Maria Tay­lor and apol­o­gized.

Tay­lor sim­ply asked: “What an­swers did you have about your quar­ter­backs af­ter watch­ing them both play tonight?”.

Tay­lor was part of the ESPN crew for Mon­day night’s game be­tween No. 20 Vir­ginia Tech and No. 19 Florida State. She de­clined to com­ment when asked about Sa­ban’s re­marks the past two days.

Sa­ban is tak­ing pains to avoid seem­ing crit­i­cal of Hurts.

“If I get asked to vil­ify a player and make an­other one a crown prince pub­licly, I might not re­spond to that, and I need to learn a bet­ter way to re­spond to that,” he said. “And I will in the fu­ture. And I pray ev­ery Sun­day that I never get an­gry. But it was a time and cir­cum­stance thing for me. I was a lit­tle up­set by the way we fin­ished the game, the penal­ties we had, the men­tal er­rors that we had. So it was to­tally my re­spon­si­bil­ity and we apol­o­gize for it.”

Sa­ban said he hasn’t made any de­ci­sion on work­ing to let Hurts take ad­van­tage of the NCAA’s new rule al­low­ing play­ers who play in four games or fewer to red­shirt. Hurts has two years of el­i­gi­bil­ity left and played sig­nif­i­cant time in the opener.

“I don’t know how you can pre­pare when you pick and choose when you’re go­ing to play play­ers,” Sa­ban said. “I don’t know how you can do that. I mean, you have to get some­body ready to play in the game. So if you have any sug­ges­tions, I’d be glad to lis­ten to them. But I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know how a player re­ally can choose when he wants to play and have any re­spect for his team­mates.”

JENN FINCH / The As­so­ci­ated Press

Ge­or­gia’s Demetris Robertson (16) runs the ball in for a touch­down dur­ing the first half of last Satur­day’s game vs. Austin Peay.

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