ATHENS, Ga. — According to second year Georgia football coach Kirby Smart, the reason why 66,000-plus fans came out on a Saturday to watch a glorified spring practice is to be entertained by a high octane passing game.
And with quarterbacks Jacob Eason and freshman Jake Fromm throwing for over 500 yards in Saturday’s annual G-Day Spring Football game — a 25-22 Red Team win over the Black Team — it was a day where most people got what they wanted.
Included in that list of pleased people is former Newton High star and Bulldogs freshman J.J. Holloman.
The 6-foot-5 wideout — a former four-star recruiting prospect — created his own cache of highlight reel plays in his first collegiate action in something close to game-like conditions. In fact, it didn’t take long at all for Holloman to show off his big play ability.
Holloman’s first catch of the day was good enough to also give him his first touchdown. It happened at the 10:56 mark of the second quarter when Holloman got free on his route and was found streaking down the left sideline by fellow freshman quarterback Jake Fromm.
Fromm hooked up with Holloman on a 43-yard scoring strike that gave the Red squad a 7-3 lead. A couple of drives later, Holloman made a bit of a circus grab when Fromm threw a little hitch route to him toward that same sideline.
This time, Holloman — draped by a defender — reached out and grabbed the ball, almost off of the defensive back’s helmet. The defender tried to wrestle the ball from Holloman, but Holloman held on to the grab and fell out of bounds after a 19 yard pick-up.
Late in the third quarter, Fromm would find Holloman again for a 16 yard grab. And then he scored on a two-point conversion catch after Fromm’s 70-yard touchdown pass to freshman wideout Tyler Simmons at the 3:48 mark of the fourth quarter.
It was a performance that seemed to confirm Holloman’s choice to forgo his last semester at Newton High in order to enroll early at Georgia to get a leg up on a bevy of talented receivers from Smart’s first full recruiting class.
And Smart wasn’t shy about heaping the praise on Holloman for his Saturday performance.
“JJ has had an up and down spring, but he’s been consistent in his effort and toughness,” Smart said. “He’s sometimes had some battles catching it, but today I thought he did a great job. What a great kid. For him to get rewarded for a great day was really good, because he worked all spring for it.”
Holloman finished with three catches for 77 yards, besides the two-point reception. He, along with Simmons — who had five catches for 114 yards and a score — helped make Fromm’s debut a solid one.
The freshman signal caller from Houston County (Warner Robins) completed 14 of 23 passes for 277 yards and two scores. His incumbent counterpart Eason threw for 311 yards, two scores and a pick on 16-of-36 passing. Eason regularly found junior Terry Godwin (five catches, 130 yards) and senior Javon Wims (four catches, 96 yards) in the passing game for Black team, giving the whole compliment of Bulldog receivers a day that was the best Smart had seen from them during the spring.
“What ya’ll saw today was the best showing that group has had,” Smart said. “You guys are writing that the receivers saved the world and they’ve been great, whereas I came in concerned and disappointed in some ball security issues. But those guys competed today. And as a whole, we played more physical this spring than we did last spring.”
Smart did try to pull back the reigns on any mass freshmen takeover of the top spots on Georgia’s prospective depth chart, as he emphasized the rather vanilla approach the defense took against UGA quarterbacks today.
“We didn’t really play a lot of coverage multiples, and we really simplified things on defense and just let kids play,” Smart said. “In fact, we probably made more limitations on the defense than we did the offense. But it was exciting to see some balls down the field getting thrown and caught. That’s why there are 66,000 people here because they want to see some balls thrown and caught and some points up on the board.”
Conservative game plan aside, Smart was pleased that his young quarterbacks got the chance to perform in some pressure situations on Saturday. He said it’s something he thinks will bode well going into summer and preseason camp.
“The best thing that happened for us was that our quarterbacks got the chance to work the two minute drill,” he said. “They were using timeouts and each had opportunities to try and win the game.”