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Freshman safety Norman shines for injury-ravaged corps

Georgia Red team's Aron White (81) gets tackled by Black's Connor Norman (11), a Peachtree Ridge grad, during Saturday's G-Day spring game in Athens.

Georgia Red team's Aron White (81) gets tackled by Black's Connor Norman (11), a Peachtree Ridge grad, during Saturday's G-Day spring game in Athens.

ATHENS — In a spring when Georgia’s safety position has been decimated by injuries, the G-Day game provided an opportunity for players lower on the depth chart.

Redshirt freshman Connor Norman, who started at free safety for the Black team, took full advantage. The former Peachtree Ridge star had five tackles, three pass breakups and an interception. That performance caught the eye of coach Mark Richt.

“Who knows how many reps he would have gotten if everybody stayed healthy,” Richt said. “But a few guys got hurt, he got a lot of reps, and he made plays.”

Richt said the coaches didn’t expect that from Norman, but he learned the safety and nickel positions, and could have played himself into a special teams role.

Norman’s diving interception of Hutson Mason in the third quarter was an athletic play that Richt said showed versatility. That play helped explain why Norman won the defensive Outstanding Walk-On award for the spring.

“You saw some really good instincts,” Richt said.

“Sometimes a play like that will catch the eye of the special teams coach. I want to get that guy in the game, he’s a football player.”

Other locals who shined included Caleb King, a former Greater Atlanta Christian standout, who had five rushes for 30 yards. Winder-Barrow’s Taylor Bradberry had two catches for 25 yards. Parkview’s Jason Veal had two tackles at linebacker for the Red team. Dacula’s Jeremy Sulek, a backup inside linebacker, had two tackles for Red. GAC’s Christian Robinson, a co-captain for the Red team who started at inside linebacker, had one tackle.

In overall spring awards, Bradberry shared the Outstanding Walk-On Offense award with running back Brandon Harton. Robinson won the Coffee County Hustle Award for defense. Offensive guard Kolton Houston, a former Buford star, won the Coffee County Hustle Offense award.

QB challenge

At halftime, fans were treated to a quarterback challenge featuring four former Georgia signal-callers.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (2006-08) joined Eric Zeier (1991-94), South graduate David Greene and D.J. Shockley (2001-05) to raise support and awareness for the Johnathan Taylor Fund. Taylor, a Georgia baseball player, suffered a broken neck last month in an outfield collision.

Taylor is at the Shephard Medical Center in Atlanta, and it was announced early last week that he has the use of his arms and is regaining strength. Doctors said they are unsure if he will regain the use of his legs.

Stafford won the event, which consisted of passes into trash cans from 35 yards away and through a tire hung from the goal posts. Stafford completed three through the tire from 10 yards away.

“I would have liked to see those guys throw one in the bucket, that was embarrassing,” Richt said. “But I guess the wind was blowing.”

On behalf of Stafford, IBEW Local 613 and Plumbers, Pipefitters and Service Technicians Local 72 will make a donation to the Johnathan Taylor Fund.

Injuries

Among the players who missed the scrimmage finale were RB Washaun Ealey (hamstring), DB Jordan Love (hamstring), DL Garrison Smith (strained neck) and DB Sanders Commings (concussion), S Bacarri Rambo (knee) DBs Jakar Hamilton (concussion) and Brandon Boykin (concussion), WR Rantavious Wooten (unknown injury), T.J. Stripling (knee), Dexter Morant (shoulder) and Trinton Sturdivant (knee).

Etc.

Gary P. Stokan, the President and CEO of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, announced in a message on the scoreboard before the scrimmage that Georgia and Boise State will both wear home jerseys in the season opener on Sept. 3 at the Georgia Dome. … The attendance of 43,117 beat the previous G-Day record mark of 42,458 in 2009.