Tuesday News and Notes from UGA
Smart continues to learn
Three games into the season, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is starting to get a good idea about the makeup of his team.
Although the third-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) are certainly known for their defensive prowess, Smart says it's the offense that's showing more promise.
"I feel like we're growing up on offense before our eyes. It can be a painful growth process,” Smart said after practice on Tuesday. “It's one of those—you go through some tough times with some pups. I remember the last year Mel (Tucker) was here, I felt like we were going through that defensively, and it was easy for me to get impatient. Now we're reaping the rewards of a lot of those kids that were playing then, when they were young. Tyson Campbell's freshman year, (Eric) Stokes, Richard (LeCounte)—all those guys were young.
“Now (on offense), we've got a little more experience, and we're going through that a little bit on offense. I'm watching the maturation process of that, and I'm not pleased with where we are. But I'm pleased with the progress we've made."
Don't look for Todd Monken to try and re-invent the wheel, either, considering the way Ole Miss used constant tempo to keep Alabama’s defense off-balance en route to piling up over 600 yards of offense.
The Bulldogs, Smart said, will do what they do.
“It’s not who we are; it’s not the team we are. Certainly, Lane (Kiffin) has been doing that wherever he's been, back when he was in Alabama, but he's kind of wholesale and done that. But everybody does that now—there’s not a team that says no, we’re not going to go tempo at any time. I’d just say Ole Miss does it more frequently, and they probably did it even more frequently the other night to try and keep Alabama off-balance,” Smart said. “It helps if you get a couple of first downs in a row, where you can wear a defense down. But what gets you in trouble against Alabama is when we cannot sustain a drive, go three and out or four and out—you cannot wear them down. If you're able to drive the ball and convert third downs like Ole Miss did, it does render wins for your defense.”
Cook, Johnson will play, Condon hopeful; Bush out for a while
Smart said that both linebacker Jermaine Johnson (undisclosed injury) and running back James Cook (arm) are expected to play against Alabama.
“They both practiced the last two days. They’ve been full go, and we expect them to play,” Smart said of the pair.
Cook missed last week’s game against Tennessee, while Johnson has only played in the opener this season.
In other injury news, Smart said he's hopeful that right tackle Owen Condon will be able to play, after sustaining what sources tell UGASports is a minor knee injury.
Meanwhile, Smart said wide receiver Tommy Bush will be out for a while.
UGASports broke the news Monday that the redshirt sophomore was the victim of a hit-and-run last Saturday.
“Tommy is going to be out for a little bit,” Smart said. “Some surgeries were done, some dental work he had to get done.”
Florida's Covid issues not lost on Smart
Smart said Covid worries remain a daily concern, even before Tuesday’s news that the Florida Gators have suspended football practice due to a spike in cases on the football team.
"Really, there’s no way to tell,” Smart said. “I mean, the biggest thing is, you're one day away, one test away, one situation away from a possible situation like Florida's in.”
So far, Smart said the Bulldogs have been very lucky.
Although Georgia does not reveal coronavirus results as it pertains to the football team or its other athletic programs, Smart said he's not taking anything for granted.
“We feel like our players are doing a good job. But I'll be honest with you, when they're not here at the facility, I don't always know what they're doing,” Smart said. “The biggest concern we have is post-game, Sunday, and then they're back into a routine on Monday, Tuesday. But you're one exposure, one outbreak away from losing some guys. So we've been fortunate so far, but we don't have all of our test results back even from this week."
Smart on defensive execution - “It’s a measurement of what we call playing clean and taking MAs—mental assignments, missed assignments. We chart those. We try to count one player; if he had 10 one day and then he was at 8 or 9 typically early in the week, as we are installing things, they're higher. They go down as the week goes on. That's the only qualitative measure we have, the ability to chart that and see if we can reduce that. Each game is different, because you cannot run the same plays in our conference and expect to be successful. You have got to be able to window-dress, eye candy, move people around to try to take advantage of the defense. When you do that, you create missed assignments for them and you. I would not just line up static and beat people. It would be a lot easier.”
Smart on the importance of Jordan Davis - “It’s extremely important. Like, it's huge. Because the movement in the middle. If I had about three Jordan Davises, I would feel a lot better, because you'd be able to match up with Evan Neal, (Alex) Leatherwood, the big guys they've got. But we've got some guys who can go in there and fight. We've got some depth. We try to use all those guys we can.”
Smart on how Georgia finds an edge and what defense needs to do to succeed. - “Well, I don’t know. I'm excited to go see. I've always loved the challenge, and we've got a good defense. We've got a good offense. The game will come down to a lot more than just those two units, I can assure you that. It will boil down to how our offense and their defense play, and the special teams, but I'm excited to see it. I know our guys are excited about the challenge. I'm sure, offensively, it's the same for them. They've heard about our defense, and our defense has heard about their offense, so it's a great opportunity for both units to go out and compete and go play. But I'm excited to see it. It's going to boil down to the line of scrimmage, like it always does. They have success running it, and they'll have a great play-action game. If they don't, you try to make them one-dimensional, and that’s hard to do against Alabama.”
Safety Richard LeCounte on the pride taken in playing fundamental defense. - “That’s something we’ve started to emphasize since we’ve been back. Starting everything back up, there's nothing that our defense is going to change. We are going to keep things basic. We are going to check all the boxes off and be the defense of Georgia that has been known for plenty of years, the last four, five years. Just bolting our feet down and making teams do it the long and hard way. That's something we pride ourselves on. Eleven guys to the ball, 11 guys playing together. That's something you can always count on coming from that Georgia defense. We practice like there's not going to be a tomorrow. We hit each other, we thud each other. That's just the way football is meant to be played, keeping the defined principles, defined.”