Wednesday News and Notes
No, Kirby Smart does not know who will start at quarterback Saturday night (7 p.m./ESPN).
Even if he did, it’s doubtful the beans would be spilled.
What we do know is JT Daniels continues to improve from the oblique injury that kept him out of last week’s game against UAB.
We also know, thanks to Smart, that Stetson Bennett is dealing with what Georgia’s head coach described as “lower back issues,” and that he “strained some stuff.”
Per Smart, Bennett has continued to practice, and according to UGASports sources, the senior’s “issues” are not serious.
Nevertheless, with Daniels apparently well on the mend, Smart will have another decision to make regarding who plays quarterback against the Gamecocks.
Based on Smart’s comments during Wednesday’s SEC teleconference, the decision will come down to how Daniels feels by the end of the week.
“The biggest question is, how does he practice? It’s not about whether he plays; it’s about if he’s healthy, is he healthy enough to go out there and be 100 percent in practice, so he has an opportunity to be as effective as he can. That’s a big rehab question,” Smart said. “I think he's feeling much better, but it’s about whether he’s 100 percent throwing the ball down the field and moving in the pocket. That's the key ingredient there.”
If the decision is made to hold Daniels another week, Smart would obviously have no trouble turning the reins over once again to Bennett, who earned Co-SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors following his performance against UAB.
In the game, Bennett completed 10 of 12 passed for 288 yards and a Bulldog record-tying five touchdowns, all in the first half of last week’s 56-7 win.
…Speaking of Bennett, South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer praised the Bulldog quarterback, recalling the job he did helping Georgia prepare for Oklahoma and quarterback Baker Mayfield in the 2018 Rose Bowl.
“The word ‘baller’ gets thrown around a little too often, but it's the perfect way to describe Stetson. He is a baller. I just remember he was a guy who could throw the football, was athletic—you saw that with the runs he had against UAB,” Beamer said. “The thing I remember is, I was coaching offense, so I wouldn’t see our scout team offense going against our defense. But I can remember we’d come in there at those staff meetings multiple times a week, and Kirby would comment to the staff about Stetson, this guy this, this guy that, he does this, and he does that.
“It’s obvious how high Kirby thinks of him, which he should, in the fact he started the first half of last season. He started Saturday over some other pretty good quarterbacks in that program. The fact he turned to him tells you everything Kirby feels about him and that he’s just a baller as a kid.”
This and that
• Smart said he’s been pleased thus far with the performance of Derion Kendrick.
The Clemson transfer has stepped in at one of the two spots at cornerback, and thus far, Smart said the senior has done everything he’s been asked to do.
“He’s done a good job. Emotionally, the big one was the Clemson game. To be able to play against your former team, guys you are close to, was tough, and having to watch all that tape leading up to the game is awkward sometimes. But he did a good job with his composure in the game,” Smart said. “The big thing for us has been getting him into good conditioning shape in order to be able to play a complete game, and play full speed all the time.”
Although he’s yet to make an interception, his tackle rating of 76.2, according to Pro Football Focus, was the highest of Georgia’s cornerbacks who played in the game against UAB.
“He’s really intelligent, he’s learned our defense well, and he’s picked it up quick,” Smart said. “The learning ability he had at Clemson, and the amount they do defensively really helped him be able to handle our volume. He’s done a good job with that. He continues to get better. He’s worked really hard, and we’ve talked with him about continuing to play physical.”
• It appears Kearis Jackson (knee) may be able to get some reps at wide receiver after working strictly as a punt returner the first two games.
“He takes them (wide receiver reps) in practice every day, so he’s working hard,” Smart said. “He’s been much improved this week. I think he’s got a good chance of helping us this week, and we’re certainly hopeful he can.”
• Smart has been asked a bunch of questions about senior defensive analyst Will Muschamp, who will be facing his former team Saturday night.
He doesn't think it will be as big a deal as some are trying to make it out to be.
“I think he’s a consummate pro when it comes to his work and professionalism.
"He’s had this situation before, because he’s been all over the SEC. He was the head coach at Florida and the defensive coordinator at Auburn,” Smart said. “It’s not new to him, that’s for sure, and I’m sure he will handle it well.”
• One question that Smart certainly does not mind answering are those pertaining to senior nose guard Jordan Davis.
Wednesday, Smart regaled one reporter with a story of how Davis surpassed even his own expectations.
“I still remember that first year. He was going with the scout team, and I didn’t know if he was going to help us that year. I thought he would be a developmental guy, and he would help us the next year. But I guess it was Week 5, Week 6, and he just kept getting better,” Smart said. “We’re getting ready to go play Florida, and I’m like, this guy is ready to play. He really helped us. He made a couple of impactful plays in that game, and you could see the progression of him getting better throughout the year. I could see that, and as coaches, that’s what you want to see.”
• Beamer gave Smart some perfect “rat poison” ammunition when he told Gamecock reporters that this was “the most talented team” in the history of Georgia football.
Smart said he’s heard that before.
“He’s not the first to say that. They say that every year,” Smart said. “It’s always nice for those guys to be able to say that when they play us; then they say that about the next team they pla,y too.”