Kirby Smart said he sees a big difference in running back Nick Chubb compared to what he did this time a year ago.
That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
With a complete season now under his belt since tearing up his knee at Tennessee in October of 2015, Smart said Chubb is looking a lot more like the back who rushed for 1,547 yards as a true freshman the season before.
“He’s a different guy this spring compared to last spring, for obvious reasons, but I think you know more about last fall by what you see this spring out of Nick and that is he’s a lot closer to 100 percent,” Smart said after Saturday’s scrimmage at Sanford Stadium. “He’s certainly got a lot more burst and power.”
He’s also working to get even better.
“He’s a guy who’s physical, quick and really hard to tackle,” Smart said. “His big road block for him has been to catch the ball out of the backfield even better and becoming a weapon in that way. He’s done a better job the last two scrimmages.”
Smart pleased with final scrimmage before G-Day
Smart said Saturday’s scrimmage – which featured the ones versus the ones and twos versus the twos – went just about as good as he could have hoped.
“I was really pleased with the scrimmage. This was the first scrimmage since I’ve been here where I really thought that both sides of the ball did some things well,” Smart said. “There were some momentum changes in the scrimmage where one part of the scrimmage the defense did a little better and there was another part of the scrimmage where the offense did a little better.”
Saturday’s scrimmage focused on the different situations the team will see throughout the year.
“We did a lot of situation work out there today. We’d put the ball down, say it’s coming out, we’d put the ball in the red area … we’d put the ball out there with 30 seconds and say we need a field goal. We just gave them a bunch of scenarios and let them play them out. We did about four or five end-of-the game situations, we did some get the ball back situations with 2nd-and-10 and third down periods. The ball was live so it was a good practice for us.”
Another good day for the defense
For the second straight practice, Smart said he saw some encouraging signs from his defense.
“Tuesday wasn’t real encouraging but Thursday was much better and then today. I can’t say we dominated defensively, but we certainly made some good plays,” Smart said. “There were a lot of good hits. When you’ve got good backs, there’s going to be missed tackles and when you’ve got a quarterback who can make some throws there’s going to be some one-on-battles outside that you just don’t win but I was very encouraged with how hard they played.”
But when asked if he thought his team had turned any sort of corner, Smart wasn’t ready to go there.
“I think you’re always in a wait and see mode because you’re always trying to get better,” he said. “We’ve improved some things but we’ve got some things we’ve got to improve on. We’ve got to be able to run the ball consistently better, and we did that early in the spring, but I can’t say that we did it the whole time today. There were times when we didn’t get much movement and it started giving me flashbacks so we’ve got to be able to do that. We’ve got to be creative to get the ball to the playmakers the ball in space and put them in position to do things.”
… “I think Jacob specifically, has taken good strides, but he has to continue making good decisions and get the ball in the right spot.” – Smart on Jacob Eason.
… “The No. 1 thing is he’s very consistent. He’s not like most of these freshmen, up and down, emotional, up one day and down the next. This kid is just stays level-headed and doesn’t get affected by criticism. He’s had some days where he’s been inconsistent catching the ball, but he’s never been inconstant with how he practices meaning he had the highest GPS for receivers for three straight days.
He’s really physical. You talk to the DBs, this guy has a little thump to him and is not afraid of contact. He made a couple of good plays today.” – Smart on freshman wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman.
… “D’Andre Walker, you might say, stood out defensively. He played with unbelievable effort … guts. He played for every special teams today and he played with the No. 2 defense. He really competed hard.” – Smart on outside linebacker D’Andre Walker.
... "From first spring to this one, I’d say we are scrimmaging more, meaning tackling live more, because we did that a couple of practices last week where we didn’t do it last year. More situational football. Just put it out there, say ‘here the situation’ and make the offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator call it, play it. End-of-game situations. I think every head coach I talk to talks about how you can’t practice those enough. So we’ve tried to make a lot of those things happen. The one other thing is, defensively, we have just not gotten any turnovers this spring. So I guess, tip your hat to the offense, but it’s been frustrating on defense that we haven’t gotten more. I mean, I don’t know that we’ve had a fumble strip out or knock out, any of that. And very few interceptions. So the offense is protecting the ball well.’’ - Smart on what carried over from the first scrimmage to the second one.
... "I’ll be honest with you. We are marketing it internally. We’re doing the Red vs. Black and we’re selling that. It’s huge. I mean, you can’t imagine the effect that had on recruiting. When you talk to the kids we just signed, they all tell you that it had a great effect. So, our fan base should feel challenged. They should want to go out and have more than all these other teams have, because it does help in recruiting. It shows the passion and the energy that I know our fan base has. So that really is important. But as far as my concern for that, I like for our kids to have a great environment to play in all the time. I think you find out more about kids when they have to play in front of a great environment. But what number will we have? I’m not going to sit here and do over/unders. I don’t think it’s that important.’’ - Smart when asked if he's marketing G-Day the same internally as last year.