Having cut his teeth as a defensive coach, it pains Georgia head coach Kirby Smart to no end when that side of the ball doesn’t perform to the standards he expects.
That’s been the case throughout spring camp and was once again Saturday following the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.
“We didn’t tackle well as a defense, so does that mean we have really good skill guys and they’re hard to tackle?” Smart said. “That probably has something to do with it but we’ve got to improve our tackling.”
Offensively, Smart said Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm did a good job of protecting the football.
“We didn’t seem to have many turnovers,” he continued. “We had one fumble and maybe two interceptions. But when you have 130, 140 snaps, it’s never acceptable, but it’s not out of hand.”
That was about it for compliments from Smart on the day.
The mistakes he saw on defense were simply too much to overlook.
“Probably the most disappointing thing today was what I call the defense’s ‘knock-back tackle.’ When you hit a guy, splatter him and knock him back where he doesn’t get yards after contact. We didn’t have a lot of that today," Smart said. "We still have to improve a lot defensively. I don’t hide behind the fact that we’re not where we need to be."
Smart didn’t reveal any statistics from the nearly three-hour scrimmage, but said he was pleased with what he saw from both Fromm and Eason.
“Jacob and Jake are both more comfortable throwing the ball. I know Jacob is in a better spot than he was this time last year,” Smart said. “But he’s got to continue to grow as a passer. He's got to get better in protections, and we’ve got to get some wideouts who can help him.”
Offensively, Smart said the offensive line did a good job opening holes for the backs, but deferred comment on whether his offense was as physical as it needed to be.
"I think I’ll need to wait until I see the film. The tough thing out there was that we had a couple of explosive runs and, by that, I mean runs over 15 yards. So we have those and a lot of times you’re thinking, ‘wow, they’re really doing well.’ But today there were a LOT of 4- and 5-yard runs, which really bothers me as a head coach. It concerns me that we’re not able to stop the run at times when we’ve got a loaded box," he said. "So I’ll reserve judgment on that until Monday, after I get to see the tape tomorrow and then meet with the players Monday. I know statistically, we ran the ball well, but I can’t really say that they dominated up front. Now we did, for the first time, do Ones on Twos, Twos on Ones, for some parts of the scrimmage, so you had some matchups out there that had not happened in practice up until that point."
Smart singled out Brian Herrien for the job he was able to do.
“I thought Herrien ran the ball well. We wanted to see what he can do and he ran really hard with a couple of explosive runs,” Smart said. “He’s a tough competitive guy.”
The Bulldog head coach said he’d have to look at the tape before offering a final critique on how the day went.
“Overall, I thought that the scrimmage was organized and we had a good rhythm. I think we got about 60 reps with the ones, 60 reps with twos and about 20 or so with the threes, so right around 134-140 on the snaps which is what we try to get,” Smart said. “But anytime you come in to talk about a scrimmage, there’s some good things we did and some poor things that we did. When that happens, you tend to put a lot of emphasis on what you did well and tend to be real negative about the things you didn’t do well.”
• Wide receiver Riley Ridley (ankle) wore black non-contact jersey Saturday. Smart hopes he will be able to take part in the G-Day game scheduled for April 22.
• Smart said that right guard Solomon Kindley went down midway through the scrimmage with sprained ankle. He was replaced initially by Aulden Bynum.
• Dominick Sanders suffered a slight MCL sprain but Smart said the senior probably would have been able to continue if it had been a game.
• Smart singled out defensive back J.R. Reed for his effort on the defensive side.
"Absolutely he could have a role. Right now, he’s flashing speed, athleticism, toughness, and I’m tough on him. I’m out there every day, challenging this guy because I think he could be a really good player. He’s fast, he’s physical, he’s smart, but he hasn’t played in that many games in this system," Smart said of Reed. "If you take Dom (Sanders) and A.D.’s (Aaron Davis’s) cumulative years in the system, there’s so much there. But this kid is striking people, he’s running hard and playing hard. We saw some of that last year, but it’s hard on scout team because you’re not allowed all the time to knock ‘em out and hit ‘em. But he made a few flashes today in plays where he could crack the starting lineup if he continues doing what he’s doing.’’
• Wide receiver Jayson Stanley (concussion) wore a black jersey but is still not cleared for contact.
• Mecole Hardman only played offense during the scrimmage.