When the season began, it was speculated that a decent number of Georgia’s freshman defensive backs would see action relatively quickly in their Bulldog career.
So far, that hasn’t been the case.
Except for Richard LeCounte and converted wide receiver Mark Webb, no other Bulldog freshman defensive back has played in more than two of Georgia’s four games.
The latter group includes Deangelo Gibbs, William Poole and Ameer Speed. Three – Detravion Bishop, Eric Stokes and Latavious Brini – have yet to play at all.
According to Smart, the reason why is quite simple.
“Some are (ready to play), but I’ll be honest with you, some aren’t. Some can’t handle the not playing. When the first game comes you think you’re going to play. Then the second game comes and you figure you’re going to play. Then by the time the third and fourth game comes and you haven’t played you tend to lose focus,” We’ve got a group of those guys who can’t stay focused and can’t stay involved, can’t carry over for meetings.”
However, Smart insists he’s not disappointed.
“I’m not disappointed in them. I’ve come to realize some kids mature faster than others. They’ll get it. There are guys who are juniors now that didn’t get it their first year,” Smart said. “They’ll get it eventually. But not all of them are improving. Some of them aren’t improving like they need to. The ones who can help us, we’re going to make them improve.”
Cut blocks a concern
You typically hear about cut blocks whenever the Bulldogs play Georgia Tech.
Tennessee? You bet.
Although the Volunteers obviously play more of a pro-style than the arch-rival Yellow Jackets, cut blocks are part of the forte for Tennessee’s offensive line and that’s got the Bulldogs working hard to prepare for what’s ahead.
“We do that cut-blocking drill every Tuesday, it’s kind of like our weekly fundamental, so we do that all the time, but we do have live cut periods during practice Tennessee does a tremendous job on some of their perimeter runs cutting, so we always think it helps, if they cut live, it helps to practice live,” Smart said. “But that’s an asset for them. If you count the number of times over the last 10 years I’ve had a defense play them that you get cut, it’s higher in the Tennessee game than it is any other game.
We kind of emphasized that this week.”
The fact Tennessee’s wide receivers aren’t afraid to get physical on the edge is another aspect of Tennessee’s offense that has Smart concerned.
“The part you don’t recognize with Tennessee is the physicality with which their receivers play,” Smart said. “Kevin Beard, who was here last year, is coaching their receivers and he’s got them blocking like they’re mad. They do a good job with that.”
Smart impressed with Tennessee’s pass rush
Tennessee’s pass rush figures to be a challenge for Georgia’s offensive line.
The Vols currently stand fifth in the SEC in sacks with 10, led by middle linebacker Colton Jumper who is tied for the conference lead with four.
That’s not all.
Left end Jonathan Kongbo is an excellent athlete, while tackle Reginald McKenzie (6-3, 329) gives the Vols another element of size that the Bulldogs’ must contend with.
“They’ve got great athletes up there. They’ve got size. They have more size than Mississippi State when it comes to weight on the inside guys,” Smart said. “They’ve got really good speed on the outside, which was something that certainly affected us last year. But they do a tremendous job and we’ve got to find a way to negate. Their defensive coordinator (Bob Shoop) is a good friend of mine and he’s always done well with the pass rush.”
Red zone improvements
Georgia enters play a conference-best first Red Zone offense and second in Red Zone defense.
The numbers are impressive.
The Bulldogs are a perfect 13-for-13 on offense with 10 touchdowns and three field goals, while the defense has only given up four touchdowns in four games to opponents, including just seven scores in 10 trips inside the 20.
“I feel like the work has paid off offensively pretty good. I know statistically, statistics can lie with that, too, sometimes,” Smart said. “You’re 100 percent but you may not be scoring touchdowns.”
So, yes. Smart believes there are improvements yet to be made.
“We have our own way of measuring statistics in the red zone, so sometimes those are misleading,” he said. “Defensively there are a couple of times we should have held them out of the end zone, we held them to field goals. But we continue to get better, so hopefully we get a return on it, but humility is a week away.”
• “One of the best backs I've seen, really in a long time. Here's what I think about him: He runs through arm tackles, he's extremely physical, he's violent in his blow delivery when this guy stiff-arms, he's hit people all over the place. Incredible leg drive. I thought that last year about the guy. This year he's just like Alvin (Kamara) and (Jalen) Hurd all together in one. The guy runs hard and he doesn't seem to get tired. The more carries he gets the more physical he runs. Some of those runs he had at the end of the game against Florida were really impressive and I've got a lot of respect for him as a competitor." – Smart on Tennessee running back John Kelly.
• "He's the heart of the trench. He really is. Without him, the guards and centers are getting up on Roquan. And he does a tremendous job of block recognition. When the center turns to go block somebody else, he knows who's blocking him. And he strikes. He holds the point down. A lot of our defense is predicated off not being able to move him. And the less people move him the more success we have. And he takes a lot of pride in that. And there is no glory in what he does. He's got sore thumbs and ankles and wrists. He's battered. But he loves it. He never complains." – Smart on what John Atkins means to the defense.
Smart was pleased with Tuesday’s practice inside the team’s Indoor Athletic Facility.
“I thought we had a good Tuesday practice actually. That’s always pleasing. I think the quality of the opponent helps with that and the focus was there. We’ve had kind of those kind of Tuesday practices. It’s Wednesday we’ve always struggled with. They usually hit a rut about Wednesday. Today was good."