Through six preseason practices, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart walked away pleased. A fresh enthusiasm radiated throughout each period. In most cases, energetic mentalities result in production.
Saturday’s scrimmage told a different tale.
Smart noticed lethargic play as Georgia’s first-, second- and third-team units played against each other in a variety of sets. His displeasure stems from seeing the second-team unit outplay the first-team squad on the Sanford Stadium turf. Georgia had to move the festivities inside briefly due to a 30-minute weather delay.
“I didn’t think we had the same juice today as a team,” Smart said. “Both No. 1 units were a little lethargic, not real good timing, some bust on defense, so there are some things to clean up. The good news is we’ve got time to clean it up.”
Georgia practiced Saturday without the services of linebacker Nate McBride and tight end Ryland Goede. Smart didn’t offer further specifics on either player’s status, other than being “banged up.” Goede could return as soon as Wednesday.
Freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis didn’t scrimmage while still easing into clearance after offseason brain surgery. Nathan Priestley, a walk-on from Los Angeles, Calif., received scrimmage snaps with the third-team.
Due to the weather delay, the Bulldogs fell slightly short of their quota of 140 plays. They did, however, squeeze in 115 plays after shortening some of the special teams and third-team action. One set proved to be beneficial for Georgia, although with its second team.
Georgia caps a set at 12 plays, and the second-team offense churned out a long drive against the starting defense. Backup quarterback Stetson Bennett conducted a 13-play drive (one extra for the score) and succeeded on third- and fourth-down situations.
“Stetson had a good day today,” Smart said. “He was really steady, really consistent and moved around the pocket well. I’m proud of Stetson for that because he has worked really hard on doing that. He still has some areas he can improve on from checks to making the right decisions late in games, two-minute and things like that.”
Of those seeing work with the first-team offense, redshirt freshman Zamir White rattled off some strong runs in his first live action since suffering a second torn ACL injury. Smart noted that each of White’s teammates and all of the Bulldog staffers are rooting for the former five-star prospect. They’re aware of his adverse times, and mimic the fan base’s desire to see White take meaningful snaps.
That is, unless you’re a defensive player. Maybe it’s tough to cheer for someone of White’s stature when trying to tackle him.
“I thought (White) was really contact tough,” Smart said. “He was running behind his pads, had a couple of short yardage runs that were crucial third-and-1s, fourth-and-1s. He was able to churn it out and get first downs.
“It’s not easy to tackle him, because he is a full grown man.”
Smart singled out other strong individual showings. Defensive back D.J. Daniel, a junior college transfer from Georgia Military College, received first-team reps and the title of “a pleasant surprise.” Some midyear enrollees, whom Smart “doesn’t see as freshman anymore,” showed improvements including cornerback Lewis Cine and linebacker Nakobe Dean.
With more preseason scrimmages remaining and three weeks to opening kickoff, Georgia has another step to take. It’ll enter another week of practice with the goal of piecing together performances into team-wide cohesion.
And for the following Saturday to tell another tale.
“We’ve got to make sure everybody is responding the right way and creating an identity,” Smart said. “I didn’t think we created an identity today.”