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After a rough first scrimmage, UGA’s Smart says Saturday’s effort was ‘more competitive’

Head coach Kirby Smart: UGA’s second scrimmage more ‘explosive,’ competitive

University of Georgia Bulldogs had its second scrimmage of the preseason on Aug. 17, 2019. Compared to the first scrimmage, head coach Kirby Smart said players were energetic and spirited. UGA kicks off Aug. 31 against Vanderbilt.
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University of Georgia Bulldogs had its second scrimmage of the preseason on Aug. 17, 2019. Compared to the first scrimmage, head coach Kirby Smart said players were energetic and spirited. UGA kicks off Aug. 31 against Vanderbilt.

The temperatures were about the same, but Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was nowhere near as hot after his team’s second scrimmage of the fall.

The Bulldogs scrimmaged on Saturday in the scorching upper-90s heat in Athens. But despite that, Smart was happy after seeing much more competitiveness and energy from his team.

“They started out a lot better,” Smart said. “It started out a lot faster, lot more competitive. Both ones units played better, which meant the twos probably didn’t play as well.”

The players ran around 135 snaps in the second scrimmage, up from a count of 115 August 10. Special teams snaps got thrown into the mix, as did situations such as goal line and red zone periods.

Smart said his players began to wear down a bit as the day wore on, noting that the GPS devices were tracking many players running at slower speeds than their usual numbers. With that in mind, the team will have Sunday off before what Smart said would be a “light, light walkthrough” on Monday.

On the injury front, defensive lineman David Marshall, inside linebacker Nate McBride and tight end Ryland Goede were all seen practicing before the scrimmage. Smart said Marshall is currently splitting time between working with the team and working with trainers on the side.

There was also freshman inside linebacker Nakobe Dean, who was not seen during the media viewing period of Saturday’s practice. Smart said Dean got some work in but was unable to scrimmage, adding that the staff thinks he will be OK.

The defense could have used Dean on Saturday, as it gave up several explosive plays to the offense. While the running backs made the big plays in the first scrimmage, this scrimmage saw the receiver group make its mark.

Smart mentioned Lawrence Cager, George Pickens, Tyler Simmons, Trey Blount and Kearis Jackson as players who made explosive plays, defined by Smart as gains of more than 12 or 13 yards.

“I’m very pleased with that group’s effort, toughness, resiliency, pushing through contact toughness,” Smart said. “There’s some balls that probably should have been caught that weren’t today, but that’s probably always going to be the case.”

Smart also called out freshman running back Kenny McIntosh as a player who made some things happen, noting his good balance and calling him a “blessing.”

The offensive line also won the battle in the trenches, with Smart saying he saw a little more toughness from that group as opposed to the defensive line. However, that doesn’t mean the defense didn’t have its moments.

The defense made big stops in several situational periods, including faring very well in the red zone periods. Last season, the Bulldogs ranked 106th in the country in red zone defense.

“If we play really good in the red area, it gives us a fighting chance because we think we can score points offensively,” Smart said. “Defensively, if we hold people to field goals, that’s big.”

But while some big stops were made, there were also big chunk plays given up. Part of the issue, Smart said, is defenders not sticking to their assignments.

“We’ve just got to get our players on defense to play within the system,” Smart said. “We’ve still got some guys that want to play rat trap and do what they want to do instead of doing what they’re supposed to do. When they do the rat trap stuff, it hurts us.”

Saturday’s scrimmage comes just 14 days before the season opener at Vanderbilt. But opening the season on the road at an SEC foe means the Bulldogs can only travel with 70 players.

Special teams plays a massive role in deciding who travels and who doesn’t. With running backs, for example, the traveling number can range from four to seven depending on who can contribute on special teams.

The same goes for receivers: if you can help, you will travel. But for players such as McIntosh, Pickens and Dominick Blaylock, they don’t know how to cover and block on special teams units because they’ve never had to do it.

“Their high school special teams was, ‘I was catching the ball and running with it, I wasn’t blocking anybody, I wasn’t covering anybody,’” Smart said.

The coaching staff is working with younger players to develop the necessary special teams skills, Smart said. With kickoff in Nashville looming, the next two weeks will be key for any player looking to earn a spot in the first game of the 2019 season.

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