After Georgia’s bye week, head coach Kirby Smart met with media on Monday to preview the Bulldogs’ game this Saturday night against the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.
Here’s what the man in charge had to say about this weekend’s game:
Bulldogs getting healthier
One of the biggest benefits of a bye week is the ability for a team to get healthy. True to form, it looks like a couple Bulldogs will return from injury against Tennessee.
At corner, Smart said Eric Stokes is expected to practice on Monday. He suffered a knee injury against Notre Dame and returned to the game, but didn’t do much actual practicing during the bye week, instead doing some running and conditioning.
As for corner Tyson Campbell, who injured his foot against Arkansas State, Smart said he is still limited. He added that the team hopes to get him back by the end of the week.
On the other side of the ball, offensive lineman Solomon Kindley was carted off the field against Notre Dame with an ankle injury. Smart said he expects Kindley to “be able to go out today and do some work.”
“We think he’s going to be cleared to play, but we just don’t know if he’s going to be able to or not,” Smart said. “It’s going to depend on how many reps he can get today and tomorrow.”
Finally, wide receiver Kearis Jackson is cleared to play after breaking his hand in the season opener against Vanderbilt on Aug. 31. He’s been practicing since then with a club on his hand, but will be fitted with a new brace or splint that will allow him to play in the game.
A familiar face
The Bulldogs will square off with a familiar foe on Saturday night.
Former Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is now running the offense for the Volunteers, adding an extra bit of intrigue to this SEC East matchup.
However, Smart said the hype is overblown.
“I think there’s a lot more to it in you guys’ stories than there is in real life,” Smart said.
Smart went on to say that the key to the game rests not in schematic advantages, but in execution. Familiarity between teams is a part of life in the SEC, and this Saturday will be no different.
“They’ve got to play with a passion and energy and enthusiasm to beat the guy across from them and not make it about what our defensive coordinator calls or what their offensive coordinator calls because I don’t think that matters a whole lot,” Smart said. “I think at the end of the day, it’s blocking, tackling, turnovers, explosive plays, executing and doing it with a lot of passion.”
Smart sees improvement in Volunteers
On Sept. 25, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said his team is “100 times better” than it was at this time a year ago despite the team’s 1-3 start.
While he didn’t expand on the math, Smart did praise the Volunteers on Monday by mentioning their physicality and effort that he sees on film.
“The games they’ve been in this year they’ve just had a lot of turnovers and their defense has actually forced a lot of turnovers,” Smart said. “They’ve just turned the ball over quite a bit and it’s hurt them some in some games. But they have a good football team, got a lot of players that we recruited, and got a lot of respect for the coaching staff.”
The Volunteers were a bit more competitive in last year’s game than the 38-12 final might indicate. They rallied from a 24-0 deficit to make it a 24-12 game early in the fourth quarter in Athens before Georgia pulled away again.
As compared to last year, Smart said the Volunteers are a much deeper and physical team. While most see a program that has become a punchline after home losses to Georgia State and BYU, Smart said he sees the bigger picture of what’s happening on Rocky Top.
“You know the way they’re coaching and the way they’re demanding, they’ve got a good staff, they’re going to push these kids, and they’re getting them better,” Smart said. “I think it shows on tape when you watch them how hard they play, that they’re on the brink of something special.”