ATHENS — Georgia tight end Arik Gilbert couldn’t get up to speed fast enough for Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs’ offense on Sunday, it seemed.
The superstar in the making continues to show great ability as a pass catcher, but he was among the players Smart called out with media in attendance during a rare Sunday practice availability.
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“You’ve got to move fast 14 to earn your playing time reps,” Smart said over the loudspeaker during the 11 minutes he allowed media members to observe drill work.
“Got to move fast at all times.”
Georgia players believe the head coach has eyes in the back of his head and knows he wants all-out effort at each turn.
Especially from his best players and a first-round talent like Gilbert, whose athleticism and agility are no less than stunning.
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Gilbert could prove the most pivotal addition to the offense this season with his playmaking ability, but that won’t make things in practice any easier on him.
Former safety Lewis Cine confirmed to DawgNation at the NFL Combine, no one is spared from the microphone Smart carries around at practice.
Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick talked at the Senior Bowl about how Georgia practices were harder than those he had with the Tigers, and how “Microphone Kirby” seemed to catch everyone not up to speed.
“You have to be ready for every play,” Kendrick said with a smile. “Microphone Kirby, he’ll call you out no matter what it is, he’ll stay on you, so it keeps you ready to compete every play and never give up.”
WATCH: Derion Kendrick compares Georgia to Clemson
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Gilbert has shown an ability to make great catches and run good routes, but he is still working on getting used to the sort of intensity that the August version of Kirby Smart brings.
The Bulldogs are known to push through heat and physical practices like few other programs, something the former Marietta 5-star prospect was apparently not completely adjusted to on Sunday.
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Gilbert has yet to meet with the Georgia media, but he did lots of interviews while still a high school star.
Many things have transpired since then, including the sort of challenges many young men go through when first leaving home and adjusting to the high demands in an elite program like Smart has built at Georgia.
It was about this time last season that Gilbert parted from the Georgia team after an undisclosed incident during fall camp leading up to him taking time off last season to deal with what Smart referred to as “personal issues.”
Gilbert wanted to play receiver when first coming to UGA, but as Smart explained last spring, he didn’t yet have the sort of conditioning needed to play that position.
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“The certain requirement that it takes to play receiver is it requires stamina, running every play, going to cut off blocks,” Smart said. “The biggest hurdle for him has been the conditioning level.”
UGA strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair has transformed many players into NFL stars, but at some point, it’s up to the individual players.
WATCH: Intense UGA strength coach Scott Sinclair pushes players to limit
Gilbert has shown an ability to drop weight and increase his speed. He appeared on track by the end of spring drills, playing a starring role in the G-Day Game with 3 catches for 49 yards including 2 touchdown receptions.