ATHENS — Kirby Smart often says he wants his players to be comfortable being uncomfortable, but in the case of Arik Gilbert that only applies on the field.
Smart said he has been pleased with Gilbert, a dynamic talent who transferred from LSU but sat out last season while dealing with personal issues.
“Arik’s done a good job, he understands his assignments,” Smart said following Georgia’s Scrimmage Two on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
One observer at scrimmage said Gilbert continues to look like a rising star, making some great catches in scrimmage action.
Smart said the football is taking care of itself with Gilbert, whose rare blend of size, power, speed and receiver skills make him a potential breakout player this season.
“I’m always a lot more concerned with Arik’s well-being mentally, than his well-being just on knowing assignments and what to do,” Smart said, revealing a softer, more compassionate side of him that doesn’t often come out in his public dealings with the media.
“That’s the most important thing is that he feels comfortable with our team and can help us.”
Smart explained that there are plenty of other talented players back in the mix after missing spring with injuries.
“In the spring, he got thrust into things a whole lot more, in terms of reps and volume of reps,” Smart said. “(Now) with the other guys being healthy and (Oscar) Delp being further along…we’ve been able to do more two-spot, so that’s helped.
“Darnell (Washington) coming off the injury, Brock (Bowers) coming off the injury, Delp coming off the mid-year, and Arik as well, we get a lot more reps. He has to be able to sustain.”
Smart, who has pushed Gilbert to work at a Georgia fall camp pace, is also training the former Marietta 5-star to be more NFL-ready with special teams skills.
RELATED: Game-changer Arik Gilbert working to get up to Georgia speed
“He’s developing as a special teams player, also,” Smart noted. “It’s something he has not done as much before.”
Finding elite players like Gilbert to contribute to special teams has been one of the priorities for Smart, who noted many of the players that were part of the NFL-record 15-man draft class were significant contributors on special teams.
Gilbert, one of the most talented players in college football, will continue to adjust to playing at the championship standard Smart has brought to Athens.