Kirby Smart: More to Georgia football offense than G-Day numbers

041622 Athens: Georgia wide receiver Adonai Mitchell (5) runs after a catch against Georgia defensive back William Poole (31) during the G - Day game at Sanford Stadium Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Athens, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

ATHENS — Kirby Smart wasn’t ready to do too much evaluation into the G-Day Game in the press conference following the annual public scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.

The seventh-year head football coach at Georgia did, however, have a general feel for how things went before the announced crowd of 68,022.

RELATED: Kirby Smart quickly overlooks Stetson Bennett’s pass numbers

“I think offensively you look at statistics and you say, who threw it and caught it or who caught the ball or who made plays,” Smart said, asked who stood out to him. “It’s probably the offensive line across the front.

“And then defensively, I thought we had a lot of batted balls, which we didn’t have hardly any all spring,” Smart said.

“We tried to emphasize that the three days. We had more batted balls. We didn’t give up as many explosives as we had in some scrimmages, so there’s some promise there, but they also didn’t play action us the same way they did in the scrimmage.”

Smart’s point about the play-action run game is key, because UGA’s success running the football is paramount to the pass game success, as it freezes linebackers and safeties, and sets up the sort of “shot” plays downfield that Stetson Bennett and the offense relied upon the second half of the season.

Still, it was a competitive game, with the Black Team (first-team offense) defeating the Red Team (first-team defense) by a 26-23 count.

“It was a really competitive game, kind of a back-and-forth game, like it always is,” Smart said. “We want it to be as much action, close, game coming down to the wire, not so much for you guys or the fans but for us.

“I don’t think you get better in games that are lopsided, you get better in competitive action. We tried to make that happen as much as possible.”

Indeed, to the extent that Carson Beck, the Red Team quarterback, attempted only one pass in the second half.

Beck led all passers in the first half, 12 of 20 for 233 yards, but he was just 1-of-5 passing for 28 yards working with the first team in the second half.

Vandagriff was 4-of-7 passing for 29 yards working with the Black Team (first-team offense) in the first half and 8-of-19 passing for 86 yards working with the Red Team in the second half.

Stetson Bennett struggled throughout the day, 15-of-35 passing for 273 yards with 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 4 batted-down balls and 3 sacks.

It was an indication of what other quarterbacks deal with playing a Kirby Smart defense, even with all the elite players headed to the NFL draft.

Still, Smart said he wasn’t going to read much into the quarterbacks based on their statistics, but he was pleased with other skill position players.

Receiver Kearis Jackson (4 catches, 107 yards) and tight ends Arik Gilbert (3 catches, 49 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Oscar Delp (7 catches, 91 yards) were obvious stars.

But Smart pointed out others who have impressed him throughout spring, as well.

“Ladd (McConkey) and AD (Mitchell), they are SEC wideouts,” said Smart whose offense wasn’t about to show its hand with the two projected starting perimeter receivers. “They can compete at a high level. But when you go past that, you’ve got Marcus (Rosemy-Jacksaint) who has done a tremendous job. Marcus is extremely smart and he can play all positions.”

Smart said the Bulldogs lack the necessary depth at receiver, however

“We don’t have like, ‘okay, this guy has got a hamstring, who’s going in?’ We don’t have that, (and) we’ve got to grow that,” Smart said. “We’ve got to get Arian (Smith) and Jackson (Meeks), CJ (Smith), De’Nylon (Morrissette) up to speed and days like today get them closer. But they’re not there yet. We’re not there yet. We have to continue to grow.

“You look at Arian has an elite trait, and we try to use that elite trait as much as possible, but we’re not where we need to be at wide out, and we’ve got some more guys coming, so we’re going to get some guys to help out.”

The Bulldogs receivers signees coming this summer, Georgia product Cole Speer and Texas 3-star Dillon Bell.

Smart was pleased with how the running backs played, pointing out the scrimmage was not intended for them to establish the run game or typical balance.

“I thought Kenny (McIntosh) caught a nice play on a wheel route, so did Kendall (Milton),” Smart said. “You become a weapon by how you receive the ball out of the backfield. They want to grow with that. They want to be able to showcase their talents catching the ball out of the backfield. That’s what the NFL asks about. Can he catch the ball out of the backfield? Can he be a 3rd down back?

“Well, we like to grow NFL backs here, so to do that you’ve got to use them in the passing game, and I thought that Kenny, Kendall all those guys, Daijun (Edwards), Sevaughn (Clark) did a nice job.

“We didn’t always hit them efficiently. We missed some wide-open backs, but I thought that those backs did a nice job.”

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