ATHENS — Kirby Smart sees his team breaking down into two groups. The first is the veterans who have been through spring practice before. Smart equates that number to about 50 percent of the team.

Smart feels good about where most of those players are. Sedrick Van Pran, Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Brock Bowers and other vets are doing the things needed to get better while focusing on improving their leadership skills.

Then there is the group of players who have not had the ability to go through spring practice. It’s comprised of first or second-year players. It makes up the other half of the team.

”They’re in distinctly two different spots,” Smart said “Our job is to try to accelerate the process for the first, younger group and continue the learning process and continue to push to create depth out of our over half [group].”

Related: Kirby Smart shares his key takeaways following second Georgia football scrimmage

Georgia has 18 mid-year enrollees from the 2023 signing class. There has been plenty asked about the talented group of newcomers, mostly pertaining to first impressions about the bulk of Georgia’s No. 2 ranked signing class.

Smart rarely gets into specifics about players. The Georgia coach was asked about the progress made by Damon Wilson, the 5-star edge rusher in Georgia’s 2023 signing class.

Smart seized the opportunity to make a larger point about the difficulties that players like Wilson are trying to navigate.

“I think all those midyears kind of fit in the same bucket,” Smart said. “They sit in a meeting and I don’t know what they’re actually hearing. Sometimes I think they think they’re hearing but they don’t. Then they go out on the field and they’re oblivious to what was said in the meeting. He’s not exempt from that but he’s not the only one.

“So, all of them, when they walk on the field, the level of intensity and awareness that’s required to play winning football, they don’t even understand it. They don’t even come close to understanding it.”

The Georgia coach wasn’t all negative though when discussing his new litter of Bulldogs. Tight end Lawson Luckie has been one of the standouts of spring practice, regardless of age or position.

You can tell because of how Smart praises Luckie while noting the areas where the Norcross, Ga., product has to continue to work.

“I think nobody has benefitted more from bowl practice than Lawson Luckie,” Smart said. “He didn’t miss one bowl practice. He was there every day. Went everywhere with us. Traveled with the team. Blocked people on scout team, scout special teams. He jumped on seniors and fought them. He’s grown up a lot. He’s getting mature quickly.

“He’s not where he needs to be. I think he’ll be the first to tell you he likes to consider himself a tough guy and he’s got a ways to go in order to be tough enough to be a physical blocker.”

Luckie is just one name and the only newcomer currently repping at the tight end position this spring. His fellow 2023 tight end signee, Pearce Spurlin, suffered a broken collarbone and will end up missing a significant chunk of his first spring.

Related: Georgia tight end Pearce Spurlin to miss the rest of spring practice due to injury

At wide receiver, Georgia brought in five new players at the position. Their inexperience has caused Smart some frustration. Even with two of those players being proven SEC veterans in Dominic Lovett and Rara Thomas.

“One of the youngest spots on our team outside of outside linebacker is probably wideout,” Smart said. “Three mid-year receivers, two portals, that’s five. So five people basically trying to learn a new language, and it is a new language because they didn’t speak that language prior to coming here.”

The Bulldogs have just three spring practices left, with one of those being next Saturday’s G-Day scrimmage. It will be the general public’s first look at many of the new faces.

Despite the promise they will continue to show, there will also be growing pains. Van Pran, Dumas-Johnson and Bowers all went through the very same when they were young players.

Kirby Smart talks young players following Georgia football scrimmage

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