ATHENS — When you’re unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the country – possible No. 1 within a few hours – and heavily favored to win the upcoming game, the challenge at practice becomes obvious. Such it is with Georgia at this point.
So head coach Kirby Smart and his assistants appear to be ratcheting up the pressure at practices this week. There were unconfirmed reports that Smart laid into his players at one point during Monday’s practice, and during the Tuesday media viewing period Smart was applying verbal heat to the defensive linemen.
“South Carolina ain’t going through the motions today!” Smart yelled out as the Georgia D-linemen went through a drill.
Other assistant coaches were also raising their voices. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was a bit louder than usual with some of his defensive backs. Receivers coach James Coley, whose voice is usually well-heard at these practices, kept at it on Tuesday. Defensive line coach Tray Scott didn’t let Smart have an exclusive on yelling rights at his players.
The focus on the defensive line probably wasn’t an accident. South Carolina only ranks 12th in the SEC in rushing offense but has improved lately, rushing for 212 yards in last week’s game against Vanderbilt. Tailback A.J. Turner had 121 yards on 15 carries.
“Their offensive line, it’s much more physical, dominant up front,” Smart said during his news conference on Monday. “They really come off the ball. They’ve got some big guys. They’re committed to it. They have two good blocking tight ends. The backs are running really hard. When you watch them, they do a really good job. After our Florida game that’s something we really have to improve on.”
Of course it wasn’t all negative. When reserve D-lineman Michael Barnett did the drill well – an off-the-snap drill – Smart complimented him.
“Good job Mike!” Smart shouted.
Georgia (8-0) was due to find out its current playoff ranking in a few hours. It hosts South Carolina (6-2) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Sanford Stadium.
A few quick other observations and notes:
- Georgia appears to still be in great position on the injury front. There are no players on the active two-deep who are missing from practice.
- Freshman receiver J.J. Holloman, who didn’t make the trip for the Florida game, is practicing, so his absence from Jacksonville was apparently depth-chart related.
- There were NFL scouts at practice from the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. And no, it’s not unusual for scouts to be at practice.