ATHENS — Georgia scout team players ran through drills and skeleton work against projected starters with play sheets in their hands Tuesday.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said Monday that UGA needed to get dialed in for its game against Sun Belt member Arkansas State. The team’s practice approach during the media viewing portion of practice appeared to validate that.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (2-0) play the Red Wolves (1-1) at noon on Saturday at Sanford Stadium in their final warmup before the much-anticipated showdown with No. 7 Notre Dame on Sept. 21 (TV: 8 p.m. CBS).
Georgia is a 31 1/2-point favorite over Arkansas State. Smart insists Georgia is focused on the task at hand, vowing no preparation for the game with the Irish is taking place in his football building this week.
“I have a lot of respect for this (Arkansas State) team,” Smart said. “It’s a really, really good opponent, and with us kicking off at 12:00 p.m., we have to get our minds right and get ready to play.”
The Bulldogs had plenty of work in intense heat during fall camp, and they got more of it on Tuesday. The heat index had climbed to 104 degrees by the start of UGA practice, according to accuweather.com.
The weather forecast for the Arkansas State game on Saturday reflects an expected high of 91 degrees under sunny skies.
Smart, meanwhile, is turning the heat up on some of his players this week, making a point of emphasis about ball security.
One drill in the corner of the practice field caught the eye of media members, with players from different offensive position groups involved.
Zamir White, Eli Wolf, James Cook, Brian Herrien and George Pickens lined up in single file and were carrying the football while two defenders tried to rip it away.
The Bulldogs have had three fumbles through the first two games, losing two of them.
“I’m always concerned about turnovers; turnovers are a part of our game,” Smart said on Monday. “You’re never not concerned with turnovers. We created two and gave away two (vs. Murray State). We came out dead even. The two we gave away, I think both of them were preventable. A lot of turnovers are not.
“Sometimes those things happen when guys make great plays. Look at Mark Webb’s. He put his hat right on the ball and it exploded the ball out, very similar to what happened to Wolf. They’re part of the game. How do you prevent them? You emphasize it.”
Smart has also emphasized the importance of depth at all positions in discussions about Georgia’s championship hopes this season.
The Bulldogs will likely continue to be tested on the offensive line and at receiver, where two of the opening game starters remain sidelined or limited.
Right tackle Isaiah Wilson was not seen during the media viewing portion of practice. Wilson suffered what Smart said was a sprained ankle in last Wednesday’s practice after the team moved indoors.
Smart said Monday that Wilson is out of the protective boot he had been wearing and can apply weight to the injured ankle.
Georgia’s offensive line, however, has enough quality depth to compensate. Sophomore Cade Mays has been working at right tackle this week with Ben Cleveland at right guard.
Sophomore Jamaree Salyer started at right tackle in place of Wilson against Murray State last Saturday, and he continues to work at right tackle behind Mays in practice.
Receiver Kearis Jackson, who suffered a broken left hand after starting in the season-opening game at Vanderbilt, continues to practice with his hand taped up in a club. Smart said after the Vanderbilt game Jackson would be out 3 or 4 weeks.
Jackson still managed to make two one-handed catches in practice, though the catch of the day belonged to freshman George Pickens.
Pickens, running a stop-and-go route, reeled in a 45-yard Jake Fromm bomb with one hand and managed to stay on his feet, stumbling forward after his impressive extension.
Jackson’s absence last Saturday cleared the way for freshman Dominick Blaylock to get more work playing behind starter Demetris Robertson in the slot against Murray State.
Blaylock had three catches for 48 yard and a touchdown in the win over the FCS Racers.
Receiver Tommy Bush was not seen with the receivers during the media viewing portion of practice. Bush did not play against Murray State.
Freshman defensive lineman Tramel Walthour was also not seen during the media viewing portion of practice on Tuesday.
Connor Riley contributed to this report
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