ATHENS — Kirby Smart sure sounds like he “wants to eat,” for those Georgia fans who saw the bootlegged tape of him motivating his team last year in a most unique — and effective — manner before a practice.
That infamous speech, which included choice word with Smart at his fever pitch as a motivator, concluded with him saying “All I want to do is (expletive) eat! I want you to eat! I want you to eat! Do you want to eat!? Show me!”
Missouri was supposed to be the Bulldogs meal at noon Saturday, but the Tigers fell a couple of defensive linemen short, per the COVID-19 protocol that allows them an out.
So rather than opt in some walk-ons to fulfill numbers — which Missouri was under no obligation to do, but certainly could have — the Tigers pulled out of the game.
Smart admits he didn’t see much of a silver lining in Saturday’s game at Missouri being canceled, as his focus was on getting his players back on the field to improve.
Smart shared that thought on his coaches show on Thursday night when host Scott Howard asked him if there was some benefit because it would give players time to get healthy for the remaining stretch of the season.
“I’d rather just play, there’s no get healthy at this point, we’re not getting guys back that were lost for the season,” Smart said. “There’s very few guys that we are gonna get back in a short span in the matter of the week. It’s not like we’re gaining guys back left and right, because most of the ones that are hurt for us are out for substantial time.
“So for us I would prefer to play and grow as a team, get the younger guys (who are) playing for the injured guys an opportunity to grow.”
The No. 12-ranked Bulldogs are scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday at Sanford Stadium against Mississippi State. The Maroon Bulldogs were also off on Saturday on account of their game with Auburn being postponed by COVID-19 issues.
Smart said senior safety Richard LeCounte, who was injured in a Halloween Nigh dirt bike crash on Macon Highway, has been rehabilitating in the pool. LeCounte is also at practices helping to coach up the defensive backs, Smart said.
Nosetackle Jordan Davis, who suffered a fractured elbow in the Oct. 31 win at Kentucky, has been dressing out and working on the sidelines.
“He’s training on the side, getting dressed out and conditioning hard, which is big for him because he’s a big man,” Smart said. “We chart his yardage (and) GPS speed each day, and he’s improved each day in terms of conditioning and running to stay in good shape.”
Georgia, ironically, is also short on the defensive line similar to Missouri.
Smart said there are concerns in the interior with Davis and senior Julian Rochester — two starters — and freshman Warren Brinson, all out.
“It’s one of those things you don’t bring to light, but it’s tough when you’ve got so few, and (Brinson) has been unable to practice this week,” Smart said.
“In terms of (defensive linemen) Bill Norton, Zion Logue, Tymon Mitchell, those guys have gotten more reps. Jalen (Carter) has had to step up, Deveonte (Wyatt) has played a lot, Nazir (Stackhouse) has gotten some reps in there, so we’re having to grow up fast up front with the limited guys we’ve got.”
Sophomore tailback Kenny McIntosh, one of the more explosive players on the team with his kick returns and versatility in the backfield, is a player Smart expects back.
Smart also said he felt safety Lewis Cine, who was in concussion protocol last week, would be back for the Mississippi State game.
WR George Pickens (upper body): Pickens had a good week of practice and would have been cleared for the Missouri game, Smart indicated. Pickens hasn’t played since the Alabama game on Oct. 17.
RB Kenny McIntosh (knee): McIntosh, the No 3 kick returned in the nation and a versatile, explosive threat in the backfield, practiced last week and would have been cleared for the Missouri game.
OT Owen Condon (unknown): Condon started the opening game at right tackle before being replaced by Warren McClendon. Condon has not played since the Oct. 3 game with Auburn, per the participation charts.
OG Ben Cleveland (lower body): Georgia as been resting the starting right guard when they can as he battles nagging lower body ailments. Cleveland has been the highest-graded lineman on the team and not allowed a sack, per Pro Football Focus.
SS Lewis Cine (concussion): Smart indicated Cine would have been close for the Missouri game but is likely to be ready for Mississippi State
QB JT Daniels (knee): Daniels earned first-team reps last week, showing improved mobility in his return from last year’s ACL surgery.
MLB Monty Rice (foot): Rice played against Florida but appears a step off. It’s possible the foot injury is of the nagging variety I might not soon go away.
QB Stetson Bennett (shoulder): The starting quarterback suffered a sprain to the AC joint in his throwing shoulder when delivering a TD pass in the first quarter in Florida. Bennett was not throwing in practice last week, according to Smart.
DT Warren Brinson (unknown): Smart said Brinson was out in Florida after getting limited work in the previous game against Kentucky. Smart did not provide a timeline for Brinson’s return.
NT Jordan Davis (elbow): The star interior defender missed the Florida game but Smart said he continues to work out to stay in good cardio shape and keep his weight down. At some point he could return with an elbow brace.
WR Arian Smith (knee): The true freshman speedster traveled with the team to Florida and has made it clear on social media channels he’s eager to get on the field
WR Tommy Bush: Bush has been out since being involved in a pedestrian accident and suffering a concussion.
RB Kendall Milton (knee): Smart said the talented freshman running back will be out three weeks with the strained MCL he suffered while fighting for extra yardage against Kentucky.
FS Richard LeCounte: The preseason All-American and team captain suffered a concussion, bruised ribs and shoulder injury in a frightening Halloween Night motorcycle accident in Athens.
WR Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint: The true freshman suffered a dislocated ankle on his touchdown catch in the first quarter in Florida. Rosemy-Jacksaint underwent surgery on on Nov. 9 and is out for the season.
DT Julian Rochester: The fifth-year starting defensive tackle suffered an ACL injury at Kentucky and is out for the year.
WR Dominick Blaylock: The sophomore is out for the year, suffering another knee injury in fall camp while trying to practice after last December’s torn ACL in the SEC title game.
DB Kelee Ringo: The 5-star recruit is out for the season with a torn labrum.