ATHENS — The Georgia secondary has plenty of work to do, that much is a known certainty with five defensive backs off the 2020 team headed for the NFL.
But one thing about this group, based on what observers at Saturday’s scrimmage had to say, is they will bring it in a way that discourages ball carriers.
Georgia is reloading around safety Lewis Cine, the one returning regular starter from last season.
Cine, himself, is known as a big hitter with several strong tackles last season in addition to the epic shot he delivered on Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
Georgia DB Lewis Cine kicked out of the game after being called for targeting for this brutal hit to the head on Kyle Pitts. pic.twitter.com/orvmCMl3r7
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) November 7, 2020
Georgia football plays a pro-style defense, so there are some complexities to learning it.
Smart indicated second-year cornerback Jalen Kimber is among those getting up to speed.
“Kimber’s very bright, (and) he was able to practice all last year,” Smart said. “The practice you get from the year before, people just forget about. You mentioned Kelee, and Kelee has not practiced. He really hasn’t done anything in terms of earning the reputation that he came in with. He is in the process of doing that. He’s trying to do that through working hard and learning. He stayed really engaged.
“But Jalen Kimber was able to go out and actually take reps and work last year, which gives you an advantage because you’ve seen things, you have heard calls, and you have to adjust,” Smart said.
“The biggest thing with Jalen is continuing to work really hard with the nutrition and weight room to keep adding size, and he’s conscious of that. He understands what he has to do to be a great player, and he’s committed to doing that.”
Smart’s words on Kimber are encouraging, because Georgia lacks experience at the cornerback position and will need capable, well-schooled players.
That’s what makes each spring practice and spring scrimmage so valuable because there is no substitution for game-like reps.
Smart has new secondary coach Jahmile Addae and analyst Will Muschamp assisting him with the young defensive backs. That’s a lot of coaching intensity that can’t help but make the young secondary players better.
Saturday, Smart, Addae and Muschamp got some valuable film they can evaluate.
“We got to challenge them in terms of the coverage situations we put them in,” Smart said. “For a lot of them, it was their first real live action with LC (Lovasea Carroll) out there playing some corner, and Nyland (Green) and Kelee (Ringo). It’s just a lot of young guys that haven’t played a lot of college football.
“They’ve played a lot of football, and they’re good football players, but we’re a long way from being ready in terms of what we need to do with the secondary because we’ve just got a lot of inexperienced players. We cannot have enough of those situations: scrimmages, passing, all of the different looks we get, because we need experience.”
Georgia is halfway through its spring football practice session with the annual G-Day Game set for April 17 and fast approaching.
Smart will keep the secondary under the microscope, pushing the young players to learn their assignments and reads, knowing they’ll play faster and looser once they are assignment sound.
“Everybody gets reps, right? All the corners we’ve got working — I think we’ve got six corners working,” Smart said. “We don’t have any of these corners that have experience, so I look at it as all of them are getting reps, and all of them are getting better. The good thing is we get to challenge them in passing situations.
“You can have a corner play a whole game and him not be involved in a play if everything goes away or they stop the run—one play may affect you out of 60,” Smart said.
“We try to make more plays than that, attack those guys so that we get to play one-on-one in the perimeter, which is the hardest thing to do probably in all of college football is cover one-on-one on the perimeter and that’s what the corners have to do. We’re getting all of those guys lots of reps.”