5 takeaways from Georgia football Scrimmage Two: Pass game pivotal
ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart was in a noticeably better mood this Saturday, his Bulldogs responding to his challenge to bring more energy and execution to Scrimmage Two of fall camp.
“I think we ended up with 135 snaps, which is basically two football games wrapped into one,” Smart said. “We got a lot of special teams snaps mixed in, too. The guys really pushed hard. They were hurting at the end.”
But they were also smiling with their head coach pleased entering into a day off on Sunday and a light walk-through scheduled for Monday.
Smart has pushed his team hard in fall drills knowing there’s no margin for error in a 2019 season that’s aimed at winning the first national championship at Georgia since 1980.
The Bulldogs are operating with two new coordinators, and while both hires came from within, the transitions have had hurdles because of changing personnel.
The pass game, in particular, has been challenged to replace the top four receivers and pass-catching tight end from a season ago.
Most of the pressure falls on the shoulders of third-year starting QB Jake Fromm, and on Saturday, Smart indicate Fromm and his receiving corps came through.
It’s clear the pass game will be pivotal to Georgia’s championship hopes, and while it improved on Saturday, it’s far from a finished product.
Here are five takeaways from Scrimmage Two:
Smart said “a lot of the receivers” connected on explosive plays — plays of 13 yards or more by the head coach’s definition — and many did it by making plays on the ball while being covered.
Lawrence Cager, George Pickens, Tyler Simmons, Trey Blount and Kearis Jackson all got call outs from the head coach for their explosive plays in Scrimmage Two.
“There’s been progress, yeah,” Smart said. “I’m very pleased with that group’s effort, toughness and resilience … “
Georgia doesn’t have one standout defensive lineman at this point, Smart said, but there’s plenty of depth and experience.
“We may roll out there with six seniors who have played football: Michail Carter, J.Y. (Justin Young), Tyler Clark, Julian Rochester, David Marshall,” Smart said. “It just seems like we’ve got guys that have played a lot of football that are out there.”
Smart added Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis to the list of defensive linemen he’ll be counting on, and he said Travon (Walker) is the freshman who has a chance to help the D-Line most this season.
O-Line push back
Smart called out Georgia’s celebrated offensive line in Scrimmage One for not doing enough to spark the offensive efficiency, and apparently the so-called “Great Wall” responded.
“I probably saw a little more toughness on the front of the offensive line,” Smart said. “They were knocking us off the ball. There were some licks passed out there, there were some pops made …. “
Rat traps vs. red zone
Smart gave his defense mixed reviews, pleased with the red zone defense, but disappointed with some missed assignments.
It’s not just safety Richard LeCounte who must focus on not forgoing assignments in search of big plays, something Smart refers to as “Rat Trap” football.
“We’ve just got to get our guys on defense to play within the system,” Smart said, shades of the final play of the 2017 season likely still haunting him. “We’re got some guys on defense who still want to play rat trap and do what they want to do instead of what they’re supposed to do, and when they do that rat-trap stuff it hurts us.”
The red zone defense, however, was up to par.
“We had some big red area (inside the 20-yard line) stops,” Smart said. “I thought, ‘man, they’re just driving down the field and then, boom! We hit the red area.
“Defensively, if you hold people to field goals, that’s big.”
The Bulldogs’ talented freshman receiver will be key for Georgia, but he’s not where he needs to be and it’s clear the head coach has his concerns.
Smart acknowledged he was just as impressed by Pickens’ one-handed catch in Scrimmage One as anybody, but he knows there are challenges ahead for the former 5-star recruit.
“He’s a special player, great catch,” Smart said. “He’s a talented player, but he’s got to learn his assignments and learn what to do, because he could certainly help us.”
Georgia’s leadership will be tested, from the staff on down to Fromm and players who share reps with Pickens and the other incoming receivers.
The Bulldogs will be a better team if Pickens and the incoming receivers can learn their assignments and get into sync with Fromm.