ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart isn’t showing any signs the Bulldogs’ offense is on the verge of big changes, at quarterback or anywhere else entering into Kentucky game week.
“You guys can keep asking the questions, but we are always evaluating guys at quarterback, and they are always trying to get better, grow their game,” Smart said on his Monday Zoom call.
“Stetson (Bennett) is still repping with the ones, taking reps …. you don’t base your season on one game, you base your season on what gives you the best chance to get better, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (3-1) play at Kentucky (2-3) at noon on Saturday at Kroger Field in Lexington looking to extend their 10-game win streak in the series.
The Bulldogs were shutout the second half of their 41-24 loss at Alabama, and Bennett completed less than half of his passes with three interceptions and five passes deflected at the line of scrimmage.
Georgia is a 13-point favorite over UK and appears to have the talent to win a battle of power football.
Missouri ran the ball down the Wildcats’ throats last Saturday, holding a 220-95 rushing edge in its 20-10 win. Kentucky OC Eddie Gran’s offense was held to 50 yards passing and 145 total yards.
Smart said last week the Bulldogs needed to do a better job of playing around Bennett and helping him as he works his way into form.
Smart reiterated that message on Monday.
“You really need the ability to run the ball when you have a quarterback that is still developing and is still young and doesn’t have the experience of a guy that maybe has,” Smart said. “You have to be able to run the ball and help him in regards to doing that.”
Smart indicated USC transfer quarterback JT Daniels and opening game starter D’Wan Mathis would get work last week, but he wouldn’t elaborate on if he gave them any work with the starters or has any plans to let them see game action.
Georgia plays in Florida against the Gators in Jacksonville on Nov. 7, one week after next Saturday’s game at Kentucky.
“We got other guys reps and that’s what you try to do in an off week,” Smart said, asked about the open week work at quarterback. “You try to grow your team and get them better. But at the same time, we are trying to create continuity and get better as a team and a unit.
“I’m excited about all of those guys, I thought they had great off-week work,” he said. “Those guys continue to get better. We gave those guys a lot of reps during the off week.”
Smart said last week he thought Daniels’ mobility was getting better, but he didn’t offer any more remarks about the progress of the former 5-star recruit.
Daniels had three 300-yard passing games as a freshman for the Trojans and had more than 200 yards passing in the first half of USC’s 2019 opener before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Daniels was not cleared to play in a game until after Georgia’s season-opening win at Arkansas, by which time Bennett had apparently solidified himself in the role as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback.
Georgia’s offense is filled with younger and more inexperienced players at several positions, including the backfield where UGA lost three-year starting QB Jake Fromm and dynamic tailback D’Andre Swift.
Three of the Bulldogs’ starting offensive linemen from last season are also playing in the NFL, including two first-round offensive tackles.
The loss of personnel, as much as anything, is likely why the 2020 Georgia offense does not rank higher among SEC teams than the 2019 Georgia offense did last season.
Smart was asked Monday what he felt this season’s offense has done best.
“I think the best thing we do offensively is third down execution, and being able to execute on third down and convert,” Smart said.
“That has been a point of emphasis for us in practices, to convert third downs, put together a good third down plan, play-action passes—a lot of those shots and overs and different things off of the run-game we have been able to hit.
“If you are going to do those you have to be committed to the run.”
INJURY UPDATE: Smart said sophomore running back and kick returner Kenny McIntosh was unable to practice last week on account of the knee injury he suffered against Alabama. Smart said he would withhold further comment until seeing if McIntosh was able to practice on Monday.
2020 vs. 2019 offense
4th Bulldogs (2019), 30.8
5th Georgia (2020), 33.0
5th Bulldogs (2019), 408.1
6th Georgia (2020), 418.5
5th Bulldogs (2019), 223.0
7th Georgia (2020), 253.3
4th Bulldogs (2019), 142.4
9th Georgia (2020), 126.19
5th Bulldogs (2019), 185.1
5th Georgia (2020), 165.3
3rd Down efficiency
4th Bulldogs (2019), 41.2 percent
8th Georgia (2020), 45.5
Red Zone offense
2nd Bulldogs (2019), .946
11th Georgia (2020), .765