ATHENS — Georgia senior defensive tackle Michael Barnett comes off about as straight-laced and program-oriented as any of the Bulldogs players.
It turns out even Barnett, the consummate company guy, needs a break now and then. His teammates probably do, too, when one considers the sort of intensity and circumstances surrounding championship level football programs at challenging academic institutions.
This is a No. 3-ranked Georgia team that has been grinding, throughout a demanding fall camp and September filled with 100-degree heat index temperature, and a “Do More” mantra that is taken quite literally.
The Bulldogs return to action at Tennessee at 7 p.m. on Oct. 5.
“We just had a busy week and last weekend with Notre Dame,” Barnett said following another steamy practice amid temperatures in the 90s on Wednesday. “I’m just trying to relax, be on the calm side. I’m from the country so I need the woods and a little bit of fresh air.”
Smart said on his radio show Thursday night that the bye week was good for his players.
“I think it’s a breath of fresh air for the players,” Smart said, “because they get to not look at an opponent, but look at what we’ve done and see what we can do better.”
Barnett made it clear he’s eager to get back to work, but after a visit back home to see family and friends this weekend.
The Bulldogs look to continue their championship run after taking three days off, with games against the Vols, South Carolina and Kentucky awaiting them in October.
Smart has told his team to expect everyone’s best shot.
Barnett says the D-Line needs to be ready to do its part.
“I feel like we (defensive line) need to improve on our technique, stay low, read our blocks better, really just tune up our craft,” Barnett said. “We did a pretty good job so far, but we can get better rushing the passer.
“We need to practice it more and make it more of a necessity, like we have to do it more. We’ve been lazy converting to pass rush, speaking of myself, we just need to convert better.”
The Georgia defensive line has looked more efficient and gap sound than a season ago. The UGA front has gotten a decent push most occasions and freed up linebackers to make more plays.
“We put our identity out there,” Barnett said, “that we want to be relentless and attack the ball, and wreak havoc and create havoc.”
Barnett, like most in the Bulldogs’ fan base, knows there are bigger challenges ahead and senses the urgency to improve.
“For teams that run the ball heavier, like an Auburn, we need to do a good job and be prepared for that,” Barnett said. “We probably weren’t tested as much (the first four games), but I feel like we’ve done a good job so far.
“I’m trying to tune-up every aspect of my game. Whether it’s stopping the run, playing two-gap, playing one-gap, playing the shade, reading blocks and converting pass rush. I feel like every aspect of our game needs to improve.”