ATHENS — Kirby Smart is the first coach to tell anyone football is played in pads. But on Tuesday, the Georgia football head coach was in a giving mood.
Giving, as in wanting to help the media tell the Bulldogs’ fans what has been going on with the football team during this unprecedented COVID-19-related sports stoppage.
So, who looked good during the offseason workouts before UGA went on spring break and the NCAA ordered a suspension of activities back on March 12?
“A lot of football is built off pads, we didn’t get to do that,” Smart said. “We did get to do offseason running, and movement and agility. There’s a ton of that sophomore and junior group that’s waiting to jump up and make that impact.”
Smart said he does “hate to single one guy out, but there are guys that are working really hard.”
So …. ?
“I thought that George (Pickens) was competing really hard and doing good things in the workouts,” Smart said. “He really liked the competitive side of things.”
Pickens is coming off a Sugar Bowl MVP performance. Pickens will be a key to the scheme new offensive coordinator Todd Monken is building.
“Clay Webb was a guy who was really competing hard,” Smart said, an indication of the battle shaping up on the interior offensive line. “He did some good things.”
Smart also mentioned returning senior offensive guard Justin Shaffer, a 6-foot-4, 330-pounder. Shaffer started after Solomon Kindley went down with an ankle injury against Notre Dame. He seemed entrenched before suffering a season-ending neck injury and missing the final eight games of the season.
“Shaffer’s coming back off of injury,” Smart said. “Not that he was an outstanding performer, but considering that he wasn’t able to do anything for six to eight weeks, and now he’s coming out there competing and pushing through adversity. I was really proud of the way he worked. And he tried to lead.”
Fans already know there’s going to be a lot of competition at running back, and Smart added fuel to the fire.
“James Cook, I mean, we had competition daily to see who was going to win individual battles, and James probably had the largest winning percentages,” Smart said. “He and Zamir (are) really challenging each other and competing really hard.
“Those guys can continue to grow.”
It remains to be seen how players will stay in shape during the break.
But the head coach has certainly taken note of a few, and now the Georgia DawgNation fans will, too.
One takeaway: All of the players Smart mentioned were on offense.
It’s pretty clear the head coach is going to make sure the Georgia defense, which returns 9 of 11 starters from its Sugar Bowl team, does not get complacent.
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