ATHENS — Zamir White was finally cleared to run free again in a fully-fledged, no-holds-barred scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.
White trucked through inside linebacker Channing Tindall in an earlier hit drill, and according to many in attendance, ran a wheel route out of the backfield and hauled in about a 50-yard pass.
But the sign that White it truly back came later, upon hearing his coach temper his performance in the Saturday scrimmage.
“He did have a good overall day,” Smart said, having already chronicled that White is running behind his pads and with authority once again.
“He’s got to protect the ball. He’s got to protect the quarterback. Everybody judges him based on what he does with the ball in his hands. There’s a lot more to being a good running back then that.”
That leads into observation No. 1 …
Zamir White no longer requires pity
After the third Zamir White question on Saturday, Smart put the comeback of the No 1-ranked running back in the 2018 class into perspective.
“When you see a guy going through what he has been through, who isn’t pulling for Zamir White?” Smart said.
“Every guy on our staff and every player on our team has seen his ups and downs and the rehab he has done. He’s been on the sideline for a whole year just working out and running. When he gets out there to gain some confidence and have success, I think everyone’s pulling for him.
“I think for defensive players, it’s hard to pull for him because you have to tackle him. It’s not easy to tackle him, because he is a full grown man.”
The latest No. 1
Outside linebacker Nolan Smith, the No 1-ranked player in the 2019 class, has certainly not fallen into the ‘’forgotten” category, it’s just that there are so many great players at his position.
And, as Smart explained, UGA most often only has one outside linebacker on the field as offense dictate a 3-3-5 alignment more so than the base 3-4.
That said, Smith is making enough of an impact for the head coach to take note.
“I don’t know everything, how every guy played,” Smart said “I know Nolan made a couple of plays on the perimeter.”
It’s not a bad thing when the coach starts out an assessment of the position group praising you.
A star is born
Next aboard the hype train, freshman receiver George Pickens.
“The Catch” has reverberated through DawgNation, every self-respecting Georgia football fan has seen or surely knows about the one-handed snare Pickens made in the Saturday scrimmage.
As much as Smart tried to play it down — “there were a lot of things out there” — you know he was secretly as enthralled as everyone else on the offensive staff.
Time will tell how Pickens handles the success and his instant on-campus celebrity, but just as important is how effective quarterback Jake Fromm is in lassoing him into more film study and extra reps after or between practices.
Final thought: Considering the path of the past two players to wear No. 1, Justin Fields and Brenton Cox, perhaps Pickens should stay in that No. 83 jersey this season.
Coaches with offensive backgrounds have a tendency to limit what defenses do in scrimmages so the offense can have some success and attain timing and confidence.
But coaches with defensive backgrounds, like Smart, tend to want to give the offense a more realistic look and bring pressures and change up coverages.
Smart hinted that he stacked the deck on his offense a bit by not having as many runs called and rotating his cornerbacks. Exactly what constituted first team and second team defense is anyone’s guess.
The bet here is the Georgia pass game was put into some difficult situations — and with hundreds of donors, support personnel and their children looking on and shooting video — not running the full playbook.
No margin for error
Smart’s irritation with the lack of intensity and first team execution isn’t for show, nor a matter of coach speak.
It’s a head coach who knows what a championship unit is supposed to look like, and a man who understands the expectations that come with his job and the sense of urgency to win a national championship.
Smart is trying to build a championship foundation, and that not only means playing the best on Saturdays.
It also means getting a new football building built to keep up with the Joneses 72 miles away (Clemson), and getting on a level playing field with other SEC schools by attaining the same number of league home games and recruiting weekends.
For Smart to get those things done he’ll need Georgia boosters to step up with donations and exercise their influence.
The best way to loosen pockets and get people on board is with wins and championships.