ATHENS — Kirby Smart is going to need to see more from his pass game in scrimmage action before he opens things up too much on fall Saturday afternoons.
That was the takeaway on Saturday, after Smart spoke for more than 16 minutes and shared more than 2,800 words without mentioning Jake Fromm’s name.
Fromm apparently completed more TV interviews in the last week than TD passes in the 115-play scrimmage the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs held at Sanford Stadium.
“We’ve got to make sure everybody is responding the right way and creating an identity,” Smart said at the conclusion of his opening statement on Saturday, frustrated with the play of projected starters.
“I didn’t think we created an identity today.”
At least, not the new one Fromm and his offensive teammates had been advertising.
The “completely different offense” senior Tyler Simmons excitedly talked about earlier in the week will need completely different results in Scrimmage Two if Georgia is to tweak its offensive personality.
To be fair, the Bulldogs are trying to replace their top five pass catchers from a season ago.
There’s a reason the returning receivers on the field now were playing behind the players who left after 2018.
Smart will maintain the core philosophy of his offense remains the same: balance, being able to run at will and throw the ball effectively.
But the offseason “Do More” mantra certainly applies to a passing attack that ranked only 72nd in the nation last season.
Georgia quarterback legend Eric Zeier pointed out in the offseason the run game is still king at UGA.
“The philosophy of what we’re trying to do right now is so sound, it plays to the strength of the team — we want to run behind that big, massive offensive line,” Zeier confided in an exclusive interview.
“A lot is based in forcing defenses to load the box, then throwing the ball when there are one-on-one situations.”
The problem comes when Georgia falls behind and opponents don’t have to load the box.
It’s going to be up to Fromm to deliver a pass game capable of bouncing back under pressure.
Once the Bulldogs trailed LSU, Alabama and Texas last season, there was no coming back — even with Fromm having four 2019 NFL draftees at receiver and tight end.
Saturday’s result likely sent Fromm to the film room for hours looking for solutions. The first-team offense struggled against the second-team defense on Saturday, according to Smart.
When the head coach was asked to assess Georgia’s much-hyped offensive line, his answer implicated the pass game.
“That’s hard to measure (O-Line play) because we didn’t run the ball every single snap like a lot of the games,” Smart said. “We go out there and we’re a really physical team and get after it.
“I can tell you that the standard to me is not that you’re going to go out there against the two defense and not score on 50 percent or 60 percent of your possessions”
More specifically, Smart said, “That’s on the entire unit as a whole to execute and come out, wide receivers catching balls, quarterbacks doing things, the running backs breaking tackles, and the o-line dominating the line of scrimmage. We didn’t do that today, not with the one offensive line.”
And not with a third-year starting quarterback who’s expected to pull the offense together and make everyone around him better.
Interestingly enough, Smart did talk about the back-up quarterback leading a 13-play scoring drive against the first-team defense.
Stetson Bennett was indeed praised, D’Wan Mathis was talked about, as was a walk-on quarterback Smart referred to as “the (Nathan) Priestley kid.”
But the Fromm kid was not mentioned.
Smart made it clear he has complete confidence in Fromm this season at SEC Media Days, praising his quarterback’s leadership, ability and talent.
Smart told ESPN last week that “ever since (Fromm) has set foot here there has never been a doubt in his ability, and he understands the game of football and its protections better than anybody I’ve been around.”
There’s no doubt Smart will be counting on Fromm to fix whatever ailed the first-team offense pass game in the first scrimmage.
The hunch here is that part of the fix is above Fromm’s authority and involves a review of what constitutes first-team personnel in the receiver group.
It’s fair to suggest Fromm needs more than one live scrimmage with the made-over WR corps to get the restructured pass game in sync.
Football is a fluid game, and the second week of August too early to set any conclusions in stone.
But it was interesting to hear what Smart had to say after Scrimmage One.
And, it turned out, even more interesting to take note of the name that he didn’t say.