ATHENS — Kirby Smart concluded the offense was ahead of the defense in Scrimmage One Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
The seventh-year head coach said he was not happy with the “energy, enthusiasm and leadership” of the defense during his post-scrimmage press conference.
To be fair, Smart qualified that it was the ninth practice in the past 10 days with the players having just one day off in between.
But still, Georgia coaches and players know what a championship standard looks and feels like, and Saturday was not representative of that.
The Bulldogs have two more Saturday scrimmage opportunities before opening the season against Oregon on Sept. 3 on Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The scrimmage next Saturday figures to be the bigger of the two, and Smart will likely start to taper down the week before Dan Lanning and his Ducks land in Atlanta.
Despite Smart’s overall take away, there were still plenty of good things to highlight from Scrimmage One.
Smart allowed for players’ families and donors to watch the scrimmage, so there was plenty of feedback beyond the players Smart mentioned:
The freshman safety was reportedly “all over the field,” showing off the athleticism that made him a 5-star recruit.
There’s surely plenty of assignment football to be learned for Starks — as there would be any freshman in UGA’s NFL-like scheme.
But even Smart acknowledged “Malaki is doing a good job …. Malaki having the spring has helped him.”
Smart said all the freshman DBs are faring well and have high upsides, but that doesn’t mean any will be ready to start in the opening game.
Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Trezmen Marshall
Smart said “Pops” has “been the most consistent” of the inside linebackers, not surprising considering the impact the sophomore made when afforded playing time last season.
Smart praised Trezmen Marshall first when asked about the inside linebackers, saying “He made a couple of good plays, he’s got to continue to stay healthy.”
Smart said Marshall is dealing with a soft tissue calf strain — a manageable but painful condition.
Branson Robinson and Andrew Paul
The freshmen running backs did better than many expected, showing power and tackle-breaking ability that might have caught the head coach off guard a bit.
“They’re a little heavier, thicker, run behind their pads and they probably don’t show up best until days like today, because they’re a little harder to tackle,” Smart said. “You don’t see that in practice every day. I thought both those guys had good scrimmages — not great, they’re not where they need to be, not where they need to be in pass-pro.
“But they are hard to tackle and they’re thick. I’m very pleased with where they are.”
Observers described both as one-cut runners, capable of getting vertical and bringing power at the point of contact.
It was Tykee Smith’s turn to get lit up by Smart on the microphone, and this time some 2,000 observers were on hand to hear it as well as media.
“Tykee you’re the only guy walking!” Smart bellowed. “Wake up, or get gone, I can’t stand it. Wake up!”
Smart was working hard to set the tone before the scrimmage even started, perhaps sensing his defense lacked the sort of juice it would need to get through the long scrimmage.
Smith left West Virginia last year after getting sideways with that coaching staff over a late return from a trip home that was affected by travel complications.
Georgia was in need of a defensive back with his great abilities, and Smith looked to be an impact player before suffering a foot injury, and later, a torn ACL.
Smith is still wearing a knee brace and working to get his confidence back, Smart said, but the fact that he’s working with the ones is the first clue the former All-American will be key this season.
The second clue is that Smart is watching him closely in drill work, something he does with the top players in an effort to bring out all of their greatness, as former UGA All-American Richard LeCounte and Orange Bowl MVP Derion Kendrick could attest.
Smith reportedly had a big hit on a back, perhaps releasing some of his aggression.
• Punter Brett Thorson is not impressing yet, and the head coach says the job is still up for grabs.
• Freshman tight end Oscar Delp continues to look the part, impressive catching and advancing the football
• Darnell Washington remains a force, one of the hardest players to tackle on the team
• Gunner Stockton received heavy praise from Smart, who talked more about him than those ahead of the freshman on the depth chart. No shake-up is imminent, but Stockton made the most of his scrimmage.
• Smart said linebacker Xavian Sorey “flashes but he has to do it more consistently,” and, “Smael (Mondon) has to play better, too.”
• Dillon Bell and Jackson Meeks were two young receivers who made plays, Smart commenting “We just don’t have the depth at receiver.”
• Cornererbacks Nyland Green and Kamari Lassiter continue to draw praise, Smart pleased with their tackling in the scrimmage.
• Smart heaped praise on Kenny McIntosh, who broke a TD run in the scrimmage. “Kenny has had a great camp. He’s picked up pressures, played really physical, caught the ball out of the backfield. Everything that he wants to do at the next level in our offense, we have asked him to do, and he’s done a great job at that.”