ATHENS — Kirby Smart said Branson Robinson’s season-ending injury won’t affect the Georgia offensive plan of attack, but there is a ripple affect in the program.
“His injury isn’t going to affect our run-to-pass ratio — we have capable backs,” Smart said at his press conference on Wednesday.
“I don’t see that changing who we are offensively, it just probably make another injury more significant, what special teams roles do you want the backs playing, because you’ve got to be aware at what point there’s a drop off.”
Smart had to know at the time that Daijun Edwards was dealing with what has been reported as a sprained knee, indicating Edwards’ injury is not of the long-term variety.
At least, not long enough to think it could keep him out for the first potential (though not likely) close game of the season against South Carolina in Week Three.
Smart’s next press conference is next Monday when the Bulldogs shift into their “Game Week” routine looking toward their 6 p.m. opener with UT-Martin.
Georgia enters the season as the No. 1-ranked team on the heels of back-to-back CFP titles and figures to be heavily favored over the FCS school from Tennessee.
A 3-peat prediction from SEC Network star
Smart indicated there won’t be any attempts to convince his players they are doubted, rebuffing a notion floated during his Q &A session that he suggested to them they were expected to go 7-5 last season.
“If I ever thought we were going 7-5, they need to check me into a psychiatric ward,” Smart said, rejecting an accusation that he had said that. “I never thought that, I never said that, I never expressed that. That’s never been a thing.”
Here are three other takeaways from Smart’s final press conference from the fall camp portion of the preseason:
1. How Smart motivates 2023 Dawgs
The eighth-year Georgia head coach said it doesn’t work “when you’re Georgia” to play the no-respect card.
“What works is, ‘what are we doing this week against this opponent to be better than them,” Smart said, “So then what are we doing to ourselves to make sure that we’re trying to beat everybody in the country and not somebody.
“I’m a lot more passionate and adamant about what we’re doing over what we’re selling, what the outside world might say, or what this narrative of the world against us in saying.”
2. Kirby reveals special teams mix
Smart isn’t ready to name a starting placekicker, but he noted “they both have been extremely accurate, outside of the one scrimmage.”
The Bulldogs will look to be more explosive in the return game, likely without over-using elite receiver Ladd McConkey, who Smart has said is hard to keep off the field.
UGA was ranked 15th in average per punt return last season (12.62 yards), with McConkey getting the bulk (16 of 22) of the work, but it was only 68th in kick return (19.86) with Kearis Jackson returning 18 of 22 kicks.
“Punt return will be done by committee,” Smart said, mentioning McConkey’s experience along with how “Mekhi Mews did a good job in the spring,” and “Dominic [Lovett] has done it, both at Missouri and with us since arriving.”
Anthony Evans and Zeed Haynes were the other names mentioned on the punt return.
“For kick returns, Mews, Dylan Bell, Daijun Edwards, (and) we could get Joenel [Aguero] back there, Malaki [Starks] has been back there,” Smart said. “Kickoff returns, there’s probably six guys working for two spots, punt returns there’s probably four, five guys working for two spots. I wouldn’t say that we’ve settled on anybody at either location yet.”
The bet here is on Mews, a walk-on who has proven himself a playmaker in spring drills and fall scrimmages.
3. How Georgia has handled Carson Beck
Smart has been dealing with potential QB transfers throughout his time at Georgia, most notably, the Justin Fields saga.
Now, like then, the UGA head coach shoots his players straight and offers them opportunities to be developed.
“We don’t try to manage the players, we coach them,” Smart said, asked by DawgNation about how he has kept Beck in the program. “We tell them that, by choosing to come to Georgia, we’re going to coach you. We’re going to coach you, develop you, give you reps … we’re going to guarantee you more reps here than you can get anywhere else. And I mean meaningful reps, in terms of competitive, third down situations, challenging you, growing you.
“(It’s) what they want to emulate in the NFL, they’re going to get to learn that here, and Carson’s seen that. He’s seen that every year. He’s been as close as he is to starting, and as far away as number two or three at times. At this point, he’s the guy that gives us the best chance.”