ATHENS — Kirby Smart is ready for the 2023 version of Georgia Bulldogs to get dialed in on Saturday beyond the scoreboard.
Smart met with credentialed media following practice on Tuesday to answer questions and share insight on his No. 1-ranked program as it prepares for a 6 p.m. game on Saturday against FCS school UT-Martin.
Georgia football is as process driven as any, so it’s not surprising Smart will be judging his team’s execution in every phase.
“The first game is no different than the last game in terms of things that will get you beat, but I do think first-game jitters exist,” Smart said, asked what sorts of things he looks for in opening games.
“You want the players to get comfortable, go out and cut loose and play and get the anxiety out of the way,” he said. “I want to play our brand of football and play really disciplined, not have a lot of penalties and a lot of sloppy mistakes.”
Smart provided more preseason insights on the Bulldogs entering the 2023 campaign:
Smart is not a proponent of “dumbing down” his schemes to compensate for younger or more inexperienced players, and he explained why.
“We don’t have to simplify things because we have players with experience who are good teachers,” Smart said. “We had two freshman last year who were talented enough and smart enough to walk out there and start and a third by the end of the year with Jalon Walker.
“Between Mykel [Williams], Jalon [Walker] and Malaki [Starks], we’ve proven that we can play with freshmen and have volume. So, we don’t look at it as we have to give up one to get the other.”
Receiving mixed message
There was a lot of talk about incoming freshmen receivers making an impact, but to this point that appears all it has proven to be.
“I feel like we’re thin at wideout; everybody keeps talking about this wide receiver core and I’m like, ‘We are thin,’ Smart said.
“We have a bar, and we say this is winning football above it and this is losing football below it, and if you can play winning football then we’re going to give you opportunities and chances to play based on what you have shown us.
“We got some guys that can play winning football; we probably got six or seven. We probably got three of four that are right on the line that aren’t playing winning football yet but we’re going to try to get ready, so that’s the hope.”
Smart noted how the Georgia offense has changed as a result of the personnel and quality depth under his watch the past seven seasons.
“You start with Nick Chubb and Sony [Michel], and you go to George Pickens, Brock Bowers and Darnell [Washington] are the guys we’ve had out there, Kearis [Jackson],” Smart said. “It’s just kind of evolved over who we have been able to recruit, and I think that evolution is constant.
“Probably the biggest change is the spreading of the ball. There are so many guys. We’d come out of a game last year and seven people got receptions, eight people got receptions.”