ATHENS, Ga. — Kirby Smart opened his spring practice news conference with a joke. Well, it wasn’t really a joke so much as it was “a bit.”
He informed the assembled media he had good news and bad news to share and asked the group which they wanted first. Being the critical fourth estate, “bad news” was of course the consensus reply.
“The bad news is it might be a little hot out there today,” Smart said, thumping his fist against the lectern for emphasis. “The good news is, you guys don’t have to ride buses to practice. You get to stay at home and play at your home field and we do, too.”
OK, so it was not all that funny. But the opening did solicit some courtesy chuckles and seemed to establish a kinder, gentler rapport for the half-hour question-and-answer session with reporters that followed.
There weren’t a lot of revelations provided during that exchange. Well, at least not beyond the fact that quarterback Brice Ramsey will be participating in spring practice after all. The fifth-year senior, who has already announced that he’ll be leaving and seeking a graduate transfer elsewhere, is going to remain with the team as a student assistant for the allotted 15 spring practices. His primary responsibility will be providing an other arm for throwing footballs during drills and non-contact scrimmage situations. Partly because of his decision to leave, Georgia is left with just two scholarship quarterbacks to get through practice and, indeed, all of the coming season.
But otherwise, Smart seemed more relaxed, congenial and fairly transparent with regard to his answers about player personnel and spring objectives. The only subject about which he seemed intentionally vague was when questioned about his specific reasons for firing associate head coach and defensive line Tracy Rocker.
“That’s usually a personnel issue, which I’ve chosen to keep in-house,” Smart said succinctly.
But as far as how the team will look this spring, what the rotations and processes are going to be and other such details, Smart was relatively forthcoming.
He confirmed that wide receiver Riley Ridley will indeed be disciplined for the misdemeanor marijuana charge he received on the last day of spring break. We’re left to assume it will be a one-game suspension such as always been the athletic department’s policy for such transgressions.
But Smart was fairly demonstrative when it came to expressing his disappointment in Ridley, a rising sophomore who is expected to be one of Georgia’s leading targets in the passing game next fall.
“He’ll receive discipline, internal discipline,” Smart said. “I’ll say this: I’m disappointed in his decision and do not condone that behavior. And I think Riley is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake.”
Of course, quarterback competition and offensive line play dominated the discussion, and Smart was fairly detailed, though predictably rhetorical, in his responses.
- He insists that competition between quarterback Jake Fromm and incumbent starter Jacob Eason is real and he expects it to be intense.
- He detailed the way the offensive line will look on Day 1 — with former guard Lamont Gaillard at center, former guard Isaiah Wynn at left tackle, and rising senior Aulden Bynum at right tackle — but emphasized that it will be “musical chairs” there throughout the spring and is likely to look different every day.
- He declared that Rodrigo Blankenship will open the spring as Georgia’s No. 1 kicker, despite all the current and future transfers Smart brought in to compete with the walk-on, who is a rising sophomore.
- He cracked the door ever so slightly to the idea of sophomore defensive back Mecole Hardman possibly playing some on offense.
In all, Smart rambled fairly openly for about 20 minutes or so on whatever subjects were tossed his way.
However, it appears his control of information will remain tightly reined. Sophomore Jacob Eason, moving into his second year as Georgia’s starting quarterback and reportedly having made significant strides in the area of “leadership,” again was not available for interviews. Neither was new defensive line coach Tray Scott or even either coordinator, offensive or defensive.
But we’ve come to know that now about Smart. He’s never going to be a fountain of information nor much of an advocate for access.
At least he laughed and smiled a little Tuesday and didn’t handle this presser like a pro tennis player returning volleys at the net. Perhaps next time he’ll come with some new jokes.