ATHENS — There was a back-to-basics feel — and sound — to Georgia’s practice on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs returned to Woodruff Practice Fields for the first time since Saturday’s 36-16 upset loss to LSU in Baton Rouge. Since then, Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) has dropped from No. 2 to No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
All that seemed to do was increase the intensity in coach Kirby Smart’s voice. Well, there was that and the microphone he was using to be heard by the entire team the entire time — and anybody within a quarter mile of the Bulldogs’ football complex.
“I don’t want to hear anything from anybody about playing fast,” Smart’s voiced boomed into the heavens. “I need a damn leader!”
Yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but Smart was committed to it.
He wasn’t the only one yelling. So was quarterback coach James Coley, so was wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton, so was tight ends coach Jim Chaney.
“Ram it in his face or let somebody else hold the bag,” Chaney screamed at tight end John FitzPatrick during a blocking drill.
Indeed, the Bulldogs had much to work on the wake of their humiliating defeat out on the bayou. Chiefly, run defense and passing game. But Georgia has some time to tighten up the loose screws before resuming play against the No. 11 Gators (6-1, 4-1) in 11 days (TV: CBS; radio: WSB 750-AM & 95.5 FM).
Here’s what we saw during Tuesday’s brief observation period:
- Outside linebacker D’Andre Walker, the Bulldogs’ sack leader and one of their best defensive players, was back at practice and appeared to be participating without limitations. Walker had to be helped off the field late in the game against LSU and did not return with appeared to be some sort of leg injury.
- Running back D’Andre Swift was not present during the early portion of practice because he was getting treatment for a mild ankle contusion. It will not limit his play going forward.
- The Bulldogs were practicing in shorts, shoulders pads and helmets but otherwise were full contact.
- The pecking order appeared the same in all of Georgia’s offensive rotations, including quarterback. Freshman Jamaree Salyer appeared to be working No. 2 at left guard.
- No sign of starting right guard Ben Cleveland, who has been out since breaking his right leg against Missouri. Freshman Cade Mays was still getting the No. 1 reps there.
- Smart was coaching up the safeties and stars in defensive backfield drills. Hearing him work with a group that included sophomores Deangelo Gibbs and William Poole underscored that those players aren’t quite ready for prime time. As he worked them a rapid-fire pace through several different looks, he had to correct them often about which position they were supposed to cover.
- Also back at work Saturday was legendary UGA historian and spokesperson Loran Smith. Smith, 80, had to have a hip replaced and suffered a fracture elbow after being run over by Georgia players during practice on Oct. 9. Smith pronounced himself “good to go” for the Florida game.