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Malaki Starks had an interception in his first career game for Georgia. (Jeff Sentell/ DawgNation)

Georgia football practice observations: Kirby Smart continues pushing Malaki Starks after strong debut

ATHENS — Malaki Starks wasted little time in making an impact for Georgia on Saturday, as he snarred an interception in his first career game. The freshman safety also led the team in tackles and defensive snaps played.

But if you thought the coaches were going to ease up on the talented freshman, you would be mistaken. During Georgia’s full-pad practice on Tuesday, Kirby Smart seemed to take a special interest in Starks and how he was practicing. The coach wasn’t shy about wanting Starks to play faster or move quicker between drills.

Starks is clearly going to be a big piece of the Georgia defense. While this weekend’s game against Samford might not have the same stakes as last week’s game, Smart knows it will be another critical opportunity for Starks to grow as a young player.

“The largest growth for those guys is game one, two, three in terms of reaction to their mistakes,” Smart said of the freshmen. “And, you know, what makes a guy -- I’ve always wondered, you know, who’s going to sell the potion that allows a player not to make the most glaring mistake, things that you repped a lot. And you have those in the first game. I’ve come to accept them. It’s more what’s your response is to them. We’ll get to find out what those young freshmen’s responses are this week.”

Related: Malaki Starks makes immediate impact for new-look Georgia football defense: ‘One of the greatest interceptions I ever seen’

In all, the media was granted 13 minutes of viewing time during Tuesday’s practice. Starks was far from the only player in the spotlight, as Smart and the other Georgia coaches were demanding more from the Georgia players.

Below are some of our observations from the practice. The Bulldogs will host Samford at 4 p.m. ET this Saturday on SEC Network.

  • From a health standpoint, Georgia is in great shape coming out of the first game. Christopher Smith was at practice with no limitation after exiting Saturday’s game with what he called a stinger. Freshman offensive tackle Earnest Greene was also a full participant on Tuesday. He spent much of August dealing with a hamstring injury that limited his availability.
  • Georgia was working on a passing drill using half the field in the early portion of practice that involved covering screens and wheel routes. On one play, Smart wanted better physicality out of Kelee Ringo. Jamon Dumas-Johnson showed great closing speed while making a tackle on a screen pass intended for CJ Smith. Brock Bowers meanwhile found a way to create separation and came down with a nice grab. He finished the game against Oregon with two catches for 38 yards.
  • It wasn’t a crisp couple of periods for Carson Beck. He had an errant pass intended for Arik Gilbert in the aforementioned passing drill. Then Beck overthrew Jackson Meeks on a deep pass while the team was running routes on air. The misfire to Meeks came after Stetson Bennett threw a perfect pass to AD Mitchell that him in stride.
  • “Carson was very calm, cool, and collective. His disposition is such that the moment’s not too big for him. Like he’s done multiple times before, I thought he did a good job. He made some good decisions and had a couple poor decisions. And I think he’ll be the first to tell you that he would like to improve on some of those. But the good thing is he got to come in and have an opportunity and run the offense just where it wasn’t a run-oriented system just to end the game.” -- Smart on Beck during Monday’s press conference.
  • There were a couple of drops in the drill on air. Ladd McConkey and Darnell Washington both had passes hit them in the hands, only for them to hit the ground. Washington did have drop in Saturday’s win over the Ducks.

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