ATHENS — Kirby Smart did not dance around Georgia football issues on Tuesday, shooting straight from the onset as he enters his ninth season.

“We get to actually go out there and practice football and be around our players and implement our systems,” Smart said of the 15-practice spring football session.

“I love spring practice because you get the day off in between. There’s a big recovery day, there’s a big install day. There’s a lot of information to be shared.”

Here are three key takeaways from Smart’s opening press conference:

Managing Carson Beck

Georgia has seemingly had its fair share of QB drama under Smart, a byproduct of the great amount of talent and inherent competition at the position.

Beck’s high-profile NIL deals and spending, long with his status as a co-Heisman Trophy favorite and projected NFL Top 10 pick in 2025, brings added attention and scrutiny to the position.

Smart won’t change his standard or approach, and on Tuesday he exuded confidence in Beck even while acknowledging his leadership style is not different than many other top QBs.

“Carson is not an extremely assertive young man; he doesn’t try to assert himself, [organically], he doesn’t just jump in there and do it,” Smart said. “He’s done that more in the last couple of days since being back from spring break. And I expect to see that even more today in terms of leadership in the huddle and the things he does. He has high standards, he has high expectations.”

Smart said Beck’s ability to connect with teammates will indeed be key.

“I think he has to build a rapport with some of these new wide outs we’ve got in that room,” Smart said. “They’re going to be important for him to grow with. But I’m very comfortable with where he is as a leader and the way he leads is the way he’s comfortable leading. Which is primarily through his actions.”

Key injuries

The addition of a 12-team playoff could mean a 17-game season, so the premium on building depth and bringing healthy players into fall camp is bigger than ever.

Smart shared the sad news that tight end Pearce Spurlin will medically retire from football on account of a congenital heart condition.

Other Georgia players who will be out or limited in spring drills include preseason All-American candidates Malaki Starks (shoulder) and Smael Mondon (foot), along with such other key player as Ty Ingram-Dawkins (foot), Branson Robinson (knee) and

Rara Thomas (foot).

Receiver questions

Five of the nine transfers on the Georgia football team are at the receiver position, a noteworthy stat when one considers three of the top four pass catchers are moving on.

Missouri transfer Dominic Lovett is the leading returning receiver and will look to provide a more explosive element after a blue-collar 2023 season.

As for the newcomers, Smart didn’t pretend to know.

“Can’t tell you anything about them really because I haven’t seen them go out there and do anything,” Smart said. “I’ve seen them run around in circles, touch a cone, lift a bar, but that doesn’t define a football player for me.

“I can tell you the research we’ve done to bring them into our program was, do they care more about the team than themselves, do they believe in culture? They all checked those boxes.”