ATHENS — When the Bulldogs conclude their second scrimmage of the spring Saturday at Sanford Stadium, they will be within of week of playing in front of what they hope will be 93,000 people for G-Day. But entertaining and playing well for those fans will be the farthest thing from Kirby Smart’s mind when they go between the hedges this weekend.
This scrimmage, Smart made infinitely clear, will be no dress rehearsal.
“Saturday’s scrimmage will have nothing to do with G-Day,” Smart said Tuesday night after Georgia’s 10th practice of the spring. “To be honest, G-Day may be a show but it’s a practice to me. We’ve got to go out there and get better.”
Of course, it was Smart’s idea to make a big deal out of the annual spring game. It was his concept to”pack out” the 92,746-seat, to lure in some entertainment and to generally make a statement to fans and recruits about the importance of Georgia football.
But when it comes down to what actually takes place during those four quarters of intrasquad football, Smart will have his eye firmly on next fall and trying determine just which players it is he can depend on.
“The good thing is we’ll have a great environment where the kids will have some butterflies in their stomachs to get to play in front of a crowd,” Smart said. “It’s amazing how some guys perform better and some guys don’t perform as well. They get anxiety. We’ll find that out.”
As for this Saturday, Georgia has a myriad of issues to work out. With a couple of knee injuries on the defensive line, the Bulldogs suddenly don’t have enough players to take snaps there. On Tuesday, they moved longtime walkon offensive lineman Alex Essex to defense just to give them enough bodies.
- The offensive line continues to be somewhat in flux. Guards are working at tackle, tackles at guard and depth at center is a concern.
- Georgia has only two fully-functioning tailbacks.
- Competition is furious in the secondary and at wide receiver.
- The kicking game remains a mystery.
All that was in evidence when the Bulldogs held their first scrimmage this past Saturday. It raised more concerns than resolved them for Smart.
“It was about what I thought,” Smart said of his final review of the video. “We didn’t run the ball real well. We don’t have a lot of backs. We didn’t tackle extremely well, which is concerning because we didn’t get many opportunities to tackle our skill guys. And the times we did, we missed tackles.
We were trying to simulate those situations in practice today, getting guys down in space, getting them to lower their hips and tackle people, to be good tacklers. It was what I thought after the scrimmage. Gave up too many plays on defense, got to protect the quarterback better and run the ball better on offense.”
So this week will be more of the same. Smart anticipates a very physical and competitive practice and not a dress rehearsal for the big show.
“For me it’s all about finding our best 22, our best 33, our best 44; finding them and putting them in the right spots,” Smart said. “It will only be about that, finding the best players. We’ll do some situations, but it will be about scrimmaging and tackling and trying to get better.”
G-Day, Georgia’s annual spring football scrimmage, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Sanford Stadium. Check back here daily for DawgNation’s G-Day coverage brought to you by Georgia United Credit Union.