ATHENS — Some things every Georgia fan needs to know heading into the week:
1. The Bulldogs will conduct their 13th practice of the preseason this afternoon at the Club Sports Complex, so they’re nearing the halfway point. Based on the comments of head coach Kirby Smart after this past Saturday’s scrimmage, the players can expect the workouts to increase in intensity and physical demands.
Smart was particularly displeased with the defense’s tackling skills this past weekend and he aims to address it.
“We missed too many tackles on defense, really poor tackling,” he said. “That’s indicative of not tackling in practice. So we’re got to put a bigger emphasis on getting in position to strike and tackle so we don’t miss those. Had a lot of yards after contact and a lot of yards after the catch, which in my history is usually the case in the first scrimmage. We’ve got a lot of improvement to do.”
2. Smart expressed a level of frustration with regard to the ongoing quarterback competition. Once again, he indicated that none of the three played significantly better than the others to the point of establishing some distance on the depth chart. So Jacob Eason, Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey will continue to rotate repetitions with the No. 1 offense evenly. But they can expect to that pared down at the end of this week. Scrimmage No. 2 coming this next Saturday will be a big determining factor.
3. One area where there has been some depth-chart distinction is at offensive tackle. Smart said Greg Pyke, Isaiah Wynn and Tyler Catalina are ahead of the rest of the group. However, they remain unsettled on who will be the primary left tackle.
“I think we’ve got guys who can play winning football,” Smart said. “Obviously, Isaiah Wynn has played in this league and he has played good. (Left tackle is) not naturally what he is, but he’s played it. Greg Pyke has come a long way (at right tackle). He’s had a lot of practices and he’s gotten more and more confident. Catalina, I can’t say how he played (Saturday), that’d be unfair and unjust, but the guy’s a good football player. He lines up and plays. After those three guys kind of in a rotating deal, you’ve got Kendall Baker and (Aulden) Bynum fighting it out for that fourth spot. But those other three are a little bit ahead of the others.
“We’ll have to figure out who our best-five lineup is. I think we’ve got six that I feel really good about. But where that starting five comes from is going to be determined in the next week.”
4. Somewhat overshadowed by the triumphant return of Nick Chubb is the solid play so far of freshman tailbacks Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien. Smart praised the play of the first-year signees in this past Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I saw some real tough runners,” he said. “They broke a lot of those tackles I’m talking about. Those guys ran with a lot of effort, lot of toughness. Knock on wood they didn’t put the ball on the ground.”
Unless junior Sony Michel can make significant strides in his recovery from arm surgery over the next 14 days, the Bulldogs will have to depend on one or both to provide carries early in the season. Michel, who has two broken bones in his left forearm, did not participate in the scrimmage.
5. One player Smart is trying to get more out of is defensive tackle Trenton Thompson. The 6-foot-4, 318-pound sophomore remains the Bulldogs’ best down-lineman and will play a significant role this fall. But Smart believes Thompson has not come close to reaching his potential and needs to play more consistently in order to do so.
“I told Trenton, he’s got to improve his body language,” Smart said. “Sometimes he looks like he’s not into it. But as soon as you light a fire under him he makes some plays. Trent’s got to play better technique-wise, he’s got to play with his hands better, he’s got to play with better toughness. I think the sky’s the limit for Trenton. He hasn’t reached his potential and we’re going to challenge him to do that. If we’re going to be great, he’s got to be great.”
6. Smart was asked Saturday to expound on his philosophy that graduates should be able to transfer anywhere they wish. The Bulldogs were able to convince SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey on that point and endorsed defensive back Maurice Smith’s transfer from Alabama to UGA this past Friday.
“The biggest for me is once they’ve graduated, they’ve fulfilled their commitment to the university,” Smart said. “They’ve been successful and they should be able to move on. But to be honest with you, we’re past all this. We’re happy for Maurice. Happy for him, happy he decided do the thing he did. We’re looking forward now to Maurice being successful in school and on the football field.”
Smart declined follow-up questions.
7. Looking at the Rio Games, the Bulldogs certainly have distinguished themselves with their performances at the 2016 Olympics, especially in swimming. UGA added another gold medal to their total on Saturday as Olivia Smoliga secured one as a member of the 4×100-meter freestyle relay on Saturday at the Olympics.
Georgia’s swimmers ended the Games with a total of nine medals. That is the most UGA swimming has ever won at the Olympics. They had six in 2000, 2004 and 2012. What’s more, those medals were won by eight swimmers, which is also the most in school history.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will be seeking to land their first medal outside the pool tonight. Shaunae Miller, running for Bahamas, ranks fourth heading into tonight’s (9:45 p.m.) 400-meter women’s final.
Georgia came close in two other events. Keturah Orji, 20, was fourth in the women’s triple jump — becoming the American record holder in the process — and Bubba Watson finished eighth in golf.