ATHENS — It sounds like the dog days of summer have finally caught up with the Georgia Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs conducted their second scrimmage of preseason camp on Saturday and it happened to be the 14th practice of the month. That’s exactly half of the 28 practices that the NCAA allows before a season opener.
Seeing how Saturday is exactly two weeks out from Georgia’s season opener against Austin Peay, it’s doubtful the Bulldogs will use them all. Coach Kirby Smart said it was evident by Saturday’s performance that his is a fatigued team.
“The kids battled, man. It was competitive and tough out there,” Smart said. “To be honest, they’re at that point where … they’re tired. Our GPS (data) kind of indicates that. There weren’t a lot of guys flying around out there. But I did like the grit and the fight, but we did not play exceptionally well.”
Saturday represented the Bulldogs’ fifth practice in a row this week, and they’ve all been intense. Georgia monitors selected players — and all skill-position players — with a global positioning system that shows what are their top speeds, how many yards they’re running and monitors heart rates. All those numbers were down Saturday, Smart said.
It was the first time in the preseason that Smart had referred to the offense as “kind of sloppy” and he said the defense also “did not play exceptionally well.”
Georgia’s special teams did not fare particularly well either. Punters Jake Camarda and Landon Stratton each shanked punts and place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed a field-goal attempt. All the specialists were doing “up-downs” and extra running as punishment after the two-hour practice.
Georgia apparently threw the ball during the scrimmage, which was attended by more than 1,000 members of the Magill Society donor group and players’ parents. The Bulldogs also worked on special situations such as red-zone offense and defense, hurry-up, two-minute, third-down and move-the-field.
“I liked the fight and the demeanor,” Smart said. “The kids kept fighting and competing and I liked that part. So I was pleased withk the competition. But we still have a ways to go to get to a point where I think we’re a good football team. We’re not there yet and we’ve got to use the next few practices to do that.”
The big news was an apparent serious leg injury suffered by heralded freshman running back Zamir White. He injured his left leg while covering a punt during the scrimmage and was taken to the hospital for an MRI and further testing.
Smart also confirmed that 6-foot-3, 280-pound sophomore defensive end Malik Herring is “cross-training” at outside linebacker.
“We don’t know if we have enough mass,” Smart said of that position. “(Robert) Beal has been out at outside linebacker, so Malik gives us mass and he’s a good athlete. He has become a little better swingman than maybe (Jonathan) Ledbetter because Ledbetter has a little more anchor and can hold up inside better than Malik. Malik is a bright guy.”
With Tyrique McGhee sidelined with a broken foot, the competition has intensified at cornerback opposite of established senior Deandre Baker. Smart was complimentary of redshirt freshman Eric Stokes at that position and said the former 3-star prospect has a chance now to play there.
“He’s a great case of someone we had in camp who was raw, fast but raw,” Smart said of the former state spring champion from Covington’s Eastside High. “I wasn’t sure if this kid was going to be able to develop. But Coach (Mel) Tucker has done a hell of a job developing him. To his own credit, he listens in the meetings, he takes notes in the meetings and he learns in the meetings. Eric carries over what he learns onto the field and not all of our corners have done that.”
Georgia will take off Sunday and resume with practice number 15 on Monday. The Bulldogs open against Austin Peay on Sept. 1 at 3:30 p.m.