ATHENS, Ga. — The No. 15-ranked Georgia Bulldogs conducted their 10th practice of the preseason on Thursday, a two-hour session in full pads.
The following are selected excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart’s press session following the workout.
On today’s practice:
“We had a really good tempo, a good practice today. I was a little worried after going inside yesterday. Some times we’re a little sluggish after going inside, but the leadership did a good job challenging players during flex to have a good practice. There was a lot of energy, a little more enthusiasm than we’ve had some other days. I don’t know what the temperature was, but it seemed cooler than I expected. I was expecting it to be up in the 90s, but it didn’t seem to be that so that helped us get through. We’re doing a lot of end of game situations at the end of practice, which have been good and the battles have gone both ways. We’re getting a lot of looks at guys, and there have been a lot of changes in the OL lineup because we’ve been rotating those guys around.”
On the offensive line without Isaiah Wynn the past four days:
“I still feel real good about him. He’s just got a little bit of an illness. He’s here. He’s just not out there during those periods. We think he’s going to be fine. Andrew (Thomas) has worked at guard, but he also has to work at tackle because of Isaiah not being there. The good news is he’s a pretty bright kid. He has been working at left guard some, as well as Pat Allen. (Justin) Shaffer is working really hard. I thought Isaiah Wilson had his best practice so far yesterday. I’ll reserve judgement on today until I watch the tape, but he had a lot better practice. Ben (Cleveland) has competed really hard. That’s the spot where we have three guys competing. Dyshon (Sims) is not able to play there now, but he knows right tackle, you’ve got Ben, and then there’s Isaiah Wilson. There’s a lot of battling going on there. Left tackle, Dyshon’s working there. Kendall Baker has worked there some with Isaiah out. Lamont (Gaillard) has played well at center. (Sean) Fogerty is really pushing him. There are a lot of moving parts, which we knew going into camp it would be that way. I would say we’ve got to play more physical to improve on the offensive line, not only this year but so far this camp. We still haven’t done compared to what I thought we did early in the spring. A lot of that probably has to do with Trenton (Thompson) and Roquan (Smith). We’re not where we need to be to run the ball efficiently. Hopefully, the answers to that will come by scrimmage 1 or scrimmage 2.
“That’s the blessing in disguise of all this. We’re finding out a lot about the other guys. It bothers me the continuity of the offense is not getting what it needs with Isaiah out. I think they would be gaining confidence with him in.”
On what he’s learned about the team’s kickers and punters during camp:
“I’ve learned that we’ve got a lot better competition that we had last year. The competition is driving each person every day to raise there level. It’s well thought of that high stress situations create your best. Those guys, they’re are like assassins. They’ve got one shot, and that’s all they’ve got. They’re getting those kind of ‘hit or miss’ opportunities every day. I think Cam (Nizialek) has done a great job with the punting. He’s kind of leading that charge, and Marshall (Long) is competing with him. The field goal kicking and kickoff situation is really tight. Those two guys are neck and neck competing with each other, but it’s still early.”
On the expectations and format for Saturday’s first scrimmage of the fall:
“Every position is will be a focus in the scrimmage. The offensive line is the part that I’m challenging because we’ve got to be able to run the ball and protect the passer to be efficient and get where we need to go. In the scrimmage, we’ll have a lot of snaps and will give a lot of kids opportunities. We’ll have a lot of special team situations. We’re going to find out a lot about our team as far as who’s ready and who’s not by that competition.
“It will be very similar to the scrimmages we’ve done in the past where it’s 1s vs. 1s game situations, 2s vs. 2s game situations, 3s vs. 3s, goal line situations, two-minute situations, red area, what we call ‘move the field,’ which is just a normal part of the game. It’s very similar to what we normally do, it will just have a lot of kicking mixed in it.”
On helping the freshman push through the adjustment to college football:
“Coaches, our job is to lead them through it. Some of these kids, they don’t know how to push through it. They’ve never been through consecutive practices this intense in their life. We’ve got to call them in. We’ve got to meet with them. We’ve got to encourage them. We’ve got to be positive with them. We’ve got to text them at night. And then we’ve got to teach them. A lot of times you don’t get to teach on the field because you’ve got to go on the next play so I’m yelling and screaming at a guy and he’s like ‘I don’t learn.’ We’ve got to settle them down, we come to the meeting room and walk through it in the morning. We’ve got to lead them through the wall. Some of them have hit. Some of them are mature and they push right through it. Most of those kids have not had the adversity they’re facing right now.”