Bennett’s bye-week goals
While the bye week offered opportunities for Georgia’s three main backup quarterbacks, it was also an important time for starter Stetson Bennett in his attempt to iron out the mistakes that hurt him in the Bulldogs’ loss to Alabama.
During Tuesday’s Zoom press conference, head coach Kirby Smart highlighted what the extra time on the practice field entailed.
“His first goal was to do a better job of protecting the ball in terms of two hands while in the pocket, and also when running,” Smart said. “If you’ve noticed he had the one against Alabama, and he scooped it up. He runs with the ball in one hand. We’ve made an assertive effort to improve that.”
That was not all.
Although his three interceptions obviously played a key role in the game’s outcome, Bennett’s decision-making was an area he needed to improve.
“His second goal was decision-making on downfield throws and check-downs. The third thing was putting us in the right play and making good decisions. He has worked really hard on those things,” Smart said. “Some of it’s movement in the pocket—which is awareness. I thought he could learn a lot from Jake (Fromm) in terms of pocket awareness.”
“Where are the holes in the pockets? Where is the rush? Where can (he) step up?” Smart said. “I think he has done well with that. It’s hard to simulate that, because we don’t have games. We try to do it with competitive third down and pass periods.”
Smart said both running back Kenny McIntosh (knee) and linebacker Monty Rice (foot) are improving as Saturday’s game at Kentucky draws closer.
“We’re hopeful on Kenny that he will be able to play—kind of the same way with Monty,” Smart said. “(Rice) was able to practice a limited amount with his foot sprain. He was able to go in the Alabama game. We were certainly thankful for that. We gave him some time off in the off-week to recover. His biggest thing is maintaining his cardio right now.”
Wide receiver Matt Landers (shoulder) is also improving.
“Matt is good. He practiced today,” Smart said. “He still has lingering effects, but we think he’s going to be able to play, and has done a good job.”
Smart will always try to stay strong on defense
Smart was asked how long it was going to take defenses to catch up with the impressive offensive performances you are currently fans are seeing, such as with Alabama this season and LSU last year
The question appeared to make him ill.
“There’s no magic potion to me for catching up. There’s no scheme that hasn’t been invented,” Smart said. “The coverages that people play and the defenses that people play have stood the test of time.”
Still, Smart acknowledges, perhaps begrudgingly, that the game is changing.
“The game is built to entertain and score points. Nobody wants a 9-6 game. They don’t enjoy that,” Smart said. “I think it’s a great thing. It’s a physical toughness. I think it’s a rock ‘em, sock ‘em game. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It can be a great game and be 9-6, but nobody is entertained by that. The world we live in today is entertained by points.
So, what is a defense to do?
“The rules aren’t set up to score points—I’m not saying that, but there’s definitely an advantage in terms of the number of snaps offenses take. When you look at a game where somebody takes 90 snaps—that never used to happen,” he said. “As snaps go up, as the passing-game increases, as the skill level increases in high school—there’s less people to defend it. There are less players 20 years ago in high school, some were defensive backs and now their skill guys are wideouts, and you’re trying to play catchup to cover guys.”
Nevertheless, Smart isn’t about to give up trying to put the best defense on the field that he can.
“I don’t know when they (offenses) will catch up. I don’t know if they will catch up. I really don’t care if they catch up,” Smart said. “Our job is to do the best job defending those kinds of offenses that we can. We want to defend them better than others. I think we can do that. If you recruit well and have good enough athletes and good enough players, you can defend great offenses better than anybody else. It doesn’t mean you’re going to stop them, but it does mean you can defend them better than everybody else.
“You just better be able to score yourself.”
No fudging on road trip protocols
Fingers crossed, but so far, the Bulldogs have apparently been able to avoid any substantial losses when it comes to Covid-19.
That’s especially of note considering Saturday’s game at Kentucky will be the team’s third road trip this year—when traveling, teams are thought to be more vulnerable.
So, what has been Georgia’s secret?
“You’re spending a little more time on the plane,” Smart said. “In terms of COVID-19 protocol, we have a seating chart. We don’t let certain guys of like positions sit near each other in hopes of spreading guys out. We try to keep roommates at home and close to each other, because they’ve already been exposed.”
Once secured in the team hotel, other precautions are put into place.
“They don’t ride the elevators, don’t ride with anyone you don’t know, don’t hang around in the lobby. We have less people sitting at a table, therefore spreading out more,” Smart said. “We’ve had some precautions there that we’ve learned from other teams that have had issues on the road. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect, by any means. We try to learn.”
Smart on if he feels he can be more aggressive with his front seven against Kentucky: “I definitely think you have to stop the run when you play Kentucky, first and foremost. I’m sure they’re over there searching for ways to increase the passing game and do a good job, because they cannot be one-dimensional. They know that. They’ve got good football coaches. They’re looking for things that complement what they do, and they’ve been successful doing it. They weren’t successful in their last game doing it, but they’ve been successful before. They had great success two years ago against us throwing the ball, especially late in the game, and it was with [Kentucky quarterback] Terry Wilson. So, with us, we’ve got to worry about us. We’ve got to go out and play a good football game. We’ve got to out-execute them. We’ve got to have our guys mentally and physically ready to play, because I know the coaches on Kentucky’s staff. They do a really good job, and they’ll have their team ready to play.”
Smart on the progress of his offensive line: “In spurts, we’ve played better. Certainly, the production has been better. I think they’re a little more comfortable. I cannot really explain the Arkansas game other than we did not move guys and did not execute really well. It turned into a passing game, it seemed like—we threw it a lot. There wasn’t a lot of run-game there in the second half. I thought they did some good things in each game. We have some guys that have played, between Trey (Hill), Ben (Cleveland) and Jamaree (Salyer). They’ve played a lot of football, even (Justin) Shaffer has played a lot of football for us around here. They’re playing at a better level, probably not what we need in terms of being elite, but they work hard each day. We shuffle guys in practice. We have to be prepared for an injury. The second five have all worked, and each one of those guys in the first five have doubled up at a second position as an emergency situation. Right now, it’s really about developing the younger guys and continuing to get them better and trying to get our first guys to execute at a higher level.”