Georgia coach Kirby Smart was not at all happy with the Georgia Bulldogs’ first controlled scrimmage of the 2019 season, conducted Saturday at Sanford Stadium before a small crowd of players’ parents and mid-level donors.
“It probably wasn’t the kind of scrimmage I was expecting to have,” Smart told reporters in a briefing afterward back at the Butts-Mehre complex. “It wasn’t the temperament, I don’t know if it was the enthusiasm. We’ve gone six or seven practices now and gotten after it pretty good, but I didn’t think we had the same juice today as a team. Both No. 1 units were a little lethargic, not real good timing, some busts on defense. So, there are some things to clean up. The good news is we’ve got time to clean it up.”
It was the eighth practice in the past nine days for the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs. They open the season against Vanderbilt in three weeks in Nashville.
The scrimmage, planned for 140 plays, was cut short at “about 110 or 115” because of a severe thunderstorm that blew through Athens a little before 3 p.m.
Here are some points of note from Smart’s briefing:
Zamir White is greatest back of all time. Well, that’s what the fan sites would have one think. There was a lot of chat-room chatter Saturday about last year’s No. 1-ranked running back recruit in America from posters alleging to have witnessed or heard about a “50-something-yard TD run by White during the scrimmage. Smart declined to confirm those accounts, or one that freshman wideout George Pickens made a spectacular, one-handed catch.
“I’m not here to verify what was said on the message boards,” Smart snapped. “There were a lot of things out there. I can’t go through everything play by play, all the things that were there. I think people were talking about Zamir because they haven’t seen him in a while. George was out there and has been catching the ball every day. But so was Dom (Dominick Blaylock), Tyler Simmons, D-Rob (Demetris Robertson), Matt Landers, (Lawrence) Cager, all those guys were.”
That said, Smart doesn't begrudge all the fuss surrounding White, who this time last year suffered his second ACL tear in less than a year.
“That’s human nature. When you see a guy going through what he has been through, who isn’t pulling for Zamir White?” Smart said. “Every guy on our staff and every player on our team has seen his ups and downs and the rehab he has done. He’s been on the sideline for a whole year just working out and running. When he gets out there to gain some confidence and have success, I think everyone’s pulling for him.
“I think for defensive players, it’s hard to pull for him because you have to tackle him. It’s not easy to tackle him, because he is a full-grown man.”
McBride accounted for, other injury news. Junior inside linebacker Nate McBride did not participate in the scrimmage Saturday and was not at practice Thursday because of an undisclosed injury. He was with the team but not dressed out upon its return to the football facility.
Freshman tight end Ryland Goede also “is banged up” per Smart and can’t practice. Smart “hopes” Goede can return by the first game.
D’Wan Mathis still limited. Freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis was unable to participate in the scrimmage. He is still being help out of competitive situations while recovering from emergency surgery this summer to remove a cyst from his sinus cavity.
With Mathis out, sophomore Stetson Bennett is handling backup duties behind starter Jake Fromm and walk-on freshman Nathan Priestley has emerged as the No. 3 quarterback.
“He did some good stuff with the 3’s,” Smart said of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Priestley, who hails from Los Angeles. “He’s a kid who was talented. He had an ACL his junior year so he didn't get seen. He had a pretty good senior year. He’s one of our walk-on players who took a lot of reps with the threes, and I thought he did a good job today."
Smart also said Bennett “had a good day” and led the No. 2 offense on “the longest drive ever” against the No. 1 defense.
D.J. Daniel moving up. Another player making headway appears to be cornerback D.J. Daniel. A Griffin native and junior college transfer, Daniel is getting work with the No. 1 defense, along with fellow freshman Tyrique Stevenson and returning starters Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes.
“D.J. Daniel has been a pleasant surprise; he’s done a good job,” Smart said. “He’s gone with the ones quite a bit.”
Smart said Campbell “got dinged up a little today” but expects him to be back soon.
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