Bulldogs have ‘a long way to go,’ Georgia’s Kirby Smart said after first scrimmage

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Georgia’s first scrimmage of preseason camp left much to be desired, if you ask coach Kirby Smart.

That being said, he was quick to point out that one scrimmage on Day 9 of camp isn’t the end-all, be-all.

“It was our first scrimmage, first chance to tackle live,” Smart said Saturday. “I think you always have to be careful when you assess your team when you tackle live for the first time. In my experience as a coach, it’s not pretty. And it was not pretty from a tackling standpoint. The offense is ahead of the defense, which is probably to be expected.”

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That adds up, given that the defense returns only three starters from last season’s championship run, while the offense returns seven starters, including senior quarterback Stetson Bennett. Energy and initiative were the biggest things lacking from Georgia’s defense, according to Smart.

Although there were some good individual performances, he said, Smart will expect a better scrimmage Saturday. The Bulldogs will get a quick break, taking Sunday off before returning to practice Monday.

“I was a little disappointed in the energy and enthusiasm and leadership of the defense,” Smart said. “There wasn’t a lot of support there. And if things go bad, there wasn’t a guy to kind of pick them up and grab the bull by the horns and get it headed in the right direction. But I thought the kids played hard, especially early in the scrimmage.”

Individually, Smart said that Bennett statistically had “a really good day,” and he praised the offensive line, though Georgia’s defense didn’t get a lot of pressure going. That also helped the other quarterbacks, redshirt freshman Brock Vandagriff, sophomore Carson Beck and freshman Gunner Stockton (who Smart said made “some really good plays” in Saturday’s scrimmage).

Senior running back Kenny McIntosh had a great run Saturday, per Smart, adding McIntosh simply is having a great camp overall. Smart was quick to praise junior running back Daijun Edwards, too.

“(McIntosh has) picked up pressures, played really physical, caught the ball out of the backfield,” Smart said. “Everything that he wants to do at the next level in our offense, we have asked him to do, and he’s done a great job at that. Kenny would be the first to tell you he has to work hard and maintain his weight, take really good care of his body. I think (running backs coach) Dell McGee has done a great job of taking care of Kenny. He’s done a good job.

“Daijun has had a really good camp. This guy is playing hard, playing physical. Knows his assignments inside and out. He’s picking up pressures, catching the ball out of the backfield, so to me, I’ve been really pleased with what he’s been able to do.”

Freshman running backs Andrew Paul and Branson Robinson both had good scrimmages, and both are thick and hard to tackle, Smart said. Though they both have work to do in pass protection.

“I’m very pleased with where they are,” Smart said. “Neither one going through the spring hurts their development in terms of No. 1, special teams, and No. 2, picking up pressures. We need them to come along because durability is always an issue at back. I don’t think I’ve been through a year here where we didn’t have one of our top three backs miss a game. If that happens, one of those guys better be ready to step up and play.”

As for the defense, Smart said junior inside linebacker Trezmen Marshall made a couple of good plays, though he’ll have to stay healthy – Marshall has been in and out with a soft-tissue calf strain. Sophomore Jamon Dumas-Johnson probably has been the most consistent of the inside linebackers, but overall it’s a position group that has to “step up and play better,” per Smart.

The defensive line has to help that group, though, and it’s not where it needs to be yet, Smart added.

Overall, there is plenty for the Bulldogs to work on moving forward in camp in preparation for the season opener Sept. 3 against Oregon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and that starts with better energy in their second scrimmage Saturday.

“We have a long way to go to get to where we need to go,” Smart said. “That’s nothing to do with Oregon. That’s nothing to do with anybody we play. That’s to do with the Georgia Bulldogs. So we’ve got to look ourselves in the eyes as coaches and figure out what the guys (on the roster do best) and get them to go execute that at their best because we have good football players on this team. We didn’t necessarily play with the right energy and enthusiasm across the board as a whole today.”