Georgia’s Kirby Smart has ‘no reaction’ to NIL remarks

ATHENS — Wrapping up this week’s NIL talk – and for the Georgia Bulldogs, that can’t happen fast enough – coach Kirby Smart on Tuesday responded to the controversial remarks made by Kentucky coach Mark Stoops in the wake of Georgia’s drubbing of the Wildcats on Saturday, and a couple of players weighed in as well.

Inside the Bulldogs’ football complex, at least, it was a big nothing burger.

“No reaction,” Smart said when asked to respond. “Much to do about nothing, really. I think Mark is trying to garner interest in (raising) money from his fan base for his collective, and we’re all trying to do the same, in terms of trying to get money for our collective. Mark and I talked about NIL pregame, and we talked about it in (the SEC coaches’) meeting. I’m not biting on that.”

Stoops garnered national headlines Monday night after asserting on his weekly call-in show that the Bulldogs’ effective use of the name, image and likeness has contributed to their recent dominance. On Saturday, Georgia beat Kentucky 51-13, which was its 14th consecutive victory in the series.

“They bought some pretty good players,” Stoops said of the Bulldogs. “You’re allowed to these days. We could use some help. That’s what they look like, you know what I mean, when you have 85 of them. I encourage anybody that’s disgruntled to pony-up.”

Senior defensive tackle Zion Logue said he read Stoops’ remarks while he was sitting in class Tuesday morning.

“I just laughed because it’s the day and age of NIL; everybody’s sort of buying players, buying recruits,” Logue said Tuesday night after the Bulldogs’ practice. “They’re doing it, other schools are doing it. So, I mean, it’s whoever can execute on Saturdays. It’s not about money. It’s about execution at the end of the day.”

As a fifth-year player, Logue has seen both sides of NIL. He enrolled at UGA when player compensation wasn’t allowed and now, he’s in his third year of being able to take advantage of it to whatever extent free enterprise will allow.

He insists it hasn’t been quite the profound change many envision.

“I try not to let money run my life,” Logue said. “Some people think money runs everything, but if you don’t have peace, you don’t have anything. … You still have to be self-driven.”

For sophomore cornerback Daylen Everette, NIL has been a reality since he was coming out of IMG Academy as a 5-star prospect and the nation’s No. 3-ranked corner.

“It’s a really good opportunity for college athletes,” said Everette, a six-game starter for the Bulldogs. “But, at the same time, you really should be focusing on what you’re doing on the field. That will help you get the NIL opportunities that you want.”

Georgia linebacker Marvin Jones Jr. (7) is shown on the sideline during their game against UT Martin at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, September 2, 2023, in Athens, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

icon to expand image

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Jones ‘doing great’

Sophomore outside linebacker Marvin Jones Jr. played extensively against Auburn on Sept. 30 and was victimized a couple of times when the Tigers ran counter plays to his side of the field. Last week, the former 5-star prospect‘s participation was limited to five snaps against Kentucky.

Those two facts are unrelated. Smart said Jones sustained an ankle injury in practice Oct. 10 and missed most of practice the rest of last week.

“He’s had a run of tough luck with two games almost missed with different things,” Smart said. “He’s done a great job in practice, and he’s got a really bright future. He’s a very talented player. He’s very smart. He’s one of the guys that we say, ‘He knows the defense inside and out.’ He can go out there and execute at a high level.”

Jones missed the South Carolina game entirely with an undisclosed illness, and his play was limited the next week against Alabama-Birmingham. In five games the 6-foot-5, 250-pound athlete has three tackles, 1.5 for losses and one quarterback pressure. He entered the fall as the backup to Chaz Chambliss, who has started all six games.

“He’s doing great,” Smart said.

Credit: Chip Towers/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Takeaway on takeaways

Whether it’s a fluky anomaly or a fundamental shortcoming, it’s notable that the Bulldogs enter the seventh game of the season without a fumble recovery.

Georgia has forced the opposition into three fumbles but failed to turn any into turnovers. The Bulldogs have fumbled the ball seven times themselves and lost three of them. They remain on the positive side of turnover margin thanks to eight interceptions, but they sit at No. 59 nationally at plus-0.17 per game.

As one might imagine, stripping the ball has been a tremendous point of emphasis in practice. Georgia’s defense is charged with coming up with five per day during scrimmage situations. The whole unit runs wind sprints for every one on which they come up short.

“We’ve put a big emphasis on it, even during scout period,” Logue said. “We really try to get them out during the big team periods. It’s just a matter of focusing on getting the ball out.”

Said Smart: “We continue to chop wood. Usually, those things come in bunches. If you keep working, keep improving, keep doing it, they come when you need them.”

Injury updates

A week after having four catches against Auburn, junior flanker Ladd McConkey had only one against Kentucky. But that doesn’t mean he played markedly less. McConkey’s 19 snaps against the Wildcats were only seven fewer than his first game back against the Tigers. He missed Georgia’s first four games because of a back ailment.

“Ladd’s done a great job,” Smart said. “He’s in a similar position as he was last week. He’s able to do a few things at practice. We’re trying to be smart about trying not to aggravate it yet at the same time find a role for him. It’s a very delicate balance.”

Seems like the Bulldogs are getting it about right. McConkey’s one catch for 11 yards Saturday was a third-down conversion. Including three such plays against Auburn, four of McConkey’s five receptions this season have resulted in third-down conversions.

Safety David Daniel-Sisavanh returned to practice this week after missing the past two games with an unknown injury. Outside linebacker Darris Smith, who sat out against Kentucky, is not expected to travel to Vanderbilt while dealing with “some other issues.” Defensive end Tyrion Igram-Dawkins (foot) also is out.

Running back Roderick Robinson (ankle) still is not practicing and is doubtful for game.

About the Author