Kirby Smart: ‘I feel great’ about Stetson Bennett’s performance

Credit: Georgia Bulldogs

Though Stetson Bennett had three interceptions against No. 2 Alabama on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa — and a few other balls tipped — Georgia coach Kirby Smart remains confident in his starting quarterback. There are, of course, areas for improvement, but overall, Smart is pleased with Bennett so far.

“I feel great about Stetson,” Smart said on a media video conference call Tuesday. “I think he’s done a good job of managing the situations we’ve put him in. I think he made a couple bad decisions, and some of them, he didn’t have to pay the dividend for. He threw a couple balls he shouldn’t have thrown based on the coverage they gave us, but those weren’t necessarily the ones that got picked. ... The ones that don’t get picked concern me more when you throw into coverage. It’s one of those things.

“He’s done a really good job executing on third down. He’s hit some guys that have dropped some balls on third down, but we’ve become a better third-down team since he’s been in there.”

And while Bennett remains the starter, questions continue to swirl about JT Daniels. Though Daniels was medically cleared to play, he’s been taking reps with the third team in practice.

“Medically cleared is saying that he can go out and get tackled and play football,” Smart said. “It’s unique to that position because the quarterback doesn’t go live. Maybe in fall camp some, but he doesn’t go live until real game time. Everything else is revolved around who we think gives us the best chance to win. That’s ultimately the decision you have.”

With an off-week this week, Smart expects Daniels, among many others, to get more reps in practice. Time will tell if it will be enough reps to get Daniels ready to play.

“The toughest thing is getting enough reps once you’re down the road of being able to get guys prepared for games,” Smart said. “You can’t prepare three and four quarterbacks to play in a game. You just don’t get enough time to do that.”

Georgia defense

Smart said he isn’t worried about his defense.

Though then-No. 3 Georgia entered Saturday’s game with one of the nation’s best defenses, the Crimson Tide scored 41 points and put up 564 yards of offense. Alabama earned 33 first downs to the Bulldogs' 20 and found particular success in the passing game, with 417 passing yards.

But despite that, Smart isn’t concerned about the defense going forward.

“It doesn’t cause alarm for me because I know that we’ve got good players,” Smart said. “We’ve got kids that care. It bothers them. We’ve got to do a really good job as coaches to try to help them other ways.”

Late in the third quarter Saturday, Tide quarterback Mac Jones found wide receiver Jaylen Waddle for a 90-yard touchdown. Defensive back Tyson Campbell was covering Waddle on the play but fell down just before Waddle took off downfield. Alabama took the lead for good.

It was the kind of explosive play that top defenses such as Georgia’s pride themselves on not allowing, but once again, Smart said he isn’t overly concerned. Campbell was covering his man as assigned and simply was beaten by a talented receiver.

“When you play the secondary, you assume the risk,” Smart said. “It comes with a little note: When you play man-to-man, you will get beat. Nobody is perfect. ... What you don’t wanna do is get beat by a bust and give up a 90-yard touchdown (because) you don’t have great communication and you bust (the coverage). That, to me, is a problem. Not when I’m pressing a guy and I’ve got this guy and I just get beat. That’s gonna happen from time to time, and you accept that.”

Injury updates

Smart provided updates on three injured Bulldogs players:

DJ Daniel (DB): Battling an ankle injury. Smart is hopeful that he gets back to 100% this week, and Daniel has been practicing, Smart said.

Kenny McIntosh (RB): “Banged up” his knee early against Alabama. Day-to-day and not expected to be a long-term issue.

Matt Landers (WR): Working through a shoulder injury that occurred against Tennessee. Limited in practice last week, but did play on special teams against Alabama.

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