Kirby Smart says scrimmage reveals Georgia has ‘an extremely long way to go’

ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs held their first major scrimmage of preseason camp Saturday at Sanford Stadium. Attended by player families and friends and Magill Society donors, the two-hour game-simulation exercise represented the 10th practice in a row for the Bulldogs. They’ll get a welcome day off Sunday.

What was learned? The general sentiment among those who observed it was that Georgia’s defensive line dominated the offensive line, that neither of the top two quarterbacks were particularly sharp, that several key players remain sidelined and at least one more joined them.

Chief among the observers was Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who briefed reporters about an hour after the scrimmage concluded. He seemed to validate the amateurs’ evaluations.

“We’ve got an extremely long way to go as a football team,” Smart said afterward, back at the Butts-Mehre football complex. “I think so many people make an assumption off of last year’s team and their accomplishments. This team, No. 1, I asked them after the scrimmage and after we ran, what have you done to deserve anything you’ve gotten? And they’ve done nothing. They’ve done nothing. And we’ve got to get the right guys in the right spots, find the guys that can really tough it out and compete.”

Based on the humidity index, the temperature the Bulldogs were playing in felt like 105 degrees on the field. Several players cramped and struggled with focus in with those conditions.

There were some highlights. Quarterback Carson Beck, the first to go with the first-team offense, unleashed at least one long touchdown pass. Brock Vandagriff and tight end Oscar Delp hooked up for another. And redshirt freshman Andrew Paul, coming off an ACL injury, stood out among the running backs.

Otherwise, Georgia could not establish much in the way of a consistent running game against a stout defensive front led by veterans Nazir Stackhouse, Zion Logue, Warren Brinson and Jonathan Jefferson.

“Yeah, we’ve got some really tough, hard workers in there,” Smart said. “I don’t know that we have a dominant, disruptive, super-hard-to-block guy. I think we’ve got to create that through our athleticism on the perimeter and at (linebacker). But we have some guys who believe in the core values of our defensive program, which is to strike blockers, knock the hell out of them and knock them back.”

Freshman linebacker injured

Freshman inside linebacker Raylen Wilson had to be helped off the field because of a lower-leg injury that resulted from a contact play. Smart wasn’t certain about the severity of the injury afterward, but said early indications are that it isn’t too serious.

“Raylen had a hyperextended knee,” Smart said of the 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker from Tallahassee, Florida. “As of right now I’ll have to reserve judgment until we know for sure, but ligaments were intact, and we’re hoping it will be fine. He seemed to be fine.”

Smart also alluded to “a couple of ankles,” but thought there were no other significant injuries otherwise.

Running backs Branson Robinson (foot) and Kendall Milton (hamstring), linebacker Smael Mondon (foot) and cornerback Kamari Lassiter (foot) were unable to participate. Freshman defensive back Chris Peal remains sidelined with turf toe. Defensive linemen Tyrion Ingram-Dawkings and Mykel Williams remain limited with foot injuries. Receiver Rara Thomas was full-go after being slowed the first week with a hamstring issue.

Quarterback play

Smart was asked specifically what he saw – and what he wanted to see – from Georgia’s quarterbacks Saturday.

“I can tell you that I’d like to see all three of them play better,” Smart said of Beck, Vandagriff and freshman Gunner Stockton. “But the people around them have to play better. So, when you evaluate a quarterback and you say, ‘well, he threw an interception.’ Well, he hit a guy in the hands, and it bounced through his hands and got intercepted. Obviously, we can judge that.”

Smart referenced seven drops in Saturday’s scrimmage, though some people taking in the practice said it actually was more than that. Smart attributed it to “wet hands and heat,” but clearly wasn’t happy with what he saw.

Also, several times Georgia receivers got behind the secondary – including Arian Smith more than once – only to be overthrown or mistargeted. Passing efficiency wasn’t the primary focus, however.

“All three of them do a really good job of, like, executing the offense,” Smart said. “You’ve got to remember that all three of them were in it last year and have been in it for a while. The verbiage didn’t change, so like, they know and can execute the offense. The players around them have to make plays, and (the quarterbacks) have to avoid catastrophe situations because, you know, we have a defense that causes havoc.”

Morrissette not practicing

Smart acknowledged that wide receiver De’Nylon Morrissette has not been participating in preseason camp. However, he insisted that the sophomore from Stone Mountain remains with the team. Smart said Morrissette will resume practice when classes begin Wednesday.

“He’s been with us; he’s just not practicing,” Smart said. “He’s allowed to go to administrative programming, he’s allowed to go to a lot of programming we’ve got in place for him.”

Morrissette has been undergoing treatment, taking classes and attending meetings regarding substance abuse since he was arrested for DUI following a high-speed accident May 9.

Quick peek at personnel

Running backs Daijun Edwards and Cash Jones continue to get the majority of work. Redshirt freshman Andrew Paul had some of the best runs of the day in his first significant action since suffering an ACL injury this time last summer. ... Redshirt freshman Earnest Greene got the start at left tackle. Smart said junior Austin Blaske, Green’s principal competitor, practiced but has been slowed because of a minor illness. Otherwise, the rotation at both tackle positions was heavy as the Bulldogs are “working as a committee” on both the left and right sides of the line. ...

Nyland Green stood out at cornerback, and he and Daylen Everette got most of the reps with the No. 1 defense Saturday. Julian Humphrey played but is recovering from an illness, Smart said. ... Smart said freshman Joenel Aguero is working pretty much exclusively at “star,” which is the Bulldogs’ fifth defensive back position. Safety Dan Jackson continues to be limited, but not because of the foot injury that kept him out the past seven months. He apparently “tweaked” a hamstring his first week back in camp. Otherwise, Jackson, Malaki Starks, Javon Bullard and David Daniel-Sisavanh are holding down the two safety positions. Jacory Thomas and Justyn Rhett are fighting to get into the rotation.

Quote of the day

“Nope, can’t say I was impressed with anyone’s readiness today. The readiness came about (the) third-down period after about 66% of the practice was over. I thought that it wrapped up and the competitiveness went up, but it wasn’t like that earlier. So I don’t know if they just decided to push through and get through it, but I didn’t see a group that I was like, ‘oh man, they’re dominant. They came out here today to really make the opponent not want to play em.’ I didn’t see that.”

– Smart when asked if the team seemed ready Saturday.

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