Reporters’ notebook: That’s the ‘Georgia-Florida’ matchup

The captains for the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs stand for the coin toss before their NCAA football game at TIAA Bank Field, Saturday, October 29, 2022, in Jacksonville, Florida. Georgia won 42-20. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The captains for the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs stand for the coin toss before their NCAA football game at TIAA Bank Field, Saturday, October 29, 2022, in Jacksonville, Florida. Georgia won 42-20. (Jason Getz /

The following, a new weekly feature of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, allows our reporters to open their notebooks and provide even more information from our local teams that we cover daily. We think you’ll find in informative, insightful and fun.

That’s the GEORGIA-Florida game, thank you very much

Kirby Smart was asked at SEC Media Days during a session with electronic media members what his feelings were about the future of the “Florida-Georgia game” in Jacksonville.

“Well, first off, you misspoke about the game,” Smart said. “It’s the Georgia-Florida game. So, I want to clear that up. But, for us, I really don’t care where the game’s played and want what’s best for the student-athlete, and I want what’s best for the program.”

In the past, Smart has been more outspoken about wanting the game to be played on the schools’ respective campuses, mainly to be able to host official recruiting visits every other year. However, Georgia earns millions of dollars more by playing the game in Jacksonville. It has been one of the nation’s more dominant programs in recruiting and has dominated the series since it started being played in Jacksonville in 1933.

In May, the schools exercised an option in its agreement with the city of Jacksonville to keep the game there through 2025.

No secret to cracking Tech lineup

For first-year Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire, there are no secrets when it comes to cracking the lineup.

Stoudamire recently was a guest on the “Bossman Show” and detailed the three-step process of earning playing time for his team.

“When I look at the team as a player, how do I get on the court? The bottom is just get on the court. Get on the court, right?” he said. “The second thing is you got to know the strengths and the weaknesses of your teammates. You got to know who they are as players as well.

“Then lastly, the strength of who you are as a player, how do you get that into the system? I bleed those thoughts into the summer workouts because most of the time you start at the bottom. You’re trying to figure out how do I get my game into the system?”

Stoudamire, hired in March, has a proven track record as the coach at Pacific and, most recently, as an assistant with the Boston Celtics. His busy offseason has included assembling his staff and adding nearly 10 newcomers to the roster.

The former Arizona star and NBA veteran added he has drilled his players to understand it’s not enough to simply workout with the coaches and the staff, that going above and beyond will go a long in improving themselves and the Yellow Jackets. He also wants them to understand that knowing what they can do well is just as important as what they can’t do well.

“In any workout I kind of break it down because we always want to work on our weaknesses, but we also want to master our strengths because our strengths are our bread-and-butter. There are some things that we need to do so well that when people see it they just know what it is.

“For me, the difference probably for these guys, in terms of the past and where they’ve been and who they’ve played for, is I watch a lot of film because I think you got to see. You’ve got to see your strengths, you’ve got to see your weaknesses. You’ve got to critique yourself because if you can critique yourself the right way then there’s nothing anyone can tell you.”

Ridder-to-Pitts connection must be cultivated

One of the key things to track when the Falcons’ veterans arrive to camp Tuesday, will be the connection between quarterback Desmond Ridder and tight end Kyle Pitts.

They didn’t play together last season after Pitts sustained a knee injury against the Bears on Nov. 20.

Pitts, who was not seen at any of the open offseason practices, recently released a video on social media of him running in a straight line.

Late in the OTAs, Ridder expressed how he hasn’t thrown to Pitts much.

“He threw to him last year at training camp, and they’ll get on the same page,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “Very confident in that.”

Keep the clock running in college football

There will be three rule changes in college football, including a significant one aimed at addressing the number of plays in a game and, thereby, safety.

Similar to the NFL, the clock now will continue to run after a first down that ends in bounds, except with under two minutes remaining in a half.

According to John McDaid, the SEC’s coordinator of football officials, there were an average of 178 plays per game last season. For the SEC, the average was 177 plays.

“There’s not necessarily concern for games that average 180 plays a game.,” McDaid said from SEC Media Days. “There is concern for games that have 200 plus plays per game. There are a number of them each and every year in each and every conference.”

A number of other changes aimed to drive down the number of plays per game were discussed this offseason. This was the only one adopted.

On opting for only one rule change aimed at reducing the number of plays, McDaid said: ”There were several reasons for that, but one of the more compelling reasons is I’ll use the analogy of a doctor prescribing medication. The doctor doesn’t want to prescribe too much medication right out of the gate because if there’s a change in the pace, you don’t know which medication is attributed to what.”

McDaid said officials will monitor the effectiveness of the change. Reducing the number of plays likely will reduce the game time. However, the impetus of the rule is to reduce plays and injuries.

Other rule changes will be:

*The first and third quarters no longer will be extended for an accepted penalty if the game clock expires during the down.

*A team cannot request consecutive timeouts during the same dead-ball period.

*There will be no running-into-the-kicker or roughing-the-kicker fouls if the kicker is displaced more than 5 yards from the position of the snap. For example, should a snap go over the punters head, a foul will not be called should the punter pick up the ball and try to kick.

LSU hasn’t matched Georgia yet

LSU coach Brian Kelly feels his program eventually will match Georgia from an on-field talent standpoint, but he acknowledged it’s not there yet.

“I know that based upon how we’ve recruited, and how we’ll continue to recruit, that we’ll have a football roster that will be able to compete against Georgia,” Kelly said from SEC Media Days this week. “Is that right now? No, it’s not. But if we continue to do what we’re doing, we’re going to have a roster that can compete against Georgia. Then it’s just a matter of getting it done on the playing field so everybody can then assess they’ve closed the gap.”

Napier doesn’t have time for outside noise

Florida coach Billy Napier knows outsiders don’t think much of his team entering the 2023 season. He doesn’t care.

“One of the things we are not going to do with our team is we are not going to allow outside opinion or create a narrative to define the reality for the 2023 team,” Napier said. “The Head Ball Coach, Gator legend Steve Spurrier, said it best: ‘This is talking season.’ The games are coming, and in the meantime, this group will continue to work like it’s been working.”

Florida isn’t projected to be a top-three team in the SEC East, perhaps not even top four. It’s lagging well behind rival Georgia but hopes Napier can eventually revive it.

“Y’all know what (the Bulldogs) are right now and what we’re trying to get to,” Gators junior center Kingsley Eguakun said.

-Staff writers Chad Bishop, D. Orlando Ledbetter, Chip Towers, Gabriel Burns and Chris Vivlamore contributed to this article.

October 29, 2022 Jacksonville, Fla. - Georgia's head coach Kirby Smart celebrates with players after Georgia beat Florida in an NCAA college football game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday, October 29, 2022. Georgia won 42 - 20 over Florida.  (Hyosub Shin /


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New Georgia Tech head basketball coach Damon Stoudamire addresses the media during his introductory news conference on Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts runs the ball during the third quarter as wide receiver Drake London looks against the Carolina Panthers in Atlanta.
 Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez