Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Practice Report

UGA Sports Communications

The 15th-ranked Dawgs conducted a 90-minute practice in full pads Wednesday in their Indoor Athletic Facility (IAF).

After the workout, selected offensive players met with the media and provided an update on preseason camp.

Junior wide receiver Michael Chigbu, a 6-2, 213-pound native of New Orleans, said the team has been working hard and when they leave the field each day, the goal is to have no regrets.

“I’m trying to be the best player I can be and add vale to the team,” said Chigbu who played in 12 games last season with six starts. “Our unit is pushing each other, and I think we are further along this year compared to last year. We all need to get better.”

When asked about how the new wide receivers were adjusting to college football, Chigbu said everyone has been productive and looking to earn playing time.

“We’re all pulling hard to get a spot, but our focus is on the team,” Chigbu added.

Sophomore tight end Issac Nauta, a 6-4, 246-pound native of Buford, Ga., said he is more comfortable now in his second preseason camp and that goes for his roommate and good friend sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason.

“We got to experience the learning curve together and that helped a lot,” said Nauta. “I have high expectations for myself to perform every time I’m on the field and help the team win. Jacob and I have been roommates for a while, and we know each other and have a really good bond.”

Nauta appeared in all 13 games last season with five starts. He tallied 29 receptions for 361 yards and three touchdowns to earn Freshman All-America honors from multiple outlets. He said he’s more confident this year but has plenty of room to grow.

“It’s all about growth, and I’m still learning,” said Nauta. “I’ve got a full year under my belt, and I’m trying to help the younger guys too. I’m learning to be more physical and be a better blocker. Blocking in high school versus blocking in college, especially in the SEC, it’s another level.”

Wednesday’s workout marked the second time this week that the Dawgs have spent time practicing indoors. On Monday, they utilized their new $30.2 million IAF for the first part of practice due to inclement weather and then finished up outside on the Woodruff Practice Fields.

The 2017 season opener will be Saturday Sept. 2 against Appalachian State. Kickoff is slated for 6:15 p.m., and the game will air on ESPN.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Practice Report

The Dawgs worked out for a little over two hours on Tuesday afternoon in the third week of pre-season camp.

Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart's post-practice press briefing on Tuesday:

Opening Statements

‘’First off, I’d like to send my condolences to the Frank Broyles family.  First of all, a great college football family.  It meant a lot to me to win that award named after Frank Broyles, and also his grandson Lex and I were good friends in college.  So I just wanted to send my condolences out to the family for their loss and really all of college football’s loss.

‘’As far as today went, it was another heater, so I’m proud of the guys.  They did much better the last two days, pushing through the heat.  They kinda responded to not doing so well in the heat Saturday.  I thought they really pushed through yesterday and today.  We’re still in camp mode, running camp-type practices.  We’re getting guys back.  We’ve had a couple of guys out.  We’re back and forth.  I’m sure you guys will ask me about that.  We had a couple of changes on the offensive line.  But I’ll be honest with you.  I think the guys are playing really physical.  They’ve bought into the physicality of the right way to practice.  We are nowhere near where we need to be.  We’re not ready yet, especially on special teams, but they’re pushing hard. They’re answering the call.’’  

Update on status of freshman RB D’Andre Swift:

‘’D’Andre was out today.  He was getting some medical things checked on.  We expect him back tomorrow.  Should be fine.  He just had to get some things checked on.’’

Update on snapper Trent Frix:

‘’He’s got a little bit of a hamstring, but we think he’s going to be fine.  He’s down right now, but we hope to get him back.  (Backup) Nick Moore does a good job.  He snapped all spring and has done a good job the past two days.’’

In terms of special teams coverage units, what are you looking for to shore up those areas this year?

‘’Number one, is a great kick because the best way to shore up your areas of coverage is to kick the ball where it’s supposed to be, how high it’s supposed to be with what hang time it’s supposed to be done with.  We’ve improved first and foremost in that area.  Rodrigo Blankenship did a great job of kicking off in Saturday’s scrimmage.  He had some of the best hang times we’ve had.  David Marvin did as well, but Rod had a little better hang time.  Punting, Cam Nizialek got great placement and hang time.  But, the number one thing, coverages have fast, big guys.  We’ve got a lot of starters playing on our punt team.  We’re still assembling the kickoff team.  The goal is to have guys buy in and realize the importance of it.  It’s not a down off.  So we have a lot of competition.  That’s the biggest difference I noticed from last year.  There’s a lot of guys fighting for spots on special teams because they know that if they don’t get those spots, they might not make that travel roster.  So we’re looking for fast guys that make good decisions.’’

How many of the true freshmen do you think might make these units?

‘’I don’t know an amount.  I mean, Swift was showing up.  Mark Webb was showing up.  Walter Grant is showing up. Several guys…Nate McBride is showing up.  There are a lot of guys that are showing up.  They’re all in the mix, and I think after Saturday’s scrimmage we’ll know more of the 2-deep on the special teams.  And there’s some real good competition.  But that’s where those guys are going to make their waves early.’’

Did you anticipate that J.R. Reed would push for a starting job this soon when he transferred?

‘’I didn’t know what we were getting.  He’s a really good athlete.  I knew he was really fast. We didn’t know much.  We had heard.  We talked to the coaches where he was and they all said he was a good player and we were a little deficient in that area.  And he’s turned out to be probably the best decision that we’ve made from a standpoint of transfers, junior college players.  That was a huge get for us because we’re struggling a little bit right now in the secondary from the standpoint of depth.  He’s made it where we’ve got five guys that we can really play with.  Without him, we might be four or less.  So he’s done a good job.  He’s really competitive.  I thought he played well in the scrimmage the other day.’’

Early observations on freshman OL Netori Johnson:

‘’Netori’s doing well.  He’s pushing along.  He’s getting a lot of work, a lot of reps.  I think the next scrimmage is going to be the best way to get the best barometer for those guys because at the first scrimmage, you realize some of these guys, after watching the tape and having not seeing you guys, you see that there are some ‘rat trap’ players.  Rat trap means ‘I forget completely what to do because I’m in the stadium and I’m nervous from my first scrimmage.  Not saying that he (Johnson) was that way, but there were a good bit of those freshmen that were.  They were very nervous, playing with anxiety.  I’ve seen the most growth in them in these two practices, where it’s like, ‘OK, they got that out of the way.  Now I want to see what they do in this next scrimmage.’  Kinda find out where they are.  But Netori is working with the 3’s.  He’s fighting to get in that 2-deep so can be a contributor at guard.’’

What was behind the decision to move Pat Allen back to left guard?

‘’Well, we’re trying to get the best five, so Pat had played all spring at left guard.  Really, the move wasn’t so much the right tackle as it was right guard and right tackle, but he was playing a lot more right guard when y’all saw him at right tackle in practice.  He’s done a good job.  He didn’t pout when he got moved.  He competed.  Played pretty good in the scrimmage.  We felt like Andrew Thomas could give us the best help at right tackle and Pat was playing pretty good in the spring at left guard.  So we were able to move him back and we’re looking at it this way right now.  Those guys are interchangeable parts.  The really bright ones can switch and move and it doesn’t affect them.  The ones that struggle with a move, we try to keep them in the same place.’’

Will the solar eclipse next Monday affect the scheduling of practice at all?

‘’Not that I’m aware of.  I know my kids and my wife are really excited about it.  I’m a lot more worried about practice than the solar eclipse.  Y’all keep reminding me of that and maybe we’ll take the team out and watch it.  We’re never off on a Monday; I can tell you that.  I’m not off until sometime in December.’’

Do you see Ahkil Crumpton contributing as much as a receiver as you foresee as a return specialist?

‘’Blessing in disguise, because he’s really run great routes.  He’s really good in and out of breaks.  He’s got great hands, big hands for a small guy. He snatches the ball out of the air. He plucks it.  He’s done a really good job.  The tough thing is, he’s in competition with Mecole Hardman some, Terry Godwin some, Mark Webb has worked in the slot some.  So his specialty is returning, but he’s not a one-trick guy.  The guy goes in there and does really well.  I’ll tell you what now, he is physical and feisty.  He doesn’t mind getting up in there and blocking and competing. He gets slung around sometimes, but it’s the fight in him that I’ve really enjoyed.''

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Practice Report

UGA Sports Communications

The 15th-ranked Dawgs conducted a two-hour scrimmage under hot, humid conditions at Sanford Stadium Saturday in their 12th workout of the preseason.

The following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart's press briefing following the scrimmage:

How did the team hold up in the conditions today?

 ‘’We ran 70 plays in that kind of heat, and I’m glad we got the opportunity to see that and see how they pushed through it today. I’m thankful for that. We found out a lot about the guys today, and I hope to see a few more hot days this week.”

What does it mean for the offensive line when senior Isaiah Wynn (out with an illness) is not playing?

‘’It doesn’t help our cohesion as a unit. When he’s in there, we’re a better unit. It forces other guys to play at right tackle, at left tackle.’’

How has senior offensive lineman Dyshon Sims performed during preseason camp?

“Dyshon enjoys the challenge. He has done a great job. He is versatile and knows his role.”

How did the secondary look during the scrimmage?

“The leaders are leading, and a lot of guys are doing the best job they can. We have a lot of experience there, but they gave up some plays today, and they made some plays when we went one-on-one.”

Were there any standouts during the scrimmage?

“There really wasn’t. There was not any one situation where anybody stood out. I need to watch the tape. Nobody stood out in the wrong way.”

How did the team look in the Red Zone?

“We put the ball in there one time, and the defense held them to a field goal. We need to be (ranked) in the upper 20s in there in the country to be a good team. The defense won today.”

In 2016, Georgia ranked 64th nationally in red zone offense. The Dawgs scored touchdowns 56 percent of the time when inside the red zone and managed points 84 percent of the time. In 45 trips, the Dawgs scored 25 touchdowns and 13 field goals and came up empty seven times. The missed opportunities were the result of three turnovers, three missed field goals and once running out the clock. Florida State led the country in Red Zone Offense, scoring 97 percent of the time, getting points in 55 of 57 trips including 44 touchdowns.

Sunday will be an off day, and the fall semester begins Monday, Aug. 14. The 2017 season opener will be Saturday Sept. 2 against Appalachian State. Kickoff is slated for 6:15 p.m., and the game will air on ESPN.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Practice Report

UGA Sports Communications

The Georgia football team on Wednesday had its ninth practice of the preseason camp, including its second inside UGA’s new $30.2-million, 102,306-square-foot Indoor Athletic Facility (IAF).

The practice in shoulder pads and shorts lasted just over two hours.

Afterward, select defensive players talked about how preseason camp has been going.

Linebacker Reggie Carter, who rolled up 45 tackles — to match his uniform number — last year, said he and his fellow veterans have been serving as mentors to the younger players.

"Our message to them is to embrace the grind," Carter, a senior, said. "We've been encouraging the younger guys, trying to help them out and be an example for them. They're all eager and ready to learn, and they all want to get out and play to help the team. I've been through a lot since I've been here, so it feels great to help the young guys. Seeing how eager they are reminds me of when I was a freshman."

Senior cornerback Aaron Davis said the Dawgs have been using camp to set and start working toward their season's goals.

"We're hungry," said Davis, who had 54 stops and two interceptions a year ago. "We've got high goals, high standards for each other, and we want to meet them. We're all hungry to get something done this year. Camp is going pretty well. I've seen a lot of guys competing and getting after it."

The Dawgs return 10 defensive starters from a year ago when Georgia ranked fourth in the SEC and 16th nationally in total defense.

The Dawgs will return to action on Thursday and will practice through Saturday this week. Georgia starts classes on Monday. The 2017 season opener will Saturday, Sept. 2, against Appalachian State. Kickoff is slated for 6:15 p.m. and the game will air on ESPN.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Press Conference - End Of Week One

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs worked out for a little over two hours on Tuesday afternoon on the eighth day of pre-season camp.

Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart's post-practice press briefing on Tuesday:

Opening Statements

‘’We finished up Day 8.  Had a little bit of weather out there at times.  It drizzled on us some, off and on.  It was good to get to practice in that because obviously playing at night in the first three games, we may have to play in some of that.  We had some loose balls, couple of balls on the ground, struggled to catch it a little bit, but that’s good for us.  The adversity was good for us.  A little better practice today than yesterday.  We’re continuing on with our install, we’re almost through with our installations.  Isaiah Wynn and Michail Carter both have a little bit of an illness, so we held them out the past two days.  Kinda took their helmets away so they couldn’t go.  Other than that, Tyler Simmons is good.  He’s back out there running routes.  He’s ‘no contact’ for a couple of days as far as catching balls and blocking, but he can run and should be good…little bit of a wrist injury there.  I think that’s it on the injuries.  Jeremiah Holloman just had a little hamstring twinge and we’re holding him out.  Walter Grant should be fine. He got dinged up while you guys were out there, but I expect him to be right back.  He actually finished up practice today.’’

 How does not having Isaiah Wynn out there affect what you’re trying to do on the offensive line?

‘’It’s great because the one guy who we know what he can do is him, of everybody.  I think with him out, it allows us to move guys around and we did that throughout practice.  We’ve had those guys moving around.  Andrew (Thomas) has played left tackle, right tackle, left guard.  He’s played a little bit of everything. Isaiah Wilson has mainly been on the right side.  Ben (Cleveland) has been on the right side.  We’ve been able to flip-flop some guards, Kendall Baker and Solomon (Kindley) have continued to play both sides.  Justin Shaffer has played inside, Netori (Johnson) has played inside.  We’ve really moved guys a lot, more than we probably wanted to in the past two days, with Isaiah’s situation.’’

With Ben Cleveland getting reps on the right side, what does that say about his development from last year to this year?

‘’It says that he’s the right tackle as of today, Practice 8.  That’s all it says.  He’s got to continue to get better.  We expect more from him.  We’re searching for a right tackle.  You know, Dyshon (Sims) was probably playing better than him, but Ben has a lot of potential.  He’s got great size.  So does Isaiah Wilson. But neither one is playing up to the standards of what we expect right now, so we’ve got to keep growing in all those areas.’’

What is Jacob Eason like as a student of the game?

‘’I think Jacob is a great quarterback.  I think he’s somebody that understands our system.  He works really hard at it.  Jacob comes in and meets extra every chance he gets.  So, a lot of the things that you have heard about Jacob may not be true.  I think he does a tremendous job of trying to lead the team, of being ‘The Guy,’ just like Jake Fromm tries to do.  He also studies really hard and has grown a lot as a player, and he still has a long way to go.  And I think he’s the first to acknowledge that.’’

When the coaches are making personnel decisions on the offensive line, how much do you weigh experience vs. the option of giving someone the experience of playing time?

‘’I think it’s a critical decision.  We’ve always said that we want to play the guys that give us the best opportunity to win.  In Game 1, that may not the be the same as Game 2, 3, 4 or 5.  So when we make those decisions, we make them based on who’s going to be the best guy down the road.  It doesn’t mean that that guy might start, very similar to Jacob (Eason) and Greyson (Lambert) last year.  We’re trying to decide who’s going to be the best guy down the road, but it doesn’t mean that guy is going to start right away.  It just means that guy is going to be ready to play and he’s going to be developed.  Let’s say we keep up 12 linemen working with the Ones and the Twos.  Once we start really rolling, getting ready on our game prep, those guys have got to be interchangeable parts, and those reps they get in practice are really valuable, so that we’re giving the most reps to the guys we think have the best future to help us.  But they may or may not play in the first part of a drive.  We’re just going to have to wait and see.  It’s so early right now.  It’s too early to tell on the offensive line.  We haven’t even scrimmaged yet.  After the first scrimmage we’ll know a lot more.’’

Where does Andrew Thomas stand in terms of his readiness to contribute?

‘’He’s not ready to help out right now.  He’s an extremely mature kid.  He studies hard.  He’s very serious.  He’s very business-like.  He’s got a great approach to the game.  But we don’t have a guy ready right now.  We’re at Practice 8.  It’s hard to say that we have the older linemen exactly ready. I mean, the five guys that started out out there because they had 15 practices in the spring, they’re still ahead of those other guys.  But some of those other guys are catching up quick.  I would definitely say that Andrew is a guy that’s catching up quick because he has the athletic ability to play multiple positions in the inside and outside.  We think he’s a future left tackle, but we have to play our best players and if that means he’s there, and he’s got a little bit more size than Isaiah Wynn.  Isaiah played some guard last year and we didn’t get a whole lot of movement, so Isaiah did a really good job at tackle.  I feel like Andrew can help us out at guard, but Andrew has got to be a left tackle as well.  He may even have to be the right tackle, so he’s a guy that’s going to be a moving part, as well as (Justin) Shaffer, as well as Pat (Allen), as well as a couple of other guys…(Aulden) Bynum and Ben (Cleveland).  We’ve just got to get better all across the board.  And hey, they’re going against a good defensive front, too, so those guys are playing hard.’’

What have you seen from Mecole Hardman so far this camp?

‘’He’s made some plays.  It’s not that he’s faster than he was in the spring.  He’s just more confident, which makes him faster.  He hears the call and he knows what to do.  He’s had some pretty spectacular plays, but I still think he’s got to work on his hands and his natural catching the ball.  He’s a good athlete and I think he’s found a good home.  He’s tough.  He plays the game very similarly to Isaiah McKenzie when it comes to the toughness and competitiveness that you want.  But he’s gotten more comfortable in our system, so he’s able to do more.

‘’I think we’ll do anything we can to get him to ball. The problem is, and it’s a good problem to have, is that there are other guys whom we’ve got to get the ball to as well.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to find ways to get Mecole the ball.  Hopefully, the better he goes up and catches it and makes plays vertically down the field, it’ll take the top off some of these defenses where we’ve struggled to do that in the past.  But we’ve got a lot of guys that need the ball in their hands.  You guys got to see (D’Andre) Swift the other day.  He’s done a good job.  He’s a very serious, competitive young man.  Mark Webb, very serious, competitive young man.  Those guys are starting to hit that Day 8 wall.  Some of them haven’t had to compete at this level for this long, but we’re going to keep pushing them through because we think those guys can help us this year.’’