Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Practice Report

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs continued their preparations for the 2017 season opener against Appalachian State with a 2-hour practice on Tuesday afternoon.

Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart’s post-practice press briefing:

Opening Comments

‘’Yesterday we didn’t have the kind of practice that you want to have. The focus and intensity weren’t where they needed to be. We challenged them today. They picked it up. I thought it was really cool, unusually cool both days, and they practiced much better today. Good competition out there. A lot of guys trying to learn and get ready.

‘’I will say that Chauncy Manac has decided to transfer to Garden City, in Kansas, and he’ll be moving out there. We wish him the best and appreciate all he’s done for us.’’

Has Kendall Baker earned the right to be in the offensive line competition

‘’Y’all are incredible. I got reports during practice. Everybody’s telling me that Kendall Baker’s the starting right guard or something. It amazes me where some of this comes from. Kendall Baker is in competition with Dyshon Sims, who’s in competition with Solomon Kindley, who’s in competition with Pat Allen. And to be honest with you, those four at guard are really about dead even. That’s just where it is. I know y’all want to know who the starter is, but there’s not a starter right now. Those guys roll, they rep. We come out to practice and they take 50 percent of the 1’s, 50 percent of the 2’s. Therefore, it ends up equal because we’re trying to figure out who the best ones are. To be honest, we practice so many reps that they have to take each other’s reps and share them. So a starter has not been named at right guard.’’

Have you seen what you’ve wanted to see from your pass rush during preseason?

‘’At times it’s been flashy. Other times it’s been spotty. That’s one of the big things we’ve tried to improve. You can improve your pass rush by bringing more guys, or you can rush four better. Obviously, I like to rush four better than bringing more guys. So we’ve tried to find ways to do it. It’s not always been exactly what we wanted to create, but we’re improving.’’

What’s the advantage of having the experience of Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy at OLB?

‘’Knowledge. It makes you feel comfortable that they’re going to be able to in-game adjust.  They (opponent) do something new and those kids have seen it. They’ve played a lot of football around here. Both of them make you feel comfortable that if we have to put both of them on the field at the same time, they can do it. If just one of ‘em is on the field, they can spell each other. D’Andre Walker is another guy that’s picked it up and done good things.  And Walter Grant has come on and played well. So between those four guys, we feel good at outside backer, that we can be effective.’’

What has Walter Grant done so far to impress you?

‘’He’s very intelligent. He does a good job learning the system. Most freshmen come in and go through this learning curve of learning the defense. It just seems to come naturally to him. I don’t know if it’s a football IQ or what. He’s not flashed just unbelievable speed or athleticism, like you might say a Leonard Floyd would. But he understands football. He leverages blocks, he plays with his hands well. He’s a good football player and he has not struggled to pick up our system. He doesn’t play like a freshman.’’

How closely are you watching the weather at this point and are you anticipating having to prepare for weather this weekend?

‘’We’re watching it, obviously. We tried to practice some today with wet balls. We try to do that from time to time, whether the weather’s imminent or not. But we know it is, so we went out and practiced a couple of periods today with wet balls, focusing on catching it. It makes the receivers focus a little harder, and quarterback think about it as well. So we know it’s a possibility and all you can do to prepare for it is to dunk a ball in water.’’

Could you rotate a lot on the offensive line this weekend?

‘’We certainly could and that’s the thought for the first game. Conditioning could be an issue, depending on the temperature at the game. We want to have a lot of guys ready. I don’t know if it’ll happen. It will probably depend on the flow of the game and how guys are playing. But the guard spots are probably where most of that can happen.’’

What are some of the biggest areas where the offensive needs to show improvement this season?

‘’No. 1, we’ve got to score points and that goes back to a lot of things. The play of the quarterback is really key. He’s got to put us in the right play. When you have a chance to make big plays and expose defenses, you’ve gotta do it. You have to have some playmakers on the outside to open things up. We’ve gotta get the ball to the playmakers in space, and that doesn’t always mean receivers. That means running backs and tight ends. So, I think when you look at the whole picture, we’ve got some guys that have some athletic ability on offense. We’ve got to block on the perimeter to give those guys a chance, and those are things we’ve worked hard on all season. So that’s what football is now. It’s playing a lot of the game in the air. We also have some backs that can grind it out pretty good and we gotta find out if we can do that.’’

You’ve had Lorenzo Carter for close to two years now. What have you seen from him that sticks out?

‘’I tell you, if you had to pick one player on the team that I’d say has improved the most, in my opinion, from last year to this year — of the guys that played a lot — he’s one of those guys that’s playing a lot better now than I remembered from last year. He’s playing more physical, he’s really comfortable. He’s playing at 247, 250 pounds. I remember last year he was playing at 239 or 240. It just seems like he’s playing a lot better, so I’ve been really pleased with that and his practice habits. He practices really hard every day. He deserves to play well.

Roquan Smith
(Photo by Steven Colquitt)
‘’I think he’d be the first to say that he could do some better things, but scheme affects that some. There were times last year that we asked him to cover a back so Roquan Smith could rush. We asked him to mirror a quarterback. So when he had to rush, he was effective, but we didn’t rush him all the time because there are certain quarterbacks you’ve got to be careful about when you do that. I don’t think he was completely happy with where he finished, but I also think he’s worked really hard to improve that, and he has. He’s worked really hard this camp to improve in a lot of areas. And he’s a very diverse player, so it’s not like you grade him on pass rush and we grade him on strike, the ability to play the run, drop to the flat. I mean, he plays man-to-man on receivers sometimes. You don’t ask outside linebackers to do that, but he can.’’

Any update on the kicking situation?

‘’As far as kickoffs, Rodrigo Blankenship will kick off.  Rodrigo will also do the placekicking. So we’ll start with him as the placekicker. David Marvin will do some other things for us. But Rodrigo has done a really good job. He’s been really consistent. We’re excited for where he is. We told Rodrigo that it’s really important that we get a high percentage of our field goals and he’s competing to do that. It (competition) was really tight.  I’d say that his consistency was the biggest difference.’’

Georgia opens the 2017 season this Saturday at home against Appalachian State. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.  It will mark the second-ever appearance at Sanford Stadium for the Mountaineer program, which joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2014, one year after that first trip to Athens.

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