Smart drops “some” knowledge on Daniels
Kirby Smart continued to play coy about his quarterback situation Tuesday. He did, however, drop a bit of knowledge about Southern Cal transfer JT Daniels.
Smart didn’t indicate any plans for Daniels, who sources say continues to see work with the first team, but he affirmed that the surgically repaired right knee is improving, and the former five-star is moving around better than he has before.
“Well, he hasn’t always worked with the ones, so I don’t know where you would speculate that from,” Smart said. “But his mobility has been better.”
When it comes to confirming whether or not Daniels will make his Georgia debut Saturday night against Mississippi State (7:30 p.m., ESPN), Smart was not forthcoming.
“Stetson (Bennett), he was out there able to go today and do some things,” Smart said. “He and D’Wan (Mathis) and JT and Carson (Beck) all got work.”
But that didn’t stop the questions about Daniels. Smart was asked how quickly the quarterback has picked up the offense, and was surprisingly candid with his response.
“He’s very bright; he understands things. He’s very attentive in meetings. He asks a lot of really smart questions. He always ends with the Xs and Os. He’s always intrigued by the other teams’ defenses,” Smart said. “Each week they get tests, and each week of the season, he takes the test and does it as good as anybody—not knowing if he’s getting snaps or not. He’s done a tremendous job of understanding the teams. He comes down there with us and gets scout team reps, and he still knows what the other team’s defense is doing. He takes a lot of pride in that part of it.”
Smart wants to see more
Although he’s pleased with the overall performance of his outside linebackers, Smart admitted Tuesday that he wants to see more.
“I think always you want more,” Smart said. “We’ve had better sack production than in years past; we’ve got some experienced players there. In some of those big games, I would have liked to have had some more rush, more opportunity to get some caused fumbles. I think all sacks have the potential to be fumbles. We’re always trying to disrupt the pocket.”
Azeez Ojulari and Adam Anderson lead the outside linebackers with 3.5 each, followed by Jermaine Johnson with three.
“I’m really pleased with their work ethic. It’s a good group and a group that works extremely hard when you watch them at practice. There are great kids in that room,” Smart said. “Robert Beal is a guy you don’t get to see, but he works really hard in practice. Adam has done a great job, Jermaine has done a great job—Nolan, Azeez—they work their tails off, and I certainly appreciate what they do.”
Smart also singled out the work put in by Anderson on special teams.
“People don’t get to notice it, but Adam has done a really good job on kickoff returns,” Smart said. “He’s one of the key block guys who has helped that unit be a weapon for us.”
Route running by wide receivers also a topic of conversation
Has route running been an issue for Georgia’s wide receivers? Smart was asked that very question Tuesday.
“I think that’s always a matter of what game you’re talking about, and what the level of competition (is)—so are we measuring ourselves against the best we play? You always want to do better. Are you measuring yourself against a lesser competition?” Smart said. “We’ve shown flashes of that, and we’ve shown an inability to hit them sometimes when they’re open. We’ve also shown some 50/50 balls that we’ve caught in the path.”
But yes, there’s plenty of improvement to be made.
“It’s just hit or miss. It’s one game up, and guys are open. I will say this— Jermaine Burton has gotten better and better and better, and he continues to improve. Kearis (Jackson), in Todd (Monken’s) system, has found a niche. He’s found a nice ability to play the slot, and he’s not afraid to go over the middle, and we’ve found ways to hit him,” Smart said. “George (Pickens) has been dealing with an injury, but George has certainly made some big plays for us, going back to the Auburn game. We’ve just got to get more guys producing out of that position consistently, and we also have to hit them when they’re open. We’ve got to hit the layups.”
Smart said freshman defensive lineman Warren Brinson has been cleared for Saturday, but is unsure if he will be played.
Although Smart did not indicate his injury, sources say the Savannah native has been dealing with a concussion,
“He is. I mean, he’s not getting a ton of work, because he just got back. But he worked today with the scout team and all,” Smart said. “He’s cleared to play, but we have some other guys in front of him right now.”
Smart was also asked about running back Kenny McIntosh (knee) and nose guard Jordan Davis (elbow).
“Kenny has continued to work at practice, and Jordan continues to work at practice as well,” Smart said.
Smart believes it’s unwise for players to opt out early
Smart was asked about players who decide to opt out early before the regular season is complete.
“I think it’ll be measured when they get to the next level. Some pundits or some critic would say, ‘Well, that’s easy for you to say, they need to be worried about their NFL careers.’ Well, I’ve learned those NFL careers are not for long, and especially for guys who aren’t first-rounders,” Smart said. “If you’ve got a bona fide first-rounder, that’s a completely different subject, but that’s not the case for a lot of these opt-outs.”
Smart was asked the question after a quartet of players from South Carolina announced they’d be skipping the rest of the regular season to focus on the NFL.
“Our kids care about each other. They want to win. They want to have a productive season, and, at the end of the day, they want to improve their draft stock. How does that really look upon you that you opt out to go train and not play if you’re a first-round pick?” Smart said. “That’s an easy decision. But when you’re not, they take thought into that. The NFL general managers, the scouts—all the people that we talk to—100 percent think about that. That makes them think, ‘Is this the best decision for him right now? Because I want to evaluate.’ ”
There’s another reason why Smart said opting out early is not necessarily a good idea.
“What are they going to work out for? We don’t know if there’s going to be a combine. We don’t know if there’s going to be a Pro Day,” Smart said. “What we know is we play Mississippi State at 7:30 on Saturday night, and that’s an opportunity for you to go showcase what you can do against really good competition.”
Black jerseys for Saturday?
Rumors began circulating Tuesday that Georgia will be breaking out the black jerseys for Saturday night’s game.
So, UGASports asked Smart if there will be any uniform changes.
“We aren’t sure yet. We’ve contemplated that, but we’re not completely committed to it yet,” Smart said. “We want to wait and see on a couple things with our leadership and some of our other senior groups.”
Linebacker Nakobe Dean, who is on the leadership committee, said any decision to wear black jerseys was news to him.
“Me personally, it’s not a big thing, because I don’t wear a lot of stuff,” Dean said. “I don’t care what kind of jerseys we’ve got on.”