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Ready for the next step? Georgia's offense prepares for spring practice as expectations are high
It seems like the Georgia players are buying into what Kirby Smart and Todd Monken are preaching
(Photo by Tony Walsh)
For the first time since 2018, the Georgia football program doesn’t have a new offensive coordinator heading into spring practice, which is huge in the grand scheme of things.
Georga finally has a proven quarterback heading into spring camp in J.T. Daniels, which makes a difference. The Bulldogs also return leading rusher Zamir White and its top two receivers in Kearis Jackson and George Pickens. On top of that, Georgia had a stable full of running backs and receivers, who are just as, if not more, talented than those statistical leaders from 2020.
Last spring, the program had a lot of questions surrounding the offense. Georgia lost three-year starter Jake Fromm and a 1,000-yard rusher in D’Andre Swift. Pickens was the only returning productive piece from the 2019 season, but questions were surrounding who would step up behind him at the position.
The addition of Todd Monken was a step in the right direction of making Georgia’s offense elite. Under the first-year coordinator in 2020, the Bulldogs averaged 32.30 points per game and 424.1 total yards per game, which are great numbers. But Georgia will have to learn to be more consistent on offense, but with Daniels under center, it seems like it is possible.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart knows what his offense is capable of, but doesn’t want his players to get complacent. The sixth-year head coach knows his offense has the potential and he sees players buying in as spring practice approaches. It appears that team-bonding may be at an all-time high.
“We see that we’re getting results from the things we’re putting time to,” Smart said. “You get what you demand, you get what you invest. So we’re investing time in us. We’re investing time in connection. A connection is important. It was a very strange year for everybody in college football when you had some kids on teams that had only been on Zooms their entire time. They had no face-to-face with anybody. So the connection and the dialog—demanding the standard—has been a big topic of conversation for us.”
Smart added that he’s seeing the results every day, no matter what the circumstance.
“It’s every day in the sprints, it’s every day,” Smart said. “It’s every time something adverse happens and it’s holding guys accountable. I’m not waiting until practice one to see the effects of things. I’m seeing the fruit of the labor. Guys are coming in on their own. Guys are coming in and saying, 'I want to go throw, I want to work out extra, I want to go work out on Saturday.' That’s the culture you have to have to be elite, and that’s what you’re always working toward.”
Georgia offensive line coach Matt Luke notices that under Monken, the players’ attitudes are infectious, especially when learning new schemes and plays.
“Just very impressed with how he sets everything up, he is very intelligent,” Luke said of Monken. “It has been really good to get around that pro-style, and I have learned a lot with the short time that we have been together, and it is only going to get better moving forward, so that is what I am excited about.”
Last March, the COVID-19 pandemic took away Monken’s first chance to have his new offense build a rapport with each other. Well, after a year together, it seems like the unit has molded together and is only growing closer. That’s a real positive note for a group that has such high expectations.
“Last year at this time, it was just a whirlwind in terms of figuring out okay, ‘Monken’s here, we’ve got this guy here, this guy there,’ and trying to install different things,” Smart said. “Now, just the pace in which we’re doing walkthroughs and being able to do things offensively has been much better. If anything, we’re trying to adjust more on defense now to what they’re doing, because they’re a little bit ahead of us, where the defense was a little bit ahead of them last year.”
Smart said that having Daniels back is huge, mainly because the offense can gel and continue its rhythm from the end of the 2020 season.
“With the quarterback position, the continuity of the offense, that’s critical,” Smart said. “You want to be able to get some relationships built there. Continuity towards the end of the year began to improve, obviously offensively, we have a lot of guys that are coming back, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have success because they’re coming back.”
Smart doesn’t buy into the hype around what players are coming back and what is being projected.
“The more that mantra is out there, we’re going to be great, the tougher our job becomes internally to motivate,” Smart said. “We’ve had years before where we’ve had returning quarterbacks, returning running backs, returning these guys, returning those guys, two great tackles. Did that equate to instant success? Not necessarily. What you do, what you earn is what you do in the offseason. Nothing is given to you; there’s no entitlement, and I think JT understands that. I think the rapport with the receivers and all the quarterbacks is going to be extremely important in terms of developing our offense and getting timing in the passing game.”
Smart also added that the team is still fairly young and a good portion of the players haven’t even gone through spring practice.
“The other day we had a team run, and I asked everybody to stand up who'd not been to a spring practice at Georgia, and I venture to say it was 65-70 percent of the team that stood up,” Smart said. “That’s a scary thing. You’re like, well, what does that matter? It shows you the youth you have and the lack of practices and experiences your team has.”
But it just goes to show you that expectations are always going to be high for Georiga. However, with Monken as the play-caller, it seems like things are starting to improve. It’s just that these veteran skill players and newcomers have to step up and execute when it comes down to it.