Smart, Daniels not too worried about Georgia's secondary performance on G-Day
Georgia defensive back Javon Bullard (22) during the G-Day scrimmage on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
The Georgia passing attack on G-Day was put on display this past Saturday.
In fact, five Bulldog quarterbacks combined to pass for a total of 684 yards and five touchdowns against an inexperienced secondary.
Junior quarterback JT Daniels was the scrimmage’s leading passing as he accounted for 324 yards and three scores, while sophomore Carson Beck totaled 236 yards and two scores. Highly touted freshman Brock Vandagriff completed six of nine passes for 47 yards, while Stetson Bennett and Jackson Muschamp combined for the remaining 77 yards.
Those numbers might be alarming due to Georgia’s immaturity in the defensive backfield, although there’s no need to panic. The Bulldogs have talent in those positions and sixth-year head coach Kirby Smart definitely knows what the group is capable of.
Smart said that the way the scrimmage was designed to cater to the passing game.
"I would probably argue that every G-Day you come out and you feel good about the wideouts because you throw the ball so much in the G-Day game,” Smart said in his postgame press conference on Saturday. “On G-Day, I can never remember coming out of saying 'Oh man, we don't have any wide-outs.' I've never felt any negative way towards the defensive backs coming out of the spring game.”
He continued, “They've given up yards and passing because this game is built around that. It’s probably a little unrealistic on some plays, whether the quarterback has been sacked or not. That is the hardest thing to measure in this because sometimes he has to step up, maybe make a throw, make a play down the field when you don't know if that would actually have happened or not.”
Georgia defensive back David Daniel (14) during the 2021 G-Day Game on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (photo by Rob Davis)
Smart said that even the wide receiver play on Saturday was above par, but there’s certainly room for improvement.
“We certainly have to improve in all of those areas and I am looking forward to it,” he added. “I know we have a lot of wideouts. It’s going to be a really good competition come fall when we are 100 percent healthy at the wide receiver position. Mainly because some of the guys that got a lot of these opportunities this spring have really stepped up. Then, the defensive backs, it doesn't change it stays the same.”
Smart added that it’s “day to day” with the defensive backs.
“We've got two safeties that have played pretty good and are experienced,” he said. “But at corner, we've got to find guys that are comfortable, make plays down the field and make plays with their backs to the wall.”
For Georgia’s black team, Jalen Kimber, Ameer Speed, Lewis Cine, Chris Smith and Latavious Brini all rotated snaps on the first-team defense. At the same time, Major Burns, Javon Bullard, Lovasea Carroll, David Daniel, Kelee Ringo and William Poole all split reps for Georgia’s second-team defense on the red team.
Kimber finished second on the black squad with seven total tackles, while Bullard led the red team with just as many. Kimber, Speed and Smith all were credited with one pass breakup, respectively. Cine and walk-on Dan Jackson each caught an interception.
Daniels agreed with Smart’s sentiment.
“Yeah, that’s one thing you have to mention about Georgia football is that defense gives you everything every down, starting with that front seven,” he said. “In the secondary you know they are a little inexperienced but don’t hold that against them. There’s a lot of talent there and there’s a lot of good players. There’s no fear in my mind and no fear that I feel with that secondary on the field. They give us a look every day. They make a lot of plays. We make a lot of plays on them, but it’s just good on good.”
Senior inside linebacker Quay Walker practices with the secondary every day, and knows that a rapport with come together soon.
"This spring, it was a whole lot of young guys trying to get better, including Ameer Speed," he said. "They are just getting better each and every day with working on technique mainly. We've got a lot of things to get better at, not just them, but everybody as a team. Today, technique-wise, there are some things that need to be fixed, which is a whole defense. We can help on the back end with pass rush as well, but I'm pretty impressed by their effort."
Smart said that his team’s defensive backs will hopefully get better as they take reps against the first-team offense.
“I’m hopeful it pays off next year in upcoming games," Smart said. "Because the opportunity to be a DB is not in the run game. You could have 25 run plays and they may never be involved in one of them at corner, and then the more you throw the ball the more you challenge them.”
He added that the challenge the defensive backs face is dependent on what play call the offense runs.
"But, you also challenge them by putting air in the ball and throwing it around,” he said. “So, we’ve got to challenge those guys. We’ll get to do that all summer in seven-on-seven drills. We’ve got to grow and get better and we’ve got good players. We’ve got to coach them up and get them ready to play at a high level."
Here is the video from Smart’s postgame press conference: