Kirby Smart: Quarterbacks are a “work in progress”

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Kirby Smart: Quarterbacks are a “work in progress”

Kirby Smart, not unexpectedly, was bombarded with questions about Georgia’s quarterback room now that presumptive starter has opted-out of the 2020 season.

On when he learned of Jamie Newman’s plans and how that affects Georgia’s plans moving forward…

“Yeah, it’s really irrelevant and not important at this point in time. We are moving forward and we respect Jamie [Newman], I respect Jamie. He has done a tremendous job. I respect any kid that chooses to opt-out. He came and let me know on Tuesday. It was a non-practice day for us. It was actually the day we went over to the Hunter-Holmes Academic Center. He let me know. I think he announced it on Wednesday.”

On what he feels he has at the quarterback position…

“It’s a work in progress. We had guys today that went out and practiced well. It almost feels like—we really want a guy to assume the lead and take the lead. That hasn’t happened yet. You’ll have a guy that has a great play and a great series, then comes back with a bonehead mistake and a turnover. Nobody has really taken charge and taken over. I wish I could say that. Both JT [Daniels] and D’Wan [Mathis] went with the ones. Carson [Beck] went with the twos a lot. Then JT and D’Wan both went with the twos a little bit. Stetson [Bennett] went with the threes. We don’t have a guy that’s way ahead. I don’t know what to say other than we are going to keep competing, and we’re going to try and find the best one.”

On whether he expects JT Daniels to be cleared by the first game versus Arkansas…

“First on JT, I am under the assumption that that is going to happen, but that is not my decision. Obviously, that’s the medical decision. He is cleared to practice, which is unique for quarterbacks because they’re not out there getting hit every day—they’re non-contact. We expect him to be cleared by the first game, but that’s not a complete certainty. I know Ron [Courson] feels confident that he’s far enough post-op, and he’s got enough strength in his leg to be in a good position—to be able to play, but that’s going to boil down to Ron and our doctors making that call.”

On what D’Wan Mathis gained last year while dealing with his situation, and where he is now in terms of readiness…

“As far as D’Wan, the advantage that he’s got is that he got to go on the scout team a lot because he was not medically cleared. If you remember he was not cleared to do anything until past-May. We were kind of in the dark on whether or not—we had to go to like six NFL doctors to look at the scans and see the healing in his skull to be able to clear him. During that time of last season, he was getting all the reps against the scout team which is really helpful because you get to feel the rush. You have one of the best defenses in the country coming at you with a makeshift offensive line a lot of times on the scout team. You feel that pressure and you get to go in there and compete. He got to take a lot of reps in that regard. He is in a little different system. It’s not like he’s in the same system he was in last year.”

On the changes Georgia plans to make on offense now Newman is gone…

“Yeah, not a lot changed in regards to the quarterback. Like I said, Jamie obviously wasn’t there this week and he was the last, so the reps went to really three guys, and then Stetson in the practices that he wasn’t there. It’s not hard for us in practice to give four guys reps because we do what we do called ‘two-spot.’ We are able to get maybe the ones and threes, or ones and freshmen, and then twos and fours, work. The quality of that work may not be equal because the quality of the age and experience isn’t balanced. The quarterbacks get a lot of work in practice. In a scrimmage, there’s not but one quarterback on the field at a time, so that makes for less reps in a scrimmage for sure.”

JT Daniels
JT Daniels

On whether he believes he is getting a full read on the potential quarterbacks during practices/scrimmages…

“I don’t know that we’re getting a full read ever. We’re not getting a full read on any of them. D’Wan [Mathis] steps up to scramble today, and you’re having to make a determination of ‘Did he get sacked, or did he not?’ That’s really never fair, and the only way to make it fair is to make it live. That’s the tougher decision, and it’s a decision that we’ve actually thought more about this year than we ever had before. Both JT [Daniels] himself and Carson [Beck]— they have mobility. Even JT has some mobility with a knee brace on, but D’Wan certainly is ahead of them in regards to that, so it’s a hard measuring stick. You’re trying to judge whether the guy was down or not down, did he break the tackle, or did he not break the tackle? So no, you’re not getting a full exposure to what you would like. The only way you’re going to get that is, A. Scrimmage live, or B. Play a game, and the game is next in line for us outside of some other practices to get better.”

On what Smart needs to see from the quarterbacks in order for one to separate himself from the others…

“You want them to move the offense and score points. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s a catch-22 here if you’re calling plays designed for a certain quarterback, and you’ve got certain styles. JT Daniels, Carson Beck and D’Wan Mathis are all different quarterbacks. Right now, we’re trying to figure out what they can do. To only call certain things that maybe fit D’Wan or just fit JT or just fit Carson isn’t fair. That’s not right. You’re trying to find out what he can and can’t do. Sometimes I don’t know what you can’t do until I call something to see if you can do it. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what that is. We’re in that stage, instead of just saying, ‘Okay, this guy has these plays [and] this guy has those plays.’ That’s not ever good, because we don’t know what they can and can’t do. They don’t get better unless they get to do [the plays], so we’re going to grow in stages in regards to that. The good news is we have a lot of work to do mentally in preparation to get ready for the first game, but also to get our offense kind of in sync in rhythm to be able to hit things in rhythm.”

D'wan Mathis
D’wan Mathis

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Greg is closing in on 11 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.