Dating back to the 2017 season, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has rejected the idea of an off week. As an alternative, he and his staff use the term “work week” instead.
This week, Georgia has practiced three times, and the team has gone into “camp mode” again. The coaches aren’t preparing the players for a specific opponent, but Smart and his staff don’t want to make the practices monotonous for his players either. The main focal point is on the fundamentals of the game and overall improvement as a unit.
“We give every player on the team three or four notes on what they’ve got to get better at,” Smart said. “Every coach is assigned players to say here are your three target areas you’ve got to improve on that. It might be special teams for one guy, it might be the depth of route, blocking. It’s very specific because we want them to have a purpose. If you’re not careful they might be, like, ‘What am I doing out here? It’s like treading water.’ No, we don’t want them doing that. We want them getting better, we want them to have target areas to get better. The offense had three goals today and the defense had three goals today and we’ll continue to work on those.”
Smart has mentioned that guys like George Pickens (1) and Dominick Blaylock (8) can get better in certain areas at their position. The duo has combined for 18 catches and 341 receiving yards with three scores. Pickens and Blaylock have been two of Georgia’s most productive receivers this season, but Smart said the two need to become better overall. A specific area he pointed out that the receivers unit can get better at is blocking on the perimeter.
On the defensive side of the ball, Smart mentioned that DJ Daniel (14) and Tyrique Stevenson (7) has been improving the more reps they’ve been getting. Both Daniel and Stevenson have played meaningful snaps in the first four games, but they both need to continue taking more reps in practice so they can fill those starting roles in the future.
Since the start of fall camp, Smart said both Daniel and Stevenson have improved at an accelerated rate. Against Notre Dame, Georgia was missing their top two cornerbacks for a large part of the game. Eric Stokes (27) left with an injury on the second play of the game, and Tyson Campbell (3) never saw the field because he didn’t out dress out. Notre Dame tried to attack Georgia’s weakness with the inexperienced cornerbacks, but Stevenson and Daniel fought hard.
In high-pressure situations, guys like Pickens, Blaylock, Daniel, and Stevenson are going to need occasions like this week to work and get better. As their confidence and playing abilities continue to grow Smart and his staff will lean on them more if needed.
“The team has a ton stuff to improve on, but also on the basics too,” Smart said. “Blocking, tackling, the ability to not give up explosive plays, affect the quarterback. There are a lot of things, but that is what practice is for. We are trying to help our guys. There are a lot of things that we need to work on and you can’t do them all every day. We try to target a few things that we need to improve on.”
On Oct. 5 Georgia opens up it’s SEC schedule against Tennessee in Knoxville. The following two weeks Georgia will play South Carolina and Kentucky at home. The Bulldogs then have another bye week after Kentucky before traveling to Jacksonville to take on Florida.
Another huge advantage of a bye week is getting to prepare for upcoming opponents down the road. Two bye weeks in a season are rare in college football but happen every so often. The bye week before Florida will give Smart and his staff another opportunity to look at how they’ve played in previous games, and again find out what can be improved on.
“We had three periods of what we call teach work, and we did three or four periods against each other and then we did three or four periods separate where we pick out something that not one team does. We don’t work on Team X, we just go work on things that teams do that we don’t do,” Smart said. “So we get exposure to, it might be empty backfield, it might be, whatever, three-back runs. We just pick out something we’re going to see in the future and work on. So we’re trying to do that right now.”