Just days separate us from finally getting to watch No. 5 Georgia and No. 3 Clemson square off in the Duke’s Mayo Classic. Speculation runs rampant during the opening week of college football with rumors, injury updates and depth chart predictions.
However, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is focused on seeing his team get better through actual in-game competition.
“I’m pleased with the preparation,” said Smart in a virtual press conference on Tuesday. “I’m ready to play a game. Our kids are ready to play a game. We need to play a game. We need to play a game to get better because I don’t know that we are going to get better continuing to practice against each other, to walkthrough and to teach. There’s no more time for that.”
Clemson is currently a 3-point favorite over Georgia, but many expect this to be a tight battle that could go either way down the wire. Bulldog players have had to adjust to actual game-week practices as Coach Smart has talked about not playing the game before the actual game.
One group that can considerably grow from these big games is the younger players on the team. We saw Jermaine Burton break out in games against Alabama and Mississippi State. On the defensive side of the ball, Jalen Carter ended up playing a significant role against Tennessee. If Georgia beats Clemson, it’s likely the Bulldogs get an unexpected contribution from a relatively inexperienced player.
“We also aren’t as good as we need to be,” said Smart. “We have some young, talented players that don’t have any experience. You know how they are going to get that experience? They’re going to go play.”
The veterans on this Georgia team also seem eager to help those younger guys prepare for what may lie ahead. Senior cornerback Ameer Speed spoke on Tuesday about his mindset with helping younger players.
“Taking everything step-by-step,” said Speed. “You can’t think of, “oh I’m trying not to mess up,” you want to think of, “oh how can I be the best at this…” Really just being there for the guys and letting them know that it’s a game. We are doing what we love and having fun with it, so just think of that while you are out there.”
Hopefully, Speed’s advice is followed because it will be a raucous atmosphere on Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium.
For Speed’s full comments: