Heated quarterback competitions for Georgia have been the focal point in August the past two years.
This time with the starting quarterback not a mystery, maybe the biggest takeaway out of the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage Saturday was that coach Kirby Smart didn’t like how his team handled the heat.
“We didn’t exactly get the level of intensity I was looking for,” Smart said. “I thought some of the guys had their first real practice in the heat. We have not had the kind of heat we had today. It was disappointing. I felt like it affected too many guys mentally.”
The scrimmage was held in Sanford Stadium on a humid afternoon when temperatures were in the mid to upper 80s. This was practice No. 12 with nine of the first 11 outdoors and two in the new indoor practice facility, including on Wednesday.
So is the team not in condition yet?
“Based on today, yeah, I’d definitely say that,” Smart said. “To their defense, we haven’t had a day like this. We’ve practiced in rain, in shade, they ran all summer, but they haven’t played 70 plays in that kind of heat yet, and I’m glad it was giving us the opportunity to do that. We haven’t had it that hot and muggy to go out and practice and really push through. The hottest day we’ve had I think is the first day in shorts. So I’m very thankful. You find out a lot about guys, who is going to go out there and push through. Again, I hope we get some more hot days.”
Smart was asked if he liked what he saw from Jacob Eason, entering his second season as starting quarterback.
“Yeah, I thought he did some good things,” Smart said. “Some periods he was better than other periods. He made some really good throws. Made a couple that I thought could have been better decisions. He led the offense well, competed hard but still got to get better.”
Last year Eason, Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey competed for the starting job. Lambert started the opener before Eason took over for good week two.
In 2015, it was Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Lambert vying for the job with Lambert, the Virginia graduate transfer, winning it after arriving on campus earlier in the summer.
Now there are other position battles, including at kicker where Rodrigo Blankenship and Wofford graduate transfer David Marvin are battling.
“The field goal situation is really tight between Rod and David,” Smart said. “It will continue on this week as will most of the competitions.”
At punter, Columbia graduate transfer Cameron Nizialek is “punting it pretty good right now,” Smart said,” and remains ahead of Marshall Long.
The scrimmage, three weeks before the Bulldogs open their season against Appalachian State, was closed to the media but was open to select athletic donors. No players were available afterwards and no statistics were provided.
Smart called it “a very balanced scrimmage,” between the offense and defense.
The offense “kind of dominated” a third down period, but the defense held the offense to a field goal in a red zone period.
“I felt both units made some plays,” he said.
The offense was missing starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn and defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter. Both are dealing with “illness,” Smart has said.
“I thought there were going to be more missed tackles than there actually were,” Smart said. “But defense didn’t show up for a couple periods, where it was just like the heat had gotten to them. And we can’t have that. We’ve got to push through that. There’s got to be times we’ve got to play, and you’ve got to push through it. I didn’t think they pushed through it at all times like they should.”
The defense’s tackling is actually ahead of where Smart is accustomed to in a first scrimmage.
“We’ve tackled a little more this fall camp a little more than we have in the past, prior to this first,” he said. “So maybe that helped us some. But maybe the conditions. I don’t know. There seemed to be some guys out there a little leg-weary. Didn’t have the juice that I thought they should have.”
Smart didn’t come up with any names when asked about standout players in the scrimmage.
It wasn’t the 2017 signees in the secondary.
“We’ve got seven true freshmen back there that none of them are sticking out, which is not always a good thing,” Smart said.
He said this of the offensive line missing Wynn: “It wasn’t like we had a ton of sacks or anything. Nobody stood out in the wrong way. But I can’t say anybody stood out in the right way either.”
Dyshon Sims has moved from right tackle to left tackle to fill in for Wynn.
Freshman offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson has been one of the players working at right tackle.
He had a good practice indoors this week, but didn’t maintain that, Smart said.
“You know, he hasn’t looked as good as he did the day we went inside,” Smart said. “I thought he was another guy with the heat, he kind of wilted a little bit. …They didn’t push through the heat and he was a guy who struggled with that a little.”