Kirby Smart conducted his usual Monday press conference this afternoon, looking back on Nicholls State and ahead to Missouri.
Smart conceded that Nick Chubb’s averaging more yards per carry with Greyson Lambert handing the ball off than Jacob Eason. But he doesn’t think it has anything to do with familiarity with Lambert. Rather saying “it’s just the way the plays have been blocked.” I tend to agree, and would also note that two games is a really small sample size, especially when the offensive line just doesn’t show up for one of them.
Speaking of which, Smart noted that the offensive line was deficient in a variety of ways on Saturday, including not getting their steps down, not finishing off blocks, and not getting a good initial strike on defenders to disrupt them. My take: that’s a whole lot of fundamental-type stuff that you’d hope to have a handle on before the second game of the season.
Jacob Eason “made some mistakes, but also made some great plays” against Nicholls State, but Smart also made clear that he was impressed with how Greyson Lambert responded coming off the bench into a tight ball game. Smart did reveal that Eason’s not been working with a scaled back playbook; he has access to every aspect of the game plan that Greyson Lambert does. Kirby did concede however that Eason is (as expected) still not as advanced in handling a lot of things as Lambert.
Smart rejected the notion that Georgia had trouble running the ball because Nicholls State sold out to stop the run, noting that “North Carolina had just as many guys in the box as these guys did.” The bottom line, Smart admitted was “we had some outside runs that weren’t blocked very well, and he had some inside runs that weren’t blocked very well. We gotta block better.”
Smart has discussed the need for leaders on this team, and seemed enthused to get Sony Michel back in the lineup because he is a vocal leader.
The quarterback rotation will be based on “how practice goes and how the game plan goes.” Of course the game plan is not yet together. But I expect that we’ll once again see more of Jacob Eason than Greyson Lambert, but more of Lambert in the four minute offense and in high risk situations.
Defensively, Coach Smart noted that the Nicholls State offense did some things Georgia had not seen before, including some well-executed run/pass option plays. But all in all, Smart believes that the defense executed better against Nicholls State than it did against UNC.
Asked whether Georgia’s talent level is “average” compared to other SEC teams, Smart flatly refused to “get into talent comparisons.” “My number one focus is getting this team ready for this game”, he noted with some added enthusiasm.
That being said I’ve talked to recruiting analysts both nationally and in the SEC who’ve all said the same thing that Georgia fans probably know intuitively: at this stage Georgia’s first 11 are about as good as anyone’s. But the Red and Black don’t have the truly obscene depth of Alabama, with former 5 star recruits holding down the third string. Smart’s doing a valiant job already in the class of 2017 of changing that. But it’s a two, three, even four year process.
Turning to Missouri, Smart noted that Faurot Field can be a “raucous environment”, and that his team is going to need to be ready for it. The opener in the Georgia Dome was loud, but there’s no doubt it was a largely pro-Georgia crowd.
Smart praised Mizzou offensive coordinator Josh Heupel as one of the best at running fast-paced offenses. Smart knows of what he speaks. Heupel was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma for the 2014 Sugar Bowl game in which Alabama surrendered 45 points, 24 first downs, and 432 yards of offense.
Answering one more question about preparation for the Nicholls State game Smart seemed to tire of the subject, “We gotta do a great job with this week. We gotta move on to this week. More and more, you see people not playing to their capability in a game like that. And it shouldn’t be that way. But it is what it is and it’s in our past. We have got to move on to Missouri and get ready for this game.”