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Georgia head coach Kirby Smart with Georgia inside linebacker Tae Crowder (30) and Georgia inside linebacker Natrez Patrick (6).(Photo by Steven Colquitt)
Georgia defensive end David Marshall (51) during the Bulldogs’ session on the Woodruff Practice Fields in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia Bulldogs continued their preparations for the 2018 season opener against Austin Peay with a 2-hour practice on Tuesday afternoon.

Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart’s post-practice press briefing, as well as excerpts from player availability:

On the availability of Terry Godwin this Saturday

‘’Still don’t know yet.  He didn’t practice today.  He wasn’t able to go, so we think he’s close.  I mean, he’s come back twice and it’s just bothered him.  It’s not really his injury as much as it is the rest of his body around it.  He’s dealing with a calf strain right now. It’s not his knee.  So it’s just that every time he comes back, he’s struggling with other things.  So I don’t know if he’ll be back or not.’’

On the competition at the cornerback position opposite Deandre Baker

‘’We’ve got a couple of guys playing good.  Mark Webb’s playing better.  Tyson Campbell is playing better, and Eric Stokes.  Ameer Speed is in there, too. We 

don’t know who’s going to be starting yet.  It’ll be based on how practices goes between now and then.  But they all played much better today.’’

On personnel for the ‘wildcat’ position on offense

‘’We’ve tried to mix it up.  (Elijah) Holyfield has done it before.  (Brian) Herrien did it on scout team last year.  D’Andre (Swift) did it a bunch last year.  Demetris Robertson has fooled around with it some.  Terry (Godwin) hasn’t been out there.  Mecole (Hardman) is still doing it.  And we’ve worked with James Cook some.  So there are probably six guys that can play in it, and they all have a little different features.  We’ve shared that load.’’

On the lessons learned from last season

‘’I think you always want to get better as a coach, so what we try to do is look at areas we were deficient in last year.  Where did we not play well?  What did we not do well?  A lot of our turnaround had to do with players back for a second year.  Let’s be honest.  A lot of our success had to do with the fact that we had good players decide to come back.  Now we’re trying to replace those good players with players that were here, or recently signed.  But as coaches, we’re always trying to look introspective at what we could do better.  Two-minute situations, third down and short.  We weren’t as good on third downs as we thought we needed to be.  Turnovers.  How can we improve ourselves in that aspect?  Regardless of what year you’re coaching — second, third, fourth or 20th.’’

On the progress of James Cook, considering he arrived late this summer

‘’He’s very bright.  I don’t know how to compare him to (D’Andre) Swift because they’re such different kids.  But as far as knowing their roles, I’d say he’s where Swift was.  But they’re not the same roles.  He’s not as thick as Swift.  He’s a different kind of back.  He’s more of a slasher type of guy.’’ 

On knowing when last year’s team had the ‘it’ factor and what that means for this year

‘’I’d say Notre Dame in the locker room, when I felt like they believed, and they kinda trusted and enforced things, and the leaders took over the team.  As far as this year, I don’t know when that’s gonna come about.  I think we’re going to have to have some adversity for that to come out.  Throughout camp we’ve had different guys lead.  I really think some guys have stood out, from a leadership standpoint, but we haven’t had that one defining moment that says, ‘this is who’s going to take over this team.’

On this freshman class and being ‘forced’ into playing opportunities

‘’I don’t know about being ‘forced’ into opportunities.  They’re gonna earn it.  We’ve got good depth at some positions.  We don’t have great depth at others.  Sometimes the talent of the guy that came in is not shown because he may be at a position that has more depth.  That’s just the bottom line. I think as thin as we are in the secondary, we have three to four freshmen that are in the 2-deep, so they’re in there battling, but they may not be on the field.  But that freshman class is talented.  I just don’t know if they’re going to be forced into action.  It’s gonna come down to injuries.  You’ll see a lot of them on special teams.  But I don’t really care what they’re ranked coming in.  I care how they do when they get here.’’

On the impact of Deandre Baker deciding to return for senior season

‘’Yeah, it would’ve been tough to replace all we had to replace, and then you add Bake.  I think Bake made a good decision, but Bake probably was the most highly-rated guy, when it came to scouts’ opinions, to decide to come back.  He had a tough decision to make.  I feel like he made the right one, and only time will tell, if he improves and continues to work, to move up the draft board.  But he has a chance to do that.  He’s a talented player. He’s played really well for us in big games.  To think what he did — Alabama, Oklahoma, Auburn — he covered some guys.  So, we’re very happy to have him back.  He’s been a good leader in the secondary for us thus far.’’

On decisions in the return game

‘’Yes, Mecole (Hardman) and Ahkil (Crumpton) will both do some punts.  Mecole, Tyler Simmons, Holyfield, Jayson Stanley and DRob (D. Robertson) have all been back on kickoff return. They’re kinda sharing it by committee.’’

On depth at the star position

‘’It’s a unique position. I don’t know what y’all count the Star as.  We have a Star that’s a linebacker.  We have a Star that’s a DB, so Walter Grant has worked a lot at the Star linebacker.  Otis (Reese) has worked at the Star DB.  William Poole and Deangelo (Gibbs) have both worked at Star DB.  So we’re kinda using Otis more like a linebacker.  So we have two Stars.  It would be Walter and Poole, or Walter and D-lo Gibbs) right now.’’  

On the absence of a depth chart and if it will become more common due to increased competition…

‘’I don’t know if that’s the case.  It’s not like a big deal to me, like y’all write and make a big deal about it.  I didn’t plan that out and say, ‘there’s no depth chart.’  What I like to do is have guys compete, and I also want the other team to figure out who the Sam is and who the Star is and who the Safety is, because they ID those people.  So, to be honest with you, I don’t have all their information all the time and it’s not always accurate.  So I want a level playing field when it comes to that.  Our kids know, and our kids have been communicated to, and we substitute every day.  So they have to know.’’

On if Otis Reese fits the description of a Star

‘’He’s pretty good.  He’s physical.  But you want a guy that can cover.  Lorenzo (Carter) could really cover well and run.  Lorenzo was exceptionally fast for that size.  Walter (Grant) and Otis don’t quite move like Lorenzo, but they’re really physical and they’re good tacklers.  So he does fit the mold, but you want a guy that’s quick and can cover, too.  Those slight guys like Ahkil and Mecole can get you in a mismatch.’’

 
Junior OLB #51 David Marshall
On the season opener this weekend…
“Im excited to see the experience, the fans, the players. I’m just ready to see the locker room and play another opponent.”
 
On the incoming talent…
“It’s the best talent and recruiting class we’ve had. I’m ready to see them go out on the field and show who they are.”
 
On if any of the freshmen have stood out to him…
“(Freshman defensive back) Tyson Campbell. He’s got to play a little more, but he’ll be ready…He’s humble. He’s coachable. He works hard on the field and never gives up on the field.”
 
Sophomore ILB #32 Monty Rice
On Campbell…
“He’s fast. He’s a good player. He could be the fastest on the defense. He 
 
On being the vocal leader on the defense..
“On our defense, you’ve got to make all the calls. You’ve got to this and that. Sometimes you’ve got to help the [defensive] line line up or you’ve got to make them right. It just comes with being an inside linebacker.”
 
On the Austin Peay offense…
“The quarterback (Jeremiah Oatsvall) – he’s very elusive. He can make down-the-field throws. Their offense, they like to run the ball, just like we do. They average, like, 260 yards a game, this past year running the ball. They’re definitely run-first.”
 
On if he started to feel comfortable in his role after last year…
“No not really, because you can’t ever relax.”
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