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12 Takeaways Georgia vs UT-Martin: Kirby Smart Doesn’t Care What You Think (and that’s a good thing)

Graham Coffey

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12 Takeaways Georgia vs UT-Martin: Kirby Smart Doesn’t Care What You Think (and that’s a good thing)


1) Let’s begin at the ending, because what I’m about to type should be remembered as we digest this game. Here is a quote from Kirby Smart’s postgame press conference…

“The expectation… Everybody just thinks that you’re gonna walk out there and just roll over these teams, you know, ‘It oughta be 40 to nothing by halftime,’ and then it’s not, you get tighter and guys get worried. I’m over that, I’m past those things. I want to grow and get better. It’s not about who we play.” 

Last year I posited that Georgia’s staff was in on a long con. It was one that would play out over 15 games and end in January with a 65-7 schellacking of TCU in the national championship game. It was about getting better along the way, and understanding that was the key to recognizing how different Georgia could look week to week. 

The signs were everywhere… There was the Kentucky game where UGA scored 16 points and put the game on the back of its offensive line in preparation for what was to come. Georgia struggled mightily in the red zone. A couple weeks later in Atlanta they put on an offensive display that showed real play calling genius against LSU. UGA’s defense didn’t show anything to anybody for most of 2022. Then Tennessee came to town and Javon Bullard was suddenly screaming out of his Nickel position and sacking Hendon Hooker on third-and-long. 

This worked in 2022. Why wouldn’t it be replicated in 2023? In the above quote, Kirby Smart is basically saying the quiet part out loud… He has won back-to-back national titles. That has bought him an immense amount of job security, and it should have bought him the total confidence of the Georgia fanbase. 

Unlike almost everyone else in his profession, he doesn’t need to hang 70 on an FCS team to remind the faithful that he’s doing a good job. Walk into the Butts-Mehre building. You can see two national title trophies sitting there. They are the reminder that he doesn’t just have the ship under control, he actually has already plotted the course that should take the thing around the World and back to the College Football Playoff again. 


2) Another revealing Smart quote from last night’s postgame…

“If you don’t rise up or you don’t meet the expectations, of whether it’s a fanbase or a media base, you’ve gotta make your team realize that we can actually get better. They don’t need to pay attention to any negative… You gotta get better, and guess what, the team that’s standing in the end will be the one that got better.”

This is a gentle reminder that Georgia under Kirby Smart uses games to practice. 

Stop, read that again. Take it in. Let it become fully integrated into your mind. It’s paramount to understand this before you waste anymore energy worrying about play calling versus UT-Martin (or Ball State). 


3) By my count, Georgia played 8 players last night in a game that they always planned to play 68 players in. They reached that number despite having an injury report that is unusually long for Week 1 of the season. A lot of known commodities were injured but some were simply held out or limited because they can be. If this was an SEC road game you probably would’ve seen Ladd McConkey trot out with the starters. They didn’t because this game was about getting experience for guys who lacked it. Smart spoke openly after the game about how many of UGA’s players had some jitters coming into the opener. It was a product of inexperience, so Georgia got them experience. Georgia’s starters didn’t play together for too long on Saturday night. Mekhi Mews got the start in the slot but only saw 13 snaps on passing plays. No UGA defensive starter played more than 39 snaps (Javon Bullard and Malaki Starks). 


4) Knowing that we didn’t witness a full playbook and a full roster makes a game like this difficult to evaluate. Opening games are often outliers even when things are more open. It doesn’t mean that we can’t break down what we saw. First let’s talk about the offense. I wrote the following on Carson Beck in a pregame piece on DawgsCentral…

“I want to see how he handles the early going in this game. He’ll probably have some jitters to tamp down and I am curious to watch how he manages it. The thing that made Stetson great was mental toughness in adverse situations. I doubt Beck sees much adversity on Saturday night, but I think it will be a very good sign if he comes out slinging the ball instead of aiming the ball. He can’t try to be perfect. I’m also curious to see his decision making. Does he try to trust his arm too much at times? Does he seem too careful at any point? No matter what happens, I think it is important to remember that it is a long season and he has had as good a camp as any QB in Athens in a long time. He’s your guy.”

Well, Beck actually saw a little more adversity than I expected. So did the rest of the Georgia offense. Let’s talk about how Carson answered those questions, first with the good things… 

Jitters (A+) - I thought Beck looked a little amped up early in the game. There were some balls he missed in the first half, notably the wide open third down route to Dominic Lovett where he thought Lovett would sent down and Lovett read that he should continue the pattern. Couple that with Arian Smith dropping a deep stop route on another 3rd down, a Lovett drop in the end zone, and a total miss on a wide open Smith in the back of the end zone, and I thought that Beck had a chance to get his confidence rattled… Beck ended the 1st half 14/20 for 134 YDS. He finished with a tidy 21/31 for 294 YDS and a TD. Maybe the most important thing on his stat line was 0 INT’s. 

Decision Making (A) - Beck didn’t put the ball in danger at any point in time. It’s possible he may have had some throws he could have made and didn’t, but I think UGA’s staff will be happy with that in a first game. If you want to start across from Georgia’s defense then you better be able to show you won’t put the team in bad spots. He never did. In the past that could be an issue for Beck in scrimmages and practices.


5) More Beck… Now that I’ve praised him for the good, let’s talk about the flip side. I did think he looked a bit hesitant at times in the 2nd quarter. As mentioned above, he settled in and got more comfortable on some downfield throws as the game went on. I thought his crossing pattern to Lovett for 25 yards on the drive before half was very good. What I think he will have to learn in the coming weeks is that he is not playing against Georgia’s defense every week. I thought there were times where he could have let things develop for a half-second longer before letting go of the ball, but on the whole you’d rather have a QB that sees things quick and reads the field well… A telling stat… Beck was only 6/13 for 31 YDS when blitzed despite never being pressured on those 13 dropbacks. When not blitzed he was 15/19 for 265 YDS and a TD. That’s a gaudy 13.9 YPA. He will have to learn to trust his offensive line and make teams pay for blitzing him or that will become a tendency that future opponents try to take advantage of. 

The situational patience will improve for him with experience. The ball to Lovett on 3rd down early in the game where they misread each other was one where he had plenty of time and didn’t need to rush into the throw. To be fair, that misread could’ve been on Dominick though. The miss before halftime where Arian Smith was standing open in the back of the end zone and Beck threw it over his head seemed like a moment of excitement to me. Georgia was struggling a bit at that juncture and Beck saw the open man he wanted. He just didn’t take the moment to see where Smith was going to sit down and calmly deliver the ball… My take? It’s a good thing to have him go through that now. 


6) On the whole, Beck’s performance fit into the parameters of an offense with a new starter in an opening game against an inferior opponent. Here was his breakdown…

20+ YDS: ⅓, 25 YDS, 8.3 YPA, 36.0 YDS Avg Depth of Target

10-19 YDS: 4/8, 98 YDS, 12.3 YPA, 14.8 YDS ADOT

0-9 YDS: 7/10, 69 YDS, 6.9 YPA, 3.8 YDS ADOT

Behind LOS: 9/9, 104 YDS, 11.6 YPA, 1 TD, -3.0 YDS ADOT

Beck’s Adjusted Completion % on Saturday night was 70%, which is right where you want him to be. 0 Turnover Worthy Plays and 0 sacks means he kept the offense on schedule. Most importantly, he did it within the framework of the offense. The thing I liked to see was that UGA’s receivers had 6.9 yards per catch on the 7 completions of 0-9 yards despite the fact that Beck’s ADOT was only 3.8 YPA. That matches up with what I saw- Beck hitting guys in-stride and letting them run after the catch. 


7) In fact, UGA’s receivers had 200 yards after the catch last night. They also had 9 missed tackles forced, which was 3x the amount of Georgia’s running backs. The only conclusions I’d make about the pass catchers are these…

- Brock Bowers is still Brock Bowers. He spent 9 of his 35 pass snaps as the Inline TE, 21 in the slot, and 4 out wide. He’s still the chess piece. Georgia never sent him downfield. The Avg Depth of Target on his 4 TGT/4 REC’s was just 5.3 YDS

- Mekhi Mews is a dude. 10 of his 13 snaps were in the slot. His ADOT was only .3 yards and he turned in 75 yards receiving… WEAPON. When he and McConkey get on the field together it’s going to be a headache.

- Delp performed admirably as a run blocker. He wasn’t perfect but he was much better than the guy we saw as a freshman and the offseason weight gain has benefitted him. 

- Arian Smith hasn’t played very much football. That’s worth remembering as we watch him progress through the early season. He deserved a PI flag or two that he didn’t get. That might be a favor to him down the road. He’s never had the chance to learn how to fight through contact in intermediate routes, but you could see the potential. 5 targets with 0 catches isn’t ideal, but Beck was off target on 3 of those throws. 

- CJ Smith is going to be a guy. He’s gotten way bigger and still has elite speed. Add another deep threat into the mix. 

- Dillon Bell looked really nice working underneath and intermediate routes. His 3 catches only came in for 32 yards, that won’t pop off the stat sheet but that’s how efficient offenses move the chains. 

- Dom Lovett and Beck weren’t always on the same page last night, but you can tell Lovett is going to be a big part of this offense. His 7 targets were the most of any player. 

- Rara Thomas looked a bit lost in some reps he had early. He's still learning a radically different offense than the Air Raid he played in last year and the blocking that UGA expects from its wideouts is something he'll need more time to become accustomed to... But when it came time for him to get open deep and pull in a bomb... Yeah, he's gonna be a home run hitter. 


8. Now for the elephant… Mike Bobo was back in the booth on Saturday night and a lot of people in my Twitter mentions hated it. First off, many complained about the amount of screens UGA ran. Well, they ran 9 of them. All 9 were completed and they ended up netting UGA 120 YDS for 13.3 YPA. That seems like an effective strategy to me! It is also… A) A great way to not put anything worthwhile on tape and B) A good way to get a new QB some short throws that will get him confident and C) A natural/simple extension of the running game for a team that had zero RB’s who were fully healthy and had played in a college game before. 

A lot of folks were lamenting Bobo’s “runs up the middle” but the reality is that Georgia should be able to run up the middle against UT-Martin. I thought the most disappointing thing I saw from UGA was the run blocking by this OL. The only frustrating thing I saw from a play calling standpoint was the run into the teeth of a loaded box on 1st & Goal with no timeouts in the 2-minute drill before the half. I won’t draw any big conclusions on it for now. Especially since it could have been an RPO that Beck made a bad read on. It was a mistake, whoever made it, but it would’ve been rendered meaningless if not for the miss of Arian Smith in the back of the endzone on the next play. 

On the whole, Georgia rushed the ball 31 times against UT-Martin. 13 of those were between Center/LG or Center/RG (41%). The runs between Van Pran and LG netted 6.9 YPC on 7 attempts for 48 YDS, but 46 of those 48 YDS came after contact and 37 of them came on one play from Kendall Milton… Van Pran, Ratledge and Mims all had serviceable run blocking grades according to PFF, but Earnest Greene turned in a 50.8 and Xavier Truss turned in a 48.4 run block grade. I’ve been doing this awhile and that’s as low as I can remember any starting UGA offensive linemen have in quite awhile.

Let’s talk about why…


9) Now here is the fun part of the Long Con Theory and also the part that does require speculation… First off, I can promise you there is going to be some extreme ass chewings in UGA’s OL room during film sessions this week. 

Here’s why I wouldn't be worried… At least not yet. 

- Georgia’s ball carriers only broke 5 tackles on 31 attempts on Saturday night. That’s a product of Milton being less than 100%, Edwards being out, and Robinson/Paul just trying to get their feet under them. Milton broke 2 tackles. Robinson broke 1. The other 2 broken tackles came from Beck and Vandagriff on scrambles. That’s gotta get better, but I suspect it will. Robinson showed some promise. He averaged 2.88 YDS after contact per an attempt and he showed some good ability to get downhill quickly. 

- I did think there were some runs where UGA’s backs had opportunities to get the ball further downfield and just misread the blocks. 

- Of the 24 designed runs that Bobo called, 18 were Zone Scheme vs 6 Gap Scheme runs. For young RB’s, it is going to be a lot easier to follow blockers in gap as opposed to reading all 5 linemen in zone and choosing holes. The strength of this UGA offensive line should be its mixture of size and athleticism. Georgia SHOULD be able to push UT-Martin off the ball in zone with its offensive line, but getting those big guys moving downfield and facing players in the open isnt’ the best way to get out of a game like this without injuries. One of the gap runs I noticed was the Toss Concept around the left side on a 3rd & 2 when the game was competitive still. That busted for a chunk gain. 

- I doubt UGA runs very much gap last night either way, but UT-Martin was in heavy fronts all night and seemed determined to take away the run at any cost possible. Georgia was basically facing goal line fronts half the game. We’ve seen a lot of lesser opponents do this to Georgia in recent years. It has never been a harbinger of things to come. Even if UGA wanted to run more gap it would have required UGA bringing in a couple of TE’s to create the desired numbers advantage on one side of the formation when pulling blockers. It probably didn’t make sense.  

- That brings us full circle back to the screen passes! Guess what’s a really good idea when a defense is loading guys at the line of scrimmage and trying to shoot gaps? SCREENS! Many on social media were calling for Monken back and lamenting Bobo’s screen calls. Well, Monken called 101 of them in 2022. Everyone wanted Georgia to keep continuity and run the same offense. The screens are a big part of the offense. 

Perhaps the biggest indicator that UGA wasn’t playing with a full deck last night was Beck’s play-action stats. Fun fact for you… In college football, play-action passes have a success rate that is roughly 3x higher than traditional dropbacks. You don’t need to be running well to run play-action, though admittedly it helps. The Georgia offense ran just 10 play-action dropbacks last night. Beck was 7/10 for 130 YDS on those plays (13.0 YDS per attempt). That happened with just a 12.2 ADOT on those throws. UGA never really bombed it downfield off play-action. A time will come where they do, and they will almost certainly be able to if the pass protection from last night is any indicator. Every starting OL but Earnest Greene (72.4, 1 Pressure allowed) had a PFF pass block grade higher than 81.0. Truss and Ratledge both came in at 87.6. All 10 OL who played had a pass block grade of more than 70. True freshman Monroe Freeling came in with a 78.9 to lead the reserves. Besides the one pressure allowed by Greene, a single pressure given up by Van Pran were the only ones that UGA’s OL allowed all night in 45 total dropbacks. 


10) Georgia’s defense didn’t show much of anything as far as pressure packages on Saturday night, but we did see some pass rushing oomph on a couple occasions. Georgia had 7 pressures from 7 different players on the night. You got to see the potential and I think the challenge for UGA’s staff is going to be figuring out who to use most often in pass rush situations. It’s clear that Jalon Walker is the guy they want playing JACK and rushing off the edge on 3rd and long. The ball got out quickly for the most part. Mykel Williams is an All-American level talent and we know that. He only pinned his ears back once, but it resulted in a sack. Other than that play, Georgia’s defense didn’t really try to get after the QB or shoot gaps much. A large part of that was the ball getting out quickly. The Skyhawks tried to run 12 screens but UGA’s defense swarmed so fast that only 8 of them ended in the intended receiver’s hands. Those screens netted just 18 yards. I was very impressed with Tykee Smith. We’ve heard buzz about him all offseason and he lived up to it. He looks like another Bullard, blowing up blockers on passes behind the line of scrimmage and putting his nose into run defense. 5 targets went to his man and they netted UTM just 2 receptions for -2 yards. He is going to be a big piece of this defense. If not for a touchdown catch that might not have even been a catch, Georgia’s pass defense allowed minimal damage. If it wasn’t underneath then UGA’s DB’s were basically in the hip pocket of every UT-Martin receiver. The Skyhawks attempted 4 passes of more than 20 yards but all fell incomplete. It was a tough game to evaluate from a DB standpoint but I’ll get a better look in my film review this week. What I saw looked pretty outstanding. Humphrey played 12 coverage snaps with 0 targets. Everette played 15 coverage snaps with 0 targets. Nyland Green had 9 coverage snaps with 0 targets. That’s a good sign that they were in the right places and had tight coverage. Humphrey and Everette both looked good in run defense but there wasn’t much that came their way. There is much to be determined about the corners. That battle will continue to play out throughout the season. One guy to keep an eye on is AJ Harris. He didn’t play much with the other top line defenders but he has elite traits and looks very natural in phase. He was the corner in coverage on the TD reception but it’s hard to say he did anything wrong on that play. He technically gave up 4 receptions for 26 yards, but he did some things athletically that showed the high ceiling. UGA has plenty of good corners, and they also love their safeties. We saw a few occasions where they put 4 on the field in Dime packages on third and long.. Expect to see a lot of that in 2023. Speaking of safeties, holy hell Malaki Starks. He was EVERYWHERE on Saturday night. He had 4 tackles against the run and all 4 were STOP plays that were failures for the offense. Here is the insane thing… THE AVERAGE DEPTH OF TACKLE WAS JUST 2 YARDS! Usually your safeties tackling on run plays means something bad happened. He is reading plays and crashing at a speed that is otherworldly. He’s going to have some incredible moments this year. The mental side of his game has caught up to his athletic abilities. 


11) There were very few snaps played where UGA’s starters were out there together, but the thing I would monitor is the EDGE/DE play. The pass rushing was solid to strong from those guys, but I didn’t like the run defense at times. There was a few occasions where the EDGE/DE’s bit too hard on Zone Read plays and let the UTM QB take off into open grass. The Skyhawks QB had 3 carries for 49 yards. That shouldn’t happen if they’re playing their keys properly. Georgia had a lot of guys flash against the run. Freshman Jamaal Jarrett, Gabe Harris, Jordan Hall, and Sam M’Pemba all had stop plays. There was a lot of flash, but I want to see more plays where guys set edges cleanly and force runs back inside. I saw Ingram-Dawkins do it perfectly from the DE position a few times. We know Mykel can do it. An EDGE/OLB doing that the right way consistently is what needs to happen for UGA to go where they want to go in 2023. Chambliss still looked inconsistent at times playing the run. He jumped upfield too quickly on a few occasions when he should’ve kept contain. Darris Smith, Marvin Jones Jr, CJ Madden, Samuel M’Pemba, and Damon Wilson all played snaps at that spot. They all played 6 or less, so the sample size is too small. That’s going to be the thing to watch though. UT-Martin averaged 8.7 YDS per carry on 7 attempts off that edge. Take those 61 yards out and they ran for 65 yards on 20 carries otherwise (3.25 YPC). On the flip side, the DT play impressed me. It was stronger than I expected. My big question has been around who will step up next to Stackhouse. I liked what we saw from Christen Miller, Jonathan Jefferson, Ingram-Dawkins, and the veteran Zion Logue. Time will tell how the snap counts are split and who shows they can 2-gap consistently, but the Dawgs allowed just 2.3 yards a carry on 9 attempts between the tackles.


12) The biggest takeaway from the defense was just how deep and talented this group looks. From top to bottom, I think this is Smart’s most talented unit. 38 players got into the game and there was very little drop off in terms of talent. Some are further along in understanding the system and some have had more time to develop than others, but this Georgia defense has elite athletes everywhere. They move like blue-chippers and they have the length, size and agility of blue-chippers. The haul in the 2023 class is already looking insane in some spots. Gabe Harris, Sam M’Pemba and Damon Wilson all flashed at one point or another lined up on the ends of the line. Harris had 2 STOP plays against the run. On one he forced the QB to keep on the Zone Read and then planted, bounced in the other direction, and tackled the QB himself. M’Pemba had one as well. Jamaal Jarrett was only in for a few plays at the end but absolutely blew up a run at the line of scrimmage. AJ Harris looks like a future first rounder. At LB, CJ Allen looked like a future star. His 33 snaps was the 4th most of any UGA defender yesterday, a sign that the Bulldogs are getting him ready to play a lot this season. He made some freshman errors, but the physical traits were oozing off of him. At one point he came laterally to tackle a RB and flattened the ball carrier in the open field with a textbook tackle that took him off his feet. He looked like Roquan Smith for a moment. All of that talent equals competition and well-rested players. Those are both good things. It’s to be determined if this Georgia defense can challenge the 2021 unit as Smart’s best, but the raw pieces are definitely there.

  • Fire 2
  • Heart 1


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