ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia has put an extra emphasis on situational football during spring practices.
“You name it, we’ve done it,” inside linebacker Reggie Carter said. “From Hail Mary to two-minute get-the-ball back. Everything, we’ve done it.”
For the offense, improving red zone offense (64th nationally) and third down situations (54th, converting at 41.8 percent) has been a focus, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn said.
“I feel like we’ve done a good job on that,” Wynn said, citing technique and fundamentals as an area to hone in on plays inside the 20-yard line.
Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart mentioned one possible red zone answer on offense this week in sophomore running back Elijah Holyfield, the 5-foot-11, 215-pound son of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.
“He had a couple of runs in the scrimmage that were really good the other day,” Smart said on 680 AM. “Explosive. It seems like he’s running faster, more powerful, more comfortable. He’s just a bowling ball, man. He’s really physical, especially in the red area.”
Smart wants a Georgia team that had its share of close losses (including by 3, 1, 6 and 7 points) and wins (including by 1, 2, 3 and 6 points) to be better at key times so he’s using more drills that simulate game situations.
In the scrimmage last Saturday, he had the team work on situations like 30 seconds to go and a field goal is needed with one timeout left.
“We did about four or five end-of-the game situations, did get-the-ball back situations, did second-and-10 and third down period, which all was live (tackling),” Smart said.
The increased work on situational football means offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker get more of a chance as well to call plays under those pressure-packed situations.
“Every head coach I talk to talks about how you can’t practice those enough,” Smart said. “We’ve tried to make a lot of those things happen and emphasize them.”
Georgia begins every team meeting this spring with a different situation. Smart talked to NFL coaches this offseason, which he says deal with tight games even more than Georgia did.
“Every single day, except the first practice, we had end-of-game situation at practice,” Smart said. “I think it makes Jacob (Eason) a lot better. It makes Jake Fromm a lot better. And defensively, it’s been great. We even had a situation the other day where we were gonna clock the ball. We had a first down and we went to spike the ball and the guy jumped offsides. At the end of game, we had a 10-second runoff.”
Former Minnesota offensive coordinator Jay Johnson, hired as a quality control assistant, provided the coaching staff with a list of situations he used last season.
“That’s so invaluable to me because you try to simulate those,” Smart said. “You talk to other coaches and try to simulate them, so we’ve done a lot of that this spring.”