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The team has had time to get healthy while the coaching staff focused on recruiting for a few weeks, but now it’s time for Georgia to start preparing for its Orange Bowl matchup with Michigan. Coming off another successful signing day, Kirby Smart knows that it’s time to crank it up, as the semifinals are just over two weeks away.
Georgia is currently a 8.5 point favorite over Michigan, according to FanDuel.
The team got through the first two weeks of December without many heavy practices because they wanted to get healthy, especially with a few injuries at key positions. But, the staff has been breaking down film while handling their recruiting duties, and it’s time to get down to work. Kirby Smart had this to say about the team’s preparation so far as his players wrapped up their final exams:
“As we turn the page towards Michigan, we as a staff have been working on them for several days now, preparing and getting things ready. We’ll start prepping the players for some of that here in the next couple days and we’ll batten down the hatches and start practicing heavier tomorrow for those guys.”
The defensive coordinator position has been a hot topic around Athens over the last few days, as Dan Lanning accepted the head coaching job at Oregon on Sunday. But, with Lanning staying on with the team through the Playoff, Kirby Smart has Lanning calling the defense for the Playoff, while Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann will become co-coordinators on defense once Lanning leaves.
“(Dan) Lanning has done a tremendous job here. He is by far and away one of the most loyal, hardworking guys that I’ve been around. He’s bright, energetic, a good teacher. He’ll do wonderful things at Oregon. I’m so happy for him that he got an opportunity for a job like that. He had had several interviews, several opportunities that he wasn’t interested in, some that he was, and it was one he thought was a great opportunity. I’m glad that he’s staying on with us to help us finish this thing out. He’s done a great job.”
Speaking of defense, if there is one area in which the Bulldogs must make adjustments following the loss to Alabama, it’s the physicality upfront. The Wolverines love to run the football and have had great success over the last few games, but the play-action pass will be a part of their offense, and Kirby Smart must contain it, as he pointed out.
“Great running game, great backs. Three really good backs, really physical. Just extremely physical at the point of attack. Two quarterbacks, one’s really athletic, the other is athletic and they use both of those guys. They’re doing a really good job. They keep you off-balance and they have great play-action game, great use of their tight ends.”
After the loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship, it’s almost a blessing that most of the players have a chance to step away from the practice field. We all know that Georgia can play better on defense. We’ve seen it. But since the players get that type of break, motivation to get back on the field shouldn’t be a problem. Kirby Smart has always talked about maintaining the focus of players for certain stretches of time, so he sees his group having time off as beneficial to their overall health.
“We haven’t done a lot. It’s really good to get them away, focus on finals, focus on their health, focus on other things they’ve got going on. To get somebody’s total focus, you can’t sustain that for four weeks. You can’t sustain that for three weeks. You want to build to a point of getting back to an in-season mode. I don’t think you can continue doing what you did in-season for three or four weeks because the game is too far away. We’ve taken a mental check to say what kind of physical and mental shape we’re in. Our guys are in a really good place.
“We slowly have started to come back,” Kirby added. “The two practices we had had high energy, and they’ve done an awesome job. They’ve been great. It’s more about what they’re going to do from this point forward as we get into things the next couple of weeks.”
As we get closer to New Year’s Eve in Miami, the tension will continue to rise, and the Dawgs will continue to look towards finishing their goal of winning a national championship.
But they’ve gotta get through Michigan first.