Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 10, 2018 at 8:40 pm.

No. 3 Georgia not letting up

Competition doesn’t take a week off.

That’s the message coach Kirby Smart planned to relay to his team before hitting the practice field this week to start preparing for Saturday night’s game against Middle Tennessee State.

“I’ve got my message set with the team today, and it’s really about that alone,” Smart said during Monday’s press conference to preview the contest against the Blue Raiders. “It’s not anything about who we play, nor any disrespect for Middle Tennessee. It’s totally about us and competing within practice.”

Linebacker Juwan Taylor agreed that approach has served the team well.

“Every day is a competition,” Taylor said. “We know we can’t afford to take it easy.”

Smart said he likes what he’s seen from his third-ranked team, which opened with a 45-0 win over Austin Peay and, more impressively, 41-17 at South Carolina.

“We’ve got some really good competitions going on where guys are battling for playing time, guys battling for spots,” he said.

“And the best way to measure that is not against the scout team player, but a good-on-good situation, which every day, including today, we’ll do good-on-good situations and try and find out where guys are and (let them) continue to earn playing time.”

Having daily competition also keeps complacency from seeping in.

“I think the only way you develop your team toward the end goal, which is to be as good as you can possibly be by the end of the season, is to improve during the season,” Smart said. “That’s where I think we can separate ourselves, because we can improve during the season. We have enough depth to go against each other and to continue to improve. That’s the end goal for us.”

Take Saturday’s rout of South Carolina, for example.

When Andrew Thomas was forced to leave with a sprained ankle, freshman Cade Mays seamlessly slid over to left tackle and the offense did not miss a beat.

“We talk about that (scenarios) every game: This is the first; what happens if he moves, two go down — who is third? You have to do it at every position, because in a game, things can happen fast,” Smart said.

“It was no surprise that he went in. That was a decision we all made as coaches based on how we practiced. You can’t make that decision in the game. You’ve got to practice the players where they have an opportunity to play.”