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Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks to players. Scenes from the second half of UGA’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020 in Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

Following its 49-14 victory over Missouri on Dec. 12, Georgia will host winless Vanderbilt this weekend for the last of its 10-game SEC gauntlet and senior day. In a virtual press conference Monday, head coach Kirby Smart discussed the matchup with the Commodores, the approach of football’s early signing period and the status of several injured players. 

Optimism for Saturday

Georgia was previously scheduled to play Vanderbilt on Dec. 5. The matchup was canceled a little over 24 hours before kickoff and eventually postponed to Dec. 19 due to COVID-19 cases, injuries and opt-outs within Vanderbilt’s football program.

Head coach Kirby Smart said in a virtual press conference Monday that the staff already has a week of preparation for the Commodores under their belts. 

“We haven’t had a lot of chance for things to change,” Smart said. “So, we feel like we're ahead in regards to our preparation, but our kids aren’t necessarily, they don’t remember a lot of that information from week to week so that’s really our focus.” 

Smart brushed aside fears that Vanderbilt will withdraw once again this Saturday and remains focused on the what Georgia can control.

“We’re optimistic that Vandy’s going to be able to play,” Smart said. “I’m focused on us and where we are. … They were able to play last week against Tennessee, and we’re looking forward to an opportunity to get our seniors out there to one last home game.” 

2021 signees not a distraction

The early signing period for college football begins Wednesday, Dec. 16, right in the middle of game-week preparation. Georgia has 20 commits from the recruiting class of 2021 who will likely sign Wednesday.

“There’s not a lot of preparation you can do for that,” Smart said. “So, we’re in communication with the ones that are planning on signing with us early, and then some are early enrollees, so we’re still trying to finish out with some guys.” 

Smart said roster management and signing top targets remains the focus for Dec. 16 but that designing for 2021 will not sidetrack Georgia from the task at hand. 

“It’s not a distraction having the signing date, it’s more the management of the numbers and all the different things, it’s tougher.” 

Injury updates 

Smart updated Georgia’s situation regarding an abundance of injuries this season. Nose tackle Jordan Davis returned against Missouri although Smart noted that he was “rusty,” and he had to “feel his way out” after not tackling live in a while. 

Smart thinks another notable injured player, running back Kendall Milton, is progressing closer to returning to the field. 

“We think Kendall’s really close,” Smart said. “Kendall’s worked really hard to get back and get himself in a position to be healthy. He felt like he was running 85-90% last week and probably could’ve played if he had to.” 

All eyes are also on safety Richard LeCounte and his anticipated return. LeCounte has been sidelined since Oct. 31, but continues to travel with the team and provide value indirectly as a leader. Smart wasn’t as confident in LeCounte’s progression to return for Vanderbilt. 

“We’re hopeful to get him back,” Smart said. “I can’t answer where he is because I really haven’t seen him run or do anything since Thursday.”