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Georgia linbacker Nate McBride (22) tackles a Murray State University player during the second half of Georgia’s home opener against Murray State in Sanford Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 7, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. The Bulldogs won 63-17. (Photo/Ryan Cameron, rcameron@randb.com)

Georgia football uses special teams as its test.

“Before [players] ever play on offense or defense, [they] play special teams,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “And when you do that, then I trust you’ll go ahead and do your job on offense and defense.”

Special teams are a major point of emphasis for the program. So much so that Georgia opens its season with meetings about special teams.

“We don’t fake it,” Smart said. “We live it.”

Smart never skips a chance to sit in on the unit’s meetings.

 “I may miss something, but I’m not missing a special teams meeting,” Smart said. “It’s too important for our players to see me in there and know they’re going to be held accountable.”

Junior running back Prather Hudson, who has a role on all four special teams units, said it is important that the players have a coach who practices what he preaches.

“It shows he cares,” Hudson said. “It shows that specials teams do matter.”

Junior linebacker Nate McBride hasn’t seen much playing time on defense since arriving in Athens. He has only one tackle this season, but special teams allows him to see playing time when he otherwise may not. McBride enjoys any opportunity he can get to step onto the field. 

“It doesn’t seem like a big part of the game because everybody notices the quarterback,” McBride said. “Special teams can get you to the pros.”

McBride, who works with the punt return and kickoff return units, andHudson take inspiration from Jayson Stanley, who played for Georgia from 2015-18 as a wide receiver before converting to a cornerback and special teams player on the Atlanta Falcons this preseason. The Falcons waived Stanley on Aug. 31, but Georgia football players still applaud him for his efforts.

“You see [Jayson] Stanley, he didn’t get many snaps on offense, but he was all the way special teams,” McBride said. “He did great in preseason for the Falcons.”

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