Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during a recent practice.

Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, whose team had a bye last week, spoke with the media Monday about the Bulldogs' Saturday game with Kentucky and more.

Opening statement:

“Our guys are coming off an off-weekend, and we are looking forward to preparing for Kentucky. We got a little bit of a jumpstart on some of our future opponents last week as well as one day spent on preparation for Kentucky. Coach [Mark] Stoops has done a tremendous job with their program. They play with great physical toughness across the offensive and defensive lines. They are really big and stout. I thought they did a really good job against us last year in terms of their defense, and their defense is one of the best in our conference. They’ve done an excellent job of preparing for teams. We’ve got a lot of respect for them in the kicking game — one of the best punters in the country that’s able to flip the field and do a lot with that. With that, we will open it up.”

On his assessment of Zamir White’s performance so far and an update on Kenny McIntosh:

“I won’t know much on Kenny until I get back out there today. He was not able to practice last week in terms of rehab, but we are hopeful that he we will be able to go today. We will find out more.

“In terms of Zamir, I think his leadership qualities have taken a major step forward in terms of his energy, his enthusiasm and just the way he prepares himself. You look across our games — some of our best special teams plays have come about because of Zamir. No. 1 — he is the off-returner on kickoff return. He does a tremendous job of selecting who to block to spring Kenny [McIntosh] and Kearis [Jackson] on a lot of their returns. He blocked a punt. He’s been one of our most consistent players on punt return in terms of making sure his man does not make the tackle and kind of control him. He’s also been a backup on our punt unit. I think Zamir has been very productive, he’s better conditioned. We are fortunate we were able to play a lot of backs, so he doesn’t get probably as many carries, but that never seems to frustrate him. He does a really good job of knowing his role and helping our team.”

On the off-week production and how much concern he had about his players staying safe:

“We talk about it every day. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t finish the practice, the walk-through, the session, whatever we are doing that we do not address what they are going to be doing next in terms of time. They certainly had more time this weekend in terms of Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Major concern for us because we don’t control it. But, I’ll be honest with you, we don’t control what they do when they leave our building anyway. Whether it’s in Athens, at home, whatever decisions they are making or wherever they are traveling to it is very concerning. We try to educate them on what’s going on in the NFL and across college football, how it impacts them and how it could impact our team. So, we try to educate them in that regard, and hopefully they take heed in those warnings and understand it. 

“In terms of off-week production, I don’t really know a way to quantify production in an off-week. I thought we had good practices, if that’s what you are asking. I thought that the three practices we had were really good in terms of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. They were very specific to what each individual needed to work on and grow at, a lot of competitive reps, a lot of what we call group periods, where we work on individual things. They are safer in individual units than they are in 11-on-11, but we did a lot of 11-on-11 as well and tried to develop the depth that our roster — knowing and moving forward — that we are going to have to play some of these guys.”

On the projected cold weather for the weekend and if you can simulate that indoors:

“Only to a certain extent. We can get it cold in there but some of that is controlled by what the temperature is outside in terms of being able to cool it down some in the indoor or not. We’ve practiced in the weather. We’ve had rainy days where we’ve been outside. We’ve had misty days and wet ball practices. We try to prepare the week for what we think we’re going to play in- to the degree that we can control that. Those are outside factors that we don’t control so we really try to focus on us and tell our guys that the outcome is going to be determined by what we do, not by what the weather man does.”

On what he considers to be Georgia’s brand of football:

“It is what the defense gives you. If they’re playing man-to-man, then we have to be able to take shots and make plays. If they’re playing off-coverage and giving us RPOs we have to be able to take it. If they’re taking chances on the run and we have to play-action them to get on top, you have to be able to do it. It never changes. I think you guys want a perfect answer. It’s really a lot more of what are you good at and what can we do better than they do. Balance is always important, but balance is not always 50/50. When you look across the league, the teams that are able to run the ball and play action pass and do those things are the ones that are most successful, regardless of the total number of points and the total number of yards and all the differences in statistics. It’s don’t turn it over, you have to have the ability to run the ball. You really need the ability to run the ball when you have a quarterback that is still developing and is still young and doesn’t have the experience of a guy that maybe has. You have to be able to run the ball and help him in regards to doing that.”

On the wide receiver rotation and how they have separated themselves:

“We have had injuries in recent week and we have some young guys that are growing. I think Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is a guy that has really come along and done some nice things that we’re hoping to grow his role and get him developed. Some of those guys have been injured. Matt [Landers] was banged up with an injury, dealing with his shoulder, so hopefully he’s back. D-Rob [Demetris Robertson] has played some and Kearis [Jackson] has played some, being able to rotate in there. We are always going to play the guys that give us the best chance to win. If that’s six guys, then that’s six guys. If that’s three guys, then that’s three guys.”

On early starts not being Georgia’s “forte”:

“We don’t control those. The biggest thing is that we have to do a great job preparing for Kentucky, regardless of the start time. We do different stuff every time we play at noon. There’s not like there’s a magic wand you wave. Your team has to do a good job of preparing mentally for a 12:00 kickoff. The NFL starts at 12 or 1, most games. It’s not something they shouldn’t be aware of or used to. It is what it is. You have to do a good job getting ready to go out there, mentally, and be ready to play, regardless of the who’s in the stands, who we play, or what time we play. We control what we do. We control our mindset. And if we do that well we can go execute and play well.”

On assessing the quarterback situation:

“I’m excited about all of those guys. I thought they had great off-week work. They competed. Those guys continue to get better. We gave those guys a lot of reps during the off week.”

On difficulties in finding an offensive identity:

“I think It’s a little bit based on the defenses we play. I don’t think that you solely control what your identity is just by yourself. Some of that is created through playing games, who’s healthy, what you are capable of, what they play against you. How defenses play us sometimes determines how, where we run the ball, which run plays we run, how much we run. A lot of that is determined by that. I think the identity that you want to have is you want to be balanced. You want to be able to throw the ball when you want to throw the ball, run the ball when you want to run the ball. Those things are important to being successful, just like on defense being able to dictate to them what you do on offense. It’s not real complicated, but sometimes, it’s hard to do when the team makes it complicated.”

On Jake Camarda and Jack Podlesny’s development:

“Both of those guys are very talented, first and foremost. They’re great ambassadors for the program. Camarda and Pod are not only great students, they’re great kids. They work really hard at their trade. I will definitely say Camarda has become a weapon in terms of his ability to hit really long punts. I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t outkick our coverage at times, and his distance has to match his hang and he’s got to hit his field zones. He knows those things are important, but he is a weapon in terms of his leg strength. We knew about that when we recruited him. It didn’t necessarily always come out that way his freshman year, and I think any time you punt as a freshman, you go through some growing pains. But since then, I think he’s gotten better. I thought he was really good with his kicks against Alabama. Pod has been pretty consistent — would like for him to be a little more consistent with field goals and make those, but he’s a kid who knows the work he has to put in and he works hard at it. Those guys have been good players for us.”

On Nick Saban’s comments about defenses no longer being able to stop great offenses:

“I think if you look at recent history, elite offenses have certainly done well in the Playoff and have really won most of the championships. If you look across the board at the biggest offensive numbers and the output of those offensive numbers, whether it be Clemson, whether it be Alabama, whether it be LSU, I would argue that each one of those teams had pretty good defenses, so it’s not a clear-cut question, it’s not a clear-cut answer. It’s not easy to say this or that. There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but scoring offense and being able to score points is a tremendous factor, and a lot of the offenses have been ahead. The really good offenses have been ahead of the really good defenses, I don’t disagree with that. But, if you look across the board, there’s some teams that have really dynamic offenses and don’t have defenses, they struggle, they struggle when they go play really good teams. You’re really looking to have both, but I do respect that Clemson’s won championships with good defenses, and Alabama, when they won and beat us, they had a dynamic offense, but they had good defense. Then, when you go to LSU last year, nobody even talks about their defense, but they obviously had a good defense because they’ve got players playing all over the NFL.” 

On the physicality aspect of the offense being strong enough to effectively run the ball:

“I would probably say it is more about opportunities. I feel like we’ve got the ability to run the ball well. We probably had our poorest performance we had, in terms of rushing the ball, was the Arkansas game. We’ve come a long way since then. That number still factors in there because of the number of games we have played. I will tell you this, Kentucky is as physical a front that we have played. It showed last year. They were really physical up front. They always have been. They build their defense around that. They do a great job across the offensive and defensive lines — that’s what makes them tough to play. They don’t give up a lot of points on defense. They really play well, and they play physical. They have done a great job of that. For us, that’s a great challenge for our offensive line to go against one of the bigger defensive lines we will ever play, in terms of moving them and being able to creative run-game.” 

On what he thinks the offense is really good at and what does he see that needs to improve:

“I think the best thing we do offensively is third down execution, and being able to execute on third down and convert. That has been a point of emphasis for us in practices, to convert third downs, put together a good third down plan, play-action passes—a lot of those shots and overs and different things off of the run-game we have been able to hit. If you are going to do those you have to be committed to the run. You have to show the presence. It’s not that you have to always be successful at the run, you have to be committed enough at the run-game to be able to hit shots off of those play-actions. When you watch the best teams on Saturday that are able to run the ball, they have play-action shots off of it. We’ve been able to put and utilize the tight end down the middle off of play-action. We have been able to use our will-routes that we hit Jermaine Burton on the other day, off of our play-action. The play-action game and third down would be the things we have done well. The more important thing for us to continue and improve on is the ability to run the ball inside and outside, to create balance and decision making in terms of not turning the ball over.”

On Joey Gatewood versus Terry Wilson Jr.’s performances:

“They both have a running element. They really fit the style of offense that Eddie [Gran] has been using for a while — really well in terms of what they want to do and how they dictate the run-game to you. When you look across the last couple of years, if you ask anybody across our league, not statistically, not looking in terms of what you guys would at in terms of numbers, their physicality up front has been very evident. When you go back and watch our last couple of games against them, just us individually, their offensive line is extremely physical and we haven’t tackled well. I don’t know if you give them credit for that, the athletes they’ve had, whether it was Lynn Bowden or Terry [Wilson Jr.] the year before or just the fact they block you and get a lot of one-on-one tackles. They have done a really good job in terms of being physical at the line of scrimmage. Both of those quarterbacks present issues in terms of contain, how you play people outside when you are playing against them. They’ve always done a good job of that.”

On how the defense has practiced coming off the loss to Alabama and their mindset going into Saturday:

“They are in a good place. Each one of them individually got some goals and things to work on. They worked really hard on those things. We understand that when you play a team like Alabama there are going to be matchups that are one-on-one. We lost too many of those. The goal is to get better. How do you lose less of them? How do you lose less one-on-one matchups? Well, you go back to the drawing board and work your tail off. You get better at tackling. If you watch teams fundamentally across the country, we’re trying to say we are going to out-fundamental you. We are going to get off blocks, and we’re going to strike people. We are going to tackle people better than the people across from us. There is no magic potion for it. You watch the defenses, people are playing the same defenses. It’s who can do it better.” 

On how much Stetson Bennett benefited learning from Jake Fromm’s off the field preparation:

“I think it helped tremendously. Coach [Todd] Monken and those guys, our offensive staff, have put together a plan for the quarterbacks that might not be the same as Jake’s [Fromm] in terms of weekly preparation. ‘Monday I am going to watch this. Tuesday I am going to watch this. Wednesday I am going to watch this.’ All of the quarterbacks, beside Stetson [Bennett], they all come in and watch those things. That is a position that requires a lot more in terms of dedication and time commitment. Jake did a great job of doing that, but these guys now are all doing it under a little different protocol.” 

On the quarterback battle:

“We are always evaluating guys. It doesn’t change. You guys can keep asking the questions, but we are always evaluating guys at quarterback, and they are always trying to get better, grow their game. Stetson is still repping with the ones, taking reps. We got other guys reps and that’s what you try to do in an off week. You try to grow your team and get them better. But at the same time, we are trying to create continuity and get better as a team and a unit. You don’t base your season on one game, you base your season on what gives you the best chance to get better, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to look at it as, ‘What are we trying to do to get our team from point A to point B?’ That’s growth. That’s competition. Every position has that. It doesn’t change at quarterback. It’s what you need to get better and what we are going to continue to do this week.”

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by subscribing or making a contribution today.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.