Kirby's Candid Talk

HOOVER, Ala. - Kirby Smart talks with Dean Legge and other reporters about Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Jonathan Ledbetter and the 2016 season.

-Do you have a strategy coming into media days?

-I want it to be about our team. When you think about SEC Media days, there’s often a lot of stuff outside of football that people try to get distracted with. These guys work hard and they should receive the attention for that.

-The players worked out this morning?

-Yes, all three players worked out this morning before they flew over here. The best part, I didn’t even have to prompt them to do so.

-What have the doctors said about Sony’s injury since last week?

-It’s not an injury they have a lot of experience with because it’s not a normal football injury. We experienced this last year with Kenyan Drake. He’s started on the rehab process after a great surgery. I don’t think we’ll know until the first or second fall scrimmage.  There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the situation. People say 6-8 weeks, but Kenyan was quicker than that, while some guys are slower.

-How does that add pressure when planning your offense?

-I think it makes it tough. It makes us hard to find an identity on offense. We want to be physical and run the ball, but that is difficult to game plan without our top two running backs. Now, that does give some other guys an opportunity to step up and gain experience. We use the beginning of the fall to develop our identity for the season

-What do you think Nick will be able to do in camp?

-He’ll be a full go when camp starts. I think it will be a psychological barrier for him to overcome that first hit/tackle. It’s different when you’re sitting in meetings and then when you have to get out on the field and do it. He wasn’t in there to implement the new offense and blitz packages. 

-But physically?

-He won’t have limitations in what he does at the beginning of camp. Now that doesn’t mean he will be in full contact or participating in scrimmages, but our first day in camp will be in shorts and he will not have limitations there. His work ethic and commitment to getting better is something like Ron Courson has never seen.

-Elijah Holyfield attended multiple practices in the spring. You told him to “be ready.” What do you think that means now?

-He’s a guy that comes from a really good program. He knows how to compete, he knows how to work, but it’s a new program and a new offense. As a true freshman, one if the easiest positions to play is running back. It’s a lot of doing what you do instinctively. He will have a lot of opportunities to carry the ball in our first scrimmage.

-What was the decision to add Brian Herrien?

-It was an insurance policy. It seems to be paying off now.  Although, he is not in the same condition physically as the new guys because he has been spending the last few months focusing on academics while the other guys have spent working out.

-Does the injury at running back help play into the decision on who starts at quarterback?

-I think it plays a small part. You have to start the guy who gives you the best chance to win, but if you do not have your two running backs there, which I certainly hope is not the case, we may have to be more open to throwing the ball. You have to look at the longterm, not just the first game. 

-What was your initial reaction to Sony?

-It was upset for him. He’s worked so hard to get this point. He went through the entire spring camp without another back. He didn’t complain once. He didn’t ask for time off. And then to have that happen, I feel bad for him. But he has a great work ethic and a great outlook on life.

-In regards to the off the field stuff, how much of a conversation you have with the individual and how much with the team?

-First, I talk to them on an individual basis. You address it with them and their parents. I certainly think lessons can be learned and I think everyone on the team can learn. You want them to know what’s going on. It’s not something we share publicly.

-Did you react the same while at Alabama since Nick Saban handled much of the issues?

-It’s certainly tougher. Coach Saban would always bring it to the staff and we would discuss it together. That’s what I’m trying to do here. These young men are 18-21 years old. They make mistakes, but they need to be held accountable for their actions.

-How are you treating the alcohol related issues on the team? You’ve referred to it as a disease before.

-It is one. It has affected countless people and is affecting Jonathan. He’s a great young man and we will do everything to help him get better. By no means does that mean he will not serve the consequences for his punishment, but we are here for him and will support him throughout his recovery process.

-Can you get into the details of his suspension?

-He will be suspended, but I cannot get into the details of it right now. I will not comment on the length of it.

-What is your schedule for the next two weeks?

-The coaches have one more recruiting camp, but it’s mostly getting mentally prepared for fall camp. It is physically and mentally grueling. I’m excited about the opportunity.

-Following G-Day, you talked about the momentum on the recruiting trail, can you speak on that?

-I don’t really look at a class until much later in the recruiting process. I’m talking about three years down the road. I think it matters what a recruit does once they get on campus. Not rankings, you have to get on campus and excel not only on the field, but in the classroom.

-How do you think the kids feel about it?

-They love it, it’s contagious. But if they want to come in and be good football players, they need to forget about all those rankings and hype.

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