Dean Legge / Dawg Post

They Said It: Kirby Press Conference

ATHENS - Kirby Smart met with the media on Saturday...

“Well, we've gotten our padded practices in. Started in shoulder pads and got to pop a little bit, so we certainly have gotten a little more work done. Excited about the tempo the guys have — they really push through.It's kind of starting to get to that grind point of camp where you want guys to push through the pain, a lot of nicks and bumps and bruises. A couple guys banged up. John Atkins (junior nose tackle) had a little bit of a small knee deal but we think he'll be fine. He'll be back, but he's out for a little while. That's tough, at a position that we're kind of already thin at. But the three freshmen are chugging along and getting more reps, that allows them to get reps. Big thing for John is he's going to have to push and stay in shape while he's not out there with us, but that's really the only injury of significance. (Sophomore tailback) Shaquery (Wilson) is working his way back in, trying to take a few more reps. And both the young backs are doing a good job. It's been good to get out in pads, and you feel like you can find out a lot more about kids when they put pads on than you can in shorts. So we'll be back today in pads, of course, for the Fan Day and we're excited about having a big group out there for it and getting to go to kind of a different venue. It makes it a lot different for the kids. A different routine is a good change up. We'll open it up (for questions).”

On junior nosetackle John Atkins …

“Don't know how long. It's really just day-to-day for us. We're going to find out, see how long it takes. But again right now, it's day-to-day. We want to get him back out there as soon as we can, but right now he's working in the pool (and) running. He kind of hyperextended his knee. No ligament damage or anything. We'll see how long it takes to get him back out there. He's a kid that knows the defense really well so shouldn't be as bad, other than the fact that we just don't have enough depth there.”

On offensive coordinator Jim Chaney …

“One of the key reasons I went after Coach Chaney was his quarterback development. I saw what he did at Arkansas and then with Tyler Bray and also the (Matt) Simms kid at Tennessee and then he had a transfer come into Pitt last year. I think it was Nathan Peterman who did a really good job up at Pitt. I have a lot of respect for his development at quarterback. I've been able to sit in some of his meetings, and it's very knowledgeable for me as a coach to get better to hear how he talks to the quarterbacks about the defense. You find a lot out when a guy does that. But he's a really great asset, he's a really good leader and he's doing a great job with the offensive staff, making sure they are organized and have a detailed plan every day.”

On impressions of the quarterbacks so far in fall camp …

“We've been rotating those guys and we've been spinning them, all three, kind of where they all three get to go with each group, and we're kind of taking it day by day, where one guy gets to go with the ones, a guy gets to go with the twos, a guy gets to go with the threes and they all rotate. So that rotation will continue today, with today being the sixth practice. So if you do your math, as you kind of go through, this will be the end of the second rotation. So we're excited to see those guys go out and compete. We're trying to get them equal reps. It's been tough, but it's pretty balanced up. I can't tell you that anybody stood out more than anybody else right now. It's too early. They are still in the installation process where sometimes that can be overwhelming. The second time you go back through the installation, you expect it to be a lot smoother, because now it's the second time this fall, but it's really the third or fourth time since the staff's arrived.”

On if he believes his team is getting bigger and stronger…

“Being that we've only signed the one class, you recruit big, and you obviously lift to get stronger. I mentioned earlier: I do think that we are stronger as a team. I think the kids really feel that way. We can see it in a few players out there where they are getting more movement and they are able to come out of their hips, roll their hips a little bit stronger, squat and bench and things like that. That's helped with some positions that needed it but it's just hard to make a person bigger. You have to go recruit and do well in that area. We think we did that in recruiting along the defensive line, but we really didn't answer some questions on the offensive line. So that's being addressed now through recruiting.”

On what he has seen from his team as far as the mental aspect of the game …

“I think that's hard to do because it's kind of moving parts. There's a lot of parts there. It's hot out there for a lot of the guys, and then being able to push through that. We've told them over and over, they can't let the heat slow the brain. They can't let the heat slow the heart and they have got to push through. Now, I do think that our leadership group and some of the leaders on the team are trying to lead everybody, but as far as a number, one to ten, it's not ever where you want it to be as a coach, because if you think you've got a ten, then you've got problems.”

On Jim Chaney and how he recovered from losing his top rusher last season at Pittsburgh …

“Yeah, you know, I didn't even realize that at the time, because I was in a different world, thinking about different things and focussing on the season that I was coaching. I didn't find that out until I went on the recruiting of the offensive coordinator position calling around. Once I realized that, it made it more attractive to say that here is a guy that lost his leading rusher, one of the best rushers in the country, and was still able to be productive with a new quarterback. So, that was a great asset, knowing that the backs that we're going to constantly have here at the University of Georgia are going to be good backs, and he's got a really good track record with that. I've always felt like the diversity is what I like the most, because I can still remember playing them at Tennessee with three really good wide-outs. They didn't have a back at the time and they threw it all over the yard - came into Sanford Stadium and put up 50-something or 40-something points throwing it around. I mean, he's done both, and I'd like to think that we're going to be versatile enough to get really good wide-outs and really good running backs, and he's used both. I thought he did a great job last year at Pitt, losing the back and still sustaining.”

On his philosophy on transfers …

“Yeah, I can't speak much about the Mo (Maurice Smith at Alabama) situation, because he's a recruited prospective student-athlete. So I can obviously comment that we are recruiting Mo and that he's a prospective student athlete. But as to the graduate transfer deal, I think every young man that we want to bring here to the University of Georgia, we want them to graduate from this place. And if they have an opportunity to go to graduate school at another place, I certainly think that that's something we're going to let them do, when they have an opportunity to go, once they have graduated, I think that's important to know.”

On junior linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter and comparing them to former Bulldogs Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd …

“You know, those are some big shoes to fill. I got to watch those guys play opposite -- every time we had an overlap, you'd see those two guys. They play with high motors, especially Jordan was really a physical presence and struck blockers and played things the right way. To say they are going to fill those shoes I think is unfair for them because I think those are really big shoes to fill. I think both those kids are working hard. But they are not where we need them to be. They are not playing physical enough at the point of attack. And where we're depleted the most right now, is on the edges of the defense when it comes to five technique, six technique, those type bodies. Not the inside guy so much, but the outside guys being able to hold up. I'm challenging those guys each day to go out and take on tight ends, take on tackles and play more physical. We're not where we need to be at that position.”

On how he looks for the players to respond with fans in the stands on Fan Day …

“First thing, I just wanted to focus on practicing good. We're still in day six install and that's important; that they focus on what they have to do. Now the distraction becomes just because somebody is in the stands and just because you got your picture taken before practice, does that change your demeanor; does that change how you practice; does that change how you react to coaching; does that change how you react to when somebody kicks your butt. It's very important to me that they handle that the right way, because if they don't handle that the right way today, they certainly won't in the Georgia Dome in however many days. It's important to me that they handle that the right way and that they execute, because a lot of times, guys go out there out there and change the way they do things because they are in a different place and they have got a different setting.”

On defensive coordinator Mel Tucker …

“First thing about Mel, he's a great teacher. I've been around really good teachers when it comes to the secondary, and he's a great motivator of men, but he's a great teacher, and I enjoy getting to sit in his meetings. Last year, I was running the overall defense, so I was in there coordinating the defense. But when I left with the linebackers, I didn't know what was going on in the DB room. I went in there, I didn't get to hear Mel coach. So this year, I spend some of my time, 25, 30 percent of my time, going into maybe his meetings, as opposed to somebody else's. And it's a joy to hear him teach with the passion and energy he's got for the kids. He gets after it. He makes it fun for them. Makes it fun for the whole defense. He has kind of a different theme each week. The kids like it. They laugh in the meetings. They have a good time. That's important. The guys will play hard for you when they have a great time learning, and he's great teacher. I think the defensive backs here have realized that he's a technician. He's going to teach them the technique that helps them advance, how to play press man, how to play this, and not just what the coverage is and what my check is. So he's a really good teacher and that's been a really great asset to those guys.”

On if he has completely figured out personnel …

“I guess you're saying what personnel groupings we would be in. I think that's going to show and be determined by the scrimmages, because the scrimmages, they will be all in the games. So they will all be rotated in. And who performs well, our best offensive grouping, will be determined by how they do in scrimmages, how guys perform, how well the tight ends block, how well our play-action game is. How well the receivers block on the perimeter tells how many of them will be in. The running backs are doing a good job. I do think that both freshmen running backs, both Brian (Herrien) and Elijah (Holyfield) are really competing hard. They are both really tough, physical, what you want in a player. They are guys that are going to be able to help on special teams. That's the first thing you look for on special teams is where can the running backs help, and here these two guys are, both of them run good, both of them have a little toughness and they are both sharp kids. We're trying to get some help out of them. What grouping we use will be determined by scrimmage one and scrimmage two, how those groups perform. Also what our quarterback can do, how many backs are healthy that, kind of thing. But I can't say when that will happen for sure.”

On his involvement with the defense …

“The one thing I've learned is that it's UGA's defense. It's not Mel's defense. It's not Kirby's defense. It's UGA's defense. It's Davin Bellamy and Dom Sanders' defense. We won't be taking credit as coordinator. We won't be taking credit as head coach. Nor will we be getting blamed should things not go well one game. But I'll be spending the majority of my time on the defense, because that's where I feel like I can be the biggest asset and knowledge. To put a percentage on it, I don't know what that is yet. We haven't had an in-week, kind of in-season, in-week game planning, but I certainly think that's where the most input's going to go.”

On his interactions with Mel Tucker before Alabama …

“Really not, and to be honest with you, only way I knew Mel was through pro workouts. He was in the league during a lot of the runs at Alabama, so when we had players do work outs, we come in to work them out. That's the interaction I had with Mel was through him coming to ask about Kareem Jackson or Javier Arenas or Mark Barron. So, those conversations occurred but never in a coaching relationship did I know him. He obviously knew Coach (Nick) Saban and Coach Saban wanted to bring him in, and it was a great hire last year for us and that's when I really got to know him.”

On the excitement of Fan Day …

“It's very exciting. I mean, our focus is the practice. I've only got so many of these practices. I've got 28 and I've got to get them all right. So that's the focus and energy of that. We're not going to let that be a distraction. I think the big key is afterwards, we're giving back to the fans. But prior to that, we're giving to each other. We're going to be out there in pads, popping, hitting each other, getting after it, competing, fighting for starting jobs, and that's what you want. But all the stuff that goes on prior to, they have got to be able to separate. No different than game day, they have to be able to separate the dog walk from the game. We want to get used to having those distractions, but also the ability to focus on the task at hand, which is having a good practice. We have some guys that need to have a good practice and who need to move forward.”

On the leadership of Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter …

“A lot of guys on defense are trying to be good leaders and a lot of guys on offense. We have a really good group of core guys. Not all leaders are seniors. It's kind of a younger team, where some of the kids that are sophomores are juniors are having to lead, and we only have a few seniors out there. I do think that both Davin and Lorenzo are trying to lead from the standpoint of emotionally, physically, day-to-day, doing things the right way. We've just got to play better. We've got to play tougher. We've got to play the tight ends blocks better. We've got to strike people, and that's the part I'm not pleased with with them. It's not the leadership part. It's playing the blocks the right way and doing the things (outside linebackers coach) Coach (Kevin) Sherrer is asking them to do."

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