They Said It: Kirby Press Conference

ATHENS - Kirby Smart addressed the media on Monday ahead of Saturday’s game at Missouri.

“I got to watch the tape Sunday, did a lot of analysis on it. We get a chance to correct some things today and move forward. We are excited for our SEC opener on the road against a very good Missouri team. They have a very up-tempo offense and very disruptive defense. They do a great job — they always have. Coach (Barry) Odom does a great job defensively. He has always been a great defensive mind in this conference, and they have a great offensive coordinator in Josh Heupel, who has done a tremendous job at really fast-pace offense. So, with that, I will open it up for questions.”

On Nick Chubb’s carries when Greyson Lambert is in the game … 

“I think it has a lot more to do with the way the plays have been blocked. I don’t think any defense is changing based on the quarterback right now and that situation. I think Nick has had some good runs. He had some good bounce-out runs. He didn’t have a lot of places to go the other day, but he had some good bounce-out runs even when Jacob (Eason) was in there. So, I think that is probably too much read into it.”

On his plan for the offensive line after watching film from Saturday… 

“Well, the number one thing is improvement — improvement in how you block, get your second step on the ground, making sure we get movement, playing harder with a little more energy and enthusiasm would be the number one challenge. To make sure the temperament is good, and the enthusiasm and energy is good. I think a big part of the offensive and defensive line is toughness and strike, and we did not do that Saturday (vs. Nicholls). We are moving on from that now and we have to go out and do a better job against a really good Missouri defensive line that is going to present a lot of the same challenges. They are a very athletic group, a very active group, very disruptive group and a lot of tackles for loss and movement. They do a very good job of doing that, so that would be the challenge for moving forward that we show improvement.”

On his analysis of the quarterback situation … 

“It will be based on how practice goes and how our game plan goes as we put the game plan together. That is not in place right now. As we put the game plan together and figure out which ways we want to strategize, which way we want to attack — who is going to better at doing that? That will play itself out during the week over the course of today, tomorrow and Wednesday. Every team in the country has a way they go about getting prepared. You have a formula for the week of what you are going to do on Monday, what you are going to do on Tuesday, what you are going to do on Wednesday and then you review that on Thursdays. We will do that same process. We will figure out which guy is going to give us the best opportunity. They are both going to rep, both continue to rep and then we figure out which one is going to give us the best opportunity to win. 

Reviewing the game film, it was exactly like we thought. We didn’t have a lot of places to run the ball. Jacob made some mistakes, but he also made some really good plays. Then Greyson came in, and for a guy who came off the bench, did a great job of manufacturing a third down — bad snap, made a good read, made a great throw and did what we asked him to do. So, I was very proud of how he managed the situation that he was brought into.”

On Jacob Eason’s grasp of the full playbook … 

“Yeah, he has everything that Greyson has got. It is just a matter of what we put on his plate. We do not go into a game with a full playbook, so nobody has the playbook for one game, but he has done everything that Greyson has done. There is nothing that we hold back from him. He is certainly not as advanced as Greyson, as comfortable as Greyson at doing some of those things, but we do not hold anything back from him.”

On Georgia’s run game vs. Nicholls on Saturday …

“Well, it is always a numbers game, but to be honest with you North Carolina had just as many in the box as these guys did, so there is not a difference in perspective of counting people in the box. People are always going to put more than you can block in the box. They have to. They have to force you to throw the ball, and it is the same thing we do defensively as well. The bottom line is that we got some perimeter runs that were not blocked very well, we got some inside runs that were not blocked very well and we have to block better. We have to do a good job of mixing it up and giving them an opportunity to take some shot plays and take advantage of those. When you don’t take advantage of those, then you are behind the sticks. So, it is a simple game if you can block, if you can tackle, if you can run the ball it makes it really easy to make the calls on offense. If you can’t do that, it makes it very frustrating.”

On the process of searching for leaders … 

“I think you coach it. You work hard at it. It is an evolution, leadership is for this team. It’s always that case. Every team I have ever been on was at a different degree of leadership. I certainly think this one is struggling to find that. Guys are getting comfortable in their roles. They are still figuring out who they are. Some guys are more comfortable than others. I thought it was a great added bonus to get Sony (Michel) back from an energy standpoint and from the standpoint of he is a really good leader. Sony is a guy who has shown me that he is not afraid to be vocal, and that is important because once one guy gets comfortable a lot of times it is contagious and you need more guys comfortable speaking up, saying how they feel, making sure practices are done the right way. What are your practice habits? How good are the look squads? And demanding that stuff get done. For coaches, we can beat them over the head, keep screaming at them about it, but at the end of the day the ownership comes from the players, and we have really tried to develop that seven, eight, nine, 10 months even trying to get that developed.”

On how he would describe Georgia’s talent level compared to the rest of the SEC …

“I don’t get into comparisons. I don’t think comparisons are fair, so I’m not going to assess the talent level. I don’t think that is a fair statement. I think at some positions it is better, some positions it is not as good. At the end of the day, we have good football players on our team and in our program. We will continue to recruit really good football players and coach them to do the best job they can. My number one goal and focus is getting this team ready for this game and I want them to be prepared to play in a raucous environment because that is what it is up there. They do a great job. They have passionate fans, and we have to turn our focus to playing well in this game.” 

On his assessment of Georgia’s defense this past Saturday … 

“There were some plays that got out on us. They did some things that we had not seen them do before, and that is a credit to them. At the end of the day, I would like to dominate the line of scrimmage more than we did. They didn’t kill us in the run game, but they had a couple of plays where they did a nice job with the RPOs pulling the ball, quarterback having the option to throw, we missed a couple of things and they hit a couple of wheel routes outside. At the end of the day, I thought the guys actually executed better than they did against North Carolina, but we should have dominated completely up front and we did not always do that. So, we have to do a better job of that.”

On if he and his staff could have approached anything differently last week … 

“I don’t think so. I think the biggest thing is making sure they are prepared. Making sure each guy understands — we stressed the importance all week, good practices, we did not get great practices every day, but at the end of the day that comes from within. That comes from great leadership and we have to get better leadership. We have to get better looks from the looks squads, but each kid has to take ownership and responsibility. Each coach has to take ownership in his group, and we have to do a  great job as an organization, starting with me, of motivating the players to play well. Like I said before, we are moving on to Missouri. We have to do a  great job this week. I’m concerned with this week. More and more you see people not play to the level of their capability in a game like that (vs Nicholls on Saturday), and it should not be that way. It is what it is and it is in our past. We have got to move on to Missouri and get ready for this game.”

On Missouri’s Charles Harris and Michael Scherer … 

“Very active. Those guys are very disruptive in what they do. They are really explosive. They know what they are going to do and they do it well. They do it really fast, and those guys do a really good job of being disruptive. Both of them have played what seems like forever in this conference.” 

On Jacob Eason’s confidence and ability to handle end-of-game situations…

“He understands the situation in each game. I think Jacob is very confident in himself, that’s not something that he lacks, the confidence. He’s shown improvement in those areas and will continue to do so, and we’ll continue to work with him.”

On staying positive about team performance…

“We didn’t get to watch film yesterday with players. Sunday is the players’ day off so we’ll do a lot more of that today. First, being honest is my best quality with my team. They know that I’ve been very honest with them, and I’m going to be honest today when I tell them that we didn’t play with energy and enthusiasm. We started out really good and then I think everybody relaxed. When you go out and you have a score on the first possession and then you have a turnover on defense, and then everybody just relaxed. That’s typically the games I’ve been in when those teams stay in the game. Nicholls did a great job of doing that. They played with more and more enthusiasm and your team gets tighter and tighter. But once again, we’re focused on Missouri and moving forward.”

On the quarterback situation…

“I feel a sense of urgency to get the best guy on the field to give us an opportunity to win each game. If that means getting one guy ready then that’s what it would be. Right now, we’re not in a position to do that. Right now we’re in a situation where we’ve got two quarterbacks that are both developing, both a part of the game plan, and we want to continue to do that. It’s a situation where if one guy dominates during the week, that guy will play. But within every game we’ve got a situation where another quarterback has to be ready. You’ve got to have two quarterbacks ready for the most part anyway. We just want to get the best guy out there that gives us the best opportunity to win based on that game plan.”

On Sony Michel…

“He was a big part of last week’s (offense). It just didn’t get to fruition. Some of the plays we had weren't set up for what they were doing defensively, which was a little bit different from what we had seen before. But Sony will be a big part of all the special teams. He’ll be special teams, he’ll be running back. Everything that he can do, he’s cleared to do. So we want him to start being a bigger role. He’s done a lot of that in practice leading up to now, it’s just a matter of getting him cleared. It’s not like it’s the first time he’s done it. He’s a guy that’s going to be doing more and more now, and we’re happy to have him.”

On watching Missouri game tape after the coaching change…

“They’ve got a lot of guys back. They’ve got five, six guys back on defense, so a lot of that will carry over. You always put more stock into what they’re doing this year because we've got two big games on that. Having enough information, we’ve got other things on them offensively and we’ve got other things on them defensively, so we’ll watch both of those.”

On handling distractions entering conference play…

“I think it’s the exact things you just said. It’s the first road game in the SEC. We’ve got to play with confidence. We’ve got to play in an environment that our kids aren’t used to yet. It’s a big part of it. The Georgia Dome was loud, but it wasn’t as loud as it’s going to be up there especially when we have the ball. I think any time you play on the road in the SEC you’ve got to take those distractions into consideration.”

On keeping Brendan Douglas and Reggie Davis as kickoff returners…

“I don’t see that changing any time soon. The big thing is we’ve got some other guys who are going to work back there. We’ve been working other guys back there. We’ve got what we call the 'off returner.' We’ve got three guys that rep over there with Brendan Douglas. We’ll continue down that road and have a couple more guys available.”

On the play of Georgia’s secondary…

“We’ve been challenged, especially in the first game in the secondary from the standpoint of match-ups. It’ll be very similar this game. They’ve got explosive wideouts, they do a good job of using those guys. They’re a little unorthodox in some things they do offensively and even in some of the splits they take. But they do a great job in going really fast. This quarterback (Drew Lock) has been really impressive. The West Virginia game, if not for the turnovers, they’ve had a lot of success. They turned the ball over a couple times. (Lock) is really impressive, he throws a great deep ball, he’s got great touch. He’s a basketball player and he’s a lot better athlete than you give him credit for. (Lock), to me has been really impressive for a guy that I had not seen before.”

On Isaiah McKenzie’s special teams play…

“I’m very concerned. I was very concerned coming into the season. It’s an area that we’ve worked really hard on. He’s caught more punts than I’ve ever seen a guy catch punts. He’s got to play with a little more confidence. He’s a guy that knows he’s a good returner. He’s got to make good decisions and be confident about it, and he’s got to be able to do it better in the clutch. I think he knows that he’s got to do a better job. We’ll attack that again the next couple weeks in having him catch a bunch of (punts). That’s the biggest thing is getting confident in yourself that you can do it when it’s on the line and it means the most.”

On the defense forcing turnovers…

“I’m very pleased with that because we didn’t have many turnovers against North Carolina. We’ve got to do a better job of sudden change. I think we had 17 points scored after turnovers. We’ve got to be able to go out and put the fire out. That’s the measure of every defense is how do you respond when things go bad? When they get an interception and they return it down to whatever yard line and you hold them to a field goal, that’s what you’ve got to do every time they start inside your area. We didn’t do a great job of that the whole day, but we did create and generate some turnovers, which we’ve got to do. We’ve got to do that defensively. We’ve got to be disruptive enough to get some balls off people and intercept some balls.”

On Trenton Thompson’s play and the defensive line…

“We had seven, eight defensive linemen play anywhere from 20 to 40 snaps. We’re trying to keep those guys fresh, play a lot of them. Trenton (Thompson) has come a long way, and he still has a long way to go. Trenton, his best attribute is his quickness and that he plays really hard. It’s important to Trenton that he plays well. Coach Rocker has worked really hard with Trenton on using his technique where he uses his hands more and strikes more because he’s really athletic. He’s able to run some plays down that most 300-pounders can’t do. Some of his best plays have come when the ball has spit out or broke out on us, Trenton gives great effort and runs it down, which is why he had the stats that he had, 11 tackles. Any time you’ve got that, he’s chasing balls down. He’s a guy that has always played with good effort, but we’ve challenged him to play with much better technique, as we have every player on the defense because when we break down it’s usually technique. That’s where we struggle right now is not playing with great technique. We’ve got to improve that at every position.”

On Rico McGraw…

“Rico has been battling an injury, first and foremost. He’s got to rehab that and continue to get better there. I think the more he rehabs the injury the better he can practice. Rico’s got to help us on special teams in a lot of ways because he’s got good size, he’s a good tackler, so we’ve got to get him to improve his special team use. He’s got to practice better in order to get in the games. That’s one of the key areas we’ve challenged him on. He’s got to be able to practice better in order to get in the games, and he’s got to be able to sustain with his shoulder. That’s a big part of where Rico is.”

On the receivers’ play…

“(Separation is) always an issue at receiver, any team you play. Any time you’ve got a group that’s on your team you’re looking for a guy that can get separation, you’re looking for a guy that can beat you deep, you’re looking for a guy that can break routes, you’re looking for a guy that can block when he’s asked to block. The physicality of the receivers right now is not where it needs to be. We’ve got to block better. A big part is separation, but more important to me is their ability to, when we spread people out, to be able to go block people and go hit them. When we can’t do that, we can’t put them on the field. We’ve got some guys who can get open, who can separate, but they’ve got to have more than one purpose. There’s only one ball on the field and it can only go to one person. The other 10, or nine if you take the quarterback out of it, have got to block somebody. And that’s an area where we’ve got to improve at wideout. They’ve got to improve their physicality, not just their ability to get open.”

On Eason’s decision making in passing against Nicholls…

“He was good at times and poor at times. I think he just rushed at times and he doesn’t always have his eyes in the right place. But there were a lot of times where he showed a lot of improvement from the North Carolina game to this one in the things he looked at, the management of the huddle, and he’s got to continue to improve in that area. He did it right some and he did it wrong some, but so did Greyson (Lambert). So there we lay. We’re going to go forward, keep getting better, coach these guys up and demand that they do it right and have some good energy and passion in practice so we can carry that over to the game."


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