Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart's post-practice press briefing on Tuesday:
‘’We’ve had two practices since our last visit. Monday went well. We did a little more than a normal Monday since we weren’t coming off a game. And then today we did a normal Tuesday, got after it pretty good, good weather, good intensity, I thought. The kids are eager to practice and even a little bit chippy, so it was good. They were thudding and popping and got most of our game plan in. We’ll brush and polish it up tonight and then finish it up during the rest of the week. The kids really are excited and I am, too. It’s a great rivalry game, a great opportunity for us, and the kids are ready to play.’’
On Jonathan Ledbetter getting work with 1st team:
‘’He never really lost his form because he was working with us and working with the scout team, and he did a good job with them. He is a starter with certain personnel groupings, so if you saw him out there with the Ones and they’re in a certain personnel grouping, then he’s a starter. If he’s out there in a different personnel grouping, then he’s not. He has a different trait than most of our guys. He has some twitch. He’s fast-twitch and he’s quick. He’s more explosive. He’s what more people are playing with now instead of just the big guys. So he gives us kind of a good changeup.’’
Challenge of affecting QB like Luke Del Rio:
‘’You always try and affect the quarterback and disrupt the pocket. He’s not really affected. He’s been standing behind the pocket all his life and he’s seen quarterbacks stand in and take hits. He’s a very intelligent player. He understands where to throw the ball as soon as he sees the coverage. And he’s taken some shots from people coming free at him. He holds in the pocket and throws the ball well. So, I think you affect him by batting balls, trying to change up coverage, but you’re not gonna affect him just by hitting him. He’s a tough kid.’’
Advantage for Del Rio being a coach’s son?
‘’I think it’s a tremendous help, as far as knowing what they want to do. They’ve got a pro-style scheme at Florida, and he’s come in and allowed them to do the things they really wanted to do. What Nuss and Jim did at Alabama was more of Luke’s able to do for them, as far as executing, putting in the right plays, making decisions with the ball, and he throws a really good deep ball. I tell you, the threats they’ve gotten at wideout have improved. Each year they’ve added another good receiver, so now they’ve got a corps of good receivers.’’
On his approach with the team since the last game:
‘’To be honest with you, I try to be positive anytime I think they need the positivity. I think that if they ever think they’ve arrived — which we obviously have not done that — that’s when you really have to stay on them hard. I’m ultimately being positive with them because I want them to see the good in some of the things they’ve done. And correct the bad. But that’s where we’re at right now, emotionally.
‘’I think whether you win every game or you lose every game, you’re still searching for the perfect game. No team plays the perfect game, so if you ever think you’re perfect, you’re sadly mistaken. So our guys certainly don’t think that. We’ve had some glaring mistakes and we’ve worked hard to correct them. As long as they’re positive about the constructive criticism that they get, and they’re in that ‘Coach me, Coach’ mode, then I’m pleased with it. When they lose that, when they get negative, that’s when it gets tough.’’
On handling the losses:
‘’I don’t really get into that. I’m really focused on what we can do as a staff to make our players play the best. And that’s ultimately what you’re charged with: to get the most out of each team you have. And you feel good if you’re getting the most out of your team, but right now we’re not getting the most out of this team. That’s the most frustrating part for me. It’s not a record. It’s ‘Are we getting the most out of this team?’ I’m a competitor, but if I let that affect me, then that’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s not the goal I’m trying to achieve. I want to get the most out of this team we can.’’
Do you feel like your defense has made improvements in affecting the quarterback?
‘’Yeah, but I’ll feel a lot better if they’re able to affect this group, with the protection they have, over the last two games. It’ll certainly be more of a challenge. When you face a protection-oriented team, you’ve got to be careful. If that’s all you think about, you’re gonna expose some guys outside. You’ve gotta be sure that’s what you wanna do when you start trying to affect him.’’
Have you talked to the team about keeping emotions in check and avoiding penalties in this game?
‘’Absolutely. I’ve seen some of the most foolish penalties come up in this game, when I played, when I watched on TV, when I coached in it. You can’t let your pride get the best of you, and the team that does the best job of managing that usually gets an advantage. If you get a 15-yarder here, a 15-yarder there, it makes a huge difference and we’re preaching that to our guys. We were talking about it at practice. Like today, if you get chippy out there and get a stupid penalty, it’ll cost you in the game.’’