Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart's post-practice press briefing on Tuesday:
‘’Yesterday, I thought, went well. We had good energy out there. We didn’t go in pads on Monday. As we get to the end of the year, we’re trying to take a little less off of them. But we went full today. Got after it good, kids had good energy. Has some ‘good on good’ periods. You know their (Kentucky’s) offense has some similarities to ours, so from the run standpoint we got to work against each other. So that was good. We got to work on some special teams, and then we’ll work on third down and the red area tomorrow.’’
Is the team’s attitude where you would like it to be right now?
‘’It’s been really good. The kids have had good energy, the coaching staff, the support staff. We’ve tried to ramp that up to make sure that we can help these kids with that because it’s tough on them. It’s a lot easier on us because we’re in this building all day. They’re out there on campus and everywhere, so we’ve tried to provide them with some juice and some energy. To be honest, a lot of those guys — Sony (Michel) especially, Nick (Chubb) — they’ve had good juice out at practice. They’re helping keep everybody energized. And it gets good energy whenever we go against each other, especially when it’s cool. Today was a cooler day, so they got to go against each other and they like doing that. So that part’s been good.’’
Assessment of the punting situation:
‘’They’re both still working. Obviously, one’s left and one’s right, so that dictates some of it and we try to literally go off practice. Which guy punts better in practice, and consistently the new kid (Long) has punted better than Brice (Ramsey). But we decided to change it up in the game because he wasn’t punting real well and we’ll decide based on practice this week. So they’ve both punted this week. We’ll go with who hits it best tomorrow and Thursday.’’
Pleased with the progress of your strength & conditioning program?
‘’The biggest thing to go by is when you have statistical measures, which are numbers, which everybody tries to fib those because every strength coach in America tries to make their numbers look better. The players are the No. 1 thing to go by because they’re the ones that can tell you, ‘I feel stronger than I did this time last year. I feel more physical than i did this time last year.’ But it’s harder to measure when you’re in season because you’re only lifting two times a week. So we’re not maxing, we’re not going for goals. We’re just trying to maintain strength and he (Scott Sinclair) does a good job with that. He’s sold the kids on what he believes and we’re able to squat and do some things in-season that are really important to keeping strength up.’’
Has the in-season strength program helped your injury prevention so far?
‘’Yeah, knock on wood, but we’re probably hurting now more than we have. Since the Florida game and the past couple of days, we’ve had guys getting dinged up, so it’s getting a little bit frustrating. But I’d say that up until now, we’ve been pretty lucky, compared to other people in the league.’’
Deandre Baker’s progress this season?
‘’I think I’ve said several times that he had a really good camp. I mean, we could have started him to start the season. It was, like, dead even. We had talked about playing him against North Carolina, but it didn’t happen. He came and saw me a couple times and he was so frustrated. He thought he had won a job in camp. It was so close. And that’s why it was so immediate in whatever game it was — I think it was Ole Miss — that we put him in there and he’s never really relinquished that. He takes practice so seriously. He takes pride in tackling. And we’ve challenged these corners that, if you want to play, you’d better tackle. And that’s one of those areas we’ve been really weak in and he’s been really strong in. And we’ve talked about him. He had the most points in the Florida game. We pointed it out to the kids. I thought he made a good play on the ball in the end zone, but he ended up getting a PI on it.’’
On Jacob Eason’s progress in making plays with his feet:
‘’It’s been a blessing, obviously, for us. It was the only positive thing that happened (in the Florida game). But we haven’t emphasized it. Sometimes it just happens and the kid gets more comfortable. Where earlier in the season, I thought he jumped the gun and didn’t scramble sometimes when I thought he could have, he’s kind of gotten comfortable with it. We kid him because his GPS has gone up each game, which means he’s escaping faster. So he’s either getting faster or he’s more scared running faster. He’s improved at that. He’s made some good decisions to step up in the pocket. I still wish he’d get a first down so he could stop the clock and not slide before he gets there. But he’ll get better at it.’’
On the importance of secondary to help in support of run defense vs. Kentucky:
‘’What happens when you play Kentucky is one guy misses a gap, and you’ve got a back coming downhill on your secondary really quick. And there’s a lot of missed tackles. The bottom line is, people don’t like tackling nowadays. And people that don’t like to tackle don’t tackle well. And they (Kentucky) are running through tackles. They’re running through people. They’ve got two kinds of backs: they’ve got lightning and they’ve got thunder. And they’re doing a good job with those guys, of hitting and pounding it up in there. There aren’t a whole lot of folks willing to tackle, when you watch the tape. That’s part of the issue. These guys run the ball really, really well.’’