Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart's post-practice press briefing on Tuesday:
’’Tuesday’s in the books. It was a little bit cooler out there today, and we’ll get to work on third down and red area tonight.’’
Challenges in playing Gus Malzahn’s offense:
‘’The tempo would be first. The physicality would probably be second; they’re extremely physical, which a lot of people don’t give them credit for. But they run the ball downhill and they spread you out and throw it around the field, so they can do this (hands motioning forward), they can do this (thumbs pointing outward). He’s got a lot of toys to work with, you know, speed sweep guys. And he’s got a powerful offensive line that does a good job, so it’s frustrating because they use tempo to help them.’’
How has it helped to have already faced several “tempo” offenses this season?
‘’Well, every tempo is different. I mean, tempo is not just tempo. There’s mostly zone teams and then there are teams that really run at you. These guys do that. It seems like every time I’ve been part of a staff playing his offense, it’s been at the end of the year. You seem beat-up and they just want to beat you up. You’ve got bumps and bruises at the end of the year, and it’s a physical game. It’s hard to get ready for because sometimes at the end of the year, you’re not trying to practice as hard and hit your team as hard because they’ve been hitting so long consecutively. So, I think when you play earlier tempo teams, it’s easier to prepare for than when you play them late in the season.’’
On the progress of Rashad Roundtree since his move to LB:
‘’He’s very intelligent, very instinctive. He has good size for a DB. Not great size for a linebacker, but he’s got great toughness. He’s really helped on special teams; that’s where his best role has been. We felt like there was a situation where he was closer to playing at linebacker than playing at safety right not. It’s not a permanent move. He still plays in our dime package as a DB, so he’s still developing as a defensive back, but he’s been really good for us.’’
D’Andre Walker’s progress:
‘’He’s started out the season learning what to do and he picked that up and played really well a couple of games. Then we had a couple of games where he hadn’t played as much. We played really physical teams, teams that come downhill at you. He can run really fast, a good special teams player, good pass rusher, but learning what to do is really important for him, and being able to execute it. He’s kind of a twitchy guy and we don’t have a lot of those, so it’s nice to have him.’’
Why is it that Georgia and Auburn always seem to compete over defensive line prospects in Georgia?
‘’I think everybody’s in on them. I mean, Tennessee’s in on them, too. First of all, talented defensive lineman are hard to find. They’re a premium when it comes to recruiting. Everybody wants ‘em; you just can’t get enough of ‘em. You look at the greatest teams out there, and they’ve all got really good defensive linemen. So it’s hard, everybody wants them, everybody competes for them. It does end up Georgia and Auburn, but everybody’s in there, I think. It’s just nationwide they’re hard to find.’’
How good can Georgia’s group of young defensive linemen be?
‘’They’ve got a long way to go. The fact they’re playing — is it because they’re really good or is it out of necessity. I always say that. I’m proud of ‘em. I love ‘em. But they’ve got to improve. They’ve got to improve in a lot of areas. Julian (Rochester), I don’t know how many tackles he had last week. I know he had a lot of stats, but Julian can play better. He’s got to play with more strike and more pad leverage. Each one of those guys. But can they be great? Yeah, they can be great. My history has been that you don’t have to play freshman D-linemen. We’ve had to play ‘em. They’re learning trial by fire. Each one’s a little different than the other ones and they’ve all been pleasant surprises. But we’re continuing to recruit a lot of D-linemen because we have to have ‘em. And if the ones we recruit are better than these guys, and they don’t get better, then they’ll get passed by. So the guys here on the team realize that we’re always trying to get better, so if you’re not working at your trade, they’ll pass you by if you’re not careful.’’
Did you recruit (Auburn DB) Tray Matthews out of high school and what are your impressions of how he’s doing now?
‘’Tray’s a really good player. I recruited him out of high school, but not when all the transfer stuff (from UGA) was going on. He’s physical, he’s fast, he enjoys playing the game. You can see that he plays with a lot of excitement out there. Bright-eyed kid.’’
How much of an influence has (Auburn def. coord.) Kevin Steele had on your career?
‘’A lot. When I was a GA at Florida State, he took me in, brought me over to his house, fed me all the time. I got to know his son and his wife. He and Mickey Andrews and Joe Kines were all there at the same time. I was with Coach Kines one year and Kevin the next. He (Steele) helped connect me to Coach Saban because he knew him. He helped teach me a lot about football. He’s very bright, very intelligent, great guy. I always really enjoyed coaching with Kevin.’’
Does playing spread offenses give smaller linebackers more of a chance to see the field?
‘’I don’t know. I mean, look at last week’s game and this week’s game. I don’t want to play with smaller guys. It was a bloodbath last Saturday. It’s gonna be even more so this Saturday. So, I don’t think you can be little and play linebacker in this league. You say we gotta have speed, you gotta be able to play spread. Everybody says that, but these guys are going north-south. (Auburn RB) Kam Pittway is going north and south. I’m tired of watching tape of that guy running over everybody. It’s disheartening. So, little linebackers, especially of faint heart. If you don’t have the right kind of heart to go in there and stroke a guy, it’s tough. The laws of physics say with a 212-pound man and a 240-pound man, you’d better have some ‘thump.’ I’ve seen one guy at LSU, (Kendell) Beckwith. He’s the only guy I’ve seen to come close to winning that battle. So, size is really important at that position, and that’s what we will continue to try and recruit and develop. And get our guys here bigger and stronger.’’
How as Auburn QB Sean White developed since last year?
‘’A lot. He’s a lot better passer. He’s a lot more confident in the system. He knows that system inside and out and that’s when they’re dangerous. They’ve got a guy that knows how to execute the plays they want to run. His eyes are on the right spot on the reads, he makes quick decisions. When you mess up and you miss a guy, he punishes you. He really fits it to a T. I know he’s not been 100 percent healthy. He may not be the greatest runner in the world, but this guy’s quick. He can take off running. He’s made some big runs in games. They run the same play with him that they ran with Cam Newton. They run him right up the middle. So, it’s a situation where he fits what they do really well.’’