They Said It: Kirby Smart Press Conference

ATHENS - Georgia coach Kirby Smart addressed media on Monday ahead of Saturday’s game against UL Lafayette.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement … 

“The University of Louisiana-Lafayette, I have a lot of respect for their head coach, Mark Hudspeth, who I have gone against years in the past. Whether it was North Alabama at the division two ranks, he did a great job there, but also at Mississippi State. I know a lot of coaches on his staff. I’ve coached with some of those guys before. They do a really good job of spreading the ball out. They’ve got an experienced quarterback and a good, young defense that has improved a lot throughout the year. They’ve got a good football team, and they’ll come in ready to play. We’ve got to get ready for them.”

 

On Isaiah Wynn’s injury and Dyshon Sims’ play against Auburn...

“The good thing is Dyshon had played quite a bit throughout the year, so you had a guy you could put in there with some experience. That puts us one injury away from putting in somebody who hasn’t played much. I thought Dyshon did a good job coming in and competing, especially with the guys he was blocking. The talent level was really high at the interior positions (for Auburn). As far as Isaiah, we think he’ll be okay. He’s got an ACL, a slight sprain. He should be able to do some things today and we think we’ll get him back for the next game.”

 

On the offense’s deep play ability...

“I had confidence in them (at the beginning of the year). I had confidence in Jacob (Eason) then. I think he’s gotten a little better touch, he’s gotten a little better poise in the pocket to stand in there. He took a pretty good hit on one of (the deep balls). He threw the ball as late as he possibly could, but he put some air under it, put a nice touch on the ball, and the receiver made the play. We haven’t always given our receivers a chance and the receivers haven’t always given the quarterback a chance by winning the red line, winning the sideline. Both of those things happened and those guys made a couple of good plays. I think as the year goes on you’d like to improve in that area, especially taking shots with the way people play us. You’ve got to be able to win on those or we’re going to be in 2nd-and-long. Jacob’s done a good job of putting some touch on those balls and giving them a chance to make a play.”

 

On ULL’s strengths...

“They’re really good, especially offensively, at spreading the ball around. They have a back, (Elijah McGuire), who we’re going to show our players today who is a potential draft pick, a really good player. We’ve talked several teams that have played against him. Elijah McGuire does a great job. He makes people miss. You don’t have to lie about their players to your players. You just turn the tape on. When you turn the tape on, they’ve got a really big offensive line. They’ve got some good, skilled wide-outs. They’ve got a quarterback who has played in the SEC. They’ve got another quarterback they played last week who takes off running, scrambles around and is a really good athlete. Defensively they’ve got a couple of transfers from the SEC that are good players too, and they’re big up front. I know who their coach is, so I know how they’ll play. He’s a really good coach. He’s a really good special teams coach. They always did that well at Mississippi State and North Alabama. All you have to do is turn the tape on and you’ll be able to show our players that these guys have players too.”

 

On Jacob Eason’s ball security...

“He has done a good job at that. I think when you talk to Jim (Chaney) about it, and you talk to people who have a lot of experience working with quarterbacks, some quarterbacks are good at not (turning the ball over). I think he has been lucky some. He’s also been unlucky some. I think back to South Carolina, one got tipped straight up in the air (and got intercepted). You’re going to give and take on some of the breaks. He hasn’t had a whole lot of bone-headed plays. He had a couple on Saturday that he hit the wrong spot, that were dangerous. I think some of that is instincts and just naturally seeing things come open. There were times early in the year where he didn’t look in the right spot but he threw receivers open. I think his accuracy helps with preventing the other mistakes because if you’re accurate you can throw it to the wrong place but you can throw it to our guy and not their guy. I hope he continues to grow in that department.”

 

On the team’s preparation for this week...

“I think the preparation for every game is the same. You don’t have games that you don’t prepare for the same. I think (the players’) approach is reflective of how you approach the game as a coach. I’ve been sure that everybody in this organization, from our coaches all the way down, they’ll approach the game the same way you will. If your attitude and demeanor is the same, the approach is the same, the studies, everything you do is the same, then so will the kids. We’ve got to make sure they understand that. I know the athletes that go to that school. I recruited some of these guys. I also coached in the state of Louisiana and I know the kind of athletes they have there. When you turn the tape on and see them making plays and see them beating a Georgia Southern team that’s very talented and came here and played last year, it’s easy to sell to your kids that this is a good team.”

 

On ULL QB Anthony Jennings...

“He’s improved as a passer. He’s gotten better. He’s gotten more comfortable with touch passes. He’s a good athlete but it’s not like he wants to go out and take off running all the time. He’s a guy who throws the ball in the pocket. He did that in high school here in the state of Georgia. He’s very talented. He makes good decisions with the ball, and he’s improved as a quarterback more than anything. The system he’s playing in now is a little different than LSU’s was, so they’re allowing him to do a little more.”

 

On the improvement of the young defensive linemen...

“(They’ve improved at) knowing what to do. When you get enough reps of our defense, we don’t change defenses every week. The carryover effect, the cumulative effect of the season has allowed them to improve. I think they’ve gotten a little stronger. They’re really more confident in knowing when I hear that call or I see that signal, I know what to do. They’re not thinking ‘do I go left, do I go right.’ They’re thinking I go north and knock somebody back. That’s really helped them improve. They’ve had to play. The number one way to get better a lot of times is to play. They certainly have had to play a lot.”

 

On ULL’s run defense...

“The biggest thing against the run for them is the guys up front. They’ve got a core group of guys up front that stop the run. They strike you up front. They’ve got good bodies, good size. They’ve got a linebacker, the transfer from Arkansas (Otha Peters), who’s a good player. They tackle well. I think when you look across the Sun Belt Conference and you watch their conference, because as you watch them you see the other teams and the conference you realize it’s a space league. It’s a league where you better be able to tackle in space, and they’ve done that.”

 

On the offensive red zone struggles...

“We’ve had some turnovers that have really proved costly. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. Ultimately when you get in the red area, you’ve either got to have a dominant force on the outside that requires double coverage, that can win matchups, or you’ve got to be able to overpower people and run the ball. Both of those areas we’ve struggled in some and we’ve had some costly turnovers down there. That’s the main reason we’ve struggled.”

 

On the Florida-LSU game this weekend...

“(The circumstances have) been addressed already. They talked about it the week they didn’t play, and all the controversy in that and then rescheduling it. I think that’s a discussion between the conference commissioner and LSU and Florida, the university representation. That’s not for me to be concerned with at all.”

 

On the Auburn game’s impact on recruiting...

“I can’t say (we’ve seen) any tangible effects. I certainly felt there was good energy in the building, good energy after the game, whether it be in the locker room or with those guys, and over here, that was certainly positive. To say there was anything tangible, I can’t say that. There were no commitments that came from it, so that’s what you’d like to have, tangibly.”

 

On Brice Ramsey’s contribution to Georgia...

“Brice is a great kid. He’s a competitor. He wants to go out and win. He fought really hard for (the quarterback) position. He’ll continue to do so. He enjoys the punting. He finds his relevance right now in that, and that’s important to Brice. Brice is a Bulldog. There’s a lot of people that have come here and played. Some have played more than others. A lot of them were my friends. Some played a lot, some didn’t. They’re all Bulldogs, and Brice Ramsey is a Bulldog. I appreciate him for that.”

 

On changes to practice as the season goes on...

“I think the physicality part, if you ask any coach in America there’s a certain level of managing injuries. You’ve got less numbers. As far as what we’re doing weekly, that doesn’t change a whole lot. As far as implementing what we’re doing, that depends on who we’re playing. Some weeks require a lot more implementing than others because you’re playing a completely different offense or a completely different defense. A lot of weeks it’s very similar in what you’re implementing. I think the more carry-over you have, the easier it is on your kids. Some weeks we face an exotic punt return team or an exotic kickoff return team or kickoff. It’s not all the same. Each week has a history and life of its own.”

 

On Natrez Patrick’s injury situation...

“We hope to see him return. It wasn’t a matter of close. He wasn’t cleared, so he couldn’t medically go. I think he’s getting better, he’s healing. He’s had a couple burners. That’s an injury that you don’t want to mess with, so we’re going to make sure he’s healthy before we get him back. Ron Courson and the medical staff and the doctors will make that decision.”

 

On the close games this season...

“We practice them a lot. I’ve grown up in a coaching tree where every day practice ends on a situation that you win or lose the game. Obviously everybody would assume that’s two-minute, but for us that’s not the case. Sometimes it’s what we call ‘four-minute,’ where you have to get the ball back. That came up in the Tennessee game. It’s come up several times this year. It came up in the Missouri game. You try to simulate things that happen for your offense and your defense. You want the kids walking off the field feeling like ‘I did what I had to do or I didn’t,’ so they feel that feeling of ‘I’ve got to do better next time, I lost’ or ‘I conquered it and did well.’ We do it every Monday, we do it every Thursday, and we go over it as coaches after it because that’s the part that you don’t get enough practice on. We analyze it and say ‘what could we have done differently’ so that we’re prepared for it in the games.”

 

On using the toss-sweep on offense...

“That’s always in our game plan. It’s hasn’t not been in our game plan any game. There’s different ways of running the toss. There are different people to give it to. There are different blocking schemes of blocking it, of how you block up front. That’ll always be part of pretty much everybody’s game plan but definitely ours with our backs. We hope to be keeping it an integral part, but it really depends on how they’re playing it, whether it works or not.”

 

On Jayson Stanley and DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle...

“We hope to get DaQuan back this week. He’s been coming back, been rehabbing, getting better and better. We hope to get him back this week. Jayson Stanley probably will not be back this week with his foot injury.”

 

On what a complete game on offense would look like...

“I know you can play a complete game. A perfect game has never existed. There are always things you can work on and get better at. I don’t even think we played a complete game on defense in the second half (against Auburn). A lot things we did wrong, they just dropped the ball. They had a wheel route open down the sideline. It wasn’t that everything we did was right. They helped us. Everybody recognizes we didn’t give up a first down but some of that wasn’t what we did. Some of that is what they did. In order to play a complete game, they will have to mess up once or twice. For us to play one, it’s execute. It’s not jumping offsides. It’s not snap the ball low and have it shoot past us. It’s not taking a sack when you’re in the red area. It’s not self-inflicted wounds that we can control. I think that’s probably the most important thing to playing a complete game offensively, is executing the right way and hitting on all cylinders.”

 

On learning from the Nicholls game...

“It hasn’t come up a whole lot, to be honest with you. We focus on the team we play. Any time you’re getting ready to play an opponent you need to focus on that opponent and not a past opponent. Can you learn from mistakes? Every week we learn from mistakes. Every week we learn from things that have happened, but not necessarily who the opponent was. It’s things that happen in that game.”

 

On the wide receivers’ improvement this season...

“I don’t know that one game changes that, to be honest with you. As the season progressed I think the wide receivers are improving. Every position on our team needs to improve. Some of the younger players or newer players have figured out how things are called, how they’re signaled, how I’m working, how I’m doing, so they’re able to play more often. Therefore we’ve got some guys that have a chance to make plays outside more often. The better those guys learn, the more confident they get, the less they make mistakes on who they block, where they go to. When we check, ‘where do I go? What do I have on this play?’ The better, the more we can play those guys. Javon (Wims) has grown in that role. Riley (Ridley) has grown in that role. Those guys continue to grow, so they’re getting more opportunities to add some shots.”

 

On the cause of the team’s health this season...

“I certainly would like to give credit to Scott Sinclair and his staff. I’ve always had respect for Scott, Ed (Ellis) and the entire weight staff here because of the way they did things at the places where I saw them.  With Central Florida, I always thought Central Florida and Coach (George) O’Leary’s teams were big, physical, strong, tough. I was hoping to get that same thing. Ron Courson has always done a great job medically. I also think that has something to do with how you practice. I actually think we practice physical. I think that’s key in the strength and conditioning. I also think some of that is how you recruit, the size of players you recruit. The bigger the guys, historically, the less they’ve gotten hurt. Smaller guys, they get dinged a lot more. When you look at some of the injury reports that some of the other SEC teams are having, we have been very fortunate I would say, until last week. I thought last week with two starters out, with DaQuan (Hawkins-Muckle) and Natrez (Patrick), that hurt. At the same time, that’s going to happen. That’s inevitable. I think luck plays a part, but I certainly think that managing your practice schedule and also having a great strength staff in season, not just what they do out of season but in season, is helping with that, too.”

 

On the progress of redshirting offensive linemen...

“I’d love to tell you that they’re all going to be stars and they’re all going to be awesome players and they’re going to save the day next year when all of these seniors that you all hate so much leave, that I like, that I think the guys play as hard as they can and have a lot of experience. Ben (Cleveland) is working hard. He’s working really hard, and he has shown improvement. I get to see him a lot of days. We’re actually taking time a couple days a week, we’re calling it an opportunity period where we’re letting those guys go play against each other. They don’t do scout work. They do our work. We have not had a lot of opportunities in games in situations like that, like y’all are aware of. We’ve got to play them in our practices and make sure they get work. We take opportunities to do that. Solomon (Kindley) has done that. Solomon has shown improvement as well. Chris Barnes is another guy that has pulled well, he’s shown promise to do some good things. Those guys are going to have to grow up. They’re going to have to grow up the rest of this season and they’ll have to grow up in the offseason and we’ll have to bring in more to help in that area because we’re losing some good players. I continue to say the development of your team comes from who they get coached by every day. They’re getting coached in individual by their offensive line coach, but they’re also getting coached over on our field by a graduate assistant who was an offensive line coach last year at a FCS school.”

 

On Maurice Smith’s maturity...

“He was mature (at Alabama). I’ve known the kid for so long. He matured while he was there, most certainly. The last year that I was there, he was a very mature kid, very well-spoken. He knows what to say and the right time to say it. Coming over here it’s been the same way. He’s very mature. I thought he might be a little more apprehensive around people he didn’t know to speak out and say his piece and encourage and show leadership. He has not been, and I’ve been very thankful for that. The way that he has played has allowed him to have a voice. You respect the way people practice and play. He’s earned the respect of the team by what he’s done.”


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