Kirby Smart talks Georgia-Florida, looking ahead during bye week
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Kirby Smart talks Georgia-Florida, looking ahead during bye week

Kirby Smart
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGA

UGA football head coach Kirby Smart met with the media on Tuesday evening after practice during the team’s bye week.

Smart touched on several subjects, including the upcoming Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville, Fla. With a home matchup against Tennessee looming after the trip to Jacksonville, Smart was asked if the team was looking ahead to that contest.

“Yeah, this is the Georgia-Florida matchup,” Smart said. “I don’t think you have to worry about that.”

Regarding the Georgia-Florida game remaining in Jacksonville or moving back to campus, Smart offered his opinion on both sides of the argument.

“I enjoy the pageantry of going down there and playing,” Smart said. “I enjoyed playing there as a player, I enjoy tradition. I enjoy all those things. When it comes down to it, there’s a very, very basic element of everything comes back to, number one money and number two, recruiting and getting good players. I firmly believe that we’ll be able to sign better players by having it as a home-and-home because we’ll have more opportunities to get them to campus. But, I also think there’s a financial factor that factors into that, with having the game there, and being able to make more money for the university, possibly, there.”

Below is the full transcript of Smart’s comments on Tuesday. Tight end Brock Bowers, outside linebacker Nolan Smith, and offensive lineman Warren McClendon also answered questions.

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

On how he feels the team has been the past few days…
“Sunday was a recovery day. We guys that had treatment but we didn’t see them. And then Monday was a recovery day that we put the game to bed and looked at future opponents and did some walkthrough stuff and got them out of here. A little freedom and then today we went back to work and had some good work today. I felt the guys had a really good attitude, took on some more opponents for the future. We’ve been preparing, mostly as a coaching staff, for the things we have coming up.”

On wide receivers’ experience…
“Well, I’ll take experience anytime. Talent and experience are valuable. I don’t know which one I’d rank ahead of the other, because talent as a young player and experienced as an older player are both valuable. We’ve got some really unselfish people in there, I think when you look at Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and what he’s been through injuries and coming back, and even Ladd McConkey, those guys really care about each other and they compete. They’ve got a great unit and in there and we’re trying to get all of them back and full strength.”

On the team’s future opponents…
“No, we try to work on all of them. We don’t have enough time, we only have three days. So we just assign out to the staff every team and they give a presentation to the rest of the staff on that team what they might be doing new from the summer. Anything new they’re doing this year that we might need to prepare for the meetings and not in the year is really different than what we work on it today and tomorrow and then we restart towards Florida on Thursday.”

On going to Stetson Bennett in the passing game more this year…
“I think that he’s gotten more comfortable as he’s gotten more reps, we all talked about, in the offseason, how many more reps he took with the ones. With his upside, he had a lot of room to grow because he had not taken a ton of spring practice reps, fall camp reps. He taken him, but he had taken them with the threes, so his ability to get a lot of work in spring with the ones and a lot of work in fall camp with the ones has improved him as a player.”

On how to tell when his team is looking too far ahead…
“Yeah, this is the Georgia-Florida matchup. I don’t think you have to worry about that. I might understand if it was a non-conference or an FCS opponent, but that’s not going to be the case on Florida.”

On what the team does specifically during the bye week…
“We just go back and look at everything. We go back and say, ‘Why has it been the way it’s been?’ Can you explain it? Some statistics don’t have enough real time examples, you don’t have sample sizes. How do you evaluate punts? We only have 15 punts. It’s not normal to have 15 punts. So it’s harder to evaluate that. We’re not great in giving up return yards, but we’re really pretty good in net, because we have two returns on the entire year. You can’t get a sample size from two returns. So, you look what you’ve done well and what you’ve done poorly, and how can we do it better. We sit down as coaches and say, ‘Alright, what do we need to do to win the next five games, six games?’ We target that area and really focus on our weaknesses and trying to strengthen our strong points.”

On how he feels about the team’s pressure on opposing quarterbacks…
“Yeah, it needs to get better, but we need an opportunity. We did a real hard study on that and did a game-by-game breakdown of snap to throw, and it’s faster than it’s ever been in one of our six or seven game breakdowns before the bye weeks. We’ve played teams that have gotten rid of the ball really, really quick. I mean, the Auburn game was the only game that was over three seconds per pass and I think that factors in the scrambles, where he would run around with the ball and throw it away. So, there hasn’t been a lot of opportunities, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do a better job. We’ve studied that really, really hard, in terms of just looking at ourselves, and we’re telling them, ‘Hey, it’s 2.6 seconds that you have to get there by.’ So, you have to get there in 2.6 seconds or you have to affect the throw, and we’ve had several really good rushes where we affected throws in terms of bull, batting balls. And I’m saying bull as in bull rush to get someone to the quarterback to affect his throw. But it’s tough to be where we are sack-wise and we’re just not getting a lot of opportunities.”

On Daylen Everette…
“I talk about him a lot when I say it doesn’t seem like he’s a freshman, because I keep thinking back to spring, him being here and all, but he’s a freshman. And sometimes he makes freshman mistakes. But, he’s got a composure about him that I really like. He doesn’t let a lot of things affect him. He’s not real emotional. He has the mindset of a corner that’s going to be a really good player. I don’t know when that’s going to happen, but he’s got quiet confidence, he’s smart, he’s a really tough tackler and he’s continuing to get better. There’s a learning curve that you have to go through. You show me a freshman corner that’s been really successful in our league, and I’ll tell you there’s only been a few that have been top-10 picks, the only two I can think of are Derek Stingley and Patrick Surtain. It’s just hard to do that. He’s getting better. He goes against good guys every day at practice.”

On playing against Florida in Jacksonville instead of in home stadiums…
“There’s really quality benefits to both. I get it, you want to make a story, you need a story, everyone wants to talk about it. It’s really not a big debate for me. It’s been made really big by the media, because they’ve made it out to be a really big deal. I enjoy the pageantry of going down there and playing. I enjoyed playing there as a player, I enjoy tradition. I enjoy all those things. When it comes down to it, there’s a very, very basic element of everything comes back to, number one money and number two, recruiting and getting good players. I firmly believe that we’ll be able to sign better players by having it as a home-and-home because we’ll have more opportunities to get them to campus. But, I also think there’s a financial factor that factors into that, with having the game there, and being able to make more money for the university, possibly, there. You have to weigh both those and make really good decisions. But, I promise you, I have not thought about that one second since the start of the season. And I’m not going to think about it for one second, because I got to worry about coaching our team, and I’m not fighting the fight in the public forum. I’m not fighting the fight for anything. I’m worried about our team and us playing well and how we block and tackle of what plays we call it how we play special teams. That’s just not a priority for me, where that game is right now.”

On C.L. “Shep” Shepherd coming to talk to the team…
“He’s incredible. He does a really good job. I have a lot of respect for his messaging he says it in a way that nobody can say but him. A lot of times, you’d like to say the same thing as a coach, but I can’t say it the way he says it. He does a tremendous job of messaging things to kind of put you in perspective of where you are on this journey, and what do I have to do to get to my destination. He did a really incredible job with our team.”

On injury updates for Jalen Carter, Smael Mondon, Kendall Milton, Adonai Mitchell and Ladd McConkey…
“Very promising on Smael. He went today more than he’s gone in two weeks and was in drills and did things and moved around. I would not to say that he was 100%, but the fact he was out there, did punting, he covered people, he is not 100%, but he did way more than he’s done the last few weeks. I feel really good about where Smael is at. I didn’t get to see Adonai much. He’s still not able to go on our drill work. He did condition with us and run and looked better. Jalen is continuing to work on the MCL. He’s not out there with us conditioning, he does his in the training room, in the weight room. He does stuff with those guys because of where he’s at with the MCL. Kendall felt better, he ran yesterday and today, but he did not practice and rep with us, he did straight-line runs. Ladd is good. Ladd could have gone back in. Ladd’s fine, but Ladd has a toe injury. I mentioned you guys before, this is different than the ankle. So, with the ankle and the toe, we’re giving him some medicine and taking care of him and cutting back some on this week. But again, he could have come back in the game, and he could play this Saturday if we were playing this Saturday, but we’re going to shut him down for a little bit, for a couple days, and try to get some medicine in there and try to get him back a for a stretch run so he can go.”

On C.J. Washington…
“Yeah, we’ve seen CJ from time-to-time. It’s been really tough on him. He is as any kid would be, he’s a freshman in college. And he got football taken away from him for right now. It’s been pretty emotional for him and been a tough road and we continue to try to help and support him as best we can.”

On how Jamon Dumas-Johnson has grown since last year…
“Confidence. I mean, he started showing up making plays we first got here. I don’t know if you consider him highly touted. I don’t really know, I just know we really liked him. We liked his demeanor, liked where he’s from, liked his program, toughness that he played in and we liked the way he was on Zooms and talking to him. He got here and he’s a little heavy because he had not played and he started making plays. We’re like, ‘Man, this guy’s good player.’ Of course we had good players in front of him. He’s blossomed really well this year. Probably the greatest strides he’s made is his leadership and his command of our defense at a young age. He’s not afraid to hold people accountable, which is hard for a sophomore.”

On Dominick Blaylock and Arik Gilbert…
“Super proud for both those guys. For Dominick to get that catch and for Arik to get that catch is really incredible for both. Dominick has been through two ACL injuries and to come back and have the success he’s had, he’s as tough a kid I’ve ever been around. He’s a quiet a kid that I’ve ever been around that just does not complain about anything. He just goes out and works.”

On if Dominick Blalock’s story can inspire players like C.J. Washington coming back from injury…
“Well, it’s a little different. There is a neck injury there that is pretty serious. People come back from ACL’s and, unfortunately, he’s got two. When you start talking about a neck injury, you’re talking about the rest of your life. It’s just a tough call there.”

On Kelee Ringo’s growing confidence…
“He’s playing with more awareness in terms of coverages, route recognition. There’s a lot to playing at corner that you have to play, and he hadn’t played what you think of as a lot of football. He didn’t play his freshman year, and then, last year he battled into a starting position after game two or three. He’s played a lot of football since then, but he’s still growing as a player. He’s improved his tackling and his toughness. It’s always important at corner that you make plays on the ball, and he he’s gotten opportunities to do that. He’ll continue to get opportunities because, I can promise you the next teams we are going to play are going to throw the ball on our corners. We’re going to have to make plays.”

On Arik Gilbert and using the off week to help him and Xavier Truss…
“I hope so. I think it gives him time to practice, get more reps, and get an opportunity to get out and compete, even on special teams to get out and compete. Truss is fine. He practiced all today.”

On the tight ends and their rotation…
“I don’t know if I can answer that. I don’t know. Thirteen gives you a chance to do some things, but sometimes having similar bodies doesn’t cause problems for a defense. It just sounds good. Everybody likes it because it sounds good. In addition, you have to have space players to create space. Some of our best plays have been space plays like Ladd (McConkey) out in space, Kearis (Jackson) out in space, Dillon Bell and Rosemy-Jacksaint. You have to have space players to play. I’m not saying that tight ends aren’t, but you kind of start playing in a phone booth when you start doing thirteen. Really Darnell (Washington’s) greatest attribute is size and ability to do things in the run game and play-action off of it.”

#19 Brock Bowers | So. | TE

About the weapons on the passing attack…
“It’s always great when we can get the ball into other people’s hands and I think we’ve done a good job scheming up and just doing that. We got Arian [Smith], Adoani, Ladd, all of our wideouts, Marcus, and then the tight ends, the running backs too. It’s really good to space the ball out like that.”

About the tight end room relationships…
“I feel like in our tight ends room, everyone just kind of wants to see everyone else succeed. When I see Darnell out there making plays, I’m just jacked up on the sidelines or celebrating with him too. It’s always good to see our other tight ends do well.”

On being defending national champions…
“I think it’s kind of hard to follow that up sometimes, but I feel like we’ve done a good job, and the coaches have done a good job of telling us that it’s always one day at a time and this day is the most important day ever. Just focusing on what we can get better on throughout the days and weeks and just keep stacking days and not really think about past or future but focus on the present.”

#4 Nolan Smith | Sr. | OLB

On how the bye week has helped with November games…
“I think we take it as a step ahead. It is really a work week. A lot of people say that, but do they actually mean it? Do they actually come in and buy into what Coach is saying and how many periods you are going to have? Are you looking to come in and say, ‘I can’t wait until practice is over,’ or are you looking like, ‘okay, this is what Mississippi State does and this is what Tennessee does.'” Last year, one thing that I learned was to get a step ahead on this bye week and hopefully we do it this year.”

On what the Georgia-Florida game means to him as a Savannah native…
“It is exciting for me because it is a game that I have watched all my life. I am a kid from Savannah, and I used to go to Jacksonville to go to camps with my mom. I get really excited to play in that game. As a kid from Savannah, I smell the weather and it feels so good. The breeze feels like I am at home and playing at home again.”

On if he pays attention to the landscape of the league at this point in the season…
“It means nothing, honestly. Every week we go in and we are 0-0. We have to prove ourselves every week. Now we are going in 1-0. Before we came in during May and March, a lot of people didn’t think we were going to be good. A lot of people were sitting here asking questions. ‘Are they going to be having a rebuilding year on defense?’ or ‘They are going to allow at least 35 points a game,’ all types of crazy stuff. I just say that we take it one week at a time and we move forward. We try to go 1-0 every week and be where our feet are.”

#70 Warren McClendon | Jr. | OL

On where the offense is currently at…
“We definitely had our struggles. A lot of counters were messing us up. We weren’t scoring in the red zone, so we had to get back to work and figure out that stuff. Just little mistakes that we were messing up on that was preventing us from having those huge plays and bringing us back and all that.”

On the offensive line making the mid-season list for the Joe Moore Award…
“Yeah, I just saw that on the way here, it is a huge win for us to get on the list we’re excited, we’re thankful for being on it, but we want to win it. I think we can be more consistent in the run game, but we have to do better. There’s still stuff that we need to fix.”

On what the Georgia-Florida game meant to him growing up…
“When I was growing up, it always was a huge experience. Everybody comes into town, the whole family does a cookout, so when we come down for it, it’s exciting and growing up it was just a huge experience for me.”

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