Kirby Smart, Bulldogs comment on injuries, bye week
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Kirby Smart, Bulldogs comment on injuries, bye week

Kirby Smart
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

UGA football head coach Kirby Smart and three players, offensive lineman Dylan Fairchild, defensive back Malaki Starks, and wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, spoke with the media on Tuesday about injuries to tight end Brock Bowers, offensive lineman Xavier Truss, and more.

The Bulldogs are off this week, and their next game is on Saturday, Oct. 28 against the Florida Gators at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. The game will be televised by CBS at 3:30pm ET (Buy Tickets).

Below is a transcript of the press conference which was provided by UGA.

Head Coach Kirby Smart 

Opening Statement… 

“We started on our off-week prep, bye week prep today. The guys had good energy. We didn’t have a great practice, but we had good energy and that was important. We’re really working hard on conditioning and connection. Trying to get some guys healthy and well, but also get some good work in. Our offensive and defensive coaches have targeted some areas, each one a different area. Some I can share, some I can’t that we want to work on to get better at and then special teams as well. So, we kind of take a picture of where we are, what we can do better, and how we can practice it better to maybe get better results. That’s what we started on today. We do work on future opponents. We worked on some for a team that’s further out today, then a little less further out tomorrow, and then we’ll start on Florida prep probably Wednesday or Thursday, tomorrow or Thursday. So now I’ll open it up.” 

On Lawson Luckie’s track to recovery… 

You don’t fast track an injury, or really any injury. You do what the medical staff tells you and what the body tells you. Lawson has done a fabulous job rehabbing from his. Lawson is a really tough kid. Both parents were college athletes. He’s not afraid of work and he’s done a great job. I still don’t think Lawson is 100 percent if that’s what you’re asking, but he’s definitely been cleared to play. You know, technically since Auburn, he’s been cleared to play but just hadn’t quite been ready to play.”

On his thoughts of the playing surface at Vanderbilt… 

“I don’t get much into that. I hadn’t read that anywhere or seen that anywhere. I mean, we had guys slip, sure. We have guys slip every time we play on turf. There was a game, I can’t remember who Kentucky was playing. I counted like 15 times people slipped in one of the Kentucky games before we played them, and I thought ‘well that was Kentucky at home.’ I think just traditionally a lot of our college teams don’t practice or play much on turf. When they do, they traditionally have slipped more. We did a big surface study last year that we’re looking into to get our indoor better up to date because ours is I think on year nine or 10, maybe eight or nine. We’re looking at this monofilament that more of the NFL teams are going to. That’s actually what Vandy has I think, so it’s very standard.”

On Brock Bowers’ injury, weighing his NFL draft stock… 

I don’t think it’s much about any of that as it is the more I have learned, I have slowly become a bigger expert on this tightrope surgery not because of Brock, but because we’ve had multiple other guys. So have other teams you know. I’ve talked to Hugh Freeze, Shane [Beamer], and several guys in our conference have dealt with this injury. It’s much more common. It’s all over the NFL. It’s happening at a higher rate I guess you would say. A lot of studies have been done on it and philosophically to get healthy, you need to get back moving that ankle as soon as you can. Meaning get on it, get weight bearing, move around and we’ve had guys going through this process. Brock will take on that same rehab process and his surgeon and Ron [Courson] will work together on that and it won’t be done any differently. The key is that we are trying to get him back healthy. There is no timeline for when he comes back to play. The timeline is when he’s healthy. I don’t think you could put a timeline on it because historically there’s been guys that came back really fast and there’s been guys that come back really slow. Each one has been different.” 

On updates for Xavier Truss and Amarius Mims… 

“I don’t know. Truss did not practice today, but Truss was weight bearing in the second half of the game. He was on the sideline over there and his deltoid was a little bit hurt and it’s not tight rope or anything like that. We think he should be fine and should be good to go. I don’t know if he’ll be good to go by Thursday, but he should be good to go by Monday. Mims is working his way back. He’s weight-bearing, he’s running, he’s moving around. I thought he looked much better yesterday when we did some stretching strides stuff. He’s been out there at practice, but he hasn’t taken any reps. It’s going to be a timetable on him the same as everybody else because of those injuries. When they’re cleared and they’re comfortable and they can play at a winning rate, they’ll get a chance to go back out there.” 

On who he expects to step up and fill the hole in the offense following Bowers’ injury… 

“I’ve coached football for 25 years, and every year you have different challenges. This year is no different than any other year. The challenges are only different, so one of our big DNA traits is resiliency. This team has been extremely resilient. I have one hundred percent confidence that they’ll be resilient, and if they think that one guy’s going to replace Brock Bowers, they’re wrong, and if anybody thinks they’ve got to be Superman, they don’t need to be on our team because they’ll be disappointed. Superman is not real. He’s dead. He’s not alive. He’s not real, so you can’t try to be that guy. There’s no player that we’re asking to step up and do more than you can. As a collective effort, every player’s going to do more. That includes defense getting turnovers, special teams getting better field position, other guys getting opportunities to touch the ball, and make the most of it.” 

On Kendall Milton’s ability to practice today… 

“He did some stuff. He was able to go out there and practice. I feel good about Kendall. It was not a high rep day for him, no, but he was out there, and I’m pretty sure he went. I mean, I think he did.” 

On how Bowers is doing mentally and emotionally after surgery… 

“Brock Bowers is great. Brock Bowers is rock solid. He wanted to get the thing done as soon as he found out it had to be done, and we were able to expedite that process. He’s great. He’s looking everybody in the eye today and wishing he could be out there, so he’s in great spirits. He’s got great family. He’s got great heart. I mean, he’s a warrior, so he’ll handle it the right way.” 

On how Monroe Freeling responded after getting thrown into action… 

“You get thrown in there, and it’s great because about three weeks ago I called him in and told him – I said, ‘Monroe, you realize you’re one play away, and every rep you take in practice you should be imagining that it’s a road game, you’re in there, in the stadium, and ready to go,’ and sure enough, it happened. I thought he did a good job. There’s a lot of things he could work on, but there’s butterflies in that. Fortunately, he had gotten to play in some games but not in that situation, so I was thrilled that he got to go out there and get some confidence and go play. He’s a really good athlete and he’s a worker, so he’ll work really hard to get better.” 

On how tough it is to see Bowers as a person go through his injury… 

“I mean, it’s hard on me for Amarius Mims. It’s hard on me for Lawson Luckie. It’s hard on me for Branson Robinson. I don’t mean that in any negative way towards Brock, but there’s a lot of guys on our team who have been dinged up and hurt. Ty Ingram-Dawkins hadn’t been able to go the entire year – he went one game, I guess, and then we had to shut him down. Brock’s aware that other guys have to deal with this too, and we had, one time, I think seven or eight starters that had been out. I have empathy for all of them, not one more than the other. I don’t look at Brock’s as more significant because he’s a greater player asset. They all have value. We got walk-on kids who are having to have surgery, so it’s tough any time a player loses practice time and play time.” 

On what he has seen from Oscar Delp as he prepares for a bigger role… 

“He’s not in a bigger role. He’s in the same role he was in which is to help our team. I don’t believe that for one second that he’s in a bigger role. The plays that you design, guys, I think y’all think of them as Brock plays. There are a lot of positions that can be in those spots. Delp can be in those spots, Dom [Lovett] can be in those spots, Dylan Bell can be in those spots, Marcus Rosemy[-Jacksaint] can be in those spots – our offense is not built around one person doing one thing. It’s built around plug-in, and you can do it in 10 personnel. You can do it in 11 personnel. You can do it in 13 personnel. I think every offense that is a good offense is that way because if you limit yourself to just one player, we’ve had scenarios and catastrophe plans that are like, ‘What if this happens in a game? What is our answer?’ We went immediately to that answer and said, ‘These are the things we have to do.’ So I’m not going that route on the Oscar Delp thing because Oscar Delp’s got to do what he’s always done, which is play as hard as he can and play winning football.” 

On how Ladd McConkey is doing on his return from injury and his initial thoughts on Florida… 

“I can’t give you comments on Florida. I have been able to watch a couple games. I’ve watched other teams, and I’ll watch more as the week goes. As far as Ladd, he did well today. He practiced today and probably did more today than what he’s done on the Tuesdays in the past, but he also had Monday and Sunday off. I feel good about where he’s at, but also he’s day-to-day.” 

On areas where he wants to see the team improve… 

“Well, the obvious areas we can improve in, defensive, the red area’s a key area and forcing more turnovers is a huge area. Offensively, the ability to run the ball and be explosive running the ball, we want to continue to do that and improving in the red area. We’ve had games where we were elite offensively in the red area, and then we’ve had games where we were forced to kick field goals, and it usually came by way of losing first or second down, not really third down. So those are the areas that we can get better at. Special teams is kind of one-by-one. There’s some things that we can do better.” 

On the problems with red zone defense… 

“It’s been hard to pinpoint because every game it’s been a different person or different thing. There is no common theme. There’s no like, ‘Well, they’re throwing it over our head,’ this guy is a weakness, and he is getting beat. No, everybody is taking turns. This guy got beat, and he had bad eyes. This guy had great leverage and got beat. This guy gave up a run in his gap because he didn’t run the right stunt. And then sometimes they just whip you. They whip you. South Carolina ran it in on us, and we say at Georgia that we are not going to let you run it in. Well, some teams have.” 

On how Carson Beck has grown at this point in the season… 

“He plays very consistent, winning football when he plays within the system. I think sometimes when he tries too much, he gets himself in trouble. But he’s played at a really high level to me. Like a 90-percent success rate and keeping a 10-percent from being catastrophic is critical. That’s the ones you want to get back. If you can take that 10-percents and throw them away to keep his 90-percent and his accuracy, we’re going to be good offensively when he’s good.” 

On Mekhi Mews after a few muffed punts this season… 

“You ever caught one? You ever caught a rugby, left-footed in the wind? I have. I’m glad I’m not back there, and I’m glad Mews is. I trust him, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. But until you’ve gone back there and seen Tim Wakefield’s knuckle ball through the wind, and seen the ball do this through the wind, because the other option is don’t catch it. I don’t think that’s a good option, either, because the ball rolls. Check college football right now and see how many drops and fumble punts there are. They aren’t your traditional kick-off and they’re not your traditional spirals. They’re really hard to catch, and I’m proud of what he’s done.” 

On Smael Mondon’s performances this season and communication breakdowns on defense… 

“I don’t know what he [Mondon] is referring to. When you say communication breakdowns, I don’t; we had a bust in coverage and just had a rule that two guys were on the same page. I wouldn’t call it a bust. But Smael’s been a good leader. Smael is closer to 100-percent. I think he played early in the camp on an injury that a lot of people take a long time to come back from, and I think he made it back in four months and was able to go play early in the season. The early season was like his camp. He didn’t get a camp to go through, and he is back up to speed and doing a good job. I think he’s really wanting to have a good back half of the season and play more physical and play faster. I count on him to do that.” 

On if having to deal with injuries to the offense in past season’s helps the team with offensive injuries this season… 

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I would agree with that statement. We’ve always had somebody who was impactful, I think you may be suggesting George [Pickens] or some of those guys, but we’ve always had other guys who were impactful. And I think we still have other guys who are impactful players on our offense now. We’ve got good football players, and our guys are excited for the opportunity. We’ve got good coaches that will find ways to get good players the football.”

On if he think Brock Bowers will feature again this season… 

“You really think I’m going to answer that question. I mean, is that all this is about? All y’all want to talk about is if he is going to be back or not. That’s not – like that is the furthest thing from my concern, right now. My concern is this team and getting Brock Bowers healthy. And this team and getting Brock Bowers healthy. To answer that question is speculative, and I’m not going to speculate.” 

On success in two-minute drills to end halves… 

“Getting the ball back for the offense to let them go two minutes. I think we have been good. Historically we have been good. The middle eight numbers have been really good for us, and this year has probably been our worst year in the middle eight. But it was good Saturday, and that was the difference in the game. Getting them the ball back is the biggest thing to get them going, get them started.” 

On using the doubt for Georgia after losing Bowers to motivate the team… 

“I don’t know. You said it. I don’t think we need that to have motivation. The motivation is to be great. I don’t know if it creates that edge or what, but I’m just focused on what we are going to do tomorrow.” 

On what he wants the players to focus on for the bye week… 

“The back half of the week will be about Florida. The front half of the week will be about us. The focus is on us and how we can get better.”

#53 Dylan Fairchild | OL | R-So. 

On how Monroe Freeling did being put out in the Vanderbilt game… 

“He stepped up. He showed no fear, no anxiousness. He just stepped up in the moment and took care of business. I think he did great.” 

On the key to success for the guys up front… 

“Reverting back to our fundamentals. We’re still not satisfied. We might have improved, but we’re still not at our standard. Like I said, going back to the fundamentals and going back to the basics is the main thing.” 

On how the team responds to the narrative that the team is done now that Brock Bowers is out…  

“Our morale is good, but our whole philosophy is ‘next man up.’ We’ve got some guys that can make some big plays, and they’ve got a big opportunity. Some guys need to step up and take care of business.” 

On Oscar Delp as a player, teammate, and friend… 

“He’s a really gutsy player. He’ll jump in the air, I mean Y’all have seen him do front flips, so he’s a really gutsy player. He does a great job at coming to work every day and trying to get better every single day. That’s something he does really well.” 

#24 Malaki Starks | DB | So. 

On the miscommunications against Vanderbilt and what it means to have a miscommunication on a football play…  

“If everybody is not on the same page, it’s not going to work out. The defense has to work as a unit. Sometimes, one side of the field is playing another call and the other side is in a completely different coverage, and they don’t mesh well together. So, if we are not on the same page, bad things happen. We just have to get it fixed and get the call from one side to the other.”

On the red zone defense and some of the issues the defense has faced with keeping teams out of the end zone… 

“The biggest thing is us. It is nothing that the opponents are doing, nothing we haven’t seen before, and nothing we can’t stop. It is more of an us thing. It goes back to communication, being on the same page, and focusing on the little things. That is one thing we have taken a big emphasis on this off week is just working on the things we need to work on and correct. This is something we take a lot of pride on and it’s something that we’ve been lacking for a while, so we’re going to get back on that.”

On the reception he gave up on 4th & 8 and what went through his mind when he gave up that catch…  

“Man, I’m still mad about that play. I take pride in coverage, that’s my thing as a DB and the first thing one of my coaches told me when I got back was ‘He’s on scholarship, too.’ He’s a really good player and he’s going to have a great career. Going against him, I respect him, and I knew the route was coming because I got the same route on Wednesday and Thursday. I messed it up on Wednesday, I covered it on Thursday. I watched tape on it on the flight there. I knew it was coming and I slid and just looked just a second late and he got me. He’s a great player, he’s on scholarship, too, but it’s tough. You never want to give up those plays especially in that type of scenario, but I have to learn from it.”

#1 Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint | WR | Sr. 

On how he got his last name Jacksaint…  

“Back when I was in my freshman year of high school, I was living with my biological dad and my stepmother at the time. At this point, I had just started playing football, maybe for about 3 years. I had just got accepted into St. Thomas Aquinas down in South Florida. It is one of the most prestigious schools in the nation for football. It was one of my dreams because my cousin played at St. Thomas, and I looked up to him, so I knew I wanted to play there. At the time, my parents were into whatever they were getting into and ended up separating. I started living with my youth football coach, his wife, and his two kids. I planned to live there until my dad got on his feet, at first. After the first year, I wasn’t hearing from my dad much. He wasn’t calling me; I was trying to call and get in contact with him, but he wasn’t answering. So, I stayed there until my senior year. When it was time to apply for college and sign my letter of intent, I needed a legal parent or guardian, and I didn’t have either one of them. I was 18 at the time so I could make the decision myself. I decided to let them adopt me, and that’s how I got the last name Jacksaint.”

His advice to Brock Bowers on going through a potentially season-ending injury… 

“Keep your head up. You’re definitely going to have doubts. You’re definitely going to be down on yourself. You’re going to be missing a lot of being with the team. The work, the grind. You’ll miss that part, but definitely keep your head up. It’s a time for you to get your mind and body right and focus on the injury. Focus on trying to get back and healthy. I know Brock is a hard worker, and he comes in and works his tail off every day, so he’s going to attack this like he attacks everything.”

On Carson Beck’s immediate play response to throwing an interception… 

“That definitely caught me off guard. I was in on that play too, and I’m watching him cover down, and I was not expecting him to through his body at him like that. That just shows you the type of guy Carson is. Even though he’s the quarterback, he’s not scared of getting hit, and he’s not scared to hit somebody. It’s that type of toughness and that type of grit that he brings to the offense.” 

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