Kirby Smart, Bulldogs preview 2023 Kentucky football game
Connect with us

UGA Football

Kirby Smart, Bulldogs preview 2023 Kentucky football game

Kirby Smart

UGA football head coach Kirby Smart and two players, Tate Ratledge and Smael Mondon, Jr., spoke with the media on Monday about their upcoming home game against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Georgia and Kentucky will square off on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga. The game will be televised by ESPN at 7:00pm ET (Buy Tickets).

Sean McDonough will call the play-by-play, Greg McElroy will provide analysis, while Molly McGrath will report from the sidelines.

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

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Coach Smart Introducing Coach Richt …

“We have a special guest and an announcement for you guys today. It should be a treat,  and I can’t wait to bring he and his family in. We have Coach Richt and his family coming in for a special announcement. He’s going to come in and share with us a great event he has going”

Mark Richt announcement …

“I want to start with a congratulations to you, Coach Smart, on a great, hard fought victory at Auburn. I know how hard it is to go to Auburn and beat those guys. And the other thing, I know you’ve coached 101 games here now. 86-15 — that’s better than 85 percent, two national championships. They’re putting me in the Hall of Fame here in December, but you’re already in. They just haven’t announced it yet.

“But, anyway, I just wanted to thank everybody for giving me a minute. Oh, and this young lady here is my granddaughter, Jadyn. Jadyn is up here with me because Jaden has Crohn’s disease and I’ve got Parkinson’s, as we’ve established a while back. So we want to find a cure for both Parkinson’s and Crohn’s. That’s why I’m here to announce the Chick-fil-A Dawg Bowl 2023. So what is that? It’s a VIP bowling tournament. It’s a fundraiser. So each lane, Coach Smart is going to allow one of his players to be a celebrity bowler on each one of the 32 lanes. And it’s kind of working like a golf tournament, when you have a foursome joining a celebrity. That’s what we’re going to do at the bowling alley, five bowlers on a lane. All 32 lanes will be full. And it will be October 18th, the open date right after — the Wednesday after Vanderbilt. It’ll be around 6:30 at Show Time Bowling Alley. It’s a private event, only for the players and the sponsors, but on DawgNation. We’re going to stream the thing live so the fan base can see it.”

I have to show you first everybody — what everybody’s fighting for. This — if you remember the water girl, this is Katherine, my wife. This thing says — there’s going to be five of these things, because there’s five participants. Dawg Bowl 2023, to be the best, you got to beat the best. So that’s what everybody’s going to be fighting for at the event that night. Thank you, Honey.”

Coach Kirby Smart Opening Statement

“Thank you. Thank you, Ms. Katherine. Good job, Jadyn. What a great cause. It means a lot to me when Coach Richt asked and reached out about doing that, we’ve been all on board. Obviously, letting our players participate. My grandfather had Parkinson’s and I can remember as a child him going through that experience. So it’s touched everybody’s lives in some way, shape, or form. So anything we can do to give back to that. It’s during our off week, so we’re going to fill up that bowling alley with everybody we can. And the people that can’t come, you can tune into DawgNation, and you can also give. So that’s an opportunity to give back to a greater cause. So I certainly appreciate Coach Richt taking the time to do that.

“With that, I also want to mention this week’s game against Kentucky. Which is, obviously, a huge game at night. The team is going to be wearing the green decals, calling the attention to mental health week, which is going on this week. And we’re in partnership with Hilinski’s Hope. Student-athlete mental health has become a huge issue, and we deal with it day in and day out with our players. I certainly think it’s more prevalent now than it’s ever been before, so we’ll acknowledge that with those decals. They’ll be part of the uniform Saturday night.

“So with that: I’m going to open it up to questions. Looking forward to playing a really physical Stoops team. Every time we play these guys, they’re physical. When Coach Richt was here, it was physical. Kentucky-Georgia is just a physical, physical football game. Because they brand their football behind that, and so do we. I have a lot of respect for Coach Stoops and the program he’s built and the job they’ve done.”

On no pre-snap penalties at Auburn…

“Composure is a big part of it. I thought we would have some. And we simulated having some. And getting back upped and not letting it spiral. So I thought Coach Bobo and his offensive staff did an incredible job. You take a quarterback who’s never played on the road and start at Auburn and not have procedural penalties, you had good organization, good substitution patterns, you had good snap count variation, changing tempos. I thought they did a good job managing that. But that’s not the issue now. I’m worried about Kentucky now. And they got a really good defense.”

On Kentucky RB Ray Davis’ performance against Florida…

“He’s an exceptional back. As good a back I’ve seen in a long time. This guy’s smooth, explosive. He pass protects really well. He protects the ball. He’s aggressive in the way he runs. It reminds me of Swift. He’s just a little bigger. But he has a lot of the same cuts. One-cut runner. And they do a tremendous job, now, blocking for him. So it’s not all him. I mean, he has a run game — it seems like Kentucky’s always had a back, right? They had Benny — and he was unbelievable. And then they had a kid from Georgia the last couple of years. Their backs run really physical, and they are committed to running the ball. They do a great job at the point of attack.”

On the Kentucky defense…

“The variation they run, the defense they run is very unique. You don’t play a lot of teams just like them. They have a lot of overhangs, what I call depth in the defense. They have people at the second level all over the place. So there’s not a lot of free yards out there. They make you earn everything you get. They’re massive upfront. They have big people. They play three-four and four-three. And the teams that play odd front, as they call it, they do a really good job of stopping the run game. These guys are really good at stopping the run, they’re really physical and they have a good scheme. It’s not easy to mimic.”

On what he has learned about Carson Beck…

“You know, most quarterbacks that start for the first time, you maybe don’t know enough. I feel like I had this relationship and I knew Carson. I don’t feel like I’ve learned a lot because I knew a lot. He had been in the system. Like, he had played — not played in that environment, I’m not trying to change the experience. But I had been around the kid, he had been in the program, he had been in the offense. I’ve seen him have good days on third down against our defense, have bad days. I’ve seen him make good decisions with the ball. He was really efficient. I guess the only thing that I’ve learned is that he does have natural composure. I already thought that because that’s the way he practices. But he doesn’t get flustered very easily.”

On the team’s offensive identity…

“The offensive identity is do what it takes. That’s essentially what it always comes down to, right? You’d love to have this defined, that we’re going to bully you and run it through you. Nobody really does that. I don’t know anybody that just does it. Now, Kentucky did it last week against Florida, but they haven’t done it every single game. They’ve done it different ways. I don’t think any team has — if you have one identity, then that’s probably what they’re going to try to stop. I think that Kentucky’s balanced. When you look at the explosives in our league, they’re probably, like, the only team that has — I think they had the exact same number of explosive runs as they had explosive passes. So they have this balance. Going back to us: I think our identity has been we’ve been up and down in the red area, we’ve been pretty dang good on third down. We got a lot of things that we can work on. But as far as whether it’s about the backs or not, we don’t cry over what we don’t have. You figure out what you got and you figure out what you got — what they can do. So I’m not going to sit up here and complain about — with the help or safety or how many backs we’ve got. That’s not — we worry about what we do have and not what we don’t.”

On concerns over quarterback runs…

“Well, we all need to do a better job. I actually felt better after I went and watched the tape. I think I was riding on the bus in a state of depression about our ability to stop the run. And you sometimes, as a coach — and my dad always said it, It’s never as good as it seems and it’s never as bad as it seems. So when I got up and actually watched it, we struck blockers and played the run well at times. We didn’t fit some plays well that they did. And give them credit. And we probably didn’t work some of those plays enough out of the formations they did it. They did a nice job scheming that up. So we got to do a better job of that, make no mistake about it. But we have good run defenders.”

On feeling a sense of calm in the Auburn game…

“I did feel a sense of calm. But I don’t know if it came from him. I mean, it came from the game plan. The game plan, when you go into a place like that, like Coach Richt mentioned, it’s not easy there. Nobody understands that. I can’t explain it. I’ve been there at LSU, Alabama, been there as a player, been there as assistant coach, it’s hard. It’s just hard on the road in the SEC. And it was hard Saturday. And the composure remained throughout the team and that was part of the game plan.”

On his bowling prowess…

“Oh, man, let me answer that first. I don’t have to put the little things on, the guardrails. If he puts those on, I’m taking that belt home. I can assure you that. But I don’t get to do those. My son, Andrew, always wants to put those up because it just provides an easy way to success. But I’ll probably practice up some before it, when I got some free time so I don’t embarrass myself.”

On the team’s defensive line…

“As far as the defensive line part, I never felt like we had — we had a lot of the same defensive linemen this year that we had last year, outside of Jalen, who really didn’t play most of the year. So we got plenty of D-linemen good enough to do things and execute. Just don’t have disruptive people. So you got to find other ways to do things defensively to try to get people negative plays.”

On Ladd McConkey and Kendall Milton’s status…

“Yeah, just that. I mean, we’re really trying to get them in shape now. Because we feel like they’re healthy. It’s a matter of, Okay, can they get in shape without wearing down their legs? You don’t really get in shape in season. You’re in shape or you’re not. And those guys haven’t had a chance to have the stamina in practice. So we try and do it in other ways, nonweight-bearing, underwater running. You do all things you can do. But we’re trying to get them healthy and to the game and maybe get them some more snaps.”

On Kentucky DL Deone Walker…

“Yeah, extremely athletic for a large man. They do more with him than we probably did with Jordan. They don’t play him at the zero nose. They move him out to the five technique. They dropped him against Florida on the interception play. It’s amazing, you’ll see a human being at 6’6, 350 dropping. And they mix it up with the guy. He’s a talented player. We recruited him here. He’s gotten better. He’s kind of a wrecking ball in there. You know, he knocks people back.”

On the team’s run blocking…

“You got to help him. You got to help them in a lot of ways. There’s nobody — you can’t tell me an offensive line right now that you say, Oh, man. They’re just moving people and they’re mashing people. Defensively linemen have leverage. They strike out of their hips, they come out. You got to find ways to get double teams. You got to find ways to run it on the perimeter. Running the ball in the SEC is the hardest thing to do. And Kentucky just did an unbelievable job of doing it. But outside of that performance, it’s just not easy. And I can’t pinpoint one thing that we can do better. But there’s a lot of things that we got to do better. And that’s not just an offensive line job. You know, there’s perimeter blocks, there’s tight-ends blocks, there’s getting in the right run play and there’s the running back reads where they got to do the right thing too. It’s shared responsibility, starting with me.”

On any interest in Ray Davis or transfer running backs…

“Not really. I don’t remember anything on Ray. Somebody said something to me about they might have expressed interest. I never knew that. I never talked to Ray. I never had any conversation with him. And to be honest with you, we were in a situation where we had some backs coming back. We felt really good about Branson, Daijun and the guys we had coming back. I mean, you’re always looking for a better player. But we weren’t actively pursuing anyone. And like I told you before: Most of these kids, when they go in the portal, they probably have an idea where they’re going.”

On the performance of the offensive guards

“Depends on what front they were in, right? I mean, they had different fronts. I mean, you have a covered guard and you have an uncovered guard. We had some mistakes in there on a couple pass pros. We had some good plays. I mean, Auburn’s defensive line played extremely hard, like every one of them will. They played with really good pad level and leverage and didn’t give up movement. Which every one of them will. So I think across the board, offensive line and our defensive line both have to play better. And that’s, essentially, my assessment.”

On Peyton Woodring’s performance…

“Yeah, a lot of confidence in Peyton. I think he is wired the right way. He was a basketball player. He pitched. I mean, when you have these kids that did multiple sports and they’ve had pressure on them in multiple environments. I’m a big believer in having to sit on that mound and throw strikes. I’ve been out there. I know how hard it is to do that. And kicking in front of 93,000 people, and that’s not easy. And he’s a true freshman. He did a good job going through his process, breathing, handling things well. I told him, he’s got ten people out there with him and another 74 in the locker room that love him, regardless whether he makes it or not. It’s unconditional love. And he has to know that and be able to relax and kick. And I was very proud of him, the way he handled it.”

On Roderick Robinson II’s status…

“He’s still dealing with an ankle surgery, so we’ll see how he goes this week.”

On Smael Mondon, Jr.’s development…

“Probably in his leadership. He’s been an incredible athlete. And he came in as a really good space player. He’s gotten tougher. He’s grown as a blitzer. And he’s a quality leader. He’s not afraid to confront guys when they’re not doing things right. Which, you know, you learn to appreciate as you coach longer, the guys that hold people to a standard so I don’t have to.”

On the inside linebacker group…

“Yeah, I don’t think the defensive line impacts the inside linebacker position by not having a disrupter. Because if you have people that strike blocks and occupy blocks, then it frees the linebackers up. Sometimes a disrupter’s worse for an inside linebacker because the offensive line’s free. It’s hot and cold. We’ve played good for a while. We’ve had a few mental busts. We miskeyed a few things they did that they did a nice job of QB run misdirection. I mean, that’s what people do now in football. They pull a guy here, take a guy here and you got to figure out which way the guy’s going. We did that well some and didn’t do that well some. So we got to do a better job.”

On Ladd McConkey…

“Yeah, no clue. We don’t know if it’s going to come back. I don’t know. I just know the medical advice we got was to shut him down. We did that. He feels like he’s recovered. He feels good. He had to progress last week to the point of full speed. Didn’t bother him. So I was pleased with that part of it. He wants to be out there. The biggest thing for him now is the conditioning level and all.”

On Lawson Luckie and Pearce Spurlin III…

“Could they have played? Yeah, they could have played. If they’re better than Oscar and Brock — I mean, I don’t know what you want us to do. Ya’ll want to take Brock Bowers out and put one of them in? Anyone voting on that? I mean, if you vote that, you’re not a coach. But, yeah, they’re cleared. They’re not where they need to be physically and mentally to play SEC play. They’re trying to get there. But, I mean, guys, this is a grown man sport. To put a true freshman out there just because you guys had him as a four or five star=starter, that doesn’t mean his ready. I mean, it’s physical out there and it’s grown man football when you watch what’s going on out there. And those guys, they’re getting better, they’re getting closer. But, you know, you don’t — how many freshmen did we play the other day? I don’t know. A kicker, a linebacker. I can’t think of many others.”

On stopping Auburn on fourth-and-1…

“It was a big moment. We do an intensive study on short goal line plays. I think they’re deciding games more often because teams are going for it more often. And what I learned, I watched a reel every week that is every third and one in the SEC, and every fourth and one in the SEC. It is hard to get a yard. You guys all think you got to be 100 percent. Go watch that reel. Go watch that reel and see how hard it is to get a yard. You know, talk about the guards, talk about the offensive line not getting pushed. Go watch every team in our league on third and one and fourth and one. It is hard to get a yard. Because people are defending those down and distances different than they ever have. I mean, they’re just treating them different. So I was proud of our defense for stopping those. It probably had to do with a little bit of us, a little to do with them. They didn’t get a great front they wanted. They had a little bit of trouble with the exchange on one of those. And Chaz got some knock-back and we cleaned it up well. But I don’t want to be in third and one and fourth and one, to be honest with you.”

On Brock Bowers’ blocking…

“Yeah, most underrated part of his game. Just turn off the catches and go watch this dude block. Because he tries to — he tries to put them in the ground. He has an extreme amount of power in his core, in his — and he centers. He gets his feet on people and runs his feet and he’s a really powerful weapon as a blocker, too.”

On Oscar Delp’s composure…

“I mean, it’s everything. Like I said, it’s not Oscar’s fumble, it’s our team. And our team went over there with 74 men on a mission. And we weren’t going to be there for each other no matter what happened. And we weren’t going to win the game without Oscar the rest of the way. So we got to protect the ball to get where we want to go. But we got to love each other regardless.

“I want to thank, again, Coach Richt and Ms. Katherine for being here and they’ve done for the Athens the community and what they’re doing with this event. Should make a lot of people proud of UGA and what it stands for. So thanks again and Go Dawgs.”

#69 Tate Ratledge | OL | Jr.

On the importance of learning about the team in close games…

“I think it’s really important, especially with the game last year versus Missouri, we learned a lot about our team and just how we’d respond when things get tough. We learned that early this year, which I think is a really good thing. Of course, you don’t really want that to happen, you want to go in there and execute like you think you should, but sometimes things don’t go to plan and you figure out what your team’s made of. I think we’ve learned some pretty good things about ourselves in the past couple of weeks.”

On the team’s zero pre-snap penalties at Auburn…

“Having crowd noise blaring at us all week helped. We definitely got prepared for that. We worked it in every period that we had offensive work, we had that crowd noise playing.  I think that really prepared us, getting Carson [Beck] loud and us being able to pick it out with everything going on.”

On what he’s seen from Carson Beck…

“I’ve seen a lot of resiliency from him. When things aren’t necessarily going our way on offense, he’s always uplifting, always encouraging, never really changes. He just keeps a level head and tries to help us push through that with him.” 

#2 Smael Mondon, Jr. | ILB | Jr.

On how he feels he has grown…

“My communication on the field. I still feel like I have a lot of room to grow.”

On how the inside linebackers played against Auburn…

“I feel like we could have played better. There was some stuff we were having problems with but that’s easy stuff to iron out in practice and get fixed.”

On the type of leader he is…

“It just depends on the situation but on gamedays, I try to lead by example. I don’t really try to get on somebody in front of everybody. I’m more of a personal person. I’ll come up to you one on one. I feel like that’s something a lot of people don’t really see.”

On the opportunity for Georgia to prove itself against Kentucky…

“It’s going to be a good matchup. Kentucky has a great running back and a good offensive line. We’re going to have to practice hard and do what we have to do.”

2023 UGA Football Schedule

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement
Advertisement

2023 UGA Football Tickets

2024 UGA Football Tickets

  • Coming soon.

Advertisement

More in UGA Football