Georgia’s Kirby Smart Named To 2017 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach Of The Year Award Watch List

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart has been named to the 2017 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award Watch list.

Smart joins 19 other coaches on the Watch List.  He has led the Bulldogs to a 7-0 mark to start his second season as head coach.  While coaching at Alabama, Smart was named the winner of the 2009 Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant coach and the 2012 AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year.

The finalists for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year are scheduled to be announced in December.  The winner will be announced live on Jan. 10, 2018 during the awards dinner and ceremony in Houston.

Now in its 32nd year, the award recognizes the country’s top college football coaches for their contributions both on and off the field.  The Coach of the Year Award is the only college coaching honor selected after all bowl games are concluded and is voted on by the National Sports Media Association.

Bulldogs Wrap Up Tuesday Practice

ATHENS, GA — The #3-ranked Georgia Bulldogs worked out in shorts and shoulder pads for a little over two hours on Tuesday afternoon, the first of three practices during their only bye week of the regular season.

Following are comments from head coach Kirby Smart after today’s practice:

Opening Statements

‘’I thought the energy was good.  Fall weather is here, which is nice.  It’s not nearly as hot out there.  We were able to get a lot of good work.  We were able to get the 2s and 3s and 1s all a lot of reps, so it was good work and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.  We’ll be a little more physical tomorrow.’’

Of the players who have been injured, how many do you expect back against Florida?

‘’I don’t even know who you’re asking specifically about.  Terry (Godwin) practiced today.  He was great.  Trenton (Thompson) practiced today.  He looked good; he’s bouncing back and I expect him to be back.  David Marshall did not practice today.  Hope to get him back.  Daquan Hawkins-Muckle did not go today but hope to get him back.  Reggie Carter was out there today, practiced good.’’

Trenton Thompson in particular has been out a couple of weeks.  Did you like what you saw today, in terms of his movement?

‘’He didn’t do a whole lot, but he was able to move around and do Indy.  He’s got his quickness back and is continuing to get a little better with each day, I think.’’

Javon Wims is a guy that you inherited through recruiting.  He’s the leading receiver right now.  What do you see in him, in terms of what you had when he showed up and what you have now?

‘’First of all, I don’t know that we inherited him.  I remember going into a recruiting battle against South Carolina.  Coach Coley and myself visiting with his parents and going to see him, so he was not a guy that was 100 percent committed, so we had to battle to get him.  I think he’s improved.  I think he continues to improve.  He was a guy that had not played football every year consecutively, so we thought he had some growth potential, as far as getting better.  And I think he’s improved.  I think he continues to improve with his physicality and his blocking.  He catches the ball really well.  He’s a big target and he gets open, so he’s definitely an asset for us.

(What makes Javon so good at those “50-50” type of catches?) ‘’He’s got great, strong hands.  He snatches the ball out of the air. He’s a former basketball player.  He does a tremendous job attacking the ball, which is part of being a great wideout.’’

Was the increase in passing against Missouri more exploiting matchups or a growing confidence in Jake Fromm?

‘’I think it’s that we couldn’t run the ball.  I mean, you can run and you can mix it up.  The run opens the pass, the pass opens the run.  They complement each other.  That’s why every team in the country wants to have balance because when you’re good at just one, it usually doesn’t work out for you.  Go look at the stats of the teams that lead the country in passing.  They’re not always the guys on top.  And the teams that just lead the country in rushing.  They’re not always on top.  So you want to have balance and sometimes it’s hard to do one before the other.’’

When you spoke, early in your tenure, of changing the culture, did you have any idea of a timeline for how long that would take?

‘’I don’t know that there’s ever a timeline for that.  I don’t know that you ever achieve it, to be honest, because your culture is always changing.  I mean, to me the culture you create is created by the seniors and by the leaders on the team, and that’s shaped by every team, and every team is different.  So we obviously want to be an ‘effort, toughness, discipline’ team, and I think each year that team takes on its own personality.  Some years it has more effort, some years it has more toughness, some years it has more discipline.  But you do that each year, independent of the previous year.’’

After the game last Saturday, you said this week was going to be a ‘work week’ and not a bye week.  How do you find that balance between getting your players their rest and recovery and being intense during your practices?

‘’Well, I look at the recovery part as Sunday and Monday, which they had two days off.  I look at Friday, Saturday, Sunday as three days off.  So that’s five days off in an eight-day window. We’re gonna go to work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.  There’s no recovery Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.  We’re working, and we’re working to get better.  You don’t get better by going out there and kinda halfway doing it.  There’s no secret to this whole thing.  The secret is, there is no secret.  So we have to go to work and that’s what we’re gonna do tomorrow and the next day.  And then they get three days off.

‘’The difference is we can rep more players.  We don’t have to do as much scout team work.  We can go against each other and get more quality against quality.’’

How much do you think the indoor facility has helped this year?

‘’It’s hard to measure, but in my mind there’s been a tremendous difference.  Maybe it’s just mentally.  I don’t know.  I just know that trip over on that bus (last year to the off-campus Rec Sports Complex), and dealing with the openness of the place.  I don’t know if it was hotter this year or last year.  They both seemed extremely hot.  The difference for us, obviously, is the ability to recover and go inside.  We’ve done a lot of 50/50 practices, where we were half in and half out, or rotated defense and offense in and out.  We’ve done more things inside than we ever have and I think that’s helped. And we’ve had a lot of night games, too.  It’s been a big part of that because if we had to play in it, we’d have to practice in it.  But we’ve had a lot of night games.’’

Is there a level of concern with the way your defense is affecting the quarterback?

‘’There’s always a level of concern when you don’t have ‘affect quarterback’ numbers.  Disruptions are what we look for, and we’re not disrupting the quarterback enough.  I don’t look at just sacks.  I look at batted balls, pressures, hits, hurries, moving him in the pocket and knocking balls down.  We had a couple of games where we made a lot of plays on the balls by the DBs, but we didn’t affect the quarterback enough.  We’re trying to work really hard on that this week to generate some.  It’s not more pressure.  It’s not more blitzes.  It’s just rush guys and win.’’

How are you tackling the uncertain personnel situation with Florida?  Do you just ignore, do you just go with what you’ve seen, do you anticipate?

‘’To be honest with you, I haven’t even thought about it.  We’re not even thinking about Florida.  I really don’t even know what you’re talking about.  I’m worried about our team for these two days and we’ll get to work on Florida probably Thursday and focus on them then.  We’re working on our team.  We’ve got to get us better, and we’ve got a lot we can get better at, and that’s the focus right now.  I haven’t turned my focus to Florida just yet.’’

Do you have any feelings toward what Mark Richt has been able to do at Miami so far?

‘’Yeah, I think Mark has done a tremendous job.  I actually got to see some of the Miami-Georgia Tech game because we watch Tech some this week.  I think he defensive coordinator Manny (Diaz) does a tremendous job.  He’s a really good defensive coordinator.  They’ve beaten Tech two years in a row now, so I think Coach Richt has a rejuvenated energy and he’s done a good job down there.  They’re playing really hard and recruiting well.  He’s always done a tremendous job.’’

How has Davin Bellamy progressed in his role on this team?

‘’Davin has grown up.  I think he’s become a more vocal leader.  Just in the time we’ve been here, he’s become more confident in himself.  I think early on he was overshadowed by some really good players here and now he’s out of those shadows and he’s growing as a player.  He understands that he’s got an area to improve in himself, but he works hard each day.  He’s a very mature kid for our team.

‘’He’s got a good personality.  I think he and Lorenzo (Carter) and Roquan (Smith) all have a different personality.  They all bring a different demeanor, toughness, ‘want-to’.  Davin’s just a little different than those other guys.  He wears his feelings on his chest.  He’ll tell you how he thinks and what he thinks, and I appreciate him for it.  He’s an honest kid.’’

The Bulldogs will next return to action on Saturday, Oct. 28 against Florida in Jacksonville.

Georgia’s Jake Fromm Named SEC Freshman Of The Week Again

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has been named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week for the second time in the last four weeks after the win over Missouri, according to a league announcement.

This is the Bulldogs’ fifth SEC weekly honor of the season.  Senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter was named the Defensive Player of the Week after the win at #24 Notre Dame; Fromm garnered Freshman of the Week honors in the victory over #17 Mississippi State; senior tailback Nick Chubb was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week at Tennessee; and senior left tackle Isaiah Wynn was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week last week.

Fromm, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., extended his record to 6-0 as the Bulldog starter and is ranked second in the league in Passing Efficiency at 170.4 through seven games.  Against the Tigers, Fromm had 16 completions for 326 yards (both career highs) on 26 attempts and finished with a pair of passing touchdowns.  He also rushed for 16 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown scamper.

Fromm directed an offense that piled up 696 total yards, which ranks second in UGA history, and scored a season-high 53 points against Missouri.  The Bulldogs lead the SEC and rank fifth nationally in Third Down Conversions at 51 percent and are averaging 43 points per game through their first four SEC contests.

The #3 Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0 SEC) have their only off week of the year this weekend.  Georgia will travel to Jacksonville, Fla., to face Florida (3-3, 3-2 SEC) on Oct. 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET.  CBS will televise the matchup.

No. 4 Georgia Explodes Past Missouri, 53-28

UGA Sports Communications

ATHENS, Ga. — A 696-yard explosion by the Georgia offense lifted the No. 4-ranked and undefeated Bulldogs past Missouri in front of a capacity crowd of 92,746 at Sanford Stadium on Saturday.

The 696 yards is the second-highest single game yardage total by a Georgia team in school history (record is 712 vs. Fla. Atlantic in 2012). The Bulldogs’ 7-0 record marks the team’s best start since 2005 as Georgia improves to 6-1 all-time against Missouri.

Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm finished with a career-high 326 yards through the air with two touchdowns passing and one on the ground. The Bulldog rookie hit 18-of-26 passes and led a balanced Georgia attack that included the four running back tandem of D’Andre Swift (94 yards), Sony Michel (86 yards), Nick Chubb (70 yards) and Elijah Holyfield (48 yards).

“The offense really saved us,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “They did a tremendous job converting third downs, making plays and answering the bell. We had two deflating plays defensively and the offense had the backs of the defense.”

Georgia struck first on its opening offensive possession. The Bulldogs marched 91 yards on seven plays, capped off by a Mecole Hardman 35-yard end-around that put the home team on the board first.

After a Missouri punt, the Tiger defense came up with a big play with Georgia backed up in its own territory. Cale Garrett picked off a Fromm pass at the Bulldogs’ 26-yard line to set the Tigers up at the 5. Missouri capitalized on a 4-yard pass play to knot the score at 7-7.

The back-and-forth pace continued on Georgia’s next drive. This time, Riley Ridley reeled in a 19-yard pass while he was falling out of bounds to put the Bulldogs back ahead 14-7. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock then connected on a 63-yard bomb with Emanuel Hall down the right sideline to again tie the score.

Michel had the answer for the Bulldogs on the next possession, racing 36-yards down field to give his team a 21-14 advantage early in the second quarter. Hall was not finished for the Tigers, however. The receiver used another 63-yard TD reception to tie it at 21-21.

Georgia scored the final 13 points of the first half thanks to two Rodrigo Blankenship field goals and a Fromm TD rush.

With a 34-21 lead, the Bulldogs’ scoring continued in the second half. Blankenship connected on two more field goals — one coming after Missouri muffed a punt to set Georgia up deep in Tiger territory. Michel put the Bulldogs up 47-21 in the third quarter with a 16-yard TD run.

Georgia added another late score and the Bulldogs held on to stay undefeated. The team now has a bye week and will take on Florida in Jacksonville on Oct. 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

DAWGTIME TIDBIT’S (Georgia vs. Missouri)

GEORGIA CAPTAINS:  Terry Godwin, John Atkins and Aaron Davis

Missouri has won the toss and elected to receive the first half kickoff.

Mecole Hardman capped off an opening 91 yard TD drive by the Bulldogs with a 35 yard TD run.

Riley Ridley catches a 19 yard TD pass capping a 75 yard drive.

Jake Fromm is 9-12 with 142 yards passing and 1 TD through 1st Quarter.

End of 1st Quarter:  Georgia 14  Missouri 14

With a 2nd quarter interception, Dominick Sanders breaks the all-time UGA record for career interception return yards.  Sanders currently has 329 yards interception return yards breaking the previous record of 315 yards held by Jake Scott.

Sony Michel and Jake Fromm record 2nd quarter rushing TDs.  Blankenship adds 2 FGs in the 2nd quarter.

In the first half, Jake Fromm set a career-high passing mark with 250 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception.

Halftime:  Georgia 34  Missouri 21

Georgia receives the 2nd half kickoff.

Deandre Swift’s 71 yard rush in the 3rd quarter is the longest rush by a Bulldog in the 2017 season.

End of 3rd Quarter:  Georgia 47  Missouri 21

 

Missouri Preview

With a convincing 45-14 win over Vanderbilt, the Georgia Bulldogs are now a perfect 6-0 to start the 2017 season.  The Bulldogs will try to make it 7-0 Saturday night when the Missouri Tigers visit Athens.  Saturday’s game will serve as Georgia’s 2017 Homecoming game.  It will mark the 53rd time Georgia’s Homecoming foe will be an SEC opponent.  Since 1922, Georgia is 75-18-2 in Homecoming contests, and the Bulldogs have won nine of their last 10 in this spot.  Georgia enters this weekend ranked No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 5 in the Coaches poll.

In the all-time series history with Missouri, Georgia leads 5-1.  Before the Tigers joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012, they faced Georgia just once.  The Bulldogs posted a 14-0 shutout over the Tigers in the 1960 Orange Bowl.  Then, Georgia registered a 41-20 victory in Missouri’s SEC debut in Columbia in 2012 and the Tigers came to Athens and collected a 41-26 decision in 2013.  In the 2014 matchup in Columbia, the Bulldogs blanked Missouri 34-0.  In 2015, the teams combined for five field goals and no touchdowns as Georgia edged the Tigers 9-6.  In the teams’ most recent meeting Georgia won a close one 28-27 in Columbia.

The University of Missouri is located in Columbia, MO, and has an enrollment of approximately 33,000 students.  Missouri is coached by Barry Odom (5-12), who is in his second season as head coach at Missouri.  Odom was previously the defensive coordinator at Missouri before taking over for Gary Pinkel after Pinkel’s retirement in 2015 due to health-related issues.

Odom returns 15 starters from last year’s team, including all 5 starters from last year’s offensive line.  The Tigers’ offense is led by a pair of formidable running backs in sophomore Damarea Crockett and senior Ish Wiitter.  Last year, Damarea Crockett set Missouri freshman rushing records for total rushing yards, rushing TDs and single game rushing yards.  The Tigers’ quarterback is Drew Lock.  Lock enters the game with a league-high total of 13 passing TDs and ranks second in the league for passing yards.  The Missouri receiving corp is led by senior J’Mon Moore and sophomore Johnathon Johnson.  J’Mon Moore had a career high 196 yards receiving last year versus Georgia.  Missouri’s defense has struggled thus far as they currently rank last in the SEC in scoring defense giving up an average of 40 points per game.

Currently, Vegas has the Bulldogs as a 30.5 point favorite with a total of 56.5 for the game on Saturday night.  Dawgwalk is scheduled for 5:15 PM on Saturday.

Bulldogs Continue Missouri Preparation on Wednesday

Georgia receiver Javon Wims (6) during the Bulldogs' session on fhe Woodruff Practice Fields in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

ATHENS, Ga. –The fourth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs conducted a two-hour workout in full pads utilizing their Indoor Athletic Facility.

The Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0 SEC) face Missouri at home Saturday night after two straight weeks on the road. Georgia holds a 5-1 edge in the series history with the Tigers, and the last two meetings have been thrillers. In 2016, the Bulldogs rallied past the Tigers 28-27 in Columbia while the 2015 contest in Athens featured a combined five field goals with Georgia posting a 9-6 victory. 

After Wednesday’s workout, selected players met with the media and discussed how the season has gone, the Bulldog running game and the team’s preparation for the Tigers.

“It’s good that we’ve won six in a row but our focus is on Missouri,” said senior wide receiver Javon Wims. “It’s about the next game up and a one game at a time mentality. Our offensive line has been doing a good job, and we’ve been able to run the ball so we haven’t had to throw it much. For me, every ball thrown to me is an opportunity to make a play, and it’s good to be trusted.”

“This season has been a blast; we’ve been winning and we want to keep notching W’s,” said sophomore tight end Issac Nauta. “We’re taking it day-by-day and week-by week and just preparing for the next game. We’re not looking back and not going to look far ahead. We just have to keep pushing and getting prepared for Missouri.”

Georgia is averaging 268.3 rushing yards a game to go with 145.7 yards passing a game. For Wims and Nauta, they said they are enjoying blocking for the running backs.

“We haven’t had to pass a lot this season, but this is the SEC, and we know we’ll have to throw it more at some point so we have to practice hard and be ready,” added Nauta. “It’s all about opportunity, and when it comes your way you make it.”

On a related football note, the location for the Saturday visit by SEC Nation to the Georgia campus has been changed from Myers Quad to the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries lawn.  The change is due to the ground conditions at Myers Quad following recent rains associated with the weather system from Hurricane Nate. The new location is on Hull Street near the intersection of Hull and Baxter Streets. The location change will not affect the standard content of the show hosted by Laura Rutledge, Marcus Spears, Tim Tebow, and Paul Finebaum, along with reporter Lauren Sisler. On Friday, Rutledge, Spears and Tebow will be taping at 4:50 p.m. and Finebaum will be on set from 2-7 p.m.  On Saturday, the show will be live from 10:00 a.m. until noon.

Kickoff Saturday for the Georgia-Missouri contest will be at 7:39 p.m. ET and be televised by the SEC Network.

Bulldogs Prepare for Missouri on Tuesday

ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs worked out for a little over two hours on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for their SEC matchup this Saturday at home against Missouri.

Following are comments from head coach Kirby Smart:

Opening Statements

‘’We had a good practice today.  It was a little warm out there.  We went outside at the halfway point and let both units go outside.  It was about 92, 93 degrees, so it was unseasonably warm.  But I thought the guys had good spirits.  We did three or four periods against each other and had good competition, and I think both groups continue to improve.  We’ve got a difficult task this week, with an offense we’ve got to defend and also some things about their defense.’’

How would you characterize Missouri’s defense?

‘’They move up front.  They’ve always been a penetrating, gap defense.  They get in 4-3 and they’ve started to play a little more odd front, 3-4, and they do a lot of games up front, which allows them to get some tackles for loss.  They’re fourth in our conference in tackles for loss.  They do a good job of creating negative plays by what they do.  They’ve given up some plays in that exchange.  I think they played their best game, I thought, against a good Kentucky football team the other night.  I know they’ll be ready for us.  They played us really well last year.’’

How would you assess the play of Andrew Thomas to this point in the season?

‘’He’s a freshman out there playing in what I think is the toughest conference in the country.  He’s holding up, he’s holding his own.  We haven’t put him in a lot of really tough positions.  We try to avoid that, whether we cover him up, or being able to run the ball helps with that.  But he’s mature beyond his years and he’s very understanding of how important practice is, which I think allows him to play well.’’

How beneficial is it for your run defense to have the running backs that you have?

‘’It helps.  It helps Nick, Sony, Holyfield, Brian, Swift, even Prather Hudson comes over.  Those guys roll down on the scout team and give us a great picture.’’

Do your receivers and tight ends have a good level of buy-in to block on the perimeter, to run the ball as well as you have?

‘’I think they do a great job.  They’re doing a much improved job this year, as opposed to last year, in terms of understanding the importance of team, of team goals and team success.  I think a lot of that is our off-season program and our mindset training program from the summer, to put the team ahead of yourself and I think that’s just important to winning.  It’s not the number of catches.  It’s the value you get in team goals.’’

How has Davin Bellamy adjusted to having the heavy wrap on his hand?

‘’I think it frustrates him at times.  He can’t rip off and tear off like he wants to.  He can’t bull and push sometimes.  But he’s done a good job.  He’s gotten better with it this week.  It was more frustrating for him last week.  I think it’s something he’s got to get used to, and he’s starting to get more and more used to it.  I think he shows a lot of toughness to go out there and play with it and not really let it concern himself with how he looks.  He’s trying to help the team.

(Does he have to continue to wear it?) ‘’We’re not sure yet.  He’s got it on right now for practice for safety purposes.  As far as the game we’re not sure yet.’’

How important is it for you to continue throwing to Mecole Hardman, despite his recent drops in games?

‘’He’s got to catch the ball.  I mean, we’re going to continue to throw it to him.  We’re not going to not throw it to him.  I think Mecole’s a work in progress.  He’s getting better each week.  He’s doing a good job in the return game.  Nobody said it was going to be easy.  It’s not natural for a guy that didn’t play receiver his whole life, to go play receiver.  I know some of you guys in this room compare that to Terry Godwin.  That’s not true because Terry Godwin played receiver (in high school).  I recruited him.  Mecole did not and it makes it very different for him.

(Is it purely a case of catching the ball?) ‘’It’s running routes, it’s being comfortable catching the ball.  It’s just 10-15 years of that’s not what he did his whole life.  So he’s developing.  I think he’s working hard at it, and I think the guy is going to make a really good player.  And to be honest with you, he’s caught every ball we’ve thrown to him in the past couple of weeks in practice.  It’s not like he’s got the drops.  He just hasn’t had an opportunity, hasn’t had an opportunity in a game in a while.’’

How do you game plan to defend Missouri quarterback Drew Lock?

‘’Well, of those 30 passes a game, about 10 to 15 of those are runs that are passes.  So your preparation is to play the run.  And you’ve got to defend the pass on top of it, so it’s really hard because they run the ball and throw the ball the same play, which is tough.  And he’s got one of the quickest releases, strongest arms I’ve seen.  He knows where to go with the ball.  He knows who to stare down to read ‘em.  He’s very efficient at doing what he does, and it’s tough to defend because you think they’re a passing offense, but they ultimately want to run the ball first.’’

Do you watch the ‘throwdown videos’ done by your strength staff and what do you think when you see them?

‘’Very entertaining.  I’m an observer just like you are.  They kinda come out of right field, so I’m always intrigued to look and see what’s going on.  I’m not part of production or anything.’’

Describe the strength staff’s job of energizing the team, something you called attention to after Saturday’s game:

‘’They do a good job of doing that.  They keep things upbeat and positive, get the players going, their juices flowing.  A lot of times, your strength coach is the person that has the greatest relationship with the team because they’re with them year-round, literally.  In the winter they’re with them, when we go Spring recruiting they’re with them, they’re with them in summer.  They’re always with them and they get to be with them through thick and thin, so a lot of those kids respond well to the strength staff.  And I think Scott Sinclair and his staff do a tremendous job.’’

After the game Saturday, you talked about the need to develop your passing game more.  How will you manage that this Saturday, especially if your run game is as successful as it’s been?

‘’I don’t think that you do that in games.  I think, during a game you do what you’ve got to do to win.  You’ve got to take what the defense gives you and take whatever advantages you get.  I think you develop that through practices and we’ve tried to do that the last several weeks.  When we work on the passing game, we have all the quarterbacks to get comfortable throwing it, the receivers comfortable catching it and we’ve certainly got to improve our pass defense.  So our guys get to go against it.  That’s a practice issue more than a game issue.’’

Missouri receiver J’Mon Moore had a lot of success against Georgia last year.  Has that matchup been stressed this year, that rapport he has with Drew Lock?

‘’Yes, but I’ll be honest with you.  The other kid, 84 (Emanuel) Hall on the other side, had an unbelievable night the other night against Kentucky.  They dismissed one of their wide receivers a couple of weeks ago and these two guys have been electric.  I think they’re two of the best wideouts that we have seen, with the combination of a good passer.  Here’s one of the best wideouts we faced all of last year, J’Mon Moore, but the other kid was there and he’s lighting it up this year.  So it’s not like you’ve got one guy that’s a good player.  You’ve got two, and they’ve got multiple guys that are really good wideouts, and a group of tight ends that are really big.’’

What is it about (OL coach) Sam Pittman that makes him good at handling young players in particular?

‘’I think first of all, Sam Pittman is a teacher.  He’s compassionate.  Players really love him.  They want to play hard for him. He cares about them.  And he teaches.  He does a good job of explaining things, teaching things, simplifying things down for players, and they enjoy playing for him.  So he’s had success with guys playing early in their careers, and a lot of that has to do with his teaching methods.’’

Kickoff against the Tigers on Saturday is at 7:30 p.m., Eastern time and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Smart, Bulldogs Preview Missouri Game

ATHENS, Ga. — University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed the upcoming game against Missouri with media on Monday. The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs take on the Tigers at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

Smart and the Bulldogs offered the following comments on Monday.

Head Coach Kirby Smart 

Opening comments … 

“We are excited to get a game at home — Homecoming. It’s another night game. We are expecting our crowd to be extremely loud and turn out in forces, and we need them. This is an extremely high-powered offense, extremely explosive. When you watch the tape you see the reason they are. You watch our tape against them last year, we gave up more explosives in this game than we did any other time last last year. To be honest, offensively, they have only stopped themselves. Not many people have really stopped them as far as yardage. They do a good job on defense — I think Barry (Odom) always has — of giving negative yardage plays, lost yardage plays. They do a good job with their front and we struggled to block them last year. So, we have a good opponent to get ready for. It will be a good challenge for us. Obviously, their record does not indicate how good they are, and we know that as coaches. Our job is to get that message to our players.”

On where the defense is as far as taking on the challenge of Missouri’s offense … 

“We just have to play well. We have to play much better than we did last week. We’ve got to have a good week of practice. I hope last week got our attention that a good quarterback that is accurate that knows where to throw the football can attack a defense. That is certainly what Mizzou has based on Vanderbilt as far as the quarterback making decisions and processing things. I think this kid (Drew Lock) has as strong as an arm as anybody in the league. He has two really outstanding wide outs, not to mention some big tight ends. They do a great job at the RPO game. They were very hard to defend last year and they are very hard to defend this year. Again, they stop themselves. People don’t stop them. They’ve stopped themselves with turnovers, so we’ve got to have a good plan and we’ve got to play well.”

On how he would evaluate Georgia’s secondary through six games when it comes to one-on-one situations … 

“Some good, some bad. With the 50/50 balls we have probably won more than 50 percent of them. We’ve had a good chance there to get the ball down and make some big plays in the Mississippi State game — you know Tennessee, when the ball was in the air we made plays on it. We did not do that all the time the other day. We were not in as near as tight of coverage, so you win some you lose some, which with the style of play that we play you have to win more than you lose and you’ve got to affect the quarterback some. So, as far as the evaluation, it is up and down depending on what game, what moment, what player.”

On how senior running back Nick Chubb is playing and if he should be considered for more national awards … 

“That is not for me to judge. I am not here to lobby for anybody. I certainly love Nick and I love our entire offensive backfield. They work so hard. I tell them all the time that the thing that sticks out to me is that the teams that win you get more individual accolades. Together everyone achieves more — that is what team stands for. If everybody wins then at the end of the day the accolades will come. So, I think he is focused on that. He knows whatever is best for the team helps. Sony (Michel) is the guy that nobody talks about and he has had one of the best couple of runs we have had all year. He was really productive the other day. I think they those guys obviously take away from each other when it comes to national recognition because they do not get the carries. but they do not care about that. The reason they came back was to win and that is the ultimate goal. Right now, they are helping us achieve that.”

On how they map out the five running back rotation … 

“It’s the way the game plays out. If it is a tighter ball game you might not see that many. We are big on getting a back lathered up, getting him going and playing. Unfortunately, that does not get to include everybody unless you are in a special circumstance, which does not happen all the time. We want our best runners in there to run. We want our best protectors in there to protect. We want our best pass catchers in there to catch the passes. The best players are going to play to the point of exhaustion and then we we’ve got to be able to play other guys.”

On the job that offensive line coach Sam Pittman has done in his second year … 

“I am one that looks at things a little different because I say that Sam Pittman did a good job last year. Everybody does everything based on results, that is the world we live in. He did the same job last year that he is doing this year to the tune of different results. We are able to throw the ball. We have a little more vertical threats in our receivers. We’ve got a system that is working a little bit better. Running the ball a little bit better. There’s not a lot of secrets to it — he works the same number of hours and he is working just as hard as he did last year. We are just getting better production right now and we still have not quite seen a front as big or playing as many people as Mizzou does. They play a lot of guys — they play about 10 guys upfront — and we will face better fronts than we have faced the last couple of games in coming weeks, including this week.”

On freshman linebacker Monty Rice and the role that he has taken on … 

“He has grown up a lot. He was one of the guys that was very fortunate to get spring practice, so he got spring practice, which helped him be a little bit ahead of the other backers that we signed as far as knowing what to do. We thought all spring that he was going to be a good player because he was really fast. He thumps you when he gets there. It was more of can he be comfortable and not have anxiety playing in the heat of the moment. I thought he got over some of that. He made a play against Mississippi State there at the end of the game. I thought that gave him some confidence. He was able to make some plays the other day. I think Monty is going to be a mighty fine football player. He is just growing. He has shown a lot of growth and he has a long way to go.”

On playing a large number of freshmen and how he determines someone is ready to play … 

“You determine that by their practice and their awareness. We knew a long time ago that Andrew Thomas was ready. We knew a long time ago that D’Andre Swift was ready. They proved that in camp and neither of those guys were here mid-year. That is an on-going process and an on-going evaluation. We do not hold anybody back that can help us win. If a guy is ready to help us win then the guy plays. As far as how much, that is up to them. That’s up to the competition in practice and how well they do. A significant amount of those freshmen you are referring to are helping in special teams and they have been part of the special teams turnaround.”

On the status of junior defensive tackle Trenton Thompson and how the team played in his absence … 

“Trent is recovering. He will be day-to-day and week-to-week. We have not ruled him out for this game. We hope to be able to get him back. He is still battling back. He is moving now, running some. As far as his absence and how the guys played, they played very similar to the way they have been playing the weeks before. We probably did not strike blockers against Vanderbilt as well as we had done before. We had a couple of guys playing more snaps than they did before. We had a couple of guys playing different positions, where our zero nose is playing five technique. Julian (Rochester) had to go play some other positions. We had guys playing more snaps and we also did not get off the field on third down, which resulted in more snaps for the defensive line. So, the conditioning part had an effect on Saturday playing in the heat and playing guys a lot of snaps. We just did not have as many guys to play with Trenton out.”

On Missouri’s passing attack and if younger guys will get to play in the secondary … 

“My first thing is that I would say people mistake Mizzou. Mezzo is a very 50/50 balanced team and a lot of the passes you see from Mizzou are RPOs, which are dictated by what the defense does — so they are a designed run with a pass attached. They are a very, very good running football team when it comes to execution. They get people out of the box. they spread you out and then they attack you. If you do not control the run game, it will be a long night because they will just do that. Now, can they throw the ball vertically down the field? Yes. They throw it well and they have some weapons to do it with, but that will probably have nothing to do with the number of DB’s that play because typically we play the best DB’s in all situations. We are not rotating a lot of guys at DB.”

On how last season set this team up for success this year…

“I honestly believe that every year is independent of the previous.  It’s like a coin flip. They say if it’s ten times head, the next one is going to be tails. That’s not true.  It’s 50/50 every time.  Last year had nothing to do with this year in my opinion.  I think they are completely independent. I think the leadership of this team is completely different than the team last year.  The practice environment is different.  There are a lot of differences.”

 

On if you have a feel of the maturity level of the team from week-to-week … 

“It’s hard to say the feel.  I always meet with a few guys to discuss some situations on Sunday, but I haven’t seen the team yet.  That will be a big directive and motive for us as coaches today.”

 

On how pleased he is with the running backs running hard after contact….

“I don’t know statistically what it is, but I have to believe it’s pretty good.  I know they keep up with it, but it’s not something that I chart. I know Dell (McGee) calls them “Dawg Yards”- yards after contact. I think it’s a lot of motivation in his room because there is competition to see who does the best job of that.  They do a tremendous job of that.  I think our offensive line deserves credit because it’s not only getting the holes there, but it’s the second level covering down and pushing the pile where a lot of those yards are extended.  Sony (Michel) had that run where he kept his legs driving and they just kept piled on.  They take pride in that and I think Coach Pittman takes pride in that.”

 

On the injuries of Reggie Carter, Solomon Kindley, and Michael Chigbu….

“Chigbu will be out there today.  We hope to get him back 100 percent healthy.  He’s had a lingering shoulder that’s been bothering him.  Reggie is day-to-day. We hope to get him back today or tomorrow.  We will check how he is today.  Solomon I think is fine.”

 

On being ranked fourth in the AP Poll…

“You address it with the kids.  We don’t talk about what we’re ranked.  We didn’t talk about what we were ranked last week.  There’s really no difference because none of it matters.  All we talk about is a race.  The race is after the 50-meter mark and that’s where the race is.  I don’t know one person that ever talked about (Justin) Gatlin being ahead of (Usain) Bolt at the 50-meter mark.  Nobody cared.  They only care about where you finish and they only care about what you do next.  That’s our objective- to do what’s next.”

 

On the balance between distance and hang time and coverage unit for Cameron Nizialek and the punt team…

“Cam is doing a good job.  I would love for him to be a little more consistent with yardage and hang. We always talk to him about that.  That’s a hard job to measure because every punter wants to bang it as far as he can and we want him to hit it as far as he can.  He just has to balance that with the hang time and the distance.  He hit that one a little firm.  He hit it with a 90-degree driver instead of the 12-degree, but he drove it and we have to cover whatever he kicks.  I’m proud of the way he’s kicking, but that’s one that he has to improve on.”

 

On the pass rush protecting the quarterback….

“It’s up and down. It’s not where it needs to be.  We’re not an explosive pass rush team.  I don’t care what everyone wants us to be, that’s just not who we are. We’re strike blockers, play run and we try to convert the pass rush and we try to get the quarterback in passing situations and attack them.  It’s hard sometimes in the style of defense that we play.  Some games we are more apt to give pressure than others.  We didn’t do a real good job of getting pressure in the last game. It’s something we work on each week and try to improve on.  We need as many players as we can to be helpful to get where we want to go from the pass rush standpoint.  There’s so much more to pass rush than sacks and it’s affecting the quarterback and that’s where it was disappointing last week because we didn’t do as good of a job with that as we need to.”

 

On Malkom Parrish’s playing time…

“Malkom is back, he feels good, he’s playing.  Tyrique (McGhee) is playing good.  It’s similar to every position we have.  We are going to play the guys that are playing the best. I don’t feel like Malkom is being held out of anything for any reason.  He’s back.  He feels good about his foot. Conditioning is probably the biggest thing as far as not being able to play every snap of the game.  Being able to play a role with the players, especially guys that have earned the right like Tyrique and (Deandre) Baker, we will continue to do that week-to-week based on practice.”

Graduate P #92 Cameron Niazialek

On progress of his individual play…

“I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job so far. Coach (Kirby Smart) has been harping on me to get the hang time a little better. This week I out kicked the coverage a little bit. Against Tennessee, that one punt I had about five seconds of hang time so we were able to cover that and force a fair catch. So that is something I’m going to continue to work on, but I’m happy with how things are going.

On limited punting occasions…

“It is obviously great from a team perspective that we only had to punt one time. That’s great for our team. I felt really good going into it and hope to keep it going this week against Missouri.”

On reflecting on the season and playing at the different stadiums…

“I’m living the dream. I love Athens and I love this town. I’m excited, because every week is a new opportunity to show what I got and I think I’m doing a good job. I’m having a great time.”

Graduate DB #35 Aaron Davis

On not getting caught up in the rankings…

“To keep that out of mind, you just focus on the goals that you set before the season and the different things that we want to accomplish whether its personal or team goals. As long as we stay focused on those then we can keep our mind off rankings and things like that.”

On Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock…

“He has incredible arm talent. I think this is the third year that I’ve seen him. Every time he can make any throw that he possibly wants to on the field. We definitely need to be on our cues when we go against him.”

On going against Georgia’s talented running back group in practice…

“All of our running backs here are extremely talented, that is why they are here in the first place. Tackling them in practice is not easy for us, so it helps us prepare for Saturdays. We feel like if we are going against the best then it is going to help us prepare against all the other great teams and running backs.”

Junior ILB #3 Roquan Smith

On the Missouri offense...

“They’re a high power offense, I think that they have a great quarterback, an awesome running back as well, and I think it will be a good challenge for us on defense.”

On practicing up against the group of Georgia tailbacks..

“All of them — it’s a challenge, week-in and week-out, and day-in and day-out, going up against those guys everyday in practice. But I feel like going against those guys everyday will prepare you for just about any back you’re going to face in the country.”

On the 6-0 start…

“When you have a mindset, like we don’t really listen to all the hype and outside noise, we just focus on each other and everything that we do day-in and day-out. When things like that come, you always hear types of things like that, but we’re just keeping our heads level.”

Senior TE #83 Jeb Blazevich

On the group of Georgia running backs…

“They’re a physical group; they challenge and push each other. I think that’s why that room is so special, because of what they’re able to do within the running back room. They always push each other, and give each other grief if they get taken down after one hit; I think that’s why none of them really do.”

On the running backs wearing down opponents’ defense…

“I think it’s what they do in terms of wearing down the secondary guys. I think the game, you’ll see it on film, they go in and in the first quarter, they’re ready to go after it, and towards the fourth quarter, they’re like ‘I don’t know if I want to hit these guys anymore,’ and that’s a testament to what they do, and that’s something we need to keep up, and not expect, but try to make happen every week.”

On offensive line coach Sam Pittman…

“We love Coach Pitt. I feel like regardless of where he’s been, people have always bought into what he does. He’s pretty goofy, which I enjoy. He’s extremely passionate, he knows what he’s talking about, he loves helping people out, I feel like whether you’re first string or last string, it’s the same coaching to bring you along, because that’s what he’s here for. He’s here to develop young men into great football players.”

Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn Named SEC Offensive Lineman Of The Week

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia senior left tackle Isaiah Wynn has been named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week following his performance in the victory at Vanderbilt, according to a league announcement.

This is the Bulldogs’ fourth SEC weekly honor of the season and first Offensive Lineman of the Week honor in 2017.  Senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter was named the Defensive Player of the Week after the win at #24 Notre Dame and freshman quarterback Jake Fromm garnered Freshman of the Week honors in the victory over #17 Mississippi State.  Last week, senior tailback Nick Chubb was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week.

The last time Georgia had an Offensive Lineman of the Week award was when Chris Burnette garnered the honor following the win at Tennessee in 2013.

Wynn, a native of St. Petersburg, Fla., graded out at 92 percent and allowed no quarterback hurries, hits or sacks during the 45-14 rout of the Commodores.  Wynn posted eight “knockdown” blocks while the Bulldogs rolled up 423 yards rushing, which is the sixth most in school history and the most since 1987 when Georgia had 454 yards versus Vanderbilt.

The #4 Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0 SEC) return home to face Missouri (1-4, 0-3 SEC) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.  The SEC Network will televise the matchup at Sanford Stadium.