ATHENS, GA — The #2-ranked Georgia Bulldogs practiced for just over two hours this afternoon in preparation for their SEC matchup this Saturday at home against South Carolina.
Following are comments from head coach Kirby Smart after today’s practice:
‘’I thought the guys had a lot of energy out there today. The kids got after it. You’re always worried when the weather gets a little cooler and they have a little more juice at practice. They got a little chippy out there, but that was good for them.’’
Lorenzo Carter always seems to be smiling and have a good demeanor. Do you see that and if so, when did you first notice it?
‘’He’s had that since ninth or tenth grade in high school. He’s always been a bright-eyed, smiling kid with a great family. He enjoys the game. He’s really a happy kid. He enjoys practice. He’s fun the be around, except when he doesn’t practice good. Then I get mad at him and he still smiles. So I get madder. But he’s a bright kid.’’
You had Elijah Holyfield as one of your special teams Players of the Week. How’s he developed in that role, and also as a running back, especially in late-game situations?
‘’Yeah, I thought his run (vs. Florida) was one of the best runs of the day. It wasn’t just an open, huge hole where he just gashed through anybody. He made a guy miss, he stutter-stepped and did a nice job. And he’s done a nice job on special teams, I’ll tell you. He works really hard. He’s a very prideful kid. It’s very important to Elijah that he does well. He’s very attentive in meetings. He’s a joy to work with. He’s made himself into a good special teams player.’’
How much of him is due to his namesake, who he is?
‘’I don’t think it has anything to do with it. I mean, I think it has more to do with the kind of kid he is. He went to a really good high school, really bright kid, and it’s important to him. His name is his name, and I think he works hard regardless of that.’’
Have you emphasized explosive run plays in the offense? What’s led to so many of those?
‘’Good backs, good movement. Couple of times, good scheme. Blocking downfield by receivers. Quarterback putting us in the right play. There’s a lot that goes into an explosive run because you’d like to think that, even though you block ‘em all, there’s usually one left to make the tackle. I think when you combine the fact that we have good backs with a good scheme and receivers blocking downfield, and the quarterback putting you in a good play, that’s what you get sometimes.’’
When you see a run like Elijah Holyfield made late in the Florida game, does it help you see how good you’ve got it at the running back position?
‘’Not really. I think the biggest thing it helps is our defense because Elijah and Brian (Herrien) go down and take reps against the defense each day. They work as scout team backs because I think they need the development. And they get touches during the week. So they’re developing, they’re getting better and they take the wear and tear off each other. There’s not really an ego in that group, so I think it’s a good thing to have. I don’t really think of it as a big luxury because everywhere I’ve been there have been good backs. When I coached here in 2004, Kregg Lumpkin, Thomas Brown, Danny Ware, Tyson Browning…some good players. So it’s become the norm here.’’
How does this group compare to some other groups of back that you’ve been associated with in the past?
‘’It’s probably deeper. I mean, when you start talking about 5-deep. I’ve been around a lot of good 4-man rotations, but five is pretty special.’’
What are the marching orders for the team tonight, when the playoff ranking are released? Did you tell them not to watch it? Do you do everything you can to keep them from watching, or did you even bother?
‘’We didn’t really talk about it, to be honest with you. The leadership group kinda handles it and they do a good job addressing with the players. They relay the message that needs to be taught. We don’t really get into it much.’’ (Will you watch it?) ‘’No, I’m working on South Carolina. I won’t watch it. I’ll be up here till 11:00 watching tape on South Carolina.’’
When you’re on a streak of lopsided outcomes like the past six games, what do you say to the team during the week, particularly the younger guys, to make sure they stay focused?
‘’You don’t have to say anything. They go out and practice. Practice is tough. I mean, we don’t go out there in practice and get a big 28-point lead or anything and shut it down. We go at each other and try to create a culture of toughness and playing hard. We really didn’t play that way defensively against Florida. There are clips all over the field where guys are turning down contact, not wanting to hit people. We showed it to our players. We have to correct that in practice and the young players were part of that.’’
J.R. (Reed) was telling us about his relationship with Deangelo (Gibbs), about how he sees himself as kind of an older brother and a mentor. What have you seen in that relationship and what kind of impact do you think J.R. has had on Deangelo?
‘’He is like a big brother. They roomed together when he (Deangelo) got here and I think it was an easier transition for Deangelo, having J.R. here because he and J.R. have spent all their summers together. Deangelo would go out in the summers and train with Jake, J.R.’s dad, and he would take the two boys and go run them. They grew up like brothers, and J.R. was the older brother. I think it’s been really good for Deangelo to have J.R. here because J.R. is a very mature kid. He handles pressure really well.’’
Can you talk a bit about how Matt Landers has been in the role of playing the scout team’s best receiver? I know you have raved about your ‘look squad’.
‘’He’s a force to be reckoned with, I’ll be honest with you. We talked long and hard in the off week about bringing him up. We gave him a lot of reps and let him work. He gives us a little something out there at wideout that we really don’t have, in that size, outside of Javon (Wims). But I don’t know if he’s ready yet. He’s got to mature a little bit. He’s got to continue to improve academically. But he’s tough on the scout team. He’s fast, he’s long and athletic. He’s going to be a good player if he keeps his head on straight.’’
How do you explain your team’s success in first and third quarters? How much of it is scripted and how much is just practice prep during the week, or anything else you see?
‘’Third quarter, I’d probably say it’s because we deferred so much. We get the ball first, it seems like. In the first quarter, I don’t really know. We’ve had a lot of three-and-outs defensively, so we get the ball back to our offense pretty quick, and we’ve had some good field position for them. And we’ve had some good punt returns to set up those first drives, it seems like. I think you want to start that way. I mean, you want to play every quarter that way. I can’t really pinpoint what it comes down to: having a good plan, having good players and executing. Preparation is really what it is.’’
Are you a speech guy in the locker room?
‘’I say what I feel. I mean, I don’t go into a 600-word passage, but I think it’s important that they know what you think this game’s gonna be about. I think every game’s a little different. They’re all physical, they’re all tough and they’re all intense. So I’m gonna be intense with the message. But sometimes the message is different than others. Some guys respond to that and some guys don’t. I think some guys enjoy that and some guys don’t, so to each his own.’’
With Jake Fromm, how much of a difference does it make that he’s surrounded by a more experienced group?
‘’Yeah, you’ve gotta figure Terry (Godwin) is Year 3, Javon (Wims) is Year 2, Riley (Ridley) is Year 2. The backs, with the exception of Swift, are all older. The tight ends are Year 2. It’s a more mature team, more mature offense, so it certainly helps him, but he also has a good command of the system and knows where people are supposed to be and knows what he’s looking for.’’
How often do you pick up things from your opponents that you want to incorporate into what you do?
‘’It happens. I’ll see a play that a team’s running, say Missouri, and I’ll say, ‘Jim (Chaney), this is pretty interesting. You might look at it.’ Because what happens is you’re crossing over opponents right and left. So I’m watching Missouri against South Carolina, you know, and you’re putting away mental notes that Missouri did that and it worked. Maybe it’ll work when we play ‘em. So you’re always looking for crossover stuff. We’re all in the plagiarism business, as far as plays. We’re copying what other people do. Defense is the same way. You watch pressures and you try to copy what other teams do.’’
Kickoff between Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday will be at 3:30 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports.