ATHENS, GA — The #3-ranked Georgia Bulldogs practiced for just over two hours this afternoon in preparation for their SEC matchup this Saturday against Florida in Jacksonville, Fla.
Following are comments from head coach Kirby Smart after today’s practice:
‘’I thought the guys had good energy, good enthusiasm for practice. It’s cool out there, so it’s easy to keep your tempo up. I don’t think they’re as tired as they used to get when the heat was a factor. I don’t know if we always had the enthusiasm in the right direction. Sometimes I worry about guys’ focus in practice and things like that. But they did practice hard. We’ve got to clean some things up. Got to put the rest of the game plan in and get ready to go play.’’
What do you see in Lorenzo Carter that he brings to this defense?
‘’He brings athleticism, versatility, speed. He runs a lot of plays down. He’s smart and he can play a lot of positions. I think what makes him unique is his length and his ability to play several spots.’’
The quarterbacks worked with wet footballs today. With a rain chance in Jacksonville this weekend, how much of a concern is the weather?
‘’I’ll be honest with you. We do ‘wet ball’ every other week. That’s in our rotation. We don’t ever go three weeks without doing ‘wet ball.’ It’s in the rotation. So it’s just what we do. Y’all have seen it before. We do it because we’re eventually going to play with a wet ball.’’
How much of an effect have the seniors had on what’s taken place so far this season?
‘’I think the seniors always are the best leaders on the team. I personally think that your team is defined by your seniors, more so your leaders. In some case, like Roquan (Smith) who’s not a senior but a really good leader. I think your team is defined by that, and I think they control and they take ownership. The ownership is on them. Every person we’ve had come in here and talk has said, ‘Coach Smart can’t make you do it. He can only try to motivate you to do it. You’ve got to decide amongst yourselves and police yourselves. That’s what they have done a good job of. Whether or not that’s some kind of revenge as motivation, I don’t always think revenge is a great motivating factor. I’d rather be intrinsically motivated to do well because we want to do well, not because of something that happened last year, because next year what’s your motivation? It has to come intrinsically and I think these kids are growing in that.’’
Do you concern yourself with the weather a few days ahead?
‘’We look at the weather for Saturday from Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. We have a forecast on our injury report. We look at it daily for our practices. That’s always a concern. Jacksonville is historically a windy place, and there is a chance of rain, so you’re always on top of it. But I don’t think it dictates a lot to you because you’re going to do what you do. You’ve got to play with whatever conditions are there, and so do they.’’
What does it say about Trenton Thompson that he has come back from several injuries during his career?
‘’He’s resilient. He’s a hard-working kid. He bounces back. He enjoys the game, he enjoys the rehab part. He enjoys the interaction with the training staff, whom he’s spent a lot of time with. He looks quick out there. Looks like he’s got his step back, so that’s good.’’
Conditioning-wise, how has Reggie Carter come back after missing the past two games?
‘’He seems good. He’s running around out there good. He’s had good burst, almost like a sense of fresh legs. He doesn’t get so many reps that he is truly conditioned. We don’t play our linebackers every snap. They rotate in the game, so he’s not like a defensive back that would play 70-80 snaps. So I don’t think conditioning will be a big concern for him. If somebody got injured, it could be. But he’s done a good job in practice with pushing himself so that he can be conditioned.’’
How much can this year’s success be traced to being at 85 scholarships?
‘’I don’t know. I think you can trace it to the fact that we’ve got more fast people. I don’t know that it’s the number 85. I think the total overall speed of the team has increased. I think the depth of the team has increased. But the part people don’t talk about, outside of the 85, is the 10-15 walk-ons that we’ve been able to get in here. They’ve done a tremendous job, not only from a special teams standpoint. Prather Hudson’s contributions, Christian Payne’s contributions, so many other guys that have been walk-ons on the scout team to give us a great look each day. I think that’s what is unique, more so than just the sheer number 85. But it certainly helps to be operating at a full load.’’
What kind of challenge do Taven Bryan and CeCe Jefferson pose on Florida’s defensive line?
‘’Extremely athletic. Extremely fast. Faster and more athletic that what we’ve faced all year. Very disruptive. Vertical penetration guys. Unique skill set that we don’t typically face. I mean, you don’t see a lot of guys with that explosive power in the SEC. At least we haven’t faced many this year that have that same ability to disrupt plays, which they’re very good at.’’
How do you feel about your kick return game?
‘’Kickoff return probably hasn’t been what I’d like for it to be. It’s been OK but haven’t had any really big ones. But we’ve got a stat on punt returns where we’re one of the only teams in the country to have eight or more returns of 10 or more yards. When you start talking about that, it’s what you want. Our goal is to get a first down every time we get a punt return, and we’ve done that more times than pretty much everybody in the country. You’re right, though. We’ve not had the Isaiah McKenzie, all-the-way-to-the-house explosive, really big one. We have been close. But I’m very pleased with the work we’ve put into it. I actually think we got better, better, better, better, and then we’ve kinda tapered off because, as your opponents see the tape, No. 1 they scheme you and No. 2 they start practicing a lot harder covering it. It became a weapon for us all the way through Tennessee and we’ve tapered off a little bit since then. We’ve got to do a good job because Mecole (Hardman) is a weapon. He’s got to do a better job. I have been proud of him for his decision-making and ball security, but he’s got to do a better job when we get him an opening of making people pay.’’
How much better is the pass rush when Trenton Thompson is playing, as opposed to when he’s been out?
‘’I don’t know. I think Trenton does a good job for us. Trenton is not a natural sack getter. He’s not just an explosive pass rusher. He’s actually better playing the run, chasing things down. He’s very athletic. But it’s not like he was getting a ton of sacks before he was injured. We’ve got to disrupt the passer. Some of that is on what we call. Some of that is pressuring. But you’ve got a tough line to draw when you start talking about pressuring guys versus covering guys. That’s a decision we have to make based on the back end and the front end. And we’re not a great natural pass-rush team. It’s something we’ve got to work on.’’
Do you think your team’s results, as well as Alabama’s results this year, given the SEC a top-heavy appearance?
‘’We’ve had a couple of games that ended up the way they ended because of circumstance. I expect every game to be a four-quarter battle, to go to the wire. That’s what the SEC is. We’re no cut above the SEC. I can promise you that. We’re just fighting our tails off to play each week the best we can.’’
Kickoff between Georgia and Florida on Saturday will be at 3:30 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports.