ATHENS —— The third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs continued their preparations for the 2019 home opener vs. Murray State with a two-hour practice on Tuesday afternoon.
Head Coach Kirby Smart, along with a pair of Georgia linebackers, sophomore Quay Walker and junior Walter Grant, fielded questions from the media after practice. Excerpts from their sessions follow:
Head Coach Kirby Smart:
‘’I thought practice yesterday was good. It was a little hot, but they pushed through and today was much better. Guys practiced a lot better today and had good energy. We did a lot of ‘good on good’ periods, worked against each other, about 50 percent of the practice, and then the other 50 percent against Murray State. Good tempo.’’
What can you say about the type of team Murray State has?
‘’They’re an Air Raid-type. They spread you out, throw the ball around. Mitch has got a history with Coach Hatcher. They throw the ball around, spread it around with a lot of screens, intermediate passing game, get the ball out quick. They run the ball really well for what you think they would do. Everybody thinks they throw the ball every snap, but they’ve got large splits, which make it tough to play the gaps. They make you defend the entire field. They do a really good job defensively, too. They really dominated last Saturday.’’
What does it mean to you to ‘play to the standard at Georgia,’ like a lot of the guys like to say?
‘’We talk about being relentless competitors, about toughness, effort, never watching the scoreboard. You play to that standard and the rest kind of takes care of itself. I think when you worry about results, like so many people in our society do, it makes it tough to ever be happy. So we don’t concern ourselves with results. We try to focus on what exactly it is that we want to achieve, which is unbelievable effort, toughness, resiliency, relentless effort. We just keep saying the same words over and over so the kids understand. That’s what matters. When you do that, you usually get good results.’’
Is Jamaree Salyer in a position to play and help the team?
‘’I saw him yesterday and I was wondering ‘where was that last week?’ He jumped into being in shape pretty quick or not being injured as bad. He had Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday off, so he got a lot of recovery time. But I haven’t seen the tape today, so obviously I’ll have to wait to see that. But I thought he looked better yesterday.’’
What does it look like for players that don’t travel? How are they scheduled?
‘’They lift extra on Friday, when we’re traveling, and they lift on Monday as well. We do, too, but they lift before us. They get a little extra development to grow. If they’re injured, they get 2-3 extra rehab treatments. Ron (Courson) does a good job when he’s not here of using the Coliseum and the Olympic sports staff to rehab our guys.’’
Do you spend much time managing that, the ones that get to travel vs. the ones that don’t?
‘’There’s not a lot to talk about. They get it. I mean, there are guys that are really close that, you know, you’re honest with them and explain to them why. Next week’s gonna be different. Next week we may play a different team. Next time we travel it may be different. It changes by the minute and I think the guys understand. We try to call guys in that have an expectation, or maybe they’ve traveled before and they’re not traveling this time, out of courtesy. But we can’t do that with every player.’’
How big of a benefit can it be for a guy to not travel?
‘’Look at a guy like Fitz (TE John FitzPatrick). Fitz last year played left tackle for, like, 15 practices because we had no scout team O-line. I think it was for the bowl practices. And I really think it made him a better player now because he’s being asked to block the kind of cats that he was blocking at left tackle, like Tyler Clark and Devonte Wyatt. Now, you go out there at tight end and it’s a little easier. It creates toughness. I think Isaiah Wilson, his first year, for the first 2-3 weeks we didn’t send him to the scout team. When we realized he might not play, with Isaiah Wynn and Andrew (Thomas) playing, we sent him down there and he got a lot better faster. So, you get a lot of development down there. Sometimes kids don’t understand it, but there’s a greater means to the end. We really, really, really harp on scout team. Our coaches will tell you that I’m relentless about how many reps this guy gets, this guy gets, this guy gets. Michail Carter, Julian Rochester, they go get reps on scout team. There’s nobody that’s too good for that because it’s part of your development. And to be honest with you, the NFL, people don’t realize it, but the twos are the scout team. The ones are the scout team. So you might as well learn and figure out that I’m servicing the team and I’m getting myself better when I do it. Michael Barnett. He went down there and played the whole year, and the next thing you know, he’s starting against Georgia Tech because he’s tougher than everybody else because he played every single snap down there.’’
On Mark Webb and his growth from his freshman year, when he was a receiver, to now in his second year at defensive back, and was his potential to play DB ever discussed during his recruitment?
‘’We never discussed it and to be honest with you, when he came in he was a really good wideout. He made a couple of plays and we were like, ‘Man, we’ve got a good wide receiver here.’ But we were so deep at the time. I mean, we were looking at Terry (Godwin), Mecole (Hardman), Crump (Ahkil Crumpton). There were just so many guys, and they were gonna be there for at least two more years. We just felt like Mark could be one of our best 11 defensive backs. And we knew the transition would take a while. We didn’t know if he’d be a corner, a safety or what he’d be, but he’s drawn into a really good Star. He’s really physical, he’s aggressive, he’s tough. Mark’s fun to coach. Mark loves football. He’s very coachable, so he’s been a blessing for us.’’
What are some of the ways in which Quay Walker has grown?
‘’Quay has come a long way, but Quay still has a long way to go. It’s interesting to watch because this is a kid who played out in space as an outside backer in high school. When you go inside, it changes your world. You go from seeing one thing to seeing everything. You’ve got five linemen in front of you and things are going sideways. He struggled some last year. He got frustrated. And this year it’s amazing how far he’s come with understanding our defense and being able to pick things up. He’s a really good blitzer. The sky’s the limit for him because he’s athletic and big, and he’s come so far. But he has to decide if he wants to be great and work really hard every day to put himself in a special category.’’
How will Dominick Blaylock help fill the role that is now missing with Kearis Jackson out with an injury?
‘’Dom’s been awesome. That was unfortunate that he didn’t get to play the other night because he’s earned the right to play and we didn’t get an opportunity to put him in. We kept trying to put the game away and score, and we really just never could get into position to put him in there. But he’s gonna be thrust into it now. I thought he had a really good practice today. He caught some balls. He makes contested catches, he finds ways to get open, he’s really smart, he’s tough and physical. He and Kearis are similar. Kearis probably has a little more experience than him, and Kearis is a little stronger than him. But they’re both really good players.’’
Junior OLB Walter Grant:
On how going against the starters (1’s) helped him develop as a player…
“I would say you won’t face anybody else who’s going to challenge you more than your own teammates are going to challenge you, especially when you first come in and are going against the 1’s who are going to play on game day. So, that’s always a challenge when you know you’ll be going against players who are playing up to that level.”
On whether the preparation in the week leading up to games focuses more on the opponent or on the players’ own jobs…
“Obviously a lot of the focus is on the team [we’re playing next], but we mainly focus and work on ourselves to try and get better on the junk we messed up on. You wouldn’t want to put all your focus on that next team, because then you wouldn’t take care of what you need to work on.”
On the things he hopes the OLB room will improve on in this week’s game…
“From our room, I just want all of us to work on our techniques and our eyes and our discipline as a team. The childish and foolish penalties— we don’t need those. All they do is hurt you at the end of the game. We’re just trying to clean up all those penalties.”
Sophomore ILB Quay Walker:
On transitioning from high school to Georgia…
‘’I think that was the most difficult thing I faced coming from high school. Coming from high school and playing on the line of scrimmage then getting to college and playing behind the line was a difficult task but I started seeing things different and adjusting. I think I have picked up on everything pretty well so far.’’
On playing to the Georgia standard…
‘’It means a lot to me. There is a lot that comes with that saying. You always go out and put everything on the line. You just have to be able to do whatever you need to do. For me, coming in, it took me awhile to get used to the saying but I think I do what I am supposed to do.’’
On the linebacker room…
‘’We know what we are not supposed to be doing or not. We know when we go out there and don’t play to the standards. But we know when we’re not doing things the right way and we know when we are doing thing the right way.’’