ATHENS —— The second-ranked Georgia Bulldogs continued their preparations for their SEC matchup at Missouri with a 2-hour practice on Tuesday afternoon.
Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart’s post-practice press briefing, as well as comments from players who were available after practice:
‘’Hot. It’s been really hot, but our guys continue to work. I thought we had good tempo today. I thought we got tired quick. The temperature was up and we did about three-fourths of it outside and the last part we came in. We were able to get some wet ball work for the potential of rain up there, with the quarterbacks and receivers having to handle a wet ball. I thought that was good. Guys continue to work hard.’’
How does (Missouri QB) Drew Lock compare to anybody else you’ve seen?
‘’You know, I hate to compare guys like that. I mean, his arm strength is Stafford-like. Cutler. Those are the guys I’ve coached against that were elite arm talent like him. He’s a really good athlete as well. He’s one of the better ones. Hard to compare him to somebody. He’s in a league of his own.’’
You’ve mentioned the success of Missouri’s run game. How have they improved this season?
‘’They’re more committed to it. I mean, they’re running more traditional run plays, and they still have a lot of the same run plays that all of America is running now, especially with ‘fastball.’ They have similar run plays to what we have. But they run power, they run counter, they run a lot of plays that you’ve got to be physical to run, and they’re creating that brand of football. It’s been a commitment to play in the SEC. You’ve got to run the ball. They’ve done that in the last three games and their commitment to that allows them to get one-on-one matchups outside.’’
How would you gauge Cade Mays’ confidence level so far, given the status of Andrew Thomas this week?
‘’Cade’s a very mature kid. He comes from a family that’s raised him to be that way, to prepare hard, to work hard. He was a confident kid in high school. He likes competition. Good athlete. He’s in a good place, probably the most difficult position to play, in all of football, as a freshman, maybe outside of quarterback. It’s tough because there are some elite players in this league. He’s come in and taken the brunt of that pressure on his shoulders and done a good job with it. It’s a tough position to play.’’
Was Andrew (Thomas) able to practice today?
‘’He was out there. He was able to do a little bit. He wasn’t able to do a lot of physical, pushing work, but he was able to move around, be in pads, get the assignments, pick up on the mental aspect of the game. But he didn’t take a lot of what I would call ‘live’ reps.’’
What kind of progress have you seen in Richard LeCounte?
‘’Richard had a really good game against South Carolina. He played an OK game last week. He continues to grow. I think he’s gaining confidence in the system. Our defense requires a lot of calls for the safeties to make and he’s gotten command of that better. I see him in here a lot, meeting and watching some tape. He’s grown up. That’s what we need for this defense to function smoothly is the communication skills between linebackers, safeties and corners have to be a really good triangle, and he’s filling that triangle out much better. I’m really pleased with him.’’
What’s the thinking behind getting Kearis Jackson carries on offense?
‘’He’s just a good athlete. I mean, it’s no different than handing the ball off the Demetris Robertson, Mecole (Hardman), Tyler Simmons. Touches. I mean, that’s really it. You want your playmakers to touch the ball, and we think he’s a good player.’’
How important is Brenton Cox in his role on defense?
‘’Brenton has grown and progressed. He probably hasn’t shown up in games as much as he has in practice. I just don’t think he’s had many opportunities to get out there and flash and do what I think he can do. He’s played really hard. He’s played physical. He’s very conscientious about his assignments and learning those. Brenton just has to continue to grow up and mature. I’m hoping that a lot of these freshmen, who have played in three games now, can start to have a little confidence where they get over the butterflies and anxiety, so they can go play. He’s getting better with each and every game.’’
Will you bring up the game at Missouri from two years ago to the team this week?
‘’I don’t think so. I thought last year’s game they scored on us and got really hot two or three times. It’s a tough place to play. I’ve played there other times besides two years ago. They’ve got a great environment there. Their fan base is very passionate. But I don’t think this game has anything to do with the one two years ago. Not a lot of the same names and faces are present.’’
Does it feel like Justin Fields is settling into his role on this team?
‘’He’s a pretty calm kid. He’s a calm character. He doesn’t get real anxious about things. He’s excited. He likes to celebrate when he does well. Each time somebody else has scored, he runs down there and celebrates with them. But I definitely think he gets into a rhythm when he plays, the more he gets to play. He’s patient. He’s been good.’’
You’ve talked before in pre-season camp about freshmen hitting a wall. Is there a point in the season when freshman hit a wall?
‘’Oh yeah. I mean, some of these kids have daily walls. Every day it’s a struggle because of the focus and concentration, the intensity of practice. There are a lot of high school practices that aren’t like ours, from the standpoint of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, the intensity, the amount of pressure you put on a kid to make decisions and make calls. They’re not used to that. We have a high-tempo practice. So a lot of these kids struggle with it and you hope they acclimate. And the older players have to bring the younger players along because a lot of the older players weren’t used to it their first year.’’
Sophomore DB Richard LeCounte:
‘’(On preparations for Missouri, after their success passing vs. UGA last season) I’ve watched that a few times, reviewing last year’s tape and watching this year’s tape on Missouri. He (Emanuel Hall) is a real fast guy. We’re playing a great team this week and I’m all in on focusing on everything we need to do. Definitely staying deep, protecting the defense in front of you, because I’m the last line of defense back there. So whenever I can stay deep and chase the ball down, that’s something I take pride in. (Is Missouri the toughest test so far?) You could say that. Every week we come in with the mindset of making us better, as far as the team, so the game plan is still going to be executed to a ’T’, but this team is definitely a real good team. We never take any opponent lightly, but we’re really focused this week. (On preparing for Missouri’s offense) Definitely just make sure we get back to our fundamentals and basics, getting everything back to what we’re used to doing.’’
Sophomore LB Monty Rice:
‘’(Keys to defending Missouri’s offense) We’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback so he doesn’t have all day to sit back there and go through his progressions and make good throws, which he can do. (On improving the pressure on QB) It’s not about getting sacks because sacks don’t win games. It’s about getting pressure on the quarterback and making sure he’s not comfortable, getting him to move on his feet. (Evaluate Georgia’s run defense so far) I think it can be better. We just need to be better at staying in gaps. (On importance of stopping on first and second downs) It’s big because we’ve got some good stuff on third down that we can go to that people won’t be able to block. But if it’s third-and-two, we can’t run that. I just want to stop the other team. It doesn’t matter what call we’re in.’’