ATHENS —— The third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs continued their preparations for their SEC opener at #24 South Carolina 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:
‘’We had a good spirited practice in the heat and were able to get a lot of work done, most of our first- and second-down stuff, good Tuesday work in what’s probably similar weather to what’s going to be over there, 95 or so degrees. So it was good to get out and get some work done.’’
On the return to practice of Tyrique McGhee:
‘’I thought he was alright. He’s pushing through. He was able to take, I’d say, probably 25 percent of the reps. We got a lot of reps on Tuesday and he took probably a quarter of them. He seemed OK. I would reserve judgment until I watched it. I didn’t notice him messing up a lot. Seemed like he had fresher legs than some of the other guys. We’re hoping he’ll be able to play, but I don’t think we’ll know probably until closer to the end of the week.’’
On progress of the receivers:
‘’They seemed good. I thought Terry (Godwin) did good today. Looked good. Pushed, took some hits, and that was big. Jayson (Stanley) and Kearis (Jackson) seemed good. Jayson seems back to normal. Kearis is still pushing through. We’re using those guys on special teams and hopefully going to use them on offense, too, but I think they’re both really good special teams weapons.’’
How many receivers do you anticipate taking to South Carolina?
‘’No idea. It’ll be something divisible by 70. So we’ve got 70 and we’ll figure out the right 70 to take, based on depth, special teams, how many of those receivers can play. If all of them can play, then we’ll try to take probably whatever it takes. I don’t know…nine, 10, 11.’’
What do you tell younger players in preparing for the kind of environment you’ll see Saturday?
‘’You just try to show ‘em examples. We try to use examples of people that played in tough environments and struggled and made bad decisions, and then guys that played in tough environments and have never been affected by the environment. I mean, you either control it or it controls you. I’m a big believer in you control it by what you do. It’s going to be tough to play over there. It’s really tough on communication, but in the SEC you can count on that every week.’’
You were talking today at practice about composure. Is that because it’s the first road game of the season?
‘’No, that’s one of our main pillars. We talk about physicality, toughness, effort and composure. It’s one of our big ones because we’re big believers in controlling your actions in the right way. I think every player wants to be physical and play hard and hit people. They wouldn’t be in football if they didn’t. But they’ve also got to play with really good composure.’’
On the availability of Terry Godwin:
‘’It’s gonna depend on whether he’s healthy enough or not, and that’s still to be determined. We can’t take a guy that’s not going to be able to play. We don’t know that yet. I feel good after watching him today that he’ll be able to play, but that won’t be certain until probably Thursday.’’
What can you do in practice to improve running back play from the first game?
‘’I think it’s more patience because the same run that one or two of them might have missed, they’ve made before. So it’s more repetition, being patient, first game, maybe jitters, just a couple plays where they tried to bounce out. They’ll be the first to tell you that, but it’s not a lot. It’s more being patient. Our backs do a good job with their vision. They kind of go where the hole leads them to go, and you never know with what defense you’re playing where it might hit.’’
Talk a little about South Carolina’s defense…
‘’Yeah, he’s (LB T.J. Brunson) really athletic, sideline to sideline. He’s make a lot of plays. There are times where you see him and he reminds you of our guy last year, running all over the place. They’re big up front. They did a really good job against us last year in the run game. They’re physical. It starts in the middle with (Javon) Kinlaw, who does a tremendous job. They’ve got good corners and safeties. They do a tremendous job overall with their defense. They play really hard. They play really physical. They try to make you play left-handed. They try to make you one-dimensional and try to force you into things you don’t want to do.’’
Do you think it’s wise to have a short memory when it comes to relationships in the coaching business?
‘’Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you’re looking at it from a coaching perspective, you can’t do it that way. There’s never been a kid, where when he called me to say he wasn’t coming to Georgia, or wherever I was coaching, that I didn’t congratulate. It does no good to get upset with ‘em because it’s their decision. So I think it always comes back if you handle it the right way. It’s helped sometimes. Some of those relationships carried over when I went to the NFL because it was kids I recruited that were there. I think in the coaching profession, most coaches have a respect — or at least I have a respect for most coaches — that I’m not gonna let a recruit come between that coach and me. I know that’s part of the business. Whether he gets the kid or we get the kid, I’m still gonna be friends with him. I may work on staff with him. I may need a job and he may hire me. I learned that a long time ago, that recruiting does not come between a relationship or a coach, not somebody that’s a true friend.’’
Sophomore CB Richard LeCounte:
‘’I thought we played a great team game (vs. Austin Peay), got a shutout and that was a big confidence builder. We got to see some of the young guys play and so everybody got their time on the field. (On playing with J.R. Reed) J.R. is a very smart guy, very certain of what he’s doing. He’s always in his playbook, getting guys where they need to be. He’s a great person to have on the back end with you. If there’s anything that I’m uncertain of, or haven’t seen, he’ll make sure to help me and it’s always the other way around. So we work together real well. He’s definitely taken on a bigger role this year because he’s got the experience and we have a lot of young guys playing on this defense. (On dealing with noise at road games) It’s a factor if you let it be one. Being certain of your signals, everybody being on the same page, getting signals from the staff on the sideline. That’s always going to be important. Communication is always something for us to improve on. Always talking. Being the last line of defense, you can never do too much talking as a defensive back.’’
Junior DL Michael Barnett:
‘’We just know this will be an SEC opponent. Their offensive linemen will be really heavy, trying to double you and get to our backers. So we just need to do a good job of focusing on our techniques and fundamentals. We’ve practice with crowd noise, so if we can focus on our assignments and know the signals, we should be fine. Just hone into our signals and eliminate the crowd noise, it shouldn’t affect us at all.’’