SHARE
A member of the media quickly moves their pencil as Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks at a press conference in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Sept., 24, 2018. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw)

ATHENS, Ga. — University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, met with media members on Monday to preview Saturday’s game against Tennessee.

Smart and the Bulldogs offered the following comments.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening comments …

“We move on to Tennessee. I think this is one of the exciting rivalries in college football. When you look over the last six, seven years, there have been some really tight ball games, some really exciting ball games, and some I watched from afar and some I’ve been a part of. I have a lot of respect for their program. I think Jeremy (Pruitt) is doing a good job there, and certainly being a physical football team you can see that identity created and what they’re trying to create and how they run the ball and what they do. I think that’s important in building a good program, and they’re certainly on the right track when it comes to the physicality they’re trying to do things with on both sides of the ball.

As far as before I take questions, injury reports, I know you guys want to know all that stuff. Jackson Harris should be back this week, ready to practice and play. Ben Cleveland will be out with the left fibula fracture. Not sure how long that’ll be. He’ll be on crutches for a week, and then he’ll be back weight bearing after that. Monty Rice is expected back from, you know, he had the MCL in spring. He practiced last week. He just didn’t feel like he could go in the game. We’re hoping to get him back, hoping he’s recovered some. Not sure how long Tyler will be out with his shoulder. May be a week, may be two weeks. It may be less. We don’t know. We’re going to see what he can do today. We’ll find a lot more out about that. And then Andrew Thomas was no worse off with the ankle. Felt like he probably could have gone back in if he had to in an emergency. But he’s no worse off, so he should be able to practice today. I think that’s all the major injury guys. With that I’ll open it up.”

On Jeremy Pruitt building an identity at Tennessee and what you say to a team as a first-year head coach … 

“I don’t know what he says to them. That’s really his department. We’re really concerned about us. We’ve got enough issues and holes and things we gotta fix. We didn’t play with the right kind of physicality in the last game and we’re certainly concerned with us. I think anytime you turn the all over six times he’ll be the first to tell you it doesn’t take a rocket science to figure it out you’re not going to win many games when you do that. And that’s what football starts with, protecting the ball and attacking the ball, and without those turnovers it’s probably a different game.”

On follow up to question about Tennessee’s identity … 

“Yeah, I see the physicality they’re trying to run the ball with and stop the run. There’s no question they’re creating identity, and you can tell the way they’re committed to the run, and each game they’ve gone up with the number of runs they’ve had. I think that’s an important part of football. You gotta be able to do that. And we didn’t exactly do what we needed to do to stop the run last week or run the ball. So our concern is us. My concern is not Tennessee’s identity.”

On the Tyson Campbell injury and first-down run production against the Georgia defense … 

“I’ll go back to the second one because I’m not sure I understand it. But the first one, Tyson should be fine. Tyson had a subluxed shoulder, but he was fine after that. He ended up getting dehydrated and started throwing up and got sick and we had to IV him. And he was able to come back in the game. It just didn’t happen where he came back in the game, except for the play that Bake was injured. But Tyson should be fine.As far as the other one, first-down — talking about number of first downs converted by the run? I don’t understand what you’re asking.”

On opponents getting yardage on first-down runs … 

“Last week —  it certainly —  I felt that way. But I don’t think overall it’s that way. We didn’t play the run game real good last week, and that’s what we pride ourselves on. And we gotta do a better job of attacking the run and play the run. At the end of the day stopping the run is an attitude and a disposition you create within your team. And we didn’t have that. In the previous games I didn’t think it was a major problem. We weren’t trying to stop the run a lot of times on Middle Tennessee it was a different kind of game. We didn’t stop the run very well against Missouri. I’ll be the first to admit that.”

On D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield having career highs for carries and their ability to handle bigger work loads…

“I think we’re still learning that. I think they’re both good backs, they’re tough backs. I think all the guys, Brian (Herrien) and James (Cook) included all have a really important role on our team, including our receivers being able to handle some carries and get some carries to help spread that weight out. But what (D’Andre) Swift and (Elijah) Holyfield have done, I think both of those kids have been productive, tough, physical, and good pass protectors. They’ve protected the ball well. They’ve had explosive runs. We have to continue to help them. I mean we have to try to get them in favorable situations to run the ball, and they’ve done a good job of that.”

On D’Andre Walker’s play overall, his ability to put pressure on the passer, his progress and contribution to the defense…

“I think D’Andre (Walker) has grown into this role. I thought he had his best game of the four he’s played last week. I would have expected nothing less because he’s a leader on our team. He’s a very motivated kid. He plays so hard. It’s important to him. He still has room for improvement, he’ll be the first to tell you he had some missed assignments in the game, that he didn’t do what he was supposed to do, he didn’t play with discipline. But overall he had a very productive game, mainly because of how hard he plays. And he’s a tough, good football player, that probably a lot of people overlooked throughout his career because he’s behind other guys. But he had a good game the other day, certainly appreciate the production he had in the game because he’s hard to block.”

On his plan to fix the discipline, specifically regarding dropping the ball before reaching the end zone…

“I think we’ll address it at practice. We’ll handle it internally and it’s not really for public consumption. I think that’s important. I think the important thing is that we get it fixed. How many times does something have to happen? But it’s not something that you don’t talk about. You talk about it, you confront it, you demand. A lot of times I’m a big believer that leadership on the team has to do that. It doesn’t just come from me. It comes from every player on the team buying in that that’s important. I can assure you that neither kid that, that was their thought process as they were running down the field, I’m going to drop this ball near the goal line. It’s just a lack of respect for the ball and a lack of respect for your teammates, which you can’t have.”

On who will replace Tyler Simmons if he has to miss a game due to injury…

“Trey Blount, Jeremiah Holloman, Jayson Stanley, Demetris Robertson- all the guys that are playing. We’re playing a lot of guys at wide out. There are a lot of guys playing there. So you just take the first three games and say, look at all these guys that have played. Could be one of any of those nine, ten- Matt Landers. There’s a lot of guys that can go in there and play and we’ll certainly be looking at all those guys if Tyler (Simmons) is unavailable.”

On the options at right guard…

“We’re going to evaluate that through two, three days of work. The good thing is we get to get a lot of good-on-good work in this week. We’ll explore all those options. I thought that Ben Cleveland was playing really well. He was playing fast. He was finally comfortable. He was moving around. He had gotten player of the week there one week for Coach (Sam) Pittman, was doing a good job and was picking things up. He was very confident. You can kind of see the maturation process of the last two years of what all he’s been through to get to the point he was. So you hate to see that injury, especially from a continuity part of him and Isaiah (Wilson) being there together with him. But to tell you who will be there, it will come out in competition. (Justin) Shaffer was the guy that went in because he had practiced, and he was ready to go at that position. Kendall (Baker) will get an opportunity there. We’ll also look at the possibility of Cade (Mays) working there with Andrew (Thomas) being back at left tackle if that comes to be. So we’ll look to get our best five in, and to be honest, you’ve got to have seven or eight ready, just like we’ve had to play multiple guys in every game, Andrew, Ben. So we’ll have to have seven, eight guys ready.”

On Jake Fromm improving his completion percentage since last season…

“I think he’s able to make quicker, smarter decisions. He processes information really quick. He understands what defenses are trying to do. He’s in the second year in our system. He’s got more experience to wide out. We had good wide outs last year, but the kids this year, there’s a bigger body of work. So they’ve made some plays for him, too. You look at last year, I know early, Mecole (Hardman) had a couple of drops. He had a couple things, and they’re catching the ball better now. I don’t think it was that he was less accurate last year. Some of them were caught, and he understands where the checkdown is. He knows how to use the tools that are around him.”

On the importance of Lamont Gaillard being the constant of the offensive line…

“I think he’s the rock, you know. You got one guy in there, and that’s always one of the toughest positions to replace, is that position. That’s the voice, that’s the leader. That’s the guy that handles it all. And Lamont has done a good job of that communicating across the board, different fronts, different movements, different looks. He’s the guy that leads that room through vocal and through kind of being the guy that’s done it the most. So it’s important to have him part of it, but all that stuff factors in. Continuity is really important in the offensive line and whether Andrew is beside Solly (Solomon Kindley) or Cade is beside Solly. That guy in the middle is one of the centre pieces, and he’s done a good job leading that group.”

On the difference in Tennessee’s offense with quarterbacks Jarrett Guarantano and Keller Chryst…

“Not a whole lot different. I think the other kid has the ability to take off running. Now, Chryst has had some runs as well. And he’s done some whether it’s by design or by accident, a couple of times he’s had to run it. They’re both capable of doing that. We don’t see a whole lot of difference in the two of those guys and what they’ll do with those guys, but again, a lot of that’s out of our hands.”

On whether having all tight ends healthy will affect the run game…

“I think it depends on (Jackson Harris’s) health and how much he can handle stamina wise and what he can do and how caught up he is on the offensive service. He has a good understanding of it having played in it for a couple of years, and I’m looking forward to him and John (FitzPatrick) both continuing to grow. So we’re trying to grow those guys, and a lot of these young players on our team we feel like are getting better week by week and getting closer and closer to an opportunity to go in and compete. As they get a little experience on special teams, a little more experience, good-on-good in practice they’re getting closer to helping us as well.”

On the impact of non-offensive touchdowns…

“I think Coach Tucker would be the first to tell you it’s like some stat, 89 percent of the teams that have a non-offensive touchdown they usually win the game. And those are very impactful, t’s hard to overcome those emotionally because they’re sometimes a shock. But at the end of the day they happen. They happen on special teams. They happen on defense. And whether they happen to you or for you, it’s the next play that matters. It’s not that play. So a lot of it is overcoming adversity and how you’re built within your program to overcome things like that.”

On Tyrique McGhee coming back from injury…

“He’s able to sustain longer. Thought that this last game he played more snaps than he has in the past. I still think he’s getting some of the rush calls. He’ll be the first to tell you he didn’t play his best game the other day. But he understands what to do. He’s a good leader. This kid practices really hard, really tough. We have to be smart with him because volume affects him, and we gotta be smart about the amount of volume he takes.”

On the key component of the upcoming game…

“The biggest thing for us is us. And we’ve gotta really concern ourselves with that. I mean I think perception out there is some people look at Tennessee and say certain things. I look at Tennessee and say that’s a really well-coached, hard-nosed fundamental football team that’s coming in here off a situation where they had however many turnovers they had. So the focus for our players is this is always a tough physical game. It’s always this kind of way. It’s been close for years, and we gotta worry about us. We gotta go correct our mistakes and our problems and make sure that we got our stuff tightened up so we can play the best we can play.”

On Smart’s assessment of the defensive line stopping the run at Missouri…

“The run is never — you don’t ever say, well, the defensive line is no good, they rushed for 180 yards. There’s a coordinated fit. But we didn’t do well, we didn’t close, we didn’t strike. We didn’t knock off blockers, we didn’t tackle well. So that secondary, linebackers, a lot of the D-linemen aren’t in on the tackles. They’re the glue that holds things together on the inside. We didn’t play the way we were capable of playing, and we also put our guys on some tough run positions because we knew we had to not give up the big play in the pass game. So you play games certain ways. You change things up. You change your strategy so the other team doesn’t know what you’re doing all the time. And a lot of those rushing yards had to do with that, a lot of them had to do with unwillingness to strike people. If you don’t strike people, you won’t stop the run in our league. You will not stop the run in our league. So you’ve got to strike people and be physical up front in order to do it.”

#44 Juwan Taylor | Sr. | ILB

On playing to a 100 percent standard and was that standard met against Missouri…

“I can’t really give you a percentage, but I can say we didn’t play to the standard of the University of Georgia. I feel like things weren’t going right and this week we’ve just got to do our best and practice well and step it up to another level.”

 

On what the goal is right now for Georgia…

“The goal every game is to play with physicality, discipline, and composure. I feel like we weren’t as physical as we were supposed to be and we didn’t have quite as much discipline with our assignments and getting different kind of penalties and stuff like that.”

 

On the mindset of stopping the run game at practice starting today…

“This is practice. You practice how you play. Preparation is everything. You just have to come out today and start the day off physical. Just hit everything, work on tackling better, stuff like that.”

#94 Michael Barnett | Jr. | DT

On the play of the defensive line so far this year… 

“I think we have played pretty solid so far. I feel like we could be better and there is always room for improvement.”

On Coach Smart’s comment about it being all about the mindset and whether instilling that mindset is on the players or coaches… 

“I feel like that is more on the players. The coaches could tell us to do it but we are the ones out there actually doing it. It is a mindset and we need to go out there and execute our jobs.”

On what the toughest roadblock in his career has been… 

“Injuries. Just staying away from injuries and getting into the rotations. When I start to get into the rotation something will come up in terms of injuries. Staying injury free has been a really big goal for me.”

On difference for a defense if it is 2nd and 10 versus 2nd and 5… 

“It is definitely different, especially considering a run heavy team versus a passing team. Depending on the team we play that week we have to adjust our mindsets going into that down and distance.”

On the state of Georgia’s run defense… 

“I think we are doing pretty good, but I think we also need to get better. We need to work on our fundamentals and technique.”

#11 Jake Fromm | So. | QB

On benefits of non-offensive touchdowns… 

“It is a testament to the program that we have. The special teams and all the work that pays off. The week before Mecole (Hardman) had a punt return. It is cumulative work during fall camp and practice that pays off for us. It certainly helps out the offense. We weren’t necessarily playing our best, but I looked up at the scoreboard and we were still in the positive, so that helps and is awesome to see.”

 

On injuries and depth at offensive line… 

“For the whole team it is a ‘next man up’ mentality and that is the foundation that we have built. The depth we have is that it doesn’t matter who is out, the next guy is up and that’s how we play it. As far as the guys up front, coach (Sam) Pittman gets those guys ready. Any guy in that (offensive line) room is fully capable of playing at this level, so my full confidence is in them.”

 

On Lamont Gaillard’s role among the offensive front… 

“Lamont is huge. To have those interchangeable parts along the offensive line, he gets those guys moving in the same direction. As far as the offense, if we are doing that then we are going to be successful.”

 

On Tennessee rivalry… 

“Tennessee is a tough opponent. Anybody in the SEC week-in and week-out deserves respect. It really doesn’t matter who is coming into town or where we are going. In the SEC, it is a tough decision. We come in and we take it week-to-week basis. We have our system and we do that.”

 

#53 Lamont Gaillard  | Sr. | C

On increase in leadership with the injuries along the offensive line and the depth’s importance… 

“Some people went down of course, but we have more people that can come off the bench and are ready to play. That is just the preparation that our coaches have given us. The depth is important. For us in the SEC, you have to have depth. We have good depth and people ready to come off the bench when it’s needed, and that is what they are going to do.”

 

On offensive line coach Sam Pittman’s style that enables young guys to be ready… 

“His preparation. He does what he does as a coach when he comes in he’s on us through practice, through meetings. He is always ready for that next step. He doesn’t miss a beat in anything he does.”

 

On halftime adjustments and taking on some adversity… 

“We just adjust to the game. We didn’t do so well during the first half so we knew we had to come back in the second half and put points on the board, because the defense was playing well…We needed a little adversity to be honest. We haven’t played a full game yet so it was a good game to play a full course through.”

SHARE