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ATHENS, Ga. —  University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed Saturday’s game against Florida. The Bulldogs and Gators kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET in Jacksonville, Fla.

On Monday, Coach Smart and student-athletes offered the following comments. 

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement … 

“With that I’ll open it up on Florida. Got a lot of respect for their team. I think Dan [Mullen] does a great job, number one, developing quarterbacks, but he’s done a really good job this year with Kyle [Trask] that came in as the backup. They’ve become really explosive. They’ve got as deep a group of wide receivers as I’ve seen anywhere from top to bottom. They’ve got six, seven, eight guys playing wide receiver that are really good players. An elite tight end, one of the best in the country. And their defense with Todd [Grantham], is really aggressive, as seen through all the pressure and sacks they’ve got. Really good corners out there on the island. They’re playing at a high level. And they play special teams as good as anybody we’ve played. You can tell the commitment is there. They’ve got starters scattered all across their special teams, so across the board it’ll be a great challenge. It always is when you play these guys, and played Dan’s teams for a long time. They’re well coached, and they’re always physical. So we’re looking forward to the challenge, and we started getting ready last week for them. Hoping to get some guys back from injuries today. Some recovered over the weekend. Some were able to go Thursday before we broke, and hoping to continue to get some guys back healthy.”

On if Florida is blitzing as much defensively … 

“When I say pressures, I’m talking about the pressure of the quarterback, not necessarily bringing more than four. They do a great job of rushing with their four guys, and allows them to do more coverage wise. They’ve got some alternative pressures and different looks, kind of like we do defensively, where it might look like pressure, but it’s not. It’s called simulated pressure. But they don’t have to do that as much because of the four guys they got rushing, especially the two guys on the edge are really elite when it comes to pass rush. So they do a really good job of that, and those guys get after the passer as good as anybody in the country. It’s obvious with their statistics.”

On the Georgia-Florida game staying in Jacksonville … 

“Yeah, first, the misnomer there is that I don’t want the game in Jacksonville. That’s not a case for me. I loved playing there. It’s one of my best memories ever as a player being able to do that. I think the landscape of college football is such now that your home and homes are so valuable as you go out and try to find other teams to play. When you play these other teams that we’re playing out in the future, you got a home and home, so you got one less home game. The team that’s used a bye to come play you, you’re going to have one less home game, so now, with us every other year it may be two less. So it makes it tougher in that perspective. But I also think the financial significance of this game and also the historical significance of this game weighed in the factors, and administration felt like that was the best thing to do, and I’m 100 percent on board with it. I’m a team player, and I always said, once the decision is made, it’s made. It’s a two-year commitment. We’ll continue to see where it’s going in college football. I think as you look across the board, you see more and more kids committing on these official visit weekends when they go to a home game, and they’re really important weekends. We just have one less shot at those. That’s the toughest thing.”

On the chess match of going against Dan Mullen … 

“It’s a chess match every time you go against somebody, but it boils down a lot more to players than it does Xs and Os. He always has a very physical football team. They believe, and they have a commitment to the run game. They always seem like they have downhill, low-center-of-gravity backs. Very similar to what he has now he had at Mississippi State. Big, physical offensive line. He never abandons the run. He’s always going to be able to run the ball. He always has a quarterback that can run the ball especially whether it’s short yardages or packages with Emory [Jones] coming in for them. And he’s got as good of wideout group that he’s ever had that I can remember. And he’s using those guys’ skill sets. He highlights those wideouts he has because he has so many. I don’t know how to better say it than to say that he has a complete offensive package right now with what he has, so he has the ability to use all those guys. And he’s doing a good job. They’re doing a good job offensively.”

On the importance of the secondary in this game … 

“The secondary, I mean, everything is going to be important because you have to say the front is important to affect the quarterback. The front’s got to control the run game. You have to be able to pressure the quarterback and affect him, but every time you do that you gotta be able to cover on the back. It never changes. You have to be able to cover people man to man to be able to play these teams. You got to. If you can’t do that, it makes it harder on you to even be able to think about pressuring. So they do a good job.

As far as Tyson [Campbell], he practiced last week, didn’t go as much Thursday as he did Wednesday. We had to back him down a little bit. But he was able to practice a couple days last week. I think Wednesday was the last day he went full and was able to do everything, but then Thursday we cut him back some. We’ll see where he is at today.”

On how the wide receivers can help Georgia’s offense become more explosive … 

“Yeah. Jake’s relationship is probably better with these guys. He’s spent more time with them, if you think about it. It’s not about the relationship as much as it is the ability to win one-on-one, win in space. We call them 50/50 balls or back shoulders, whatever it may be. We have to win more battles when it comes to that, because people in our league are going to play you a certain type of way. So you have to be able to win those. I don’t think it’s relationship driven or rep driven. I would say continuity of the same guys in the game has kind of been all over the place because every receiver has missed some game in some way, shape or form. But we continue to work on those and we’re going to keep working on them today.”

On the injury status of Travon Walker and Lawrence Cager … 

“Travon? Yeah, he’s back out today practicing. Supposed to be full go, ready to go. We’re expecting to get him back. Cager is expected to be able to practice today. To what extent, he was able to run routes and do some stuff Thursday, and thought he looked good doing that. So we’re expecting to hopefully get him back, but I won’t know more until we see practice today.”

On what stands out on film on what can be done offensively … 

“Yeah. I think there’s no doubt — first of all, we look every week, but bye weeks we look at everybody in the country and say, okay, what are they doing, what are they doing, what’s been successful, what tools are they using, what positions are they putting their best players in, how are you utilizing your playmakers to try to get them the ball. We’re always evolving in regards to that. That’s no different.

As far as what our guys are doing and being able to put them in a good situation, yeah, I think we’ve been able to put a lot of our backs in good situations to be able to win and do things. I think, again, at wideout it’s tough because there’s not been a corps group that’s been there every game and been able to do it. Cager is the one guy you can make a case that’s made some plays when he’s been available and made some plays on 50/50 balls. We’ve gotta be able to do that, because of the way people play us, and we’re going to have to continue to do that.”

On if recruiting for the home team of the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville will alleviate some concern…

“What do you think those other teams are going to do with that? I’m petitioning right now, if you’re Alabama and you’re Tennessee, are you going to help Florida and Georgia out? I don’t think they’re going to go for that. But we’ll see how it goes. I mean I’m all for it. You know what I mean, if it can help us. But I just don’t know how realistic that is.”

On what having both teams being ranked in the Top-10 does for the Georgia-Florida rivalry and the SEC…
“I think every week in the SEC you’re getting a matchup like this. It seems like for the next two or three weeks it just seems to continue to happen, because you have really good football teams in our league. I think when you strap it on in our league, you better come ready to play because week in, week out you’re going to have to play in big-time matchups.

I mean it’s the way it should be when you look at the SEC East. Georgia and Florida have been pretty dominant in the East picture for a while, and this game has always had some bearing on who goes to Atlanta. And I think both teams are good, and I think it’s what college football is all about.”

On comparing Florida quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask…
“They don’t run a lot of different things. Feleipe (Franks) was really good at extending playing and creating a little more with his feet. I mean I wouldn’t say he’s a runner, but he could run. Same thing with (Kyle) Trask. He’s a big, physical guy, and when he decides to run, you don’t stop him for minimal gains on designed quarterback runs. I think that he’s gotten the confidence of the receivers and the ability to throw the ball. When he came in the game at Kentucky, you saw it right away. He’s a natural passer. He brings value to the rest of their team because of his ability to throw the ball. He makes them harder to defend because all of their weapons are — their best, best players, their weapons are perimeter players. And you look at what he’s done, he makes you defend all 53 yards, and he’s a good quarterback. He’s tough to defend.”

On his comfort level with quarterback Jake Fromm’s experience and ability to make decisions in pressure situations…
“Yeah. Jake’s played well in those kind of situations when you’re talking about having a team with really good rushers, but a lot of that is contingent on those two tackles blocking those two guys. They don’t just rush those two guys on the edge. They do games. Todd (Grantham) does a good job of mixing things up, keeps you balanced. He plays different coverages when he plays a quarterback that’s not a scrambler or a runner per se. It allows you defensively to play certain guys certain ways. People play Jake different than they play a guy that takes off running with the ball. So it makes it a little different. Jake does a good job handling that. I think that’ll be one of the key matchups in the game is how does their pass rush affect our offensive line, especially in passing situations.”

On if it’s even more important to win the turnover margin in a game like Georgia-Florida…
“Yeah, every game it’s important, but you could argue the closer the games are from a standpoint of the teams matched the turnover even plays a bigger factor, because it’s harder to overcome a minus one or minus two turnover margin if the games were evenly matched across the board.  I really think special teams will be the same way. We’ve got to play a more complete game on special teams this game. It’s very important, because you can tell they put as much emphasis on this as we do when you look across the board at who’s playing on it.”

On if he was ever a Gator fan growing up or if he ever pulled for the Gators when he was a kid…
“No. I did go on an official visit there, and they recruited me out of high school, and I had a good visit there, but wasn’t a Gator fan.”

On what makes Andrew Thomas special…
“I would say the number one thing is his intelligence. I mean, he’s athletically as good as anybody you’ll see. He’s very sharp. He’s very detailed. He has a plan. You don’t find guys that are his size and speed and athleticism walking the streets, but you also don’t find that combination of intelligence. They know what’s going to happen before it happens. I think he prepares well for games and he sees things a little bit before they happen because of his experience. He was well coached in high school, and he’s nothing but a stellar example of what a University of Georgia student-athlete should be.”

On what makes Andrew Thomas a special player…
“I would say the number one thing is his intelligence. I mean, he’s athletically as good as anybody you’ll see. He’s very sharp. He’s very detailed. He has a plan. You don’t find guys that are his size and speed and athleticism walking the streets, but you also don’t find that combination of intelligence. They know what’s going to happen before it happens. I think he prepares well for games and he sees things a little bit before they happen because of his experience. He was well coached in high school, and he’s nothing but a stellar example of what a University of Georgia student-athlete should be.”

On Florida’s offense being a true test for the defense…
“When they look at throwing the ball, physicality, ability to run the ball with the quarterback. There’s not like there’s an area that they’re missing. You would say the offensive line is probably younger than it was last year having the draft pick, the guys they had, but those guys aren’t rookies anymore. I look at it and say those guys have played almost a complete season now, and they’re playing at a high level because their quarterback has been able to protect him and throw the ball. I mean when you got the wideouts they got out there sometimes, doesn’t matter how long you protect because they get open pretty quick and they beat some man-to-man situations against good teams.”

On Stetson Bennett’s preparation and reps in practice…
“If you say Jake (Fromm) gets 100 percent of the reps with the 1s, the number of reps that our 2s gets is somewhere around 60 or 70 percent of the same number that the 1s get. And during off weeks we try to get Stetson some with the 1s as well, situation where he can go in there and play and get some reps and get some help. I think what’s going on in college football, it’s just all over the place where people are playing with backups. You know it can happen. You gotta be prepared for it. It’s something we talk about each week: What would we do differently? What does he do? What is he comfortable with in the game plan? And those are mapped out by the offensive staff to say these are feature things that we would do with this guy because you never know when you’re going to be in that situation.”

On how defenses prepare for Georgia…
“I wouldn’t say wildly vary, but they’re definitely not the same. When you look across the board, every team that’s played us has done what they’ve done going into the game. It’s not like they changed what they did going into the game. If it was Kentucky, they played their 3-4 front very similar to our defense. They played a lot of the same things. They didn’t do something exotic or they didn’t copy South Carolina. They did what Kentucky does. Kentucky does what they do. They did what they did the year before for a lot of extent of it. And then South Carolina played a lot more regular, meaning no extra DB in the game against a three-receiver set versus us, so they played regular against where most people would play nickel in those situations because they felt like their linebacker was stronger than their nickel was. So every game it’s different. You go into the game saying, okay, how are they going to play us. Just like us, how are we going to play — it’s a matchup thing. How are we going to play when they’re in this personnel grouping? Should we play it with this many DBs or this many DBs? And that’s part of the chess match, but early in the game you figure that out, and then you’ve gotta be able to say, okay, what are our answers when they do that. Week to week it varies, but I would not say that it’s widely varied.”

 

On how Jake Fromm has remained healthy and protecting himself…
“I hope you’re not jinxing us. He does a good job of protecting himself, meaning ball beats rush, meaning if I don’t have that guy protected, I need to throw the ball. Some of what’s going on is I don’t know where I’m protected and I’m taking hits. Playing a lot of young quarterbacks in our league. A lot of guys are getting hit. Lot of different rushes, athletes. There’s just so much going on with college football, aggressive, a rush, affect the quarterback, no concern for the run that quarterbacks are getting hit more where Jake is probably a little more experienced at, okay, I’m going to protect myself in this situation, but also, the O Line is there, and I think our O Line does a good job of pass protection. Now, they’re going to face the ultimate test. I mean, these guys are as good as anybody in the country. But they do a good job with protection of getting the right guys. Now, can you lose a one-on-one, absolutely you can, but when you get the right guys with your five guys, it allows you to do more things with your back. Some teams do not release their back at all. They keep them in for protection. We would like to get our backs out, because they’re really good at getting out and their ultimate goal of the defense is to make the back stay in, and if they can keep him in in protection, that’s one less guy they gotta cover. So Jake’s done a good job of protecting himself. Our O Line has done a tremendous job thus far of protecting the quarterback. And, yeah, you want Jake to be able to create something with his feet, and there’s been some games that he’s been successful doing that, and I think he’s gotta be willing to do that when there’s nothing else there.”

On what this game means to him being a native of South Georgia…
“Well, I hate to say it, but they’re all rivalry games. When you make one more important than the other, it devalues the others. I mean this is a tremendous rivalry in all of college football. The fact that it’s in a neutral site, in Jacksonville, which is closer to South Georgia. It’s important to all Georgia fans. It’s important to all Florida fans. It’s one of the biggest rivalries in college football. So for me it’s special because of where it’s located, where the game is played and usually what the outcome determines.”

#7 D’Andre Swift | Junior | TB

On growing up in Philly and when he became aware of the intensity of this rivalry…

“I think I was in high school. I believe it was my sophomore year when I truly realized how intense it was. I noticed the atmosphere of the game and how seriously the coaches and players took this game.” 

 

On how the offense improved over the bye week… 

“We worked on a lot of things. We worked on third-down situations, being more explosive, winning the one-on-one match-ups. Everyone improved. Running backs, linebackers, wide receivers did a good job on getting open.” 

On what it is like to play in this rivalry… 

“It is amazing. It is one of the best ones that we have. The atmosphere is incredible with all the red and the blue. You walk out for pregame warmups and look in the stands and just think wow, this is crazy.” 

#20 J.R. Reed | Senior | DB

On what makes Florida’s offense different than anything Georgia has seen/how Georgia plans to approach it on defense…

“They’re very explosive, and they’re operating under Dan Mullen’s offense. They do a lot of different things. They spread the ball around to a lot of different guys. We’ve just got to stop the explosive players.”

On his thoughts on how Kyle Trask has taken over at the QB position…

“He’s definitely not a backup type of guy. He’s a big player and can play strong. He’s not as athletic as Florida’s previous quarterback, but he’s a great player— you can see that on the field. He knows how to run the offense and can spread the ball around. [Dan] Mullen is doing a great job and letting [Trask] use his arm.”

On whether he thinks there’s a disadvantage for either team by playing in Jacksonville…

“I don’t think there’s a disadvantage. The stadium is split 50/50, and there’s just so much history. I love it and being able to go there and play. I really don’t care, as long as we get there, play, come home with the win and get ready for the next game.”

#13 Azeez Ojulari | Redshirt Freshman | OLB

On Florida QB Kyle Trask…

“He came in and he’s a game changer. He throws big passes, complete passes. He’s a good player so we’ve got to come in ready.”

On Florida’s offense…

“I feel like they’re very explosive. They’ve got good receivers that can make big plays. They’ve got a good offense, so we’ve got to stop that.”

On Florida QB Emory Jones…

“We definitely have to prepare for him too. He’s a dual threat, so he can run and he can throw. He can throw the ball well. We have to prepare for both quarterbacks, actually, so we’ll prepare this week.”

#66 Solomon Kindley | Junior | OL

On that this game means to him being from Jacksonville…

“This game means a lot to me because growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, the type of scene it is and the type of environment I grew up in, it shows kids around the neighborhood, kids that came up from the same high school that came up in, they can do it no matter what; they can do it no matter what anybody tells them. Just stay focused and keep moving, you never know what you’ve got in your future. I really like to go back home and show the kids back home that I did it, so can you.”

 

On what this games means to the City of Jacksonville…

“It really shows that it’s not always the bad part of Jacksonville, it’s always something positive. The high school that I came from, we always have players go to college, play Division I ball, type of stuff. So like I said, it’s showing the kids that it’s possible. All you have to do is work.”

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