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ATHENS, Ga. —  University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed Saturday’s game against Missouri. The Bulldogs and Tigers kick off at 7 p.m. ET on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. 

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

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement … 

“Off to Missouri. [Head Coach] Barry Odom and his staff have done a tremendous job. Got a lot of respect for him. He’s a guy that I share a lot of ideas with and discuss a lot of things with when we are at SEC meetings, very similar to me, a defensive guy and also coaching his alma mater. I think he’s done a great job motivating this team, and putting them in a good situation.

They are extremely physical. They are a tough match-up from their defensive perspective because they are so big and physical up front. You look historically against us, they have done a really good job. They are top probably 15 in the country in almost every defensive category and they do a good job of that.

Their offense has been very explosive. They are tied for the most plays over 50 yards in our conference and they have done a good job of that. They have a tight end and stuff to match-up with and a quarterback that’s played in a lot of big football games. Have a lot of respect for what they have done and I know coming off an off-week, they will be ready and prepared.”

On how much winning time of possession helps you win a game … 

“Well, objective goals for our offense, one of them is to win time of possession. It’s one of the 15, 20 things we list and we hit some of those in the game. We didn’t hit some of those, time of possession, winning that battle, our offense, they won that battle and that was important to them. It’s important in every game that you win the time of possession, but it can be misleading for explosive teams that are scoring it all the time. But I’m really focused on Missouri and how we can kind of get ourselves in a position to play these guys.”

On moving on after an emotional win … 

“Just your actions speak louder than your words, and the actions you take towards practice and the actions you take towards preparation are all things that are in our control. I don’t think talking about it does it. I think the actions speak louder than your words, and that will be important to our guys, you know, how we prepare and how we get ready and what kind of plan we put together to help us with these guys because they do a good job of making you play left-handed a lot of times, and Derek [Dooley] does a good job offensively of mixing things up. They have got some good matchups, especially with some of their big guys.”

On if the game is different now than when he was a defensive back and the low number of interceptions … 

“I wouldn’t say it’s different. We play a little different style because we’re a match defense for the most part. I think a lot of interceptions come through zone defenses and being able to see the ball a lot of times. We are not all looking at the ball. We are looking at the man, whether it’s a zone match-up or a man match-up, but it’s what we think gives us the best chance to make people inefficient, and it doesn’t always promote a lot of interceptions. I mean, historically, we have not had a ton of interceptions. We’ve got to do a better job getting turnovers. There’s no doubt about that. That comes with forcing them, havoc, tipped balls, batted balls, strip outs, knocking the crap out of people, ripping the ball out; those things all effect turnovers, but we’ve been short on interceptions, for sure.”

On the importance of a player’s mental capacity when looking at graduate transfers … 

“Most of the time, you know enough about those guys to know they have got the mental capacity. I mean, they have played in an offense or a defense for a year. Usually have some kind of connection to them because otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be considering you. It’s not just completely out of the blue. Usually know something about them. You know a coach that used to coach them. You knew them out of high school through recruiting, but you have some connection, and you feel comfortable that they are going to fit in your program; otherwise, you don’t bring them in.”

On showing the team motivational videos before each game … 

“Well we use outside sources. We use Trevor Moawad, consulting firm. Trevor and I have had a relationship for a long time. We don’t always use them but we usually come up with some kind of message. Regardless of what the game is, there’s a point to it and an emphasis for it. This week it was more about — for him, it was an opportunity for him to make a decision that he wanted to do something rather than listening to the outside world and all the different pressures. He chose to wear gold shoes because he expected to win the race, and that was a decision that he made and he made it internally. Wasn’t really worried about everything outside that. That’s really what it’s about, because the men in this room that come in for meetings every day and fight and do all the things, they are the ones that matter. They make the decisions that determine the outcome of the game, nobody else.”

On pass protection … 

“I think the pass protection has been excellent. I’ve repeatedly said that. I thought earlier in the year is when it was at its, I guess you could say weakest. But coming in after the Vanderbilt game that, was a concern for me because we took some shots and some hits. They had improved. They worked hard on it and they have gotten better as far as snap-to-throw. It really depends on the route structure and it depends on the protection. Some protections, it’s quicker. It’s meant to be that way. Got to get the ball out. Some route structures, the ball is out quick. And then other ones, is longer, and longer developing. But our guys have done a good job up front. That’s one thing they do really well is pass pro, and it’s like Sam says, you get good at what you practice at. Well, we practice that, too.”

On Missouri’s road record … 

“I don’t look into it much to be honest with you. I think it’s not really to be — it’s not a big deal. The bottom line is, I know the football team they have got. I know the coaching staff they have got. I know the players they have got and I can watch the tape and know they have got a really physical football team. One of the games was played in some extreme weather conditions, which I know how that impacts the game, and I know that impacts when you’re playing against a guy that’s probably not a quarterback; he’s an athlete, he completely changed the game for how they played. It’s very different.”

On Tyson Campbell injury update…
“Tyson warmed up. Felt pretty good. Felt like he can go if he needed to. Didn’t feel like he was 100 percent and just never gave him an opportunity to play. There’s no other medical tent.”

On teams attacking the nickel and dime back in the middle of the field…

 “I think that’s where teams attack you, based on what you’re in. There were some things we were giving up in that game that was probably more inside routes than we tried to take them away a lot of times, a lot of times you take them away by coverage and sometimes you take them away by leverage and sometimes you just get beat. All those combinations are there and you rob Peter to pay Paul. So you move everybody inside, you’re more susceptible outside. It’s really about pitching to it and being able to change things up. I think Dan (Lanning) and the defensive staff is doing a good job of that.”

On Jake Fromm’s relationship with Lawrence Cager and how that affects the receivers…
“Yeah, I’d say he’s comfortable with them. He’s comfortable with some of our other wide-outs. Some of those plays Cager got, they weren’t featured Cager plays. He was the second, third, fourth option. Some of them he’s primary. Some of them he’s primary based on coverage. Some of them he’s not. Some of them, Jake had time to work to him to make the decision on who to throw it to, so I don’t think it was a scheme deal. It was, some of them, he was just the best option. He was the open option in the zone. But Jake’s comfortable with all our guys. I think he’s got good rapport with all over receivers.”

On using the run game to wear teams down with the schedule ahead…  

“I don’t think you ever just stick with something to bang your head against the wall. If you’re not successful doing it, you can’t abandon it totally. But you’ve got to do what works and you’ve got to have enough change ups to keep them honest. I think we always try to do that. I mean, of all the games, that was the toughest game throughout because there was never a large success in the run game where it was like other games where you’ve been able to take over or third and fourth quarter really be able to power through them. That was tough sledding. Give Florida credit. They played really physical at the line of scrimmage. These guys will be the same way. They have a good defensive front. It’s just hard to run the ball in our league, and our success has been more second half oriented than first for the most part.”

On hearing the highs and lows of how good his team is…

I don’t know either one’s tougher because I don’t really try to pay attention to it. I try to emphasize to the kids that that inconsistency is consistent. So the highs and lows are going to be consistent as far as everybody is going to say one way or the other, it’s always higher or lower than it really is. As coaches, we always say that’s it’s never as good as it is, and it’s never as bad as it seems. More important, our kids understand what makes you successful is what you do, not what you listen to.”

On the upcoming schedule, the “gauntlet,” being a buy-in moment for the team…

“We don’t look past the gauntlet of Missouri because our team respects them. It’s a single-minded focus on one thing. We can’t look past that. As far as buy in, they never didn’t buy-in. They have bought in the whole entire time. There’s been a sense of urgency for our guys for a long time. Just execute and got to get better and most important thing is they understand they have to get better to get where we want to go.”

On how Albert Okwuegbuam stacks up against other tight ends…
“They all have some good tape to watch, that’s for sure, because we have had some tight ends have good performances against us, so they will have some good things to look at and he’s a good player. I think back to last year, he was probably the toughest match-up I thought we had. Last year seems like he stuck out more in that game plan. He’s a good player. They convinced him to stay. He’s done a good job this year being more of a complementary football player than being just a receiving tight end. He’s done more than that this year. They are doing a good job using him, and he is a match-up problem. He is a big, athletic guy, different than Pitts. I mean, he’s big.”

On Fromm’s comfort level with his tight ends…

“As far as tight ends, he doesn’t not target the tight end. We never go in the game and go, ‘We’re not going to target the tight ends this game.’ We’re going to move to the wide-outs. We take what the defense gives us, and so much of what people think is just a choice or a decision made to throw the ball or not throw the ball to the tight ends, it’s a game of matchups. It’s a game of leverage, it’s a game of coverages, and any good football coach will tell you that. It’s not going to this guy, that’s the guy. It’s not like that. You’ve got to go with matchups and where people play you, and the catches that the tight ends had in the game the other night, they were the right throw. So that’s where he went with it. We’ll continue to do that, and you take advantage of what the defense gives you.”

On the Missouri defense…
“They have done a good job every year he’s been there to me. They are an aggressive style. They load the box on you. They make you play one-dimensional. They are very multiple and they disguise things well. We always study what they do because we are always trying to get better and they do different things than we do. We are not like philosophically built the same as them. Yeah, stop the run, don’t let them score, don’t give up big plays, turnovers, we are all the same there. But schematically, they are different from us, and we are always trying to steal ideas from them. I have a lot of respect for them and the way they play defense.”

On the status of Tyson Campbell during the week and on gameday…

“Yes, he practiced last week. I think I talked about it last week. Went Tuesday and Wednesday pretty much the whole practice. It bothered him some having been on the turf more because of the weather. We were forced inside and so, we kind of shut him down Thursday, and then for the game, pregame, he felt pretty good. He felt like he could play if he needed to, but he did not feel 100 percent and we never really had the opportunity to put him in and play him. We were going to play him if we needed to, and we didn’t feel like we had to. We were playing pretty well. So that’s what it usually goes into. He’ll continue to work this week. If he has a good week of practice and he feels 100 percent, then we’d sure like for him to play. We have a lot of roles that we can play guys as fast and talented as him, so we want to try to work him in in some way. As far as other guys, yeah, pretty healthy coming out of it. I can’t think of anybody that didn’t finish the game out.”

On preparing for Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant…
“Well, I don’t think it will change how we prepare. We’ll prepare for his style, which he’s a really good athlete. They run him. He’s got quarterback runs. They make you count extra hats in the box when he’s a quarterback run guy. In a lot of ways, they can be like Lynn (Bowden, Jr.) from Kentucky with a really good passer back there. Now you’re defending two things. That’s tough. And the quarterback run element is always hard to prepare for, but he has a lot of experience in big games. It’s not like he hasn’t played in big games and been in these kind of stadiums. Been in the SEC and also playing at Clemson. Got a lot of respect for the way he plays. He plays with toughness, passion, runs the ball, scrambles, makes a bunch of throws. Really good player.”

 

On whether other graduate wide receivers besides Lawrence Cager considered Georgia…

“We had a couple reach out, but either it wasn’t a comfortable marriage or we didn’t know if they were going to be able to contribute. It’s a tough decision because you’re betting on this guy, and we haven’t been 100 percent. We’ve had guys that came in here and didn’t play as graduate transfers, and you’re looking for the right fit and we just felt comfortable that it was the right fit with him and he was the one that made the most sense.”

On the differences between hosting recruits for day games versus night games…
“Differences, I would say the earlier, you’ve got more time to go to dinner, do more afterwards. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere because the game is over, as opposed to, you know, a late game, you’re with them all day. Our assistant coaches try to spend time with them and you try to entertain them as much as you can, but you’re obviously preparing your own players for the game and the buildup there. It’s tough after the game on a night game. You’ve got a short window; they are tired, want to go to bed and then you’re looking at Sunday to spend time with them, but yet you still have to prepare for another game in some instances.”

 

On the possibility of limiting how much TV the players watch on Saturday…
“Yeah, I don’t know how I would monitor that. If you figure that out, let me know, because I’m not the TV police. So, we don’t monitor that, and we have walk-throughs and try to prepare mentally.

#2 Richard LeCounte | Junior | DB

On another big tight end challenge this week… 

“There are a lot of really athletic tight ends in this world. Every week is a new challenge and I think I am ready for it this week. Missouri has a great guy in Albert Okwuegbunam. He is extremely big and physical and I played against him last year. I am looking forward to the challenge.” 

 

On what he likes about night games… 

“I love the energy that is brought by our fans at night games. I love the LED lights and stuff like that. It makes for a really fun game. It is also going to be a little chilly this weekend so I am looking forward to the cooler weather.”

On how he prepares differently for a 7 p.m. kickoff… 

“You have to prepare differently because of the time. You have a lot more downtime for a night game to watch other games and mentally prepare. You can get a few more nuggets game plan wise for a 7 p.m. game that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get for a noon game. You have a little bit more time to prepare.” 

#30 Tae Crowder | Senior | ILB

On not giving up a rushing touchdown all season…

“It’s not really something we talk about. We just come to practice and work at it. We come to practice and work at it each and every day and it pays off on Saturdays.”

On his thought process the night before a game…

“We’re just trying to focus on what we want to do ahead of time before the game. We do see other teams playing, but we just want to focus on everything we can before we play the game.”

On DB D.J. Daniel…

“D.J.’s been doing a great job all year just coming to practice and working hard and it pays off on Saturdays.”

On what Daniel does well…

“He just comes to practice and works at it. He’s got great technique. He does a great job competing with our receivers.”

#89 Charlie Woerner | Senior | TE

On the advantages of time of possession/the importance of winning that battle…

“It’s huge. It really helps us out in a way that it gives our defense time to rest on the sideline and get ready for the next drive against [the opponent’s] offense. It keeps the ball away from our opponent, so it’s a really big thing for us. It wears the other team and their defense down so that, by the end of the game, they’re tired too.”

On the effect winning the possession battle can have on Georgia, especially against five-straight games against Power Five teams with no open dates…

“It’s something that continually helps us out, and it’s something that helps us win games every week. It shows that we’re executing, because it’s hard to have long drives— usually something messes up somewhere. To have that long of a drive just shows that we’ve really been practicing hard and better executing our plays.”

On whether Missouri is a tough team to figure out, considering the win over South Carolina…

“It’s the SEC. I feel like it’s hard to look at everything because every team is good in the SEC. You have to come out every Saturday ready to play. Everyone has to be really locked in to practice all week, or you’re going to come out and lose that game. Every team in the SEC has the capability to beat any SEC team on a given day, more so than any other conference.”

#15 Lawrence Cager | Graduate Student | WR

On the support he got following the game against Florida/this year in general…

“As you can imagine, a lot of family and friends reached out with amazing support and love. [Former Miami teammates] reach out to me pretty much every game. I still have family over there. I love all those guys over there.”

On what stood out to him about UGA when going through the graduate transfer process…

“It was Coach Coley and Coach Smart. Getting the opportunity to play with them was a once in a lifetime opportunity. At the same time, getting to be a part of this team and having Jake [Fromm] as a quarterback, I couldn’t have picked a better situation.”

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