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UGA Sports Communications

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt with media on Monday. The Bulldogs and Commodores kick off at noon ET on ESPN.

Smart and the Bulldogs offered the following comments during Monday’s media session.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening comments … 

“I think any chance you get to go to Nashville and play Vanderbilt — I know they have a great program. Derek (Mason) does a really good job with his team. They did a tremendous job last year against us from a special teams standpoint. They really dominated and controlled the game upfront with their defensive line. So, we have a lot of challenges ahead of us in regards to preparing for Vanderbilt and wanting to keep the team’s mentality of getting better and improving each week, which they have done up to this point. They do that by the way they practice on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, so that is the challenge we are presented with now. It only gets greater because of the attention surrounding the team, but for us it is really about getting better and focusing on the next opponent. That’s where we are at.”

On if freshman QB Jake Fromm will start Saturday … 

“It will be just like last week  — it will be evaluated in practice. I do think Jacob (Eason) is much closer to 100 percent. Obviously, last week he did not get cleared until somewhere around mid-week, so for him it was important to knock the rust off. He felt like he did that in that game. Got to go out there and he will compete this week. We will do it like we do every position.”

On a followup to the previous question regarding if Jake Fromm will start … 

“Again, we compete every position every week. It is not something we have to announce. We are not starting to announce who the starting right corner, left corner is. We are going to announce it based on how they practice.”

On the status of junior DT Trenton Thompson … 

“Trenton’s injury is a sprained MCL. He will be out for this game, but it was not as bad as we originally thought, which was good news. Basically after this week he will be week-to-week.”

On his feelings on the quarterback position now as opposed to earlier in the year … 

“You have to feel better that you have two that have played because we’ve certainly got that. I would say this — I felt much better going into the season, I’m talking post scrimmages, post camp, I felt much better about the quarterback situation because of the camp that Jake Fromm had and the growth Jacob Eason had. So, I did feel better although you could say you have never seen Fromm play, I count scrimmages as playing because we set them up like games. I got to see him in the spring game, so felt much better that we had those two guys who can execute at a high level and do good things. They are different quarterbacks, but in some ways they do some of the things similar. They will continue to compete in that regard, and it is comforting to know that you’ve got two experienced, where last year we really had one experienced and going into this year we had one experienced quarterback. Now we like to think we’ve got two that have played at least a complete season or four games in the case of Fromm — five games or four and a half.”

On if it is the time he has put in or the personnel that makes a difference on special teams this season …

“It’s both. I can’t say that we have put more time in. We have just tried to emphasize it. We have gotten a little better at kicking the ball. We’ve gotten a little better at punting the ball. We have gotten better on those units executing. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we have put a huge emphasis and premium on playing the best players. I don’t think that we didn’t do that last year. I just think we had a lot of guys who played a lot of snaps and it seems a little more spread out now as far the number of snaps guys are having to play and using that total 70 as opposed to 55 or 50, whatever the number was last year.”

On if the start of the Vanderbilt game last year stuck with him … 

“Yeah. There were a lot of errors in that game. Give them credit. They caused them by what they did on their kickoff return. They kicked the ball in the corner and Reggie stepped out. We had two returners backs and tried to field some rugby punts, which are really tough the way the kid was kicking the ball. There were 200 yards of field position that were give or take lost, and we have to do a  better job in regards to that.”

On things he does as a coach to keep players from buying into the hype … 

“Well, we practice and when we practice we practice hard. We show kids the tape. We are very honest with them. I think when you watch the tape everybody can get humbled by the tape. We got beat, we got beat up at positions, we got blocked at positions — so Monday is all we are worried about and all we are really focused on. We call Monday block-protection Monday because we go out and really work on blocking people on offense or protecting blocks on defense. That’s one of the No. 1 things we can get better at. If you get better at that, it does not matter what you call a lot of times. You just get better at fundamentals and we try to humble the guys by showing them the honest truth.”

On how Jay Johnson and Scott Fountain help Georgia’s offense …

“I certainly think they have a role. I mean it was the reason we brought them here from a schematic standpoint. They were able to help coach the coaches, I like to say. They give fresh, new ideas. I think both of them have brought some expertise and some value. I do not think people recognize that there is more to the game than just throwing somebody out there and saying kick the ball or throwing a guy out there and saying hey go play quarterback or run this play. I think new ideas make you better and I think anytime you get new ideas they are thought-provoking for me as a coach, for a coordinator it always helps. It does not mean that we are necessarily going to do it that way but we certainly think about it and it is good information, so it helps.”

On how to keep his team at the same level they are playing at now … 

“Humility is a week away. That is what we talk to them about all the time. Again, humility comes through practice, going good on good, competing, getting better. It’s a 100-yard sprint and we are at 40 yards. Who cares? They don’t ever talk about who won the first 50 meters of a 100-meter race. I have never heard anybody talk about it. They don’t care. There’s a lot of football to be played and we are focused on Vanderbilt.”

On the gap between the 1’s and the 2’s in the secondary … 

“Some of our 2’s have changed and in some instances it has closed, in some ways it has widened. I think it just depends on what specific position you are talking about. We certainly lost some guys. We got some guys back and that has helped with some depth. The guys who have had an opportunity to make plays have made plays. Look, in the secondary it is a lonely world. It is feast or famine. It is all or nothing. A guy either makes a play or he doesn’t a lot of the times, so we’ve had a couple of guys — Bake (Deandre Baker) and Tyrique (McGhee) — make some plays that have been big and big momentum type plays. We’ve got to continue to do that.”

On Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur and his abilities to throw the ball down the field vertically … 

“First of all, he is very intelligent and does a great job with their offense. He will be the best pure passing quarterback that we have played against. He does a really good job of putting them in the right play. You know he looks at the right things. He reads the coverages. He puts the ball where it is supposed to be thrown and does a really good job of doing that. So, it will be our biggest test from a quarterback standpoint defensing the quarterback as far as a thrower. They have some good wideouts with them, so I have a lot of respect for him. I thought from our game last year — he was still kind of growing up in our game — and then from our game on he played lights out, really good, and has only improved.”

On Vanderbilt getting running back Ralph Webb on track this season…

“No.  There’s nothing that I can say as far as seeing him struggling.  I know this, he runs with a lot of power for a smaller back.  I saw him run over a safety from Florida and he did with Ronnie Harrison from Alabama.  He plays with more power than you give him credit for.  He is extremely elusive.  He is dangerous out of the backfield and they do a good job of getting the ball in the passing game.  He’s one of the most electric players in our conference and that’s evidenced by his statistics.  He’s the leading rusher of their history.”

 

On the factors leading to Georgia’s red-zone success….

“A lot of factors have led to it.  The ability to run the ball better helps.  Everyone thinks the efficiency is great, but we have to score touchdowns.  We had a situation the other day where we had to kick a field goal, two field goals, but we want to score touchdowns.  Again, our efficiency rating is based off of scoring touchdowns over field goals and that’s not perfect, where scoring has been, but there is a lot more to it with scoring four more points on a touchdown than the other.  Obviously, we have focused on it, which has been a big help and we have executed better. It’s not that I thought we were doing anything wrong before. We’re just doing what we’re doing a little better.”

 

On the status of Reggie Carter…

“He will be day-to-day. We will find out in the next 24-48 hours where he is at and see if he can go.  We hope to have him available. “

 

On the primary back up to Trenton Thompson…

“We rolled a lot of guys last year and now they’re a year older.  They’re a year more mature.  All of those freshmen that had to play last year, it’s paying off a lot now.  Tyler Clark is playing better than he did last year, he’s grown up a year.  Julian Rochester is playing better.  Those guys have grown up and played more.  With Trenton out it’s going to put a little more pressure on Michail Carter to play a little more. David Marshall will play a little more.  Tyler will take on a few more snaps.  We are going to continue to sub guys.  Michael Barnett and DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle will get a few looks.”

 

On improved play up front and consistency to get interceptions….

“It helps having (Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy) up front playing well. It’s not like I didn’t think they would be making some plays.  They’ve caught a couple tips, a couple over-throws that maybe we missed during the Notre Dame game or we dropped in other games.  I’ve always said those things come in bunches and it’s not like we’re doing anything different.  We’re catching the ones we’re supposed to and capitalizing on those.”

 

On the change in confidence since game one…

“I think we’ve grown up a little bit as a team.  I think they’ve seen the evidence in the practice habits they have.  We didn’t know it would get the results we wanted from our practice habits last year. They’ve bought in to the fact that if they’re physical on Tuesday and Wednesday, they’ll be physical on Saturday.  That’s carrying over.  I think we’re just a year older.  I think that practice habit and culture change has been good for them.”

 

On Davin Bellamy wearing a “club” on his hand…

“I hope it won’t affect his play a lot.  He will probably have the club on there for practices for a while and maybe in the game we’ll be able to give him a splint or a little less.  He should be fine. He is going to practice today and go with it.  The position he plays doesn’t have him carry the ball or catch the ball a lot, so it’s going to be striking and block protection stuff that he’s going to use it for.”

 

On Georgia’s defense playing Alabama-like…

“I would argue that Erk Russell is playing Junkyard Dawg-like.  And that takes a lot more pride to me, being a Georgia alum, than the fact that our kids are playing hard and playing with standards that has created a long time around here of flying to the ball and hitting people.”

 

On the culture change in the program…

“I was not concerned with the way it was before, I was only concerned with how I saw it being.  I thought that was important.  It was nothing about before, because I wasn’t here.  It was more about how I felt practices should be done.  From a depth standpoint, you have to have good numbers to be able to practice things that you want to practice.  We had to work to get toward that and we’re still striving to get what we need from a scout team standpoint, a rep standpoint, a physicality standpoint.  We’re trying to improve that everyday.”

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Junior Tight End #88 Jackson Harris

On success in the red zone…

“It is definitely something you want to play like you practice. We definitely have put an emphasis on it and have been fortunate that it has paid off well.”

On staying grounded despite the hype around the program…

“Honestly, we don’t even pay attention to it. We just focus on the week ahead. It has not been any different in the weeks prior, it is just that each Saturday you have another game and different opponent. We are just focused on improving ourselves each day and that is our main task. We will take it one day at a time.”

On playing Tennessee and Vanderbilt back to back…

“It is a fun trip for me since I’m from the Nashville area so being able to go home and have a bunch of buddies come watch me play as well as family is a good time. They (Tennessee/Vanderbilt friends and family) are very supportive. Everyone texts me that week and wishes me the best of luck. They are very supportive and it is all fun.”

On how last year’s Vanderbilt game motivates this year…

“We don’t put a ton of emphasis on last year. We just focus on this year. There is a lot of work to do. We are going to game plan for them hard. We are focused on this year and this year’s team. We are just taking it one day at a time.”

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Junior DB #20 J.R. Reed

On the identity of the defense…

“Fun, fast and physical. Keep it really basic like that. We want to be fast to the ball, keep it really physical, and at the end of the day, we want to have fun.”

On the defensive success thus far…

“We don’t pay attention to the rankings. We keep working like we’re ranked whatever we were ranked at the beginning of the year. And we keep going, it starts in practice, keep our head down, and like we said our motto is just to keep chopping wood.”

On Tyrique McGhee…

“It’s nice to see Tyrique grow into the player he’s become. He’s made long strides at the beginning of the year to now. Since Malkom’s gotten hurt, he’s really taken on that role, and now his hard work is showing and paying off.”

On Vanderbilt…

“I watched a little bit of them this morning. They have a good team, a great runningback, a really good quarterback. I know they have a good defense, they started out strong this year. So it’ll be a good game.”

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Junior WR #5 Terry Godwin

On the quarterback situation…

“Either way coaches go, it’s going to be the best fit for us. With those two guys (Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm) back there, it’s the best chance for us.”

On the upcoming game against Vanderbilt…

“Hats off to them. They have an amazing team. Going into that game is going to be a great atmosphere and we know they are going to come with their best.”

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