Complete Kirby Smart Monday Presser

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Complete Kirby Smart Monday Presser

Opening Statement…

“We finished up practice 17 today, 16 Saturday. I thought the guys were great. We had two days off—which is the first time we have had two days off in a while, consecutively, Sunday and Monday. We want them to get their legs back underneath them. [I] thought they did that for the most part—probably wasn’t as crisp of a practice as you would like to have at practice 17. But, the weather was cool so we do not have any excuses. We have to do a better job having good practices. I thought Saturday was pretty good, but not as much today. 

I also would like to thank all of the people that have supported Dawgs for Pups. We have raised over $63,000 now. A lot of that credit goes to the staff here—Josh Brooks has done a tremendous job, Cortez Hankton, a lot of our players have spearheaded that. Certainly, when you talk about making a difference in young people’s lives—we’ve been able to do that with the $63,000 raised.”

On how he has spent more time with this year’s team than past teams and whether he thinks his intensity level when it comes to repairing teams and winning games has changed amidst this season’s struggles/COVID-19…

“I don’t think intensity ever changes, personally. I am a big believer in intensity, focus, concentration. We have a motto around here, ‘Casualness cause casualties.’ We just don’t believe in that. I think the minute you stop having intensity and a purpose you are not coaching. Every coach has their own style, and mine is to be intense and demanding—the players respect that. When I say I have spent more time with them, it’s a lot more conversation we have had. In term of the social issues, more time on Zooms, more times bringing guys up one on one just to talk to them, and see how they’re doing and check on them. It’s probably been more of that than ever before.”

On where he is with the quarterback decision…

“JT [Daniels] is not completely cleared yet. He is practicing with us, as he has been doing. If we didn’t think he was going to be cleared then we wouldn’t be practicing him. He is continuing to practice, so is D’Wan [Mathis], Carson [Beck] and Stetson [Bennett]. As far as we can tell, it’s going to be a game-time decision.”

On D’Wan Mathis getting a lot of play time with the 1s during last Saturday’s scrimmage and if any conclusions can be drawn from that fact…

“They certainly have a right to. It doesn’t concern me. It was part of the rotation as far as each day, and it just so happens that they were there that day. Each day we have rotated guys that have gone with the ones, and that’s the day that [D’Wan Mathis’] fell on. For the most part, we’ve done a really good job for I think 16 practices, today being the 17th, that we’ve rolled—that doesn’t mean we’ve had a different guy every day, but we have a rotation that we do. That was just part of the rotation.” 

On where the kicking competition stands now…

“It is up for grabs right now. Jake Camarda is pretty solid, as our punter. He has done a good job. [Bill] Rubright has really had a good camp as well. They are competing and doing a good job. [Noah] Chumley is a kid that has come in and kicked well, as far as a punter. The field goal and kickoff job has been a battle between [Jared] Zirkel and [Jack] Podlesny, mostly. As those two guys continue to compete, it’ll probably go down to the wire as far as Podlesny and Zirkel who kicks.”

On whether he knows if any players will be out for the first time this season due to COVID-19 reasons…

“No, I have no clue right now any for sure outs. We don’t have anybody that is going to be out.”

On whether facing Feleipe Franks helps his team going into the game against Arkansas…

“Not really because he was in a different offense. When he played in Dan [Mullen]’s offense we had a lot of experience going up against Dan, and have gone up against him a lot of years. I have known Feleipe [Franks] a long time and have a lot of respect for him and his family. [I] recruited him while I was at Alabama. As far as what he will do in this offense, it’s really an unknown because he is playing for a different coordinator. I don’t think there is a lot of advantage in terms of that, no.”

On where Tyrique Stevenson fits with the team this season and how Smart feels he has developed during the pre-season…

“Tyrique [Stevenson] is a player who came on as the year went on last year. He’s done a really good job. He came on in the money roll as the year went on, was a good match-up for tight ends, a good blitzer and a physical guy. He’s played corner. He’s played star. He’s played money, and we have even sprinkled in some safety in there as a back-up role. With the concerns for COVID knocking somebody out, we’ve just got to be deeper than we’ve ever been. Right now, he’s working at star, along with Mark [Webb], and he’s doing a good job of doing that. He’s got a lot of versatility. He plays a lot of positions.”

On whether the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback decision is cause for concern for him and his staff…

“It’s not much of a problem for me—it’s getting to be the norm here. We’ve had this before, so it’s not cause for concern among our staff or organization or our kids, and we talk about it a lot with our players and make sure they understand where we are.”

On whether Georgia’s younger players, such as Jalen Carter, have hit any walls thus far… 

“I wouldn’t say they’ve hit a wall yet, because we’ve had so much spaced out practice. I would say our conditioning level across the board is a concern for me for a lot of freshmen but also a lot of players in general. I wonder, without the same summer training that we’ve had [in years past], if that doesn’t hinder sometimes our ability to sustain effort in practice. That’s probably the thing that concerns me the most when it comes to freshmen. When you look at Jalen [Carter]—here’s a guy who’s big, he’s athletic and a talented player, but how many plays can he play in a row, and what can he sustain? Having a body of work from spring in a typical Georgia summer—not a Zoom summer – allows those guys to get more conditioned, and that’s a concern I’ve got for not only Jalen, but really all the freshmen as we move forward.”

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during the Bulldogs’ practice in Athens, Ga., on Mon., Aug. 24, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during the Bulldogs’ practice in Athens, Ga., on Mon., Aug. 24, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

On what he remembers about D’Wan Mathis’ journey since his brain injury/on whether that experience makes Smart and his coaching staff pull for him to perform well…

“Absolutely. We don’t pull for him all pull for him more just because he’s had the brain surgery; I’m not saying that. We pull for all our kids. [D’Wan] has been through so much. He’s a bright-eyed, talented kid. There are a lot of guys who have confidence in D’Wan. The best thing that happened to him probably was all the reps he took on the scout team last year, because he went down there and got to get some live bullets coming at him, although we couldn’t hit him—we never hit the quarterback, anyway. I still remember going to see him in the hospital with all his family members were down seeing him, and it was a scary, scary moment. I forget what his weight went down to, but I know he got really skinny during that time, and for him to put some weight back on and work hard in the offseason, and I know during the COVID time, he was one of the guys who worked extremely hard. He would go out and just throw on his own and send us videos of him throwing on his own. So, he’s a really hard worker. All those quarterbacks are, to be honest with you. They’re all competitors and good leaders.”

On whether the long-term risks of COVID-19  amongst players is something he fears…

“I don’t know what long-term risks you’re referencing, because every flu virus is associated with the possibility of getting myocarditis, and the research that’s been done hasn’t shown that COVID-19 is a greater indicator of getting myocarditis than any other normal flu symptoms. We didn’t actually check kids for myocarditis when they got the flu and they had other viruses. Now, we’ve actually put ourselves in a better position, because we’re testing the heart. We’re doing EKGs. We’re doing ultrasounds. We’re checking everything now, after this, so it’s really much safer, in terms of not wanting a player to get diagnosed or have myocarditis after having COVID, when before we didn’t necessarily do all those tests after something that could have caused it. The key, and what we all want, is to not have a young man playing or performing or doing extra exercise and be dealing with myocarditis, so how do you prevent that? You test, and you research, and you look at it. Ron [Courson] and his staff are doing a tremendous job of that. We’re very fortunate at UGA to have a baseline test on every kid that’s ever come in here. So, after they have COVID, or maybe they have antibodies for COVID, we’re able to test them and look and see what the differences are in their hearts. We’re very fortunate to be able to do that, which makes me much more comfortable with the decisions that have been made.”

On whether there is anything in particular that worries him about this team’s readiness going into the first game…

“I’ve got all kinds of concerns, but I’m not going to put them on a platter for Coach Pittman to worry about. I’ve got concerns that we’ve got to deal with. Every coach has concerns. If you watched the games last weekend, there’s punt return touchdowns, kickoff return touchdowns, field goals blocked all over the place. Those are learning lessons, and if you use them the right way you can try to prevent them from happening to your team. Concerns, I am constantly worried about our ability to perform. We’re going to have a lot of young men who didn’t get that spring game under their belt with 50, 60, 70, 93,000 [fans] in the spring game—that’s like an extra game for our guys to get used to it. We basically just finished spring practice Saturday, in my mind, and that’s—we’re a week from the game and just finishing spring practice. We’re behind, but we’re even with everybody else. We have to do a good job with what we have.”

On the possibility of rotating quarterbacks…

“It could be, yes.”

On whether there is something fresh and exciting about a competition at the quarterback position…

“Yeah, it makes everybody kind of put their mind on it. You rely on the people you’ve hired within your organization to make good decisions. Ultimately, those decisions fall on me, and I like the idea…We didn’t have much of a decision last year. This year, it’s been a lot more calculated in terms of reps and a lot more calculated in what we do with each guy, and how we develop each guy. They’re all in different stages of their careers, and they’re all getting better. I would argue that we have a talented quarterback room in terms of depth. The important thing is getting the right one to lead this group.”

On the changes he has seen in George Pickens since last season…

“George [Pickens]is a talented player. In terms of leadership, it starts from within and it starts with him. He’s got to do a great job of making sure he’s handling all the things he’s got to do on and off the field. George is growing up, as all players do, and we need him to grow up faster, we need him to lead more. He’s certainly a talented player, but sometimes that can be a disease at Georgia that affects you, and you have to be careful of that. What makes George great is his love for the game, and you just can’t let that be a weakness. You have to make sure it’s a strength.”

On Stetson Bennett’s status at the quarterback position…

“I think the biggest thing with Stetson [Bennett] is we have a body of work that we didn’t have with the other players. You have three kids who are really unknown and you got Stetson who took every single rep last year with the twos, and he went all camp with the twos so if you look at the reps he’s taken and that he’s been around, we’ve been able to evaluate him and see him and he’s done a really nice job in our scrimmages when he has gotten reps. It’s a little bit of, we’ve seen him the most and we’re trying to evaluate the other guys.”

On J.T. Daniels’ condition and, aside from being cleared to play, what he has to do to be ready to take the field…

“Be tackled. To be hit. That’s a medical decision that is usually based on… You know the interesting thing with J.T. that I don’t think everyone understands is that he’s post-op, a lot further than most ACLs. Post his surgery fixing it. He had a repair done, I want to say either December or January, he had to go in and do some of those things to fix it from the original surgery and that was before we even knew about him or with him. That put him behind a little bit. The part about him getting cleared, we certainly expect him to get cleared and think he will get cleared but that’s not my decision. That goes a lot into Ron [Courson] and them. That goes into flexibility. That goes into strength. How far is the left knee from the right knee? What is the girth of the knee? What is the muscle mass missing? There are a lot of things that go into it that the doctors have to do to clear him medically, to clear him to take hits, to be able to play.”

On whether the close competition at the quarterback position is helping him as a coach in any way…

“I think any time you do something a couple of times, you get better at it. We’ve been through this a couple of times, and the interesting thing for me is that I’ve been through it with a different coordinator, and each time I’ve done it, it’s been with a different coordinator. You learn what each one wants, what each one commands, and you try to figure out what gives you the best chance to win and the best chance to score points. There are some similarities between all of them, all the competitions and the decision-making process. I certainly like having a proving guy as well.”

On what he has liked about Jermaine Burton and how he has fit in with his receiving core…

“[Jermaine Burton is] explosive. He loves the game of football. He’s got really good hands. He’s a very consistent ball catcher. He can go up, he can explode up. I remember watching him in high school, [and] he could jump boxes that are extremely high. He’s a talented guy. He’s learning our system, so he’s not there yet, but he’s a good player. So many years we’ve played here, we’ve had these games where we can kind of build to a crescendo and bring the freshmen along. Unfortunately this year, with the schedule we have, it’s not going to fall that way. You look at the first four games, and it’s just a weird year for having depth at some positions with freshmen. They have to be ready to play really fast. They have less time to do it, because they didn’t have a spring ball and summer, so we’re having to make decisions really quick when it comes to getting our depth set and our roster set for the games we have.”

On the kicking performance during Saturday’s scrimmage…

“Pod [Jack Podlesny] and [Jared] Zirkel are the two really competing for the kick-off job. Pod has consistently had better hang, but Zirkel has had good hits. Hang time is a big part of that, and Pod has won the hang time and depth battle when it comes to that. As far as field goal kicking, they were pretty similar Saturday. Zirkel might have been one percentage point or two percentage points better than Pod. Pod’s had a little better percentage over the body of work.”

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