Daily Dawg Thread – July 20, 2021

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Daily Dawg Thread – July 20, 2021

Jordan Davis Press Conference – #SECMD21

THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by Georgia student-athlete Jordan Davis. I’ll ask him to make an opening comment about the season, and then we’ll take your questions. Jordan, just as you head towards the 2021 season, what are you most looking forward to this season?

JORDAN DAVIS: Full capacity stadium. I’m really excited going towards that. Definitely missed it in the previous season with COVID and everything. Just excited to have everybody and get things running again.

 

 

 

 

Q. Just wondering, Kirby was talking about the meeting you guys had, talking about vaccinations. What was that meeting like, and what was the discussion like in the locker room when people were deciding to get the shot?

JORDAN DAVIS: Definitely we wanted to put an emphasis on getting vaccinated. Definitely will save us in the long run, at the end of the season, but we also didn’t want it mandated. We wanted to make it a choice for others. I definitely believe that it should be a choice.

Me personally, I got vaccinated, but I know some people who are kind of shy or don’t want to get that now, and I understand that completely.

 

 

 

 

We just want everybody to be safe and make sure our team is protected during the season.

Q. Can you speak on kind of how the off-the-field stuff that you guys have done, whether it be the skill sessions or just spending time together, how do you feel like that will help you guys meet these expectations that have been set here?

JORDAN DAVIS: I definitely think the key to a successful team is a cohesive team. We need to know the brother beside us. I always say, if you can’t trust the person next to you, then you won’t be willing to play your heart out for them. I take that to full effect.

The skull sessions will be really great because, you know, we’re physically talented, but we need to make sure we’re mentally talented as well. I think these skull sessions and all this mentality will put us up to the next level.

Q. Looking back, how different do you think the outcome of that Florida game would have been if you’d been available and JT had played? And what is JT going to bring to that position this year?

JORDAN DAVIS: I can’t really say for sure. It’s what ifs, and we can’t really look back on it. I always love the opportunity to play in Jacksonville, definitely missed it, but we can only focus on what’s going on to the next season.

Definitely, if I’m able and healthy, then I will definitely play my heart out against them because, after all, it’s a game, it’s another game that we’ve got to play.

Florida is always an exciting time, especially playing in the Jacksonville stadium at neutral ground. I’m definitely ready for that part of the season.

Q. You being from Charlotte, how much did that first game of this coming season factor into your decision to come back, and how much are you sort of looking forward to playing Clemson in that first game?

JORDAN DAVIS: The game at all didn’t factor in my decision coming back. It was more so the team. But it’s definitely exciting, especially being a Charlotte native. I just want to be able to show the city what I can do. I want to be somebody they can brag about in the city: This kid’s from Charlotte. He went to Georgia. He can do it.

So I want to be an inspiration for the kids not only at my high school, but the high schools around the Charlotte area.

Q. On that Clemson game again, it’s a big-time matchup. That’s a team you all could see in the College Football Playoff if you all reach your goals again this year. Just going in the off-season, having a big game like that, does it give you extra motivation going into the season? And adding Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick, do you think that’s going to help you all in your preparation?

JORDAN DAVIS: It’s great to have D.K. here. He’s definitely well acclimated to the culture. Honestly, we treat every game the same. The same level of preparation we have for Clemson is the same level of preparation we’ll have for Georgia Tech and UAB. It doesn’t matter really who we’re playing, it just matters what we do. And at the end of the day, we want to make sure we do enough to win.

Q. I was wondering what your take is on the name, image, and likeness that the players are able to take advantage of, and do you have some stuff lined up right now?

JORDAN DAVIS: Definitely. I definitely think the NIL thing is a great addition to the NCAA. It gives us an opportunity to use our platform for profit, but in terms of me, I haven’t touched it. I’m confused by it, honestly. It’s a lot. But, yeah, I haven’t really done anything. My main focus is just playing because you can’t get an NIL deal if you’re not good at football. So the main focus is just playing football.

Definitely, if you have an opportunity, definitely go for it. I’m all for it.

Q. Jordan, of course, you decided to come back again, and Kirby talked about it earlier today about the different things that played a role outside of just going to the NFL and just getting that big contract. What were some of those things that you considered? And what were some of the advice that you got that maybe you’ll give to others when it’s their time to decide?

JORDAN DAVIS: Going through that process, I had to do a lot of thinking, but it was a relatively easy decision. I felt like I left a lot on the table. I wanted to make sure that I could improve as a player. Not only as a player, but as a person. I love Coach Scott like an uncle. Leaving him and leaving his team was going to be hard for me. I just wanted to savor the moment because I feel like I didn’t really savor my last season or past seasons because I was so rushed.

I feel like this time around I’m really taking my time this season and savoring the moment and enjoying and being grateful for the moment because not a lot of people can be in this position.

Q. To follow up on Bob’s question earlier about NIL, just how do you foresee in the locker room players balancing, trying to build their brand and their own social media presence with trying to stay on an equal footing with one another?

JORDAN DAVIS: I can only speak for myself. I can’t speak for others. Me personally, I’m not really too big on social media. Like I literally got back on just for this event. I definitely think that it does have some influence, but I feel like our culture in Georgia is we want to keep the main thing. The main thing is something that we always go back to, and it’s more than NIL. We want to play. We want to ball. We want to win.

So I definitely think that the team would lock in today, understand that there’s a time and place for everything. There’s a time to expand your business, expand your brand, and there’s a time to play football. So I definitely think that we have that decision to do that.

Q. I’m also from around the Charlotte area. I went to Olympic High School.

JORDAN DAVIS: You went where?

Q. I went to Olympic High School.

JORDAN DAVIS: Yes, sir.

Q. I know Mallard Creek is a pretty big school there football-wise. One, how did that prepare to you play in the SEC, and what are some of the linemen in the SEC that you have to be mindful of this season?

JORDAN DAVIS: Definitely Mallard Creek in high school was definitely hard, but I think it was hard for a reason because our coaches knew what would be at the next level and what it took to get there.

Honestly, the only person I’m looking forward to playing is my old high school teammate Eric Douglas. I didn’t get a chance to play against South Carolina last year, but Eric Douglas is a great player. I have tremendous respect for him. I’m really excited to play against him because we went to the same school, so I’m really excited to get back out there and just be able to go against him, see how good he got and see how well I got.

Q. Kirby said that with the name, image, and likeness stuff, he got a text from Quavo saying don’t be thirsty. What are your thoughts on the head coach kind of having that relationship with someone? And what kind of advice do you think is important to keep in mind throughout this process?

JORDAN DAVIS: I think definitely him and Quavo having a connection is cool, but I don’t think Kirby could name a song that Quavo has been on. Just having that connection is nice. The fact that Quavo was talking about NIL just shows you how tremendous this thing is and how easy it is to get deterred from the main goal.

Everybody, every fan in Dawg Nation wants us to win, but you just have to — you know, he was right in saying that. You have to keep the main thing the main thing. You don’t want to be too thirsty for these deals where you pass up or miss out or slip up during the season.

Q. Kirby Smart talked about you’ve been up to 370 and down to 330 on weight. What’s an optimum weight you like to play at, and what are some of the personal goals you have for yourself this season?

JORDAN DAVIS: Honestly, I’ve been working with Collier, our nutritionist, and we haven’t even been talking about weight, we’ve been talking about body fat content, or BMI, BMI index. We have this little bio-pod (phonetic) thing we do every two weeks, biweekly. Definitely, the weight, I’m trying to keep control of it. I’m doing more things. I’m drinking smoothies. I’m drinking vegetables. I hate vegetables, but I put them in a smoothie and drink them.

I definitely think it’s a real big impact this off-season because I feel myself more energy, being able to sustain more. When you can sustain more, then you can play more. So hopefully, that will translate down the road in the season.

Q. I’ll follow up on the whole nutrition thing with Collier and all that. What type of dedication did it take personally, I guess, for you to say, okay, I’m going to go into the nutrition room as often as I do, I’m going to achieve all these goals I have in order to get to the condition and the body weight that you thought was optimal?

JORDAN DAVIS: I would say just being honest with myself and just be like, I don’t really need this. I’m a guy who will stay up late. I stay up, I play video games, I make beats. I’m a snacker. So I’ll go in the kitchen and grab Swedish Fish, some Nerds Ropes. I have to switch that. They have organic Swedish Fish that I’m really starting to like. That definitely helps out. I don’t feel guilty when I eat it as when I eat the regular ones.

Just doing the right things. I have people in my circle that helps me motivate myself and helps me motivate them. I want to be not only healthy for football, I want to be healthy for life. So that’s one thing that I’m keeping in mind.

Q. So with everything that went on last year — no spring practice, no off-season practices or anything like that — how did it feel to finally get a full off-season in and be ready to go for the upcoming year?

JORDAN DAVIS: I definitely missed spring. That was definitely a big miss, and we missed a pretty good chunk of the summer, but just getting back, that was the more important thing because my home is in Athens. I moved out of Charlotte. And just like driving around in Athens, it seemed like a ghost town. Everybody was just inside. I only saw — I lived at the dorm at the time, and I only saw two people over the course of quarantine since everybody got back. It was just hard.

But it makes you appreciate the times that we have now and that things are getting better and that we’re even able to have this event because last year we didn’t have this. Did we have this last year? I don’t think we did. It just gives me a grateful feeling. I have to really sit back and be like, you know, I’m really grateful for this opportunity and I’m really grateful that things are getting back to normal because we’re able to have a normal season.

Q. Jordan, you seem like a funny, outgoing person, and you seem to have that chemistry along with your defensive line and teammates. My question is who or which one of your teammates pushed you a lot to not only just be yourself but also to just (indiscernible) the defensive side of the ball?

JORDAN DAVIS: I would say my right-hand man is Devonte Wyatt. Me and Vonte, we get into shenanigans together. It’s like having an older brother that I didn’t have at the time. It’s a different type of love for Vonte. I love that man like a brother. He pushes me to be the best. He pushes me to be better than who I am. He’s also a kid that I could kick back and have fun with. It helps have that balance.

Football is long. The season’s long. When you have no off-season, it really burns you out. When you can have a breath of fresh air like Vonte and the other D-line too, I can’t forget about them. All of us are funny. But just to have them together and to have them with me is really refreshing. I go into football, and I have fun every day. So that’s one thing that I really appreciate from this unit that we got.

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Coach Kirby Smart Press Conference #SECMD21

COMMISSIONER SANKEY: Good morning. Welcome to day two of SEC Football Media Days, the 2021 version. I do want to say thank you to our friends at Regions Bank for their support of our activities this week.

It’s my privilege to introduce Kirby Smart, who enters his sixth season as the head football coach at Georgia. He’s guided University of Georgia to four consecutive New Year’s Six games. He has been involved with his family in raising funds and contributing to charities in the Athens area, including the Clark County Children’s Home, Boys & Girls Club, the Downtown Academy.

Kirby and Mary Beth were front and center back in March in Greenville, South Carolina, for the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game, supporting the Georgia Bulldogs, who played University of South Carolina that day for the SEC Tournament championship.

Kirby began his summer at the Regions Pro-Am in a foursome with me. I would take whatever he says about my game of golf with a grain of salt because it’s the last time I touched my golf clubs all summer.

It’s my privilege again to introduce the head coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs, Kirby Smart.

KIRBY SMART: Thank you, Commissioner Sankey, for those kind words. And I will say, since he brought it up, he is a mighty fine golfer. He poor mouths better than coaches do, and his drives are longer than some of the pros we played with and straighter. I was very impressed with his golf game in Birmingham.

Commissioner Sankey does a great job leading this conference. He doesn’t need me to say that, but I appreciate the leadership, especially navigating what we’ve navigated in the past 15 to 16 months. He’s been incredible. He’s got 14 head coaches in football that all are pulling in different directions, and he manages that with the best of them. He’s tremendous. I learned a lot of leadership from him. He’s been great.

I’d also like to thank our SEC medical task force, the people who give their time — I wish that somebody would do an article on the amount of time that Ron Courson, our athletic trainer, who does a tremendous job, he’s the head of the SEC medical task force, he spent on Zoom in the past year. He is relentless. He’s in constant pursuit of finding a better way of helping us have the season we had last year and also moving forward into this year. So their staff’s done a tremendous job.

The leadership at UGA that I get to work under, President Morehead, Greg McGarity, who’s now done, and Josh Brooks, who’s incredible, they’re great leaders. They’re great people. They’ve done a wonderful job making it easy to be the head coach at the University of Georgia, and I appreciate what I’ve done for us.

Also, I would like to mention this will be the 50th anniversary season at the University of Georgia for our first five African American football players that enrolled. So we’re going to have an opportunity to honor those men. They came and spoke to our team. They did a wonderful job when they came and saw them — Horace King, Clarence Pope, Larry West, Richard Appleby, and Chuck Kinnebrew. Those five men will be recognized for what they’ve done, being trailblazers. They were incredible when they came and spoke to the team, and I really enjoyed getting to meet those guys, and we look forward to honoring them at a home game this fall.

There’s also a loyal Dawg fan and UGA grad I’d like to send well wishes to. She also happens to be part of my family, my sister-in-law, Annie Lycett Toothaker (phonetic), and she’s beginning her battle with breast cancer starting this Friday. We wish Annie the best, and we love you, Annie, and we can’t wait to see you beat this tough battle.

With that said, on a lighter side, I’d like to share a quick story from the off-season that I got to experience with my kids. I don’t think enough people really acknowledge the time that coaches spend recruiting, especially this June. I don’t think we had one day in June that we didn’t have somebody come visit our campus when it was permissible. So it was constant, and they came, and people came from all over, and our staff answered the bell and hosted a lot of prospects coming out of the COVID time and did a wonderful job.

I was able to spend a lot of time in July with my family and wanted to share a quick story. I have three kids that all play different sports. So I get to spend time with my daughter, Julia, at AAU basketball. We travel all over and get to watch her play. Then I get to watch my son Weston play tennis, and I spent four nights recently in Rome with some rainouts watching USTA tennis. Then my son Andrew playing baseball, we get to go around and travel.

Quick story. When we go to Augusta for five straight days of All-Star baseball, five days of one-game-a-day baseball, I take my other two, Julia and Weston, to a restaurant. We get to eat there at a fancy little hamburger place in Augusta. Several people come over and want autographs. I get to give a couple autographs as being a head coach in the SEC. I held a baby, took a picture, did several autographs with young men.

And I had an elderly lady come over to our table and say, You must be somebody famous. I said, No, ma’am, I certainly don’t think so. She said, Are you a professional golfer? I said, No, ma’am, I’m not. You’re thinking Augusta, right? Then she said, Are you a NASCAR driver? I said, no, ma’am, I’m not.

By now, my kids are kind of giggling, and the last one she said, Are you a track star? And my daughter almost spit out her food and just thought it was hilarious, and at this point, I said, No, ma’am, I coach football at the University of Georgia.

I always say humility is a week away, so it was pretty humbling to have the elderly lady accuse me of being a NASCAR driver, golfer, and also a track star, which couldn’t be anything further from the truth.

But I got to spend a lot of time with my kids. That’s what it’s all about to me, being with those children, being able to watch them play their sports. That’s my passion. That’s what I do in my free time when I’m not getting to recruit. It’s big I got to do that. It’s also important that our players see us as coaches, as real men and fathers.

The two young men we were able to bring today, man, I’m excited. Everybody is always excited about their guys, but if you get an opportunity, you won’t find a better interview than Jordan Davis. Jordan Davis is from North Carolina. He’s a religion major. He’s a big man. He’s been upwards of 370 before. He’s been down around 330. We encourage him to be closer to 330. But he has been a big part of our defense. One of the number one reasons we’ve been able to stop the run and be one of the top defenses in the country at stopping the run is because of Jordan Davis.

But he’s a lot better person than he is a player. His mother, we recruited, and she’s a great lady. To have him here representing the University of Georgia today, please spend time with him and ask questions. He’s very intellectual and fun to be around, and he’s a great personality.

And then JT Daniels, a product of transfer portal that came to us last year, has worked his tail off, very humble, hardworking, diligent, a film guy, a guy that studies film as hard as anybody. Todd Monken and our offensive staff have done a tremendous job with JT and continue to do that to grow him as a player.

So I’m excited to have those guys here. He’s a psych and sociology major as well. So those guys will be here to talk to you today.

We’ve got a new football facility I want to brag on. It wouldn’t be possible without our administration and fan support, but it’s incredible. Brand-new, largest weight room in the country, new locker room, new coaches offices, new training room. And I kid Ron Courson all the time, he’s the best in the country at being an athletic trainer, but he’s also the best in the country at acquiring square footage because he has the largest athletic training facility that I’ve ever seen, and he’s done an incredible job with our players, their rehab.

For you guys that don’t know, most of our pro players now come back to work out and train with us. So they’ve got an unbelievable facility with which Ron can treat guys medically, and we’re ahead of the game when it comes to that. So I’m excited about that.

I could sit here and brag and talk about the things that Greg talked about, four straight New Year’s Six bowl games. We’ll have the most players playing in a postseason this year graduated than we ever have. We’ve got 29 players drafted over the last four years, nine last year, was the most we’ve ever had.

There’s a lot of things that I could brag on and you guys could print, but the one thing I want to drive home being up here, it’s so important to me the messaging that you understand: Our players collectively came together last year during a lot of the social inequities and injustices across the country, and they wanted to have a team meeting. They wanted to bring about change. They wanted to be agents of change.

One of the things that spawned from this meeting was I kept preaching I want some action. I don’t want it just to be words. I just don’t want it to be lip service. I want some form of action. And a group of our players said, let’s form a group named Dawgs for Pups. Cortez Hankton and Courtney Gay have headed up that group, Dawgs for Pups, and they have been phenomenal in our community.

A couple things they’ve done I want to really hit home. They’ve raised over $100,000 for Wi-Fi in the Athens/Clark County area so that every child will have an opportunity to do online learning throughout the last year. A lot of kids at home don’t have Wi-Fi, don’t have that capacity. Our players did that, not anybody else, not the coaches, nobody made them do it. They chose to do it. They had a food drive, where they raised over 30,000 pounds of snacks and food for local community shelters and also kids in schools. They also raised $100,000 for Downtown Academy, which Greg mentioned, which underprivileged kids get to go to that school.

And they continue to work today — when we left last week, they were going out and read to 13 of the 14 elementary schools across Clark County, promoting reading to these children.

So all those accolades, all the great things we’ve been able to do at the University of Georgia, the thing I’m most proud of is what Dawgs for Pups are doing. It’s a nationally recognized grassroots initiative that Cortez and Courtney have headed up, spearheaded. And that’s one of the positive things that’s come out of the conversations we were able to have last year and meaningful things we were able to do. I’m very proud of what those young men have done and continue to do.

NIL. I’m going to talk about NIL without you guys raising the question because I think it’s important to understand. Our young men in the sport of football, in all athletics really, and student-athletes, are getting an opportunity that has not been afforded to anyone before them.

You think back to the likes of a Hines Ward or a Champ Bailey at the University of Georgia, an A.J. Green, a Todd Gurley, what they would have been able to do with NIL.

These young men and women have earned this opportunity. We are so excited for them. The opportunities are really limitless.

I don’t think personally that it’s going to blow up college football or change anything substantially. What we have really been focused on is the education of our student-athletes. You are now putting on 18 to 21, 22-year-olds tremendous time demands. They already have time management between being a student, being an athlete, and doing everything we ask them to do, and now they have extra demands placed on them.

We also have been very educating in selection process of what they choose to do. I think that’s one of the key ingredients. I got a text from Quavo, who’s an avid Georgia fan. A lot of people in this room probably don’t know who Quavo is. The first text I got was two weeks after NIL started, and he said, Coach, please tell the players be selective who they put their brand with. Don’t just do anything. He used the term “thirsty.” Don’t be thirsty. Be selective in what you do, selective in how you handle your branding. You’ve got tax issues now you’ve got to deal with.

There’s a lot of education that we’re doing in house to make this an advantage for our young men, and that’s something that we continue to drive home with our players, and they understand.

We’ve got two young men today that are here, one has NIL deals, one that doesn’t, and that’s by their choice. We know there may be inequities within positions and things, but our team is very confident that we will manage that, and that will not be a distraction during our off-season, and I’m excited to see them handle that.

Expectations. That’s the next one. I’ve got a quote for you here that really drives home what we think about expectations at University of Georgia. Success comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. Say that again. Success comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. That’s Henry David Thoreau. For me, that’s it. I’m too busy working. I’m too busy trying to do the next thing. I’m too busy trying to take the next step to give our team a competitive advantage to really worry about expectations. That’s you guys’ question today, that’s usually what people want to know about, but for me, I’m too busy working to worry about that.

We want our team to think the same way. We’ve taken a very introspective look this year after the season last year. We did a lot of surveys, a lot of talking to our players, and one of the key words, the biggest thing came out is connection. When you’re on a Zoom with somebody, it’s hard to have a connection. When you’re not allowed to sit within six feet of somebody, it’s hard to have a connection. We had some players that didn’t get to meet and know everybody on the team throughout the season because so much was done through Zoom and different methods of communication.

So connection is one of the key ingredients for this team. We have been very intentional about it. We’ve given up football time. We’ve given up workout time to spend more time with each other, and that’s beginning to pay off as we see it here in the summer with guys leading, guys getting in front of the group and leading skill sessions and being very active.

So I’m excited about that part. Proud of the expectations for this team. Our team doesn’t back down from those expectations.

Then the next topic I’d like to hit on is vaccinations. Our roster is over 85 percent. So our group there is over 85 percent, and we’re proud of that, but we’re not stopping there. It’s not about a number. It’s not about a threshold. I think everybody wants to write who’s over and who’s under. What it’s really about is being able to save our season, being able to keep our players safe. We want to keep our players safe. We want to keep our coaches and staff safe. We want to keep our family members safe, and that comes through vaccinations.

I share quickly and briefly with you one of the key ingredients. We had each of our coaches stand up, the guys that got vaccinated, and said, hey, why did you get vaccinated? Dell McGee, one of our African American coaches and running back coach, did a tremendous job. It moved me to hear him speak to our team and say, Guys, I’m from the same community you are. I got my vaccine for three reasons. Primary reason, I want to spend time around my family. He wants to spend time around his dad, his father. He wants to be around his family and be safe to do that. That’s the primary reason he got it.

Second reason, he wanted to be a pillar in the community. He wanted to be a representative in the community. He wanted to show the people in his community where he’s from, that it’s safe and be a role model to do it.

And the third, probably most important, is he had had COVID before, and I didn’t want to go through it again. For our players to hear that coming from Dell McGee, that was very impactful.

And Ron Courson and his staff have done a tremendous job — I know I keep mentioning Ron Courson, but over last year, he is the MVP because we are where we are and we are moving forward — because we’re not stopping just because you get over 85 percent. We’re trying to keep our team safe, keep our team at a competitive advantage so that we don’t lose playing time with our players.

With that, I’ll open it up for questions. I know I didn’t talk much about the depth charts and the team, but I know you guys will ask those questions.

Q. Through your introspection and self-evaluation of last season, where do you need to be better to win the East this year?

KIRBY SMART: We need to be better everywhere. It starts with what we do. But the introspection was for us to find maybe a different way to do things and hear a different voice, and we’ve done that.

The weekly meetings that we’ve had, that we’ve drawn time away from football, have been incredible. The gains we received in players being able to confront each other. It’s easy to say the guy’s not doing his job, to demand him to do it right, but it’s hard when you have a unified group pulling the same direction to be the outlier.

We’ve tried to make that more difficult through our introspection and through our meetings and through our growth as a team. I’m just excited to see the dividends of that in fall camp of where we can go and where we can get better.

Q. Do you think that for the elite players, the guys that are headed to the NFL, that the name, image, and likeness opportunities can benefit them as a way to expose them to the business side of football before they get to the NFL where it’s even more of a business?

KIRBY SMART: Yes and no. Definitely, that experience can be valuable for them, but they probably are the ones that have to be the most careful with brand selection because, if your identity becomes the lowest on the totem pole just to get $200, $300, that’s not going to be real good branding when you get the opportunity to go to the NFL.

Those guys probably need it the least although they’re the most valuable, the face of the organization, the high draft pick, they need to be the most selective because what you brand yourself with doesn’t change.

Q. In the past, you’ve said you only want to use the transfer portal on a need basis, so what needs do the three guys that you did bring in — Arik Gilbert, Tykee Smith, and Derion Kendrick — help fill?

KIRBY SMART: Well, the first two, the defensive backs, we’re under our scholarship quota of defensive backs. We had two guys come out early, two guys come out of the portal. We’re at a deficit just from scholarship numbers, not to mention experience. Those two guys bring an immense amount of experience.

With Arik, anytime you can get a skill player that can do things with the ball, you’re always looking to be dynamic. You look at teams that have won the National Championship recently, they’re most dynamic on offense and at the skill positions.

Q. To kind of continue the thought you just said about the dynamism on offense, the last handful of title winners, we’ve really seen quarterbacks who have been able to stretch the field and have really played at an elite highest level in the sport. Do you think JT has that type of arm talent to be comparable to those guys? Where do you need to see him grow to get there?

KIRBY SMART: Absolutely, he has that arm talent. Actually, I don’t think that arm talent is the number one quality for being a great quarterback. There’s a lot that goes into being an elite quarterback.

The two guys that were the last two years’ national champions, they were really good quarterbacks. They were great decision makers. They were actually better athletes that people give them credit for. The decision-making process, touchdown-to-interception ratio, protecting the ball, using your playmakers, which both had really good playmakers around them, JT has those skill sets. Coach Monken has that experience doing it in the NFL. With Tampa Bay, they led the league in passing. We have the recipe for those things.

We’ve got to stay healthy, we’ve got to protect the quarterback, and we’ve got to find more skill players to make plays for us.

Q. I was wondering if you could tell me the story of how you became to have the cell phone number of Quavo. Secondly, another question, the NIL, how has that changed recruiting so far, and have you seen a trickle-down effect to high school?

KIRBY SMART: Haven’t seen a trickle-down effect to high school. Has it affected recruiting? It’s a discussion — how has it affected recruiting? I don’t think it’s impacted recruiting, especially when you talk about SEC to SEC recruiting. We’re under certain parameters, so it doesn’t make for a competitive advantage.

The biggest concern, and I think Commissioner Sankey hit on it yesterday, is federal legislation would be nice because, if you looked and you combed across the country, not everybody’s playing by the same rules. In other words, some schools are allowed to arrange deals. Some schools are not allowed to arrange deals.

In the SEC, our footprint has been very simplified, and it’s the competitive balance is there. So there’s not a distinct advantage. That’s not necessarily true across the country.

So it has not affected recruiting in a grand way. Does that change as more deals come out? Possibly.

As far as Quavo, that started back around the playoff run, National Championship run, he reached out, communicated through a couple of our players. He’s come and spoke to our team before. I have a lot of cell phone numbers in my phone.

Q. Can you just talk about the importance of having a spring practice in a summer when the team has really formed as opposed to kind of last year with the craziness of not having the whole team be able to go through a full spring and a summer to bring the group together.

KIRBY SMART: I can’t even put that into words. I think the biggest difference is spring practice. Having spring practice and the summer workout program that is traditional, in terms of conditioning, getting yourself ready for the heat, we didn’t even have that last year. So you can’t even put a measurement on that, not to mention a new quarterback with a new coordinator. So it was extremely different.

You don’t appreciate spring practice until you don’t have it, let’s just say that. A lot of states in the United States don’t have spring practice for their high school programs, so the development of those young men is impacted.

The footprint of the SEC, almost every state has spring practice, and you can see why in the roster that we have, with the young guys who have been impacted of having a spring practice. I’m talking about mid-years and players last year that didn’t get it.

Q. Sort of speaking on that spring practice thing, how have you seen the relationship between JT and Todd Monken grow in this somewhat normal off-season? And how critical is that relationship, especially between a quarterback and an offensive coordinator?

KIRBY SMART: It’s the biggest relationship there is because it’s not a set of positions. Every other position has multiple starters, different guys that play. At quarterback, it’s not typically that way. Whoever your starting quarterback is, he has to have direct communication.

You treat a quarterback differently at times. You give him lines of communication to tell you things he likes and doesn’t like, and they have it. Todd does a great job speaking with JT, and JT understands what he likes to do. JT does a great job of making sure that he’s keeping skill players accountable for what they have to do and demanding excellence.

I appreciate the thought that JT puts into the game plan. I appreciate the thought that he puts into the guys playing positions around him. That shows he’s a true quarterback and a true leader.

Q. I want to ask about Mike Bobo. Just what’s that relationship been like going back to y’all’s playing days together, and what do you think Auburn is getting in having him be offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach?

KIRBY SMART: Mike and I go way back. Both of our fathers were high school coaches and crosstown rivals. We grew up competing against each other and then got to live together in college.

He’s a dear friend. Close to their family. Excited for him to be back in the SEC. I think he makes the SEC a better conference. Glad to get him back this way.

Q. Obviously, Shane Beamer was on your staff for a couple of years. What do you remember most about Shane as an assistant and working with you? And now seeing him on the head coaching stage as well, what comes to mind, and what is that like to see?

KIRBY SMART: The preparation he puts into special teams, tight ends play, whatever he’s in charge of, he spends a lot of time and takes a lot of pride in the performance. That’s what successful people do. They take a lot of pride in their performance. They want it to be right.

I like to think it’s a demanding place that we work at, and he did a tremendous job meeting those demands.

Q. Kirby, can you explain kind of the back story of Jordan Davis deciding to come back to school. I think there’s a lot of people who watched the Peach Bowl and assumed, after the performance he had, that he would go off to the NFL.

KIRBY SMART: It’s not a big back story. We have a process we go through of educating our players. We get them information. Jordan was very deliberate about “I want to get information, Coach. I’m not making a decision prior to.” In this day and age, I don’t know that that happens all the time. I think a lot of kids make their mind up, it’s a predetermined decision, and he didn’t do it that way.

He’s got wonderful guidance at home. His mom, Miss Shay, that’s his why. Tray Scott has done a wonderful job with his relationship with Jordan. Jordan wanted to graduate. It’s really important to him that he graduates. He wanted to have a better season. He wanted the opportunity to do what so many SEC players have been able to do, to move up, and a lot of times the financial reward for moving up is greater than going right where he is.

He enjoys the college game. I think he’s excited about playing in Charlotte. He gets to go back to his hometown and open the season there.

Q. Kirby, I wanted to follow up on Derion Kendrick. How did the opportunity for you to add him come about? I know obviously he hasn’t been on campus too long, but what’s the significance of adding an all ACC player like that, as you said, in a secondary that didn’t even have the scholarship quota?

KIRBY SMART: D.K. is a kid that we knew through recruiting. We recruited him at University of Georgia, but Coach Muschamp also recruited him at South Carolina. Both of us felt like we had a good feel for his family and his dynamic there. He’s a young man that comes from a program that’s been very successful. He’s played and had a lot of experience.

When you look at what the portal took away from us and we lost, we were able to gain as well. I think that’s an interesting situation when you look across the board at what’s going to happen to the future of college football, whether it be NIL, combination of portal, of the haves and have nots, and that line of parity separating even more because we were able to get a guy that had a lot of great experience playing, and we needed someone at that position, having lost four DBs. They all got drafted. It was a dynamic situation we had to replace.

Q. Demetrius Robertson headed over to Auburn. What are they getting out of him as a player, and are you looking forward to seeing him again during the season?

KIRBY SMART: D. Rob is a tremendous young man. He’s a kid that I feel like I’ve known — I mean, I can go all the way back to the years at Alabama when we were recruiting D. Rob as a young player. Then I come to Georgia, continue to recruit him, don’t get him, get him by transfer, and now he’s going to graduate this summer and be able to go to Auburn.

I’m so excited for D. Rob because he’s a great young man. This young man did everything the right way. He’s got a lot of speed. He’s a vertical threat. I know Bobo and those guys at Auburn are excited to get him.

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JT Daniels Interview #SECMD21

THE MODERATOR: We have JT Daniels. Ask him to make an opening comment about his excitement over the season. Going into 2021, what are you looking forward to heading into the season?

JT DANIELS: In general, I think we’ve done a great job as a team and how we’ve approached the off-season and how much importance we put on our core DNA and our team beliefs and really setting a standard for how we are and who we are, and I really think that’s going to help prepare us for a good 2021 season.

Q. I want to ask about Demetrius Robertson. I know he’s coming over to Auburn. Just what is Auburn getting in being able to add a guy like that?

JT DANIELS: A good friend of mine and a great player. I can’t say enough good about D. Rob. Since he’s been here, he and I have been good friends and really close. He’s a good person, a great player. We wish — I don’t think anybody at Georgia will tell you anything other than we wish the best for him.

Q. JT, what would you say is your biggest strength heading into the 2021 season?

JT DANIELS: In terms of as a player?

Q. Yes.

JT DANIELS: I’d say my biggest strength is understanding my role of being the primary distributor, like that is my job. I’m okay with the ball in my hands, but like James Cook is really good with the ball in his hands, George Pickens is really good with the ball in his hands. We have a lot of players that, when they have the ball in the right situation, do a lot of really good things.

My strength and what I do is being able to read the defense and determine the best place for the ball to go that’s going to help us move the chains and score points.

Q. Obviously, you went through the transfer process last year. Have you shared any advice to the guys that are going through it this year about kind of getting used to a new situation?

JT DANIELS: I really haven’t had to. I’ll be honest, when I transferred in, it wasn’t difficult. There was no hazing process. Like I came in, and people are like who’s this guy? People are like, what’s up? I think there’s a lot of like-minded people when you transfer from a high performing school to another high performing school, like people just take you in and like start playing. Let’s compete.

Q. How is your connection and the chemistry been going with Arik Gilbert so far this summer?

JT DANIELS: It just keeps developing. I’ve been asked more about Arik more than anything else today, and I keep saying the same thing. He is — like there are players who have great talent and like football, and then there’s guys like Arik who have great talent and love football.

He takes the time to — he spends time with coaches, like hours with coaches, to learn a brand-new system, learn the signals, learn how specifically we run routes and how specifically, as receivers and tight ends, they read defenses. He’s a weekend worker. He does a lot of the things that really impress you regardless of his talent level, and then you add that to the level of talent he brings, and he’s a special player.

Q. JT, how difficult was it watching that Florida game and not being able to help? And also, coming from Southern California, do you feel like you fully appreciate the nature of that rivalry?

JT DANIELS: So watching the game, I mean, it’s tough because you lose and you lose to a rival because like nobody wants to lose and nobody wants to lose to a rival. I think it’s about as simple and cut and dry as that, in terms of that.

Then I think you hit a good point. Being from Southern Cal, I had not talked to Coach Smart until I hit the portal. I was not recruited by Georgia in high school. So understanding the true — I didn’t grow up in Georgia where I had the true Georgia-Florida rivalry ingrained. I think Florida is a great team and I have a lot of respect, but that’s a game that you circle. There are games that you circle, and that’s a big game.

Q. You all open up with Clemson. They’ve obviously been to the playoff upteen years in a row, won a lot of titles. If you all reach your goals, that’s a team you might play at the end of the year. What’s the process of going into that game. I know you and DJ Uiagalelei are from the same area. Did you ever go against him in high school?

JT DANIELS: DJ and I played against each other twice in high school. We were each other’s rivals. I was in my last year when he was a sophomore. His first high school start, I’m almost positive, was against me. DJ and I are good friends. I like DJ a lot, a really good player and a really good person.

In terms of the Clemson game, obviously, it’s a huge game. It’s Clemson-Georgia, it’s two really good teams. But I think the biggest thing for us as a team, as much as we get hyped for it, because it’s Georgia-Clemson, it’s a Week 1 game. You can win Week 1, you can beat Clemson by 100 and have a terrible season, you could lose to Clemson by 100 and have a great rest of the season.

I think it’s important to keep in perspective that all it is is the week one game. As fun as it is competing against a really great team, let week one be week one.

Q. I want to expand a little bit on your talk with Arik Gilbert earlier. Maybe just the year two jump overall with your receiving corps. You’ve got a lot of guys stepping into bigger roles. You’ve got newcomers, obviously. A lot of times we see the year two jump with passing games, especially in recent history. Do you see a lot of improvements, bigger expectations for yourself here in year two?

JT DANIELS: You definitely do. It’s natural. Everybody that played against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl is here, plus some newcomers, and we’ve had a whole spring, as opposed to last year. There’s just been a lot of time and energy put into building that rapport. So I would, of course, expect it to keep progressing week by week, year by year to get better and better and better. Yeah, I agree.

Q. A lot of the agents who are helping players get NIL deals feel like the relationship they’re building can help them get that player for NFL representation later on. Do you see it that way? Or for you, will that be like a completely separate decision?

JT DANIELS: I suppose like it could be, I guess if you build that good connection during NIL. I think for me and really a lot of guys that I’ve talked to, being that it came out July 1, it makes it pretty difficult to do anything for it. Like for me, season mode kicks in June 1, when you come back from your May break because that May break is the only time you have off for the rest of the year. Like I won’t leave Athens unless it’s an away game really until after the season.

So we’re fully in season mode. I wish I could give you more about NIL, but it’s just not a huge focus for really a lot of people that I’ve talked to.

Q. As a transfer yourself and just the proliferation of the transfer portal, Georgia’s been able to really kind of dominate the portal in getting former five star guys. How important do you think that is to being able to compete for a championship this season nationally, but also why Georgia for all these guys, do you think?

JT DANIELS: It’s really difficult to beat Georgia. Like when Georgia called me right away, I’m like that’s a top five team, it’s a great school, it’s a great staff, they have great players. Like what bad can you say about it? What can you say is a reason that I wouldn’t go there? I can’t find any. So I think that definitely helps.

I think Coach Smart is — he’s the hardest worker you’ll meet. So any chance that he can get to give us an edge to win games, he’s going to do. So I think those two are some reasons I would contribute to Georgia being prominent in the transfer portal.

Then in terms of transferring in general, it’s just kind of the nature of the game as it is now. You either choose to play it or you choose to not, but I think when you get guys like Arik and you just get — there’s so many good players like Tykee and Derion Kendrick, like you get a lot of great players in the transfer portal that come and compete and are great people, I don’t see why you wouldn’t take advantage of it.

Q. Can you speak on your time with Velus Jones at USC and just any connection you’ve been able to maintain with them through your time at Georgia.

JT DANIELS: I’ve been trying to see him. I heard he’s coming in around the same time I am. Velus and I are really good friends. So when I was going into my freshman year — I graduated a whole year early, so I didn’t get to do spring. During that spring period going into USC, I would come up to USC and spend the weekend or spend almost the whole week there to watch spring practice and try and learn, and I stayed with Velus. So like Velus and I have been really good friends since I was 17.

So he’s just a really good guy. I’m pumped to see him succeeding back in the South where he’s from, having a good time.

Q. What sense do you have for the longing at Georgia to win a championship again? And what happened on the trip to California with the receivers? Who put that together? What did you get accomplished? That sort of thing.

JT DANIELS: In terms of a championship, every team wants to win the National Championship every year, but for us, it’s not the way that we go about being the best team we can is we have goals we want to achieve.

But we’re focused on the week to week, the day to day in terms of appreciating what we get to do and in terms of really building our core DNA and our standard that’s ingrained in us, and it’s something that we think is going to be a competitive edge for us.

In terms of my California trip, I took a bunch of my receivers out to California. A lot of them hadn’t been there. That’s where I’m from. I wanted to show them around, just spent ten days out there, had a good time.

Q. I know you’re friends with Bryce Young. Just what are you expecting from him this season? Also, what does it say about the presence of southern California players with you, Bryce, and Matt?

JT DANIELS: Yeah, from that area, from like a probably 40, 50-mile area, you got C.J. Stroud at Ohio State, Matt at Ole Miss, Bryce, DJ — there’s a lot of guys from that area. Just a really good couple of classes, I guess.

But in terms of Bryce, he’s a stud. He’s a star player. When I had left Mater Dei, and they got Bryce, I had known Bryce since he was an eighth grader, I was a seventh grader. I knew back then that he was a special player. Honestly, when Mater Dei got him, I was excited. I told MaxPreps that he would be the best quarterback in the country by the time he was a junior in high school because I’d seen him play and I think he’s a really good player. I expect a lot of success for Bryce.

Q. JT, I know I talked to you around last year at the Peach Bowl and you talked about when you first came to UGA you were just on campus, hadn’t figured things out. My question is how has your relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Monken been since you’ve been at UGA, just in comparison to last season? And how do you embrace the challenge of the experts, quote/unquote, ranking you all one of the top offenses in the SEC in the country?

JT DANIELS: So in terms of Monken, ever since his first call with me, like we’ve had — we see the game the same way, which is hugely important between your offensive coordinator and your quarterback. It’s a relationship building that’s arguably one of the most important.

I think he’s a really good guy, he genuinely cares about the kids. It’s hard to knock Monken on anything really. We’ve always had a good connection.

What was the second question?

Q. How do you embrace the challenge of having the top offense in the SEC and the nation?

JT DANIELS: The preseason rankings are what they are. We don’t have any say over them. It’s cool when they say you’re good. It’s cool when they say you suck. It really doesn’t matter either way. You go out and play football.

I don’t know what they ranked our offense honestly. We just focus on like what we can do in this coming week to be ready for next week, and then next week it’s what can we do to be ready for camp? Then camp, you go through camp, and it’s what can we do to be ready for Clemson. As soon as the horn blows at Clemson, what can we do to be focused on the next week? We’re too focused on week to week to take too much into consideration.

Q. I’ll ask you about another California quarterback. What do you remember about competing against Matt Corral, and how do you sort of stack your game up to his?

JT DANIELS: The first time I met Matt — I met a lot of these guys when I was elementary, middle school. Matt and I did an FBU camp together. He’s a little farther away than Bryce and DJ were, in terms of California location.

I remember in seventh grade I did a camp, and I came there and thought I was going to be by far the strongest, biggest arm. I had a good arm when I was a seventh grader, and that dude Matt rips it, like as a seventh grader. I thought he was a high schooler.

He’s just always had a cannon. We became buddies instantly. Honestly, we’ve been good friends since then. We still talk, Manning camp last year, we hang out whenever we’re around each other. It’s just a good relationship I have, similar with Bryce, similar with DJ.

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Media Homecoming #SECMD21

It was exciting to get back to SEC Media Days yesterday. Although the format has changed slightly due to Covid, and there are fewer people attending Media Days, the event still heralds the coming of football in much the same way that sighting a robin means Spring is coming.

The League likes to claim that SECMD is the opening of football season, and in many ways it is true. For denizens of the media, it is almost like a class reunion. The reunion atmosphere is especially this year since many outlets did not t games on site last year, covering the whole season remotely. Hopefully, all that is behind us.

One thing that I miss is the crazy fans in the lobby cheering for the various teams as they enter the hotel. They were always good for a video interview or three., but the real action is in the interview rooms. The main room here is called “The Big Room” (informally) and it looks about the same as always, except that there is social distancing inside. A bunch of outlets around the SEC footprint who normally cover the entire event is having their stay scaled back to the day their home team appears in Hoover.

The homecoming atmosphere is real in Hoover this year. Of course, we all know the homecoming game is next and this year it is in Charlotte.

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Today’s Pics – Stetson Bennett

2020: Georgia’s starting quarterback for five of 10 games and finished the season as the Bulldogs’ top passer (by attempts & completions)…completed 86 of 155 passes (56%) for 1179 yards and eight TDs…earned the first starting assignment of his career in win over Auburn…completed 17 of 28 passes for 240 yards and a TD vs. the Tigers…started again vs. Tennessee and completed 16 of 27 passes for 238 yards and two TDs…also had an 8-yard TD run…named one of eight QBs nationally as Manning Award “Stars of the Week” after Tennessee game…also named to the Davey O’Brien Award “Great 8”  list after UT game…had career-high 40 pass attempts, 269 yards and two TD tosses vs. Alabama…came off the bench to rally the Georgia offense in win at Arkansas…completed 20 of 29 passes for 211 yards and a pair of TDs vs. the Razorbacks…also ran for a 2-point conversion…his 20 completions matched his entire 2019 season total.

2019: Played in five of 14 games, completing 20 of 27 pass attempts, with two TDs…saw his first action as a Bulldog vs. Murray State…completed nine of 13 passes for 124 yards and 2 TDs…also ran for a touchdown…re-enrolled at UGA in January and participated in Spring drills…completed 12 of 22 passes for 210 yards and a TD in the annual G-Day game, playing for both sides.

2018: Transferred from Georgia to Jones College in Ellisville, Miss…led Jones to a 10-2 overall record, a Mississippi Bowl win and the MACJC conference championship game…in 12 games, he completed 145 passes for 1,840 yards and 16 TDs while adding 148 yards and four TDs on the ground…ranked 12th nationally in passing yards (NJCAA).

2017: Redshirted…drew praise throughout the season as the scout team quarterback…one of four winners of Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year, given at the team’s post-season awards gala.

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Greg is closing in on 11 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.