Kirby Smart and Richard LeCounte Interviews – October 13, 2020

Home >

Kirby Smart and Richard LeCounte Interviews – October 13, 2020

On COVID-19 positive test results across SEC and his worries…

“There’s really no way to tell. The biggest thing is you’re one day away, one test away, one situation away from a possible situation like Florida’s. We’ve been very fortunate. I think Ron [Courson] and the medical staff has done a great job for us. Ron sends me an article or an NFL reference and we post for our players to see, but we feel like our players are doing a good job, but I’ll be honest with you—when they’re not here at the facility, I don’t always know what they’re doing. The biggest concern we have is post-game, Sunday, and then they’re back into a routine Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. But you’re one exposure, one outbreak away from losing some guys, so we’ve been very fortunate so far, but we don’t have our test results back even from this week.”

On the evolution of offense in the SEC and what he attributes that to…

“I don’t understand what advanced scouting has to do with it—defense is allowed to scout too. If they have advanced scouting, we have advanced scouting. I don’t know why that would equate to higher scoring, if I’m following you right. By advanced scouting more they should be more successful on offense. We have video tape as well. I think attributing to the scoring is poor tackling, poor fundamentals defensively, up tempo offenses creeping in our league. I will be honest with you— football gets really sloppy when you go really fast. It doesn’t mean it’s not successful. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t score points. I am not saying that. I have been torched by teams that go up tempo. I’m not disgracing that—it gets really sloppy. As things get sloppy, fundamentals go downhill. If fundamentals go downhill, statistics go up.”

On stopping the run and what challenges Alabama’s Najee Harris presents…

“He is fast, physical, receives the ball well out of the backfield—it makes it much harder to defend. It’s not just Najee [Harris], their offensive line is humungous—every guy is 330/340 [pounds] and they wear on you. They lean on you. It’s like Nick [Saban] used to say, ‘They have weight classes in boxing and there is a reason.’ If a guy is a heavyweight and he keeps hitting a lightweight, eventually the heavyweight will knock the lightweight out and you have to have enough big guys across the line of scrimmage to withstand that. We feel like we are in a much better position than we have been in terms of depth, but we don’t have guys across the defensive line as big as their offensive line. The difference is we have to be able to substitute guys, play guys and try to stay fresh and try to use our depth to take those punches. Then we have to be able to give some punches by how we play. But Najee creates an issue because he is hard to tackle. They get him in space. If they are successful with Najee, it makes it really easy on the quarterback in terms of play-action game.”

On what he has learned about his team’s makeup from the last three games and how it could help UGA Saturday against Alabama…

“Well, I feel like we are growing up on offense before our eyes. It can be a painful growth process. It’s one of those—you go through some tough times with pups. I remember the last year when Mel [Tucker] was here we were going through that defensively, and that was—it’s easy for me to get impatient. Now, we are reaping the rewards of a lot of those kids that were playing the, and they were young—Tyson Campbell, [Eric] Stokes, Richard [LeCounte]—all of those guys were young. They have a little more experience now, and we’re going through that a little bit on offense. I am watching the maturation process with that. I am not pleased with where we are, but I am pleased with the progress we have made.”

On the special team’s No. 3 ranking and what he likes about what Coach Scott Cochran is doing with the special teams…

I like Scott [Cochran]’s energy, his enthusiasm. He does a good job in his meetings. The kids enjoy playing hard for Scott. Scott has a lot of assistance in terms of decision making and scheme. We have good players. The commitment to playing good players on special teams is a big part of being successful at it. We have good specialists. When you are going to rank that, and you have a weapon in [Jake] Camarda and [Jack] Pod[lesny], who has done a great job—it helps your ranking. To be honest with you, it could change in the drop of a hat. I don’t measure—I know everybody loves those statistics, but just like Saturday I was proud of Kearis [Jackson]. He fielded three balls that would have rolled for 20 more yards, and we lost ground on punt return. What they will never show is he gained 20 yards by fielding the punt on the bounce. He did it three times, and we dropped—no telling how far in punt return rankings, but I was extremely pleased that he did it. The stats can lie. We haven’t played a team the caliber of Alabama in terms of their specialists. They have really good return game, like extremely good, like so good people don’t even kick them the ball.”

On UGA’s execution and how Georgia measures them on a day-to-day basis… 

“It’s a measurement, we call it playing clean and taking MA’s, mental assignments, and we miss assignments, and we chart those. You try to count one player. If you have ten one day, and he goes down to nine or eight—typically earlier in the week when we are installing things—they are higher. They go down as the week goes on, that’s the only quantitative measure we have is the ability to chart that and see if we can reduce that. Each game is different because you can’t run the same plays in our conference and expect to be successful. You have to be able to window dress, eye-candy, move people around and try to take advantage of the defense. When you do that you create missed assignments for them and you. If we could just line up static and beat people it would be a lot easier.” 

On whether Ole Miss’ offensive performance against Alabama encourages him in terms of what UGA’s offense could do against Alabama…

“I am not into comparisons Chip, to be honest with you. We are not Ole Miss. We don’t run the same offense. I think Ole Miss did a tremendous job, and I think if you watch Ole Miss’ tape and you actually watched the previous two games, there is a lot Ole Miss did that other teams did. It’s a copycat profession. It’s a copycat league. Lane [Kiffin] does a really good job scheming things. He understands what defenses are trying to do especially that defense. He was able to take advantage of those things with a really athletic quarterback. A lot of it had to do with tempo. You create sloppy play when you go tempo. That is no offense to Ole Miss, that’s no offense to Alabama. I see it with us. If somebody goes tempo it gets really sloppy. At times, offensively, we have gone tempo and it gets really sloppy. I think you just have to be aware that that can happen, and you have to what you can do and do what your team and your quarterback allows you do to.”

On whether the changes Alabama’s offense has undergone is something he notices when watching Alabama film…

“I feel like the last two times we’ve played [Alabama], they were scoring that many points. The time we played them with Tua [Tagovailoa], we went into the game thinking they may score a thousand. They had all those wideouts, and they were really, really good then, and I felt like they scored lots of points then. They also had some really good defensive players along with those teams, which is what made them great. I don’t see this team as being completely different, made up of those teams. Now, it’s different than when I was there, probably. Yeah, I agree with you there. We weren’t as prolific passing it when I was there, but since the two times we’ve played them, I feel like [the offense] has been pretty similar.”

On an update on Jermaine Johnson and James Cook…

“They’ve both practiced the last two days and have been full go, and we’re expecting them to be able to play.”

On whether Ole Miss’ tempo that was ‘so effective against Alabama’ is something UGA can or would want to try against Alabama this weekend…

“I don’t know that all that’s true. It’s not who we are. It’s not the team that we are. It’s certainly who Lane [Kiffin] is. He’s done that and has been successful doing that where he’s been even when he was at Alabama, but he’s kind of wholesale and done that. It’s not all tempo; it’s a lot of tempo and keeping you off balance and trying to you, but everybody does that now. It’s not a team that says, ‘Oh, we’re not going to go tempo at a time.’ I would just say that Ole Miss does it more frequently, and they probably did it even more frequently the other night to try to keep Alabama off balance. It helps when you get a couple first downs in a row and wear the defense down. Where you get in trouble with Alabama is when you can’t sustain the dive, and you go three-and-out or four-and-out or five-and-out. You can’t wear them down. If you’re able to drop the ball and convert third downs, which Ole Miss did, your defense gets winded.”  

On whether he has seen coaches, like Lane Kiffin, choosing not to sub on offense and the purpose of that…

“Lane doesn’t, that’s exactly right. No, he doesn’t. He goes really fast and tries to not allow the defense to sub to wear them down, and there were a couple points in that game where it was tough. I mean, I’ve been there defensively. You’re like, ‘Man.’ It doesn’t matter what you call; your guys are gassed, and you know what? The other guys are gassed, too. It’s not always pretty football. It can turn sloppy, and it’s not the football I’m used to seeing in the SEC, but it’s the football that I’ve seen in other conferences at times and it does usually produce offensive numbers.”

On how Georgia finds an edge and what the defense needs to do to succeed against Alabama, the nation’s leading-scoring offense…

“Well, I don’t know. I’m excited to go see. I’ve always loved the challenge, and we’ve got a good defense. We’ve got a good offense. The game will come down to a lot more than just those two units, I can assure you that. It’ll boil down to how our offense and their defense play and the special teams, but I’m excited to see it. I know our guys are excited about the challenge. I’m sure, offensively, it’s the same for them. They’ve heard about our defense and our defense has heard about their offense, so it’s a great opportunity for both units to go out and compete and go play, but I’m excited to see it. It’s going to boil down to the line of scrimmage, like it always does. They have success running it, and they’ll have a great play-action game. If they don’t, you try to make them one-dimensional, and that’s hard to do against Alabama.”

On whether there is anything Georgia defense can do to step up and create more havoc plays/get more pressure on the quarterback… 

“Oh yeah, there’s a ton we can do better. Our defensive staff has done a great job of harping on the fundamentals. I think that fundamentals are a foregone conclusion, like it’s lost in football now. Everybody’s defenses are just giving up. They’re just like, ‘Okay, let’s get the ball back from the offense. Let’s try to cause turnovers and sacks and give up big plays, and either they score or they don’t.’ We’re trying every day to do something fundamentally, and I’m a big believer in, ‘Alright, let’s take this block protection. Let’s take this tackling. Let’s take this hook and swat.’ We’re trying to take little, small things each day and get better at them for the kids, so they can enjoy them, because they show up in games. We show a clip of a drill, and then it happens in the game, [and] we’re like, ‘Hey, I’m glad we did that drill.’ We didn’t just go rep plays. It’s not a magic potion. It’s good players, and it’s a playing sound, fundamental defense, but we’ve got to do it this week, and tackling will be the challenge this week, because you’re not tackling your average players anymore. You’re tackling some really good ones.”

On how important Jordan Davis will be this week considering the size of Alabama’s offensive line…

“It’s extremely important. It’s huge, because the movement in the middle. If I had about three Jordan Davises, I’d feel a lot better, because we need to be able to match up with [Alabama players] Evan Neal and [Alex] Leatherwood and all the big guys they’ve got. But we’ve got some guys who will go in there and fight, and we’ve got some depth, so going to try and use those guys all we can.”

On updates about Tommy Bush and Owen Condon…

“Tommy is going to be out for a little bit and had some surgeries—some dental work—he’s had to get done. Owen is practicing, but we’re fighting to get him back. He’s hopeful for the game.”

On how he balances not overloading players while running different plays…

“There are only so many snaps during a game. So offensively or defensively, we’ve ranged from 65 to 85 snaps in a game. You can’t carry so many, some of those plays, you can’t run them. You have to do a good job with that balance. Basically, we’ll carry as much as we can that they can handle. Defensively right now we can handle a little more because of the experience and offensively we can handle a little less because of the lack of experience. That’s just where we are. Hopefully the cumulative effect of each game, each week, it grows where something carries over for a kid. Maybe you put something in and you don’t use it. You keep it in on the menu and you keep adding stuff. We’re doing the best job we can to get these guys ready to play. It’s just a matter of how much they can handle and how much they can execute. I want them to play fast and not have to think.”

#2 Richard LeCounte | Senior | DB

On if there is an awareness that teams will try and take shots at the secondary…

“That’s what any team in football, with the defense, there are opposing teams that are looking at your previous games and trying to figure out a flaw to capitalize on the game. I think there will be a few things that the opponents that we’re going up against in the next few weeks will try to exploit. That’s something that we’re preparing for. We practice for all those things. We come in and make corrections for them the week before and we move on to the next game.”

On facing up-tempo teams…

“In practice, we’ve been practicing very fast. Making sure that we don’t lose our fundamentals in fast ball periods being able to tackle and wrap up. Just doing the little things good so we don’t have to be one of those teams that experience that type of breakdown.”

On taking pride in playing in a good fundamental defense…

“That’s something we’ve started to emphasize since we’ve been back. Starting up everything back up, there’s nothing that our defense is going to change. We’re going to keep things basic. We’re going to check all the boxes off and be the defense of Georgia that’s been known for plenty of years, the last four, five years. Just bolting our feet down and making teams do it the long and hard way. That’s something we pride ourselves on. 11 guys to the ball, 11 guys playing together. That’s something that you can always count on coming from that Georgia defense. We practice like there isn’t going to be a tomorrow. We hit each other, we thud each other. That’s just the way football is meant to be played, keeping the defined principles, defined.”

share content