After Tuesday’s practice, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart gives an update on the Bulldogs as they continue to prepare to take on Auburn this weekend. There is a timestamped index of topics Kirby discusses in the video below. Just click on the time mark to open a new tab and the video will play at that timestamp or you can follow along as you watch the presser in its entirety by clicking on the video below to play it.
00:00 Opening statement
“The guys practiced hard. They’re excited for the atmosphere and looking forward to it. We have a lot of work to do. I feel like we’re behind and playing catch up. There is so much to prepare for. They do a lot more defensively than they have in the past. A lot of different looks and then offensively they’re always tough to prepare for. When you know the history of somebody it could be worse because you try to prepare for everything you’ve seen which makes it hard to do but you just have to get them ready. I think we’re getting closer.”
00:35 Balancing working on “core stuff” in practice along with game prep
“The core stuff hasn’t changed much. You just try to expose them to what the opponent does that’s different from what you see day-to-day. Gus (Malzahn) has always had a lot of different things. They have different tempos, formations, different groupings. They have a lot to prepare for, it’s a lot of offense. You have to be careful that you don’t overload your kids with too much and prepare them.”
01:10 Ben Cleveland’s role, being named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week
“He got to play a lot more this week. He’s had a major role, minor role, big role. He has taken on all roles. He’s kind of had that kind of career when you think about it. He was starting and playing when he had the broken leg and bounced back from that. He’s done a tremendous job. He was playing really good the other night, getting a lot of movement and playing with good pad level. Usually, when Ben plays well, we play well. He helps give us some power over there on the right side. He did a nice job in that game and graded out well and was happy to get him that award.”
02:01 Kirby Smart’s relationship with the state troopers
“It’s a privilege to have such a relationship with someone who gives so much to our community, to our state, and gives so much back to us. I really enjoy Officer Sadler. He’s with us year-round for events and obviously gamedays and traveling. I really appreciate the job those guys do. They make life much easier on us and much safer in our communities. Right now it’s probably one of the most thankless jobs out there.”
02:38 Playing on the road in the SEC…
“I would chalk it up to good teams at the end of the day. It’s good football teams, good football programs. The atmosphere isn’t any different than playing on the East. I would say the level of talent of the teams we’ve played has been pretty good. We haven’t figured out a way to win one and we have to do that.”
03:09 What are the keys to stopping Auburn’s run game?
“It’s always important. I mean you start at the line of scrimmage, if you can’t run the ball and they can, then you’re probably in trouble. We have struggled in those game to stop the run. It’s something that we take pride in and have done a better job of this year. This is a team very similar to ours of being able to run the ball. They’re committed to the run and want to find different ways to do it. They’ve always done that well.”
03:55 How important is it to you make Auburn’s offense one-dimensional?
“It’s always critical. If they’re playing third and seven or more, eight, nine or more, you’re going to be at an advantage. You know that but it’s just hard to do to get people off schedule, especially ones that are committed to the runs. The point of attack is three different places on every play. It’s the quarterback, the back and then something outside of that, whether it’s the RPO or some kind of screen that they’re making you defend all over the field. That’s college football now and they do a good job of it. Getting to third and long is a bigger problem than being able to win third and long. ”
04:50 Looking back at the regular season game versus Auburn in 2017 and the number of penalties in that loss?
“We’ve had really good composure in most of our games and that’s what I try to harp on, is the positive of showing good composure. We haven’t retaliated or had stupid penalties. You’re going to have aggressive penalties. I want our guys to play aggressive but I just don’t want them to play stupid. We did some dumb things in that game but that wasn’t the result of the game. The ultimate result was our inability to stop the run and our inability to run the ball.”
05:34 On playing opponents coming off a bye week.
“Early in the season, I don’t know how important those are because I don’t know that you’re at the point where you need recovery. I would say the first four or five weeks of the season it’s a push if someone has a bye before you or you have one before them. As it gets later in the year it has an effect because you’re able to get guys back. The cumulative effect of the games in sequence, you lose guys and you don’t get recovery time and when you get recovery time you can get some guys back. It doesn’t matter. We all have the same number of bye weeks and most of us have had the same kind of stretch.”
06:26 How much time does Kirby Smart put into the Coaches Poll?
“I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I mean, I think it matters a whole lot more the next coming weeks than right now, so I don’t spend a lot of time on it, don’t worry about it too much. It’s hard because I don’t actually get to see all the teams all the time either. I’m sure those other guys don’t either. You try to watch them but it’s hard to watch other teams because you’re playing games too.”
07:03 Addressing the red-zone offense
“We spend a lot of time on the red zone. We start with meetings, actually tomorrow. We talk about a game plan. We do it good-on-good every week. We take a series, and we’ve been fortunate defensively to have some good red-area series where we get to put that defense out there and go against our offense. Our offense has won a lot of those battles against our guys, so I know they’re capable. We just haven’t finished off drives. A lot of ours didn’t get to the red area—statistics lie because it looks like we’re doing pretty good, but a lot of them are field goals, and a lot of them are outside the red area field goals that we’re not finishing off into touchdowns. We’ve got to do a better job of that.”
07:51 Assessment of offensive line’s run-blocking?
“They’re not stacking it any more than they have ever. It’s not like there’s more this year than there were last year. The fronts we see this year are very similar to the fronts we saw last year. There’s not a whole lot difference as far as that goes. They’re not playing them different. We’re probably not hitting as many explosive runs and we’re definitely not hitting as many explosive passes to try and loosen them up. We probably see more hard boxes consistently. In the past, we’d see the same boxes, just not as often. If they were doing 70 percent hard boxes last year, it might be 80 percent hard boxes, but the boxes are very similar they normally are.”
08:38 How has Jake Fromm changed since the 2017 Auburn game?
“He’s just older. That was one of his first real road games that I remember. Notre Dame would’ve been up there, that was his first SEC atmosphere of that caliber. He did some things in that game but it’s always a challenge when you go play on the road. I don’t care what year you are. He’s got a lot of experience playing on the road in the SEC. It’s a great atmosphere and it’s tough, but our kids have to go out there and play. None of those fans are going to go out there and play in the game.”
09:19 Facing opponents’ nose guards, like South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw and Auburn’s Derrick Brown…
“Everybody’s got one. Kentucky had a big old nose man that was 380 pounds and was hell on wheels. Florida had two guys in there that were really good players that will be drafted. Missouri has two. I’m not saying those guys are Derrick Brown. He’s a class of himself. He is destructive. But there’s guys like Kinlaw in our league and he’s a really good player. When you come to the SEC, you better be ready. Because there’s guys across the board that play like that.”
10:04 Update on the status of injured player Lawrence Cager, how is he looking in practice?
“He’s good. He’s taking all his reps, catching balls, doing what he’s supposed to do. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy.”
10:15 Kirby celebrating with his family after wins…
“That’s what it’s all about. Other than the relationship with the players and the coaches on the staff, that’s why I do this. I do it for my kids and for my wife. I spend a lot of time away from them so when I get to see them after a game, win or lose, it brings everything back into perspective. So much is put on winning and losing. Everything matters if you win and everything is terrible if you lose, but then you see your kids and your wife and that’s not what’s important. I think people lose sight of that a lot of times and that keeps things in perspective for me. I want to be remembered for being a great husband and father a lot more than I do a coach.”
11:21 Update on the status of injured players Trey Hill and Tyrique McGhee
“Tyrqiue hasn’t been able to practice this week. He’s been on the bike, he’s been running some, he may clear and be able to help us but I don’t know right now. Trey’s been fine, he’s taken all the reps.”
11:42 Follow up on Lawrence Cager’s decision to play with injuries and through pain…
“He’s very tough. He’s playing with a tough injury to deal with, but it’s his choice. Once the doctors clear him he has to make a choice if he wants to play or not and, absolutely, he wants to play. I mean, he’s a competitor. That’s why he came here. The last thing he wants to do is say, ‘well, I’m going to take this week off and not play in this game and heal up.’ That’s not his perspective, ’cause he knows that every game matters and that it matters to our team. He’s a team player; he’s a competitor; he wants to go out and make plays. He wants to do that for the brothers on his team. He’s not going to step away, unless he has a chance to injure himself worse, and that’s a medical decision.”
12:48 Thoughts on Auburn’s special combo along the d-line of Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson
“They’re special. They’ve been there for a long time. They’ve done a tremendous job. They’re well-coached… They’re special and talented. We recruited both of them to the wire and didn’t get either one. They’re good players.”
13:14 Preparing for Auburn QB Bo Nix and the Tiger offense…
“It’s different. They allow Nix to do more with the run game. He pulls it and makes good decisions. He very rarely is wrong when it comes to pulling the ball. He runs the offense well. You can tell it’s more what Gus is used to, as opposed to Stidham, who was probably more of a passer but was a good athlete, too.’
13:44 Lawrence Cager’s performance in big games… what allows him to step up in these moments?
“Just maturity. He’s very mature. He’s older. He’s been around. He’s played in big games at Miami; so, maturity is the biggest thing. The moment is not too big for him. He’s not one of these guys that gets overwhelmed with playing on a big stage.”
14:27 What has impressed you about Jordan Davis this season?
“Probably his consistency. He had the injury, you know, he couldn’t play against South Carolina. That affected us, but he tried to go and dealing with an ankle injury. Other than that, he’s been really consistent. He embraces his role. He’s tough to block. He’s a big part of our run-stopping game.”
14:55 What kind of difference does Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow make on the Tigers’
“He’s a big difference. He’s a stud SEC back. He’s physical. He’s hard to bring down. He makes their run game tick because their run game is meant to be powerful, down-hill, and bruising… But Whitlow is a difference-maker for them.