On Monday, UGA football head coach Kirby Smart fielded questions about Georgia’s upcoming game versus Auburn and gave an update on the team and the status of injured players.
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
“As you guys know, today is Veterans Day. We have two special guests I’d like to recognize. Colonel Todd Phinney and his son, Captain Trevor Phinney, both combat pilots. We appreciate all you’ve done and all the service you’ve provided to our country. Also, Coach Dooley, marine veteran, and appreciate all you’ve done. And his son-in-law, Destry Rogers. Thank you for all the service you guys have given. (Applause). Certainly appreciate that.”
“Moving on to Auburn, tremendous program, tremendous football team. They got two really tough losses in which they played two really good football teams and played them right down to the wire. But they’ve got a tremendous program. Gus has done a great job. He’s playing with a freshman quarterback who I think is going to be a really talented player in this league for a long time. He’s been in some really tough games already, and he’s played really well. And when you look across the board, opening with Oregon, who’s one of the best teams in the country, to beat those guys and be a true freshman and go out there and do that is really hard to do. Their defense speaks for itself. They’ve got a ton of guys that are going to be drafted on it. They got guys that seem like they have played in our conference for ten years, and it seems like we’ve played against that defensive group a lot, because all those guys, seemed like they started as freshmen from the secondary to the front. So they’ve done a great job. Coach [Kevin] Steele does a great job with their defense. They play really hard, and they’ve got a really good football team. So we’ve got a huge challenge this week, especially coming off the physical game we just had. It’ll be a challenge this week to get our guys prepared, healed up and ready to go against a really tough football team, in a tough environment to play in, on the road at Auburn. But that’s what the SEC is about, and that’s the next game up for us.”
02:00 Regarding the offensive line, how much do blocking schemes change week-to-week?
“The matchups are different every week. The schemes are not extravagant or a lot different. I mean every offense has a different way to present a play. But they block the play the same way. Gus’s offense, they’re going to run certain plays, but they’re going to have a different presentation to try to window-dress it and make it a different picture, the same way our guys will do. So the matchups change. The schemes don’t change a lot. They got really physical players up front. They strike blockers well. They play really hard, and they rotate a lot of guys that play in there, and they’ve proven that by how they’ve played some really good offenses.”
03:03 What does Gus Malzahn and Auburn do that is different than other teams offensively?
“Yeah. It’s very different. They do a good job of changing things up. You throw in the tempo with it. You throw in some of the most elite speed guys in the country on the perimeter, and what you get a recipe for is potential big plays, and they do a good job of attacking your perimeter and your edges. He has the ability to get on the perimeter with every play, but also pound and you grind you. A lot of teams aren’t committed to the run. They don’t run gap-scheme plays and they don’t run things like that, where these guys are not — you know, they have all the runs. They have a little bit of this, a little bit of this, a little bit of this but in every one of them they’ve got the ability to get the ball on the perimeter and they’ve got players to get it on the perimeter with, so he does a good job changing that up.”
04:11 How does this UGA defense compare to others?
“The number one thing that stands out is their work ethic. I mean they work really hard every day. The meetings, the game planning meetings are a joy to be in, because they’re very interactive, meaning they communicate with you. They don’t just sit there and listen. They answer questions. They ask questions. They take on the personality of their defensive staff, which is energetic, and play hard. I mean, you’re always going to have certain qualities with a good defense, which is physical, fast, good open-field tacklers. They’ve got some of those same traits as the good defenses I’ve been able to be around. But this group probably doesn’t have just the star elite player. There’s no guy on there that you can say is just going to be a first-round pick. That’s not what this is made of. It’s made of a group of guys that buy in to doing it the right way and play team defense. And we’ve been very fortunate with that and gotta continue to do that down the stretch run. You gotta be able to tackle and not give up big plays.”
05:40 On the youth of the Bulldog defense… staff and players?
“Yeah. I think somebody mentioned that there was a couple of third downs that I was thinking it was three true freshmen, but I guess it was four because I wasn’t counting Travon. You look out there sometimes and you’re like, man, everybody out there is coming back. Everybody out there has got another year. So it is relatively young, but I would argue that in college football, youth is the way of the life. There’s not a lot of guys sticking around all the way through senior years. So you get a lot of freshmen, sophomore, juniors playing on these teams.”
“As far as our staff they work really hard. Dan does a good job leading them; and each guy brings a lot of energy, enthusiasm and ideas, and they kind of own their position groups, and they do a good job putting the overall plan together and not trying to do too much, but trying to give the other team some problems, because if you line up in the same place all the time, you eventually get blown up. And we try to make sure our guys are moving around or getting in an advantageous position, and Dan and them have done a good job of that.”
06:56 Thoughts on Auburn’s Derrick Brown…
“Derrick (Brown) is an extremely good athlete. I mean, first of all, when you put athleticism in a person’s body that is that size, I mean, he was a great basketball player. He’s a great athlete. You can see him when he gets — he has ball skills. He gets interceptions. He gets fumbles. He’s around the ball, and he’s explosive. You got that kind of twitch and you’re as big as he is, it’s hard to block, and he’s been a very disruptive player in this league for a long time.”
07:29 What about Jordan-Hare Stadium that makes it a tough venue to play at?
“They do a tremendous job. I mean, I would assume everybody feels that way that goes there and plays, not just an Alabama or a Georgia coach, because those are two of their biggest rivalries. But I would assume it’s like that for everybody, because they sell out their crowd just like our guys do. It’s loud at home. They’ve got a really impactful home field and home crowd, and this is probably their biggest home game of the year so far. So I know they’ll be ripping and raring to go. But I mean, when we go to Tennessee, it’s loud. When we go on the road and play in the SEC, it’s loud. But Auburn is one of those places that brings the environment that you expect in the SEC.”
08:25 Update on the status of player injuries: Lawrence Cager and Trey Hill
“We’re expecting Lawrence (Cager) to be able to go out and practice today. Should be fine. And Trey (Hill) has got an ankle, but he’s going to be able to practice today as far as we know. I’ll find out more when I get out there, but they’re both cleared to practice.”
08:47 Assessment of Dan Lanning…
“Well, I’d seen that before I ever brought him in. He worked at Alabama with us. And I’d seen his ability to interpret information, to relay information to coaches and just work with him. And when you work with somebody as many hours as we spend up here, you find out a lot about them, their work ethic and what they’re all about. And he was somebody that we had on our radar for a long time, and he went and was successful at Memphis, did a great job coaching there. So he was an easy hire to come here as our outside backers’ coach. And since he’s been here, he’s done nothing but lead and do a good job and continues to demand and command the respect of the players. And players like him, and he does a good job, so he and Schumann have both done a good job of that.”
10:14 Thoughts on Auburn’s Anthony Schwartz
“You try and know where he is. They do a good job of putting him in different locations. They don’t leave him in one spot. He’s not always the feature guy. Sometimes he’s the decoy, and sometimes he’s not the decoy. And you don’t really ever know which one he’s going to be. And he’s very explosive. I think awareness is how to handle it, because we got the players we got; they got the players they got. And nobody in the country is as fast as that guy. So nobody’s going to be able to match up with him and just run with him. You gotta have ways to put people over top of him. You gotta have ways to protect against him. You gotta have ways to get your hands on him. They’re going to get him the ball. You gotta go tackle him. Good thing we’re not in a track race against him. We gotta play football against him, and he’s a really good football player.”
11:22 Richard LeCounte’s growth and progress as a player
“He’s worked really hard. Richard has always worked hard. He’s always been a competitor. The thing you know about Richard is he loves football. And there are very few days out there that he does not give you his best, that he does not just enjoy it and love the game. The difference in Richard now and then is he’s bought in a little more into the understanding of what I have to do within this system, what is my job. And I have to make calls and decisions on my side of the field that are critical to our success. And I said after the game, I think in the last two to three weeks, he’s taken a little more ownership in that. He’s taken a little more initiative to watch tape and not just think I can just go out there and ball. I gotta go understand and play within the defense to make plays, and he’s doing a better job of that.
12:19 On making opponents’ offenses one dimensional
“It’s no more extra important this week than it ever is. It’s important every week. But you can’t do it at the cost of giving up explosive plays, and that’s the balance you come to with Auburn. You can sell out to do that, and you got explosive playmakers on the outside. They got some really good wideouts. Seth (Williams) is a great wideout. Eli (Stove), they’ve got guys that have been there and played. So you can’t sell out and stop the run and expose yourself to the wideouts they’ve got and a quarterback that’s a good playmaker and ability to throw the ball and is playing as good as any freshman I remember playing in this conference, walking in and just playing straight off the street, and he’s done a good job of that. So these guys have got good players. We can’t sell out and stop the run, if that’s what you’re asking.”
13:24 UGA wide receiver George Pickens being a one time Auburn commit and returning to play in the state of Alabama…
“They’re all big. I realize what you’re pointing at and saying with it being emotional, that he was committed to them for a long time. But that doesn’t take away from what happens when you step inside the lines. I mean when you step inside the lines, you have to go execute, you have to focus on the task at hand. You have to block out all the noise and the outside stuff, and you have to go play. That doesn’t change week to week.”
14:07 Recruiting – Auburn has a number of players from the state of Georgia on their roster…
“There’s always tough decisions. There are tough decisions on Georgia kids, with Georgia kids. I mean, there are tough decisions, period, in recruiting because number one, you can’t get everybody you want, and you want to get the ones you want, and you’re never 100 percent on the ones you do want. So you have to make really hard decisions. You try to make them based on intangible factors and things that you think are critical to their success and to your needs.”
And there are a lot of Georgia kids, as you look down this roster, there’s kids that we recruited hard that they beat us on, and then there are some that they didn’t. But at the end of the day, the state line that you grew up in probably doesn’t matter in this game, just like we have some Alabama kids. At the end of the day, it’s going to be about how you play.”
15:12 Is the offensive and defensive mix where you want it, competitively?
“Complementary football is meant to be where you help each other. That really doesn’t change anywhere you coach. You want them to be complementary. You want both sides to help each other out, whether that’s us creating an advantage through a turnover, or the offense getting the ball out of a coming-out situation and flipping the field position. I don’t think any coach would tell you they don’t want complementary football. But to the extent that we’ve been able to play it, there’s been games that we’ve really done a good job of that, and there’s been games that we haven’t.”
“The two work independently within the game, but they’re always working together too, whether it’s eat up time, force turnovers, create field position, you’re always trying to help benefit each other, and that’s something that we talk about and we work on hard, but ultimately it comes down to the individual success of both sides that makes it a complement.”
16:25 Backstory on George Pickens…
“George is a kid that we recruited all the way throughout, and came over to a couple home games. We had him over in the summer. I mean he’s a kid that had been here several times. He played on a 7-on-7 team out of Georgia. So he got to spend a lot of time with a lot of the kids we recruited. Didn’t really know until very late. I forget exactly when it was, but I thought in our home visit it was very obvious that he was thinking about making some change.”
” He saw the ability to throw the ball at our place, and he saw three guys leaving, you know, and once we had three guys leave our team, two left early in a tight end and a back, it cleared things up for him that he thought he was going to be able to have an impact and decided to come.”
17:25 Thoughts on change in Georgia-Auburn schedule
“Hadn’t really thought about it that way. I mean, if it’s not them, it’ll be somebody else; and you know, it’s a Dawg-eat-dog world in our conference. It’s every week, man. There are good teams to play, and you can’t take anybody lightly. So whether it’s early in the year, late in the year, I don’t think it changes much.”