After Georgia’s 63-17 victory over Murray State on Saturday, September 7, 2019 in Athens, GA, Head Coach Kirby Smart fielded questions from the media and discussed the Bulldogs win and overall performance. To watch Kirby’s full post-practice press conference, just click on the video below. A partial transcript is also provided below.
Opening Statement: I want to open by congratulating coach Dooley. It’s such great honor for his name to be placed on the field. It’ll be there forever. He’s been such a special man in my life and my career. His family has been so good to me and mine. Big honor to have him and have he field named after him and also the fan base. The turnout for coach Dooley in such tough heat and conditions, it was hot out there and the fans were awesome to come out early and often.
I also want to thank Matt Holland and his staff, the turf staff. Our field has by far has got to be one of the best in the country. It was awesome today and their coach (Murray State) made a comment about it before the game. What a wonderful job Matt and his staff do. Our grass is the best in the country.
Slow start and getting it going: “We got a busted coverage on defense. They made a really good throw and catch. Guy made a heck of a catch, good throw. We were in man coverage and didn’t have a middle field safety, so when you don’t have a middle field safety and they catch it, they’re going to run for the distance. We had a couple of slow series there on offense, got beat on a twist and gave up a sack. The guy persevered, kept playing hard. You come into these games knowing that you want to score every play and you think you should score every drive and you should give up zero yards. They’ve got good players too. Gotta give them some credit and our kids kept playing. That’s kind of what our mantra is. We’re going to keep playing and try to break the other team’s will.”
Stetson Bennett’s play: “Well, it’s hard to assess it. I want to watch it and see it in a little slower motion, but I was happy he got to play, certainly. Wanted him to play against Vanderbilt. He needs all the playing experience he can. You can take every rep in practice you want, you can do every scrimmage you want, but getting the opportunity to go out in games and play is really important for his confidence, for him to grow, for him to understand that your reps in practice are valuable. You’ve got to take those and process information and make decisions, do that and grow as a quarterback because he’s one play away at all times.
Guys who got their first opportunity to play who stood out: “I don’t really know, a lot of guys. I think we played every guy we had. I don’t think we had a freshman who didn’t play. I think all of them played. None of them stood out, per se. George (Pickens) made some big plays but we’ve seen him do that. He’s a talented kid. Some of those other guys got to play a lot too but until I watch the film and see what they did when the play was away from them and some of those other things, I don’t want to jump out and say anybody blew me away. I’m more concerned with guys playing every down early in the games as much as I am the guys who got in late.”
On Travon and Nolan “It’s hard to judge. I don’t know how many sacks statistically we ended up with, but obviously those guys were out-manned upfront. They don’t have the same caliber to protect as other teams we will play. But the game plan was to come in here and play a little differently than some of the teams we’ve played like them in the past, try to be aggressive, try to cover them and I thought they did a good job throwing and catching the ball, that’s what they do. They throw and catch the ball. I thought our front was disruptive and we controlled the run game. We tried to make them one dimensional.
On Cade Mays: “He’s very valuable. His strength is his diversity. He can play a lot of positions, he is very smart, he practices all those positions. But with Cade, regardless of what position, he has fire in his belly. Cade is a competitor. Cade loves to win. When we score a touchdown, Cade’s the first guy to celebrate with his back. He blocks downfield and he practices that way. I love the way he plays the game. He plays the game the right way.”
On George Pickens: “George has stepped up and is starting to become an overall player. Probably the most impressive thing he did today was the block on D’Andre Swift’s long run. He did a great job of going after the safety that was able to spring Swift. When you can do that as a freshman, that’s more impressive to me than diving and catching the ball. He’s grown as a player. He’s got to learn to control his emotions a little bit, he’s very emotional. He’s a passionate player. I don’t ever want to take that away from him because I think that makes him who he is, but he’s got to be smart, play within our system and understand that just because you make a play you can’t talk to the opponent.”
On Zamir: “He did a good job. He had blocks ahead of him playing an inferior opponent, our guys all ran pretty good today.”
On Nolan Smith’s motor: “Nolan has a tremendous motor. He played tremendously hard. He another one who plays with tremendous passion and energy. It’s important to him. I love the Nolan plays. He continues to grow and play with physicality. Against matchups with bigger people, he’s going to help us because he has a lot of speed.”
On Eli Wolf after the fumble: “He’s a bright kid, he took a pretty good shot. He caught the ball and tried to get extra yards. He took a tough shot. You know it’s going to happen, you don’t accept it. We cannot have it. We’ve got to do a better job protecting the ball. Just like Stetson’s interception, you can’t have those. You can’t have those in big games and big moments as the coach, we’re not going to stop throwing it to you because you fumbled. He caught the ball when he had some opportunities, he made some plays and had some good run after catch. I think he’s a talented player and a weapon for us.”
Balanced rushing and passing: “Yeah, I love the balance part. I love the fact we were able to throw and catch the ball well today. We’ve got to do it against a bigger and better opponent. But you can only do it against who you’re scheduled to do it against. Our kids went out and competed today and did a nice job.”
Dominick Blaylock, and is there a yard-line you’re comfortable with him being the PR compared to Simmons? “No, those weren’t yard line. Tyler had an injury so he was out for a little bit. He went inside and took some X-rays but he came out okay and went back in. There’s no set yard line for either one of them. We’re trying to get both of them some experience because without Kearis out they’re out two primary returners.”
Zamir White, what was it like to see him get his first touchdown? “It was great. Zamir’s a competitor, he works his tail off. I was most proud with Zamir today that – all you guys talk about his carries and (inaudible) yards – he picked up a blitzing backer in the A gap and smacked him right in the jaw. So go back and watch that one. That’s what being a running back is about. He’s playing with great physicality and protecting the quarterback, which is the thing he hasn’t had an opportunity to do. He doesn’t do that often, in high school kids aren’t asked to do that. That’s where he’s going to earn more playing time is being able to protect the passer.”
Jermaine Johnson and his development: “He continues to grow and get better. I think he’s realized that he’s got to play with some physicality to play. The reason he started today is what personnel they were in. We had a package that we’re gonna play against certain teams. I know that y’all don’t understand that, you think that he started because he just … they were in four-wides. We wanted more speed on the field, so we had two outside backers on the field instead of big D-ends. We were just trying to go a little more athletic and more light. So he fit the mold for that. We knew we were gonna roll a lot of guys. So that’s just a small package we had.”
Mark Webb redeeming himself after giving up the touchdown, then knocked a ball away: “Yeah he’s got to do a better job when he’s in coverage situations. When you have poor eyes. I’ve got to watch that play and see exactly what happened to get him beat on that play. But he’s physical. Mark practices really physical. You love the way he hits people and strikes blockers, that’s what dislodged the ball to cause a fumble, was his physicality.”
MARK WEBB COMING BACK WITH FF: “He’s got to do a better job in his coverage situations. I think he had poor eyes, I’ve got to watch that play and see exactly what happened for him to get beat on the play. But he’s physical, Mark is really physical, you love the way he hits people and strikes blockers, and that’s what dislodged the ball to cause the fumble, was his physicality.
HOT AS IT WAS YOUR TEAM HANDLED IT WELL: “It was money in the bank for us because we put a lot of sweat in the offseason, but also in the preseason in that kind of heat. Our guys were used to. It probably would have been a lot tougher had it been a four-quarter game.
ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE GAME: “We’ve got a lot of things we can improve on, we’ve go to tackle better, organizationally, with substitutions we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to manage better as coaches, but I was pleased with the progress the team made, particular we wanted to throw the ball better, and we were able to have timing in the passing game and throw the ball better We protected the quarterback better most of he game, they had the sack there on Jake. But defensively, I don’t know that we got to improve a lot because I don’t know the caliber of team we went against, it was just another opportunity to force turnovers, try to create havoc. They competed a lot of passes, but that’s who that team is. That team is a yards after catch kinda of team and we didn’t want to give them yards after the catch.”
THAT DEFENSIVE PLAY, ONE GUY disrupts, OTHER SCORES, IS THAT SOMETHING YOU CAN BUILD ON: “We always show every defensive score in the SEC every Tuesday or Wednesday, the players love it, because they want to be on that reel. Defensive players’ drew to score. They are always trying to be on that reel. They’ll be fired up because they get to be on the reel this week. We preach it all he time, that when you get an interception or fumble recovery, we want to score, we want to score on defense. It’s like 60 or 70 percent of the games you’ll win when your score on defense. So you’re pretty successful if you can do that.”
YOUR THOUGHTS ON JAMAREE: “I’ll reserve judgment until I get to watch it. I thought his stamina was good, and I thought he played really hard, there were no plays that stuck out that were really bad.”
HOW DO YOU INSTILL PLAYING SPECIAL TEAMS IS IMPORTANT: “It’s our standard, man, it’s what we do, we don’t fake it, we live it. We open our season with meetings about special teams, and I don’t ever miss a special teams meeting, I may miss something, but I’m no meeting special teams meetings because it’s too important for our players to see me in there and know that they’re going to be held accountable before they ever play on offense or defense. When you do that, then I trust you you can go in and do your job on offense and defense.”