Kirby Smart gave an update on the Georgia football team after Tuesday’s practice and talks about where the Bulldogs are at as a team six weeks into the college football season. As UGA continues to prepare for this weekend’s game versus Tennessee, Coach Smart also updates the status of several injured Dawgs including cornerbacks Tyson Campbell, offensive lineman Solomon Kindley, and defensive lineman Julian Rochester.
‘’We just finished up Tuesday’s practice a little bit ahead of schedule. We’re hoping to stay a little bit ahead, with the off week, getting a jump start on these guys. Had good energy today, enthusiasm. We went about half in, half out. It was hot outside and we’re playing at night, so we’re trying to get a little practice in the climate and a little bit inside as well. I thought the kids were really energized today and really pushed hard. We got a chance to do a lot of good on good because of the similarities in the offenses and defenses, so the players like going against each other a little better.’’
Is it a little bit of an advantage, to practice against yourself, which is something you don’t get to do all that often?
‘’They (Tennessee) get the same thing. I told the players. It’s like, our offense is not exactly like theirs, and our defense is not exactly like theirs. But there are similarities. So with that, you get some overlap, you’re able to run some plays that both teams run. We practice against each other every week anyway, so we see a lot of the same plays most of the time. But it does allow for you to go a little more of what I call ‘good on good’ and give the guys more competitive reps. But they’re in the same situation.’’
Four games into the season, what do you know about your team that you didn’t at the start of the year?
‘’That they’re resilient, that they respond. Our days that haven’t been great at practice, they’ve responded well to. And that’s usually the first sign that they’re the right kind of guys. And then adversity strikes, and they respond to that. We’re not easy on ‘em out there, we’re tough on ‘em. They embrace it. The older guys kind of lead with a message of ‘they’re pushing you because they want you to be great.’ And that’s usually the sign of a good team that can handle, number 1, adversity, and number 2, tough coaching.’’
What’s the next step for them now?
‘’I want to see them grow. I want us to improve. I mean, there are a lot of teams that will hit Game 5, 6 or 7 and they plateau. The teams that are best continue to get better. I don’t know what this team’s going to do in Games 5, 6 or 7; we’ve got to see. But I want to see them continue to grow and improve.’’
On the defensive side of the ball, what areas do you think they have improved, and where do you hope to see more improvement?
‘’You’re always trying to get better on defense. You’re trying to create ways to make negative plays, have new wrinkles, allow the guys to play fast, play more players. We’re trying to improve on our tackling. It’s not something we’ve been satisfied with. We get out of position and reach a lot of times. We’re not forcing the number of turnovers that we need to force in order to be a top defense. So there are a lot of things that we’re looking to improve on defensively. And our guys are pushing each day, trying to get better.’’
How has (punter) Jake Camarda responded during the open date, and are you sticking with him this week?
‘’Jake’s done a good job. He’s responded well. He continues to work really hard. We have punt period, when we measure his height, his distance, his hang, his direction kicking, how well he’s doing that. He gets lots of shots at it, as well as the other guys. We’ve rolled other guys in there with the ones, and we’ll see how it goes on Saturday.’’
Were you able to see Ohio State or Washington last weekend, with the two former Georgia quarterbacks playing?
‘’I watched the SEC games. I saw highlights of both those games. I watched most of the SEC games, which most of those were at night. (Regarding the two former UGA QBs) I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t seen them much. My focus is on Tennessee right now. I’m grinding on Tennessee.’’
Is there much difference in the two Tennessee quarterbacks and how you would defend them?
‘’There are several differences. One’s played a lot of ball and one hasn’t played as much. When you start looking at those two combinations, there are a lot of things. I mean, they might even have (WR) Jauan Jennings at quarterback. So there may be a lot of guys at quarterback.’’
Thoughts on the Fair Play to Pay Act that was passed Monday in California?
‘’I’m going to defer to the SEC on that. Our commissioner does a great job leading us in the right direction, and our president’s done a great job of being on the (NCAA) committee on name, image, and likeness. They’ll be looking at all the different angles of it, seeing how it impacts college football.’’
Do you think it makes a team dangerous when their backs are to the wall, almost desperate for something good to happen?
‘’I think every team’s dangerous. When I watch college football every Saturday, every team is dangerous. You’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds, whose minds are not where your mind is. My mind is there 98 percent of the time, OK? Their mind is there probably five to 10 percent of the time. Every team is dangerous, starting with Tennessee.’’
You’ve said that you want Trey Hill to “strain a little longer” on the field…
‘’I want everybody to strain harder and longer. I want Jordan Davis to straight harder and longer. I want Trey Hill to. (What exactly does that mean?) When you strain on a play, when you block a guy, I want you to do it longer and harder. So, if you do it for four seconds, I want you to do it for five or six seconds. If you do it for seven, I want you to do it for eight or nine. I want you to do it until the echo of the whistle. That’s harder and longer, and that’s for every player on our team, not just Trey Hill. Jake Fromm? I want him to strain harder and longer to make it perfect.’’
Back to Trey Hill, you said he had high snaps when he first transitioned to center. How has he progressed?
‘’He still has high ones in practice. He has thousands of snaps out there. I don’t think you can be a thousand for a thousand. So he has to continue to improve on his snaps, and the pace of his snaps. But (knuckles rapping on dais) he’s done a good job so far. And to go into the environment he went into at Kentucky (last season), I thought it was an incredible job. But he needs to grow and continue to get better. He’s a guy, he’ll tell you. He needs fire and motivation under him because it’s come easy for him. He’s very talented, he’s athletic. Both his brothers will tell you. His dad will tell you. He needs a fire lit under him to motivate him sometimes because he’s athletic.’’
What was your recruiting pitch to (Knoxville native) Cade Mays?
‘’Opportunity. He’s a super talented guy that plays the game the right way, with toughness and passion. He had an opportunity. We were low on linemen and he knew he could come in and help us. Coach Pittman had a great relationship with him and he chose to come, obviously. The sell was the education at Georgia and the opportunity to play early.’’