ATLANTA, GA. — Kirby Smart and Ed Orgeron conducted their final press conferences Friday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, site of Saturday’s SEC Championship Game between 4th-ranked Georgia and 2nd-ranked LSU.
Although nothing new or startling came out of the head coaches’ comments, both Smart and Orgeron had on their game faces as they continued to praise their opponent while saying their own team is excited about the challenge it will face come the 4 p.m. kickoff.
Here are some of the high points of the coaches’ replies to questions from the assembled media:
- LSU has got outstanding football players who do a tremendous job. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a truly outstanding running back who can both run the ball well as well as being an outstanding pass receiver. And Joe Burrow is a great passer who is also an outstanding runner who can hurt an opposing defense with his legs.
- Jake Fromm does a great job running the Bulldogs’ offense and that people don’t understand the pressure he carries in running the Georgia attack, getting the team into the right plays and making sure the offensive players carry out their responsibilities.
- He (Smart) didn’t recruit Joe Burrow when coaching at Alabama, as the Athens, Ohio quarterback first signed with Ohio State before transferring to LSU.
- Coach Orgeron is truly an outstanding football coach, who has quickly built the Tigers into what they are today … an unbeaten, 12-0 team with one of the most explosive offenses in college football.
- Georgia senior safety J.R. Reed is truly a “quarterback” of the Bulldogs’ defense. J.R. and Richard LeCounte have been really good at getting people in the right places and handling everything a defense needs to do.
- Playing a team at a neutral site game like Georgia does against Florida in Jacksonville doesn’t really give a team an edge in games like the SEC championship, where both teams’ fans bring the crowd noise. In the SEC, you play championship games every week, no matter the stadium you’re in.
- Junior tailback D’Andre Swift should be ready to go against the LSU defense, after aggravating his injured shoulder in the win over Georgia Tech last weekend. It’s hard to measure Swift’s availability when he’s not in contract situations during the week but he’s practiced and I’m excited to see him go play.
- Senior tailback Brian Herrien is an “incredible story.” To not be a highly-recruited player out of high school and go on to make the contributions he has to the Georgia team as well as being a really good leader for the Bulldogs.
- It’s going to be quite a challenge for the UGA defense in attempting to slow down an LSU offense that is averaging close to 50 points a game but I know the guys are excited about the opportunity.
- It’s exciting to be back in the SEC title game for a third consecutive year. It means you’ve accomplished something — it’s earned and you always want to set it as the bar you strive for.
- We learned a lot from the South Carolina loss. But our backs were to the wall in every game. In the SEC, you’re in a playoff scenario every week.
- It’s always important to get off to a good start in a championship game and to do that it’s how prepared your kids are and how well you respond to adversity.
- When LSU junior tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire (5-8, 212) walks into a room he’s 6-4, 270 pounds because of the heart and courage he has. He’s a great running back, catches the ball well and just has great heart and courage.
- Georgia is a hard team to run the football against. We have to protect Joe (Burrow) and get the ball downfield. We can’t afford to fumble the ball, have turnovers against this defense.
- D’Andre Swift and Clyde Edwards-Helaire possess similar skills. He (Swift) runs the outside zone as good as anybody in the country. Our scheme makes Clyde a different player than Swift but as I say they obviously possess similar skills. They’re two of the best running backs in the country. We’re assuming Swift will play and play well. But then Georgia has five tailbacks who could be first-round draft choices.
- Georgia having more fans than LSU in Mercedes-Benz on Saturday shouldn’t make a big difference. I think the crowd on both sides will be electrical and we’ve practiced with loud crowd noise all week.
- We’ve got three great receivers but our offense this year started with Joe Burrow … us getting a quarterback that could run that (spread) offense.
- We recruited George Pickens (Georgia freshman receiver who will sit out the first half of championship game due to disciplinary action against him in Georgia Tech game) and knew he was a great player. But Georgia has recruited a lot of great players and like we say at LSU, it’s the “next man up.”
- We have a lot of respect for Kirby. He’s done a tremendous job and Georgia is a great program. Them playing here three straight years no doubt helps them experience-wise but for us, it’s not about the other team — it’s just a matter of playing to the LSU standard. Our team is motivated and focused for this football game.
- Joe Burrow and I are very close. You don’t have to say much to Joe. I’ll tell you a story about Joe. When his phone broke recently, his parents said we’ll get you another one. Joe told them I don’t need a phone — I’ve got a game to play this week.
- What jumps out to me as far as Georgia goes is that offensive line. I think they have five guys up there who will play in the NFL and Andrew Thomas will be a first-round pick.
- Georgia is the most physical and most complete team we’ve played this season … on both sides of the line of scrimmage. They love to hit, play fast and their backs really hit the hole fast.
- I feel like our offense will play well Saturday but I think our defense will be the key to the game. We have to stop Georgia’s offense to win the football game.