Video/Transcript: Kirby Smart and George Pickens Interviews

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Video/Transcript: Kirby Smart and George Pickens Interviews

Head coach Kirby Smart

On whether he has Thanksgiving traditions or if that is hard as a college coach…“It’s tough to do in coaching. We have traditions a little bit for my family and for players and things like that in terms of eating. We try to always have a good meal on Thanksgiving Day, kind of after the practice in the morning, Then we also have a meal when we come back, because traditionally we would go to Georgia Tech or Georgia Tech would come to us, and we would have a big team meal Friday upon the return of all the players. So, that’s what we’ve always done.”


On whether Stetson Bennett is prepared to step in at QB if something were to happen to JT Daniels…“It would depend on the health of Stetson, obviously. We would hope that he would be healthy enough.”

On the performance of Jamaree Salyer this season and his significance now that JT Daniels is more of a ‘pocket guy…’“It’s important either way, because when it’s your blind side you don’t see them coming all the time. In terms of the importance of him is probably just as important, regardless of who the quarterback is, but you know, it’s not his natural position. It may not project as his next position at the next level, but he certainly has been a leader for us. He’s worked tremendously hard. He fought to lose a lot of weight in the off-season. He lost weight and cut his weight down. He’s been really competitive out there, fought and battled for us out on the edge in what’s a tough league to do it in. You know, our league is a tough league to play tackle, and he’s held his own out there and done a good job.”

On what he would like his team’s offensive personality to be the final games of the season, given he says he wants his offense to take what the defense gives it…“Exactly what you just said— take what the defense gives us. I felt a little bit bullheaded the other night— not me, since I wasn’t running the plays— as far as trying to run into some of the looks. It was tough. We’re committed to running the ball, because if you don’t attempt to run the ball, you’ll really have trouble protecting the passer. So, the threat of the run keeps guys from pinning their ears back and just rushing the passer, but the goal would be to take advantage of what the opposing team gives us. And if they want to load up and stop the run, then we need to be able to have intermediate and explosive passing game. If they’re going to defend that, then you’ve got to be able to block people and get the ball through the inside up the middle and outside the run game. We want to take what they give us. I think anybody would tell you that. It’s like the textbook answer. I want to take what they give us, but what is that? That’s balance. That’s being able to do a little bit of both, and we didn’t have that the other night, but a a lot of that was dictated by the way they played us.”

On the passing game against Mississippi State last Saturday and how much of that could be credited to George Pickens…“I think you’re looking at a combination of factors. Number one, they’re a risk-reward defense. Their strength is in their front and in their linebackers, but really in their secondary. JT [Daniels] made som really good throughs. We won some 50/50 balls. We got some PIs. We got a hard count free play. I mean, a lot of those things you saw, you’ve seen all year. The hard count bombs we’ve hit in the past, we didn’t hit them. You know what I mean? I go back to Matt Landers’ one game, and I thought he got PI’d; we had the exact same situation, but we hit Jermaine’s [Johnson]. We had guys open behind people we missed, so I think a combination of who we played, how we played, George being in the game. Part of Jermaine’s progression has been, ‘Hey, we knew we were going to go through some growing pains with Jermaine and Darnell [Washington] and the linemen.’ I go back to some of the early games where I got so frustrated because Jermaine, he might mess up or didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t sure. He got a holding, and he didn’t line up on the ball. There are just all these things, and JT [Daniels] was a beneficiary of some of that growth, so he got the good end where Jermaine is at his best and his best is still ahead.”

On the progress of Kelee Ringo…“He’s actually been out there in a black shirt, doing I guess you could say about 70 percent of the work. He doesn’t hit anybody, and he doesn’t get to do a lot of drills, but he does individual things. I’ve been really pleased with him trying and fighting to get back out there. Guys get injured, and they kind of lose focus, and it’s like they get lost in the shuffle, but he’s been in every meeting. He’s very attentive. He takes notes. It’s very promising to see that out of him, but I don’t think he’s going to be back any time soon or anything.”

On what the competition for playing time is like in the secondary…“There’s really three or four safeties. [Latavious] Brini and Major [Burns] are both competing with Chris [Smith] and Lewis [Cine] for playing time at safety. DJ [Daniel] is competing and playing more and more with Tyson [Campbell] and [Eric] Stokes at the corner position. Then, of course, Mark [Webb] and Tyrique [Stevenson] and [William] Poole all work in the star position.”

On whether it was gratifying that his team was able to take what Mississippi State’s defense gave them last Saturday in terms of UGA improving the passing game… “I wish I’d seen it. Like I told you, I’d seen it in so many practices. You guys have asked if we have confidence throwing it, and yeah. I’ve seen those same plays. I’d seen Stetson [Bennett] and D’wan [Mathis] make some of those plays against us in practice, so I knew it was there. We were fortunate, too, guys. We converted two 3rd and really long, and then had a red area play before the half that was huge, too. You’re not going to win the percentages when you’re in 3rd and 20 or 30, whatever the other touchdown was, I don’t remember where it was. Those are not favorable offensive positions to be in, and we were kind of rewarded by the risk they took, and that goes back to pass bro and all the work we do. We do a lot of work during the week on picking up things in protection, and our offensive line has been really good for two years at picking those kinds of things up, and you can expose people on that. But if you don’t play better on first and second down, you’re not going to have that kind of success, and that’s my concern, folks.”

On how much defensive focus these days is on not allowing explosive plays…“You know, I don’t know. I am torn between being the aggressor and—you’re going to give up explosive in flighting for negatives, and the whole havoc rate because the guys with havoc rates are going to give up explosives. You’re trying to find a balance. You can look at the Kentucky game and the game the other night against Mississippi State, and we didn’t give up the explosives. We avoided the explosives for the most part. We gave up the big pass on Kentucky that was the touchdown. Outside of that, we didn’t give up the explosives, but we still had long, extended drives. If you don’t put people down behind the sticks, it’s hard to win. It’s hard to win on third and two and three consistently. I would much rather be the team that is the aggressor, and plays aggressively, gets people behind the sticks. I think at one time, I don’t know if it is still true, but we were No. 1 in the country, in terms of giving up explosive runs—we were the best at not doing it. We had like one explosive run in the entire season or something. We were doing a good job of that in the run game, but not so much in the pass game. That’s probably my biggest regret that, not the 50-50 balls we lost—we are going to lose some of those and we’re going to win some of those. But, when you gift them, when you literally do not cover a guy that’s unacceptable.” 

On whether JT Daniel’s emergence spurred excitement from the offense…“Well, I think the verdict is still out on that. The sample size we have is small, but the sample size we have, meaning coaches in practice, we get to see him each and every day. You have to remember we have seen this guy go with the ones for longer than anybody else has because he practiced the Missouri week the whole time there. I have seen him make some good plays. I have seen him make good decisions. He had some really good plays today. We go good-on-good, and compete on third down. He moved in the pocket, made some plays. The biggest improvement that he has made is in the pocket-awareness, and that’s where his best decisions have to come. As far as transformation or anything like that, I don’t know. We have to find ways to run the ball, and that’s probably the most important thing to me so we can be explosive in both ways.” 

On the development of the team’s freshman players (Devin Willock, Tate Ratledge, Broderick Jones, Austin Blaske, Chad Linberg, Sedrick Van Pran, Ladd McConkey, Daran Branch)… “Yeah, if you give me those names, I’ll do it. [Devon] Willock, I have been extremely impressed with, recently. So, he’s climbing up the charts in my opinion. He’s really smart. He’s really conscientious—it’s important to him. But, he missed, I mean I forget how long it was. I don’t even know if y’all knew, but he had an MCL sprain the last scrimmage of camp, it was three or four weeks, or something that he didn’t even practice. It was like, ‘Gah-lee, this guy is going to be behind.’ Now, he’s come back, he’s cut. He had to lose a lot of weight. I think he’s lost 30 pounds. He’s in the 330-range, and he is a massive guard that—he struggles in pass-pro right now, but he’s going to be able to move people and that’s what you want at the guard position. You want a massive, big man that is hard to run through. I am excited about him. He’s just so bright—such a good kid. Tate [Ratledge] was making really good progress, was getting some [reps at] two right tackle—I guess it was when [Owen] Condon was out. Tate had an injury, and he missed about two or three weeks, and he’s just come back. He’s behind a little bit, but we were really pleased with Tate in camp. He’s just missed some time with injury. Broderick [Jones] missed time early. Broderick has been playing left and right tackle and been kind of the—probably would be our fourth right tackle in the game the last couple of weeks. Now that Owen is back, because Owen had some illness and sickness stuff, so Owen has come back. Owen and Broderick are kind of fighting for that spot behind [Xavier] Truss, Warren [Ericson], and Jemaree [Salyer]. [I am] very pleased with Broderick. Broderick needs a year in the weight room. But, Broderick is a good athlete. He is just going to have to get stronger and more physical in the run game. He can pass-pro and stay in front of people. The beauty is these guys get to go against our outside-backers one-on-one in pass-rush every day, and I love it. I mean there isn’t a day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday where we don’t make them go good-on-good, and have to go block really good people because that’s the only way to get better. [Austin] Blaske continues to improve. I hadn’t seen a guy as tough and hard working as he is. He really works hard. Chad [Linberg] has been there throughout working at guard—with us on the scout team. When we look across the scout team and you have Cam[eron] Kinnie, Linberg, [Devin] Willock, Blaske and Tate across the scout team, it’s good. We get really good work with those guys. [Sedrick] Van Pran, he runs with the twos. He reps with the twos, so Warren [Ericson] can flip at the guards. Warren Ericson goes back and forth at guard. Van Pran works at center—been really consistent. He’s getting better at being fast, really smart—felt like if something happened to Trey [Hill], it would still be close with Ericson and Van Pran who would go in. Van Pran is closing that gap so Warren can play the two guards spots. Ladd [McConkey] is another guy that was coming on—it was really exciting because he goes on the scout team and does so many good things. Man, he’s tough. He’s physical. He blocks well. He had a contact-trace that he had to miss 14 days, so it crushed him because when we were down receivers we thought we were going to bring him up and really work him, and then he got 14 days and just got back. We have been limited on what we could do with him. [Daran] Branch has worked on the scout team. He missed a little time in fall camp, but he has worked with the scout team and been really competitive. Hopefully he grows into a good player. He’s just not ready right now.” 

On what it is about Smart’s and Mike Bobo’s family history in coaching that makes them effective at what they do…“Obviously, you grow up around it. It’s in your DNA. Every coach doesn’t want his son to be a coach, he wants him to be something better—then they end up being a coach anyway because that’s all they have grown up around. My dad never discouraged me from coaching, but he never encouraged it either. Mike’s [Bobo] dad would probably say the same thing. When you see it in your parents like it was in our two dads who grew up—Highway 84, south Georgia football, a lot of great matchups and Friday night being the most important thing in the town—it’s just kind of in your DNA. So, it was that way for both of us, and we are both competitive people because of our parents.” 

On what UGA’s defense misses the most without Richard LeCounte…“I just really think confidence. I don’t want to call it play-making ability because he always made plays—that’s the one thing about Richard [LeCounte], you cannot find a game that he did not have some crazy breakout in the middle or run down a reverse or just make an acrobatic interception. Just that moxie and play-making abilities is probably one of the biggest things and confidence. He breeds confidence and it trickles down into the other players, with Richard. You probably miss some of that, that play-making ability.”  

On where Lewis Cine is in his maturation as a player…“[Lewis Cine] is talented. He’s getting more and more instinctive. He’s a really good tackler—challenge him in something in the leadership department. It’s not something that he has had to do. He hasn’t been natural and comfortable with that, but he certainly can do it. Lewis is one of those kinds of people that leads by example. He works extremely hard. Academics, he never misses anything. He works really hard on the practice field, but he’s not extremely vocal either. He sets a great example for the players.” 

 On whether George Pickens is 100 percent…“Yeah, I think so. I thought he was—he’s moving all the way back. He was really close for a couple of weeks. Then, the Missouri-week, which we didn’t get to play, but he was ready to go that week. I thought he has been good in practice. He is hard to cover—that’s for sure. I don’t think anything is wrong with him.” 

On how many times he had “picked Mike Bobo off through the years” when they were players…“You would have to ask Mike [Bobo] that. He never admits to it much, but I have a few fond memories of flipping some balls to him. He probably won’t admit that much.”


#1 George Pickens | Sophomore | WR

On his assessment of the season so far…“I think I helped a lot of other people grow at the beginning of the season such as like Jermaine Burton, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint. A lot of the young guys. I felt like I helped them grow a lot when we knew it was going to be a tough season with COVID-19.”

On how he handles outside noise during the season…“I wasn’t really paying too much attention to that. When I wasn’t on the field, like I said, I was just encouraging the young guys. Tell them what happens because I was a freshman last year. So, when I was seeing them while I was out or if I was just texting them, ‘always put your best foot forward at practice and it’ll payoff in the game.’”

On how good it felt for him to get back out and play…“It was good. It felt good to get back and play with the guys. That’s what I like doing the most is just hanging out there and being out there with my friends. It felt good to see that the defense really showed up and came to play and everybody collectively doing their job to get the win.” 

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