Video/Transcript: Kirby Smart Post-Practice Presser November 10, 2020

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Video/Transcript: Kirby Smart Post-Practice Presser November 10, 2020

Opening Statement “I’d like to open with that today is the birthday of the Marine Corps, and would like to wish the Marine Corps a happy birthday. Coach [Vince] Dooley was a marine. We certainly appreciate all they have done, and all of the service they have provided to our country. Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, and we would love to thank all of our veterans and the service they have provided us for our country. I know my family and wife and kids certainly appreciate all that they have done as veterans for the country. Thanks to the many that have.  I will open it up with, we’ve had two really good practices. I thought Monday was good. It was really light because obviously we are lower on numbers and banged up, but today was good. We had a good Tuesday practice. We were forced to go inside for a little bit with the weather here in Athens [Ga]. I thought it helped with the speed of things, in terms of guys were really popping and moving fast. It was good. I was really pleased with the practice. We will go and get ready now for third down and red area.”  

On the “exposure” of the pass-defense and if there is any concern on what they are doing schematically…“Yeah, I would definitely say there was a concern, schematically, in terms of putting guys in tough situations. We have a philosophical belief that you have to be able to play man-to-man to play defense in this conference. Maybe sometimes we need to try to help the guys out some. Sometimes in our—I don’t know the right word—in our defensive-world, our defensive-system, it can be feast or famine, because you shut somebody down and it’s incomplete second and ten or third and ten or you can give up a big play. Look at the Tennessee game. Right? There were times they couldn’t breathe and we suffocated them, then there were times that we gave up two nine-balls back-to-back. It’s kind of the same thing for Alabama at times. But, philosophically, I don’t think I am ever going to change from—you have to play man-to-man. You have to be aggressive. You have to pressure. You have to play combination coverages. To be honest with you, it’s not so much that we have to change the scheme, but that we have to get the scheme right. That’s the toughest part for me to swallow, and two of those games there were a lot of mistakes. I don’t blame the players for the mistakes, I blame myself. We have to do a better job of getting them to execute what we need them to do. You could be simpler. You could be simpler, but I’ve seen what simple does on team like that. They can expose that as well. You just have to be better. I thought LSU—there were not busts. They beat us. We had busts in the other two games that—you give gifts away. You can get beat one-on-one, just don’t give gifts.” 

On what the team’s plan will be if the Missouri game is postponed and an update on the quarterbacks…“This is a long, thought-out process. I am going to be honest with you Dean [Legge], I don’t even want to think about that. I know there are rumors out there and things like that, but I don’t want to plan on that. I don’t want to say what I am going to do because a lot of that can be dictated by what the next week is, what we’re going to do. We have talked about it as a staff. We have a plan we feel comfortable with, but we have to get our team better. I will say this, we need a game. We want to play. If we are given the opportunity to do that, then we will. If we don’t then we have to work to get better. We get to go against each other too. We have a pretty good defense and a pretty good offense to go against each other and compete as well. So, we would love to do that. As far as the quarterbacks, all I am going to say is that they are all out there and doing a really good job. Stetson [Bennett] hasn’t been able to throw, but those guys are working really hard. Carson [Beck] has gotten work. JT [Daniels] has gotten work. D’Wan [Mathis] has gotten work. I am pleased with all three of them. I think the juice on the offensive-ball has been good. George [Pickens] has been practicing, so I think it’s helpful that he has been out there. Some of the younger guys are out there. There are a lot of receivers getting a lot of reps.” 

On an update on Arian Smith…“He is just coming back. He got injured before camp. When you come back from that injury, it’s not like you just jump right in. You don’t do that. He hasn’t caught a ball. He hasn’t been able to do much. He has been working his way back in. He certainly has a trait that we are looking for in vertical speed. He is young. He is raw. I love his attitude and his energy. Can he help us? Hopefully. Right now? I don’t know if he can help us right now because it’s not that easy. He has to develop. He is a player that came from a really small school to Lakeland. He’s gotten better and better and better, but he still has ways to go to get to where he needs to help us.” 

On the transition for players from scout team practice to going against the ones and twos…“I’m not sure I understand your question, where they are coming from scouts. Are you talking about where they go from scouts to the ones and twos and all the different things? They are always with those guys. They throw to those guys every day, Mike [Griffith]. The first thing they do in practice, the periods that you guys used to hang out, out-there and video and watch, they are throwing with the ones and twos. There’s not a timing issue because that’s what we call, routes on air. You throw the ball with your receivers. I think when you saying coming from the scouts and coming from the threes, those are just reps to get protection right. Those are reps to develop and get better, but they’re not timing. You get timing when you are going with our offense, our ones and twos, which they do that every day in the first 15 minutes of practice.” 

On the opening play against Florida and if they plan to do that type of play more often…“It’s probably not a bulldoze play—I wouldn’t call it that. It was a sweep. It was an outside, and it was one of those deals where you pin-pull against a team that is built to stop inside-run. We felt like they were expecting inside run, so we wanted to go outside. We did a good job executing that play, and it was something our offensive staff had put together. We actually repped it against our defense that is similar to Florida’s. It worked great. It was awesome. You can probably make the case to run it again. But, in our league, the first thing they were doing over there after the touchdown was drawing up—it kind of caught them off guard. It’s like running a trick play because it’s not the same personnel grouping. It’s not to say that you couldn’t have tried it again. We certainly could have tried it again, and if we had gotten three or four yards it would have been a successful play. Right? It would have been a great play. They certainly would have had something dialed up off of it. Our job is to compliment that play now. I agree with you, we’re always trying to find a niche, a gadget, something they are not expecting. That is what good offenses do is try and not to be predictable.” 

On what he has learned from practice this week about JT Daniels and his overall mobility…“I have seen that he has a quick release. I see that every day anyway because he was with us on the scouts. He’s got good command and presence—meaning he understands the offense in terms of timing, communication, snap count, motions, all of the things you want a quarterback to be able to do. He does a good job of that. You can’t really judge mobility in our practices, unfortunately, because that’s not real. I can’t go out there and go live-tackle, that’s not something I can do. You don’t get a clean picture from the scouts because sometimes they’re not talented enough to rush the passer and give you the look. The best periods we have are when we go against each other, and we only have had a few of those. We don’t do that on Monday, and we did it a little bit today. It’s hard to answer that question with a two days body of work with any of those three guys.” 

On the progress and status of Lewis Cine and Jordan Davis…“Lewis is still in concussion protocol, but he’s exercising. He’s able to work and run. He just can’t have contact right now and hopefully will get cleared. Jordan is working extremely hard. The most important thing with Jordan is obviously keeping his weight down. He’s done that. He’s getting more yardage and more miles per hour and more sweat than any of the D-linemen, but he has not been in full pads. He’s getting a lot of work, and I’m proud of the way he’s working.” 

On whether Jamie Newman has been around the team or trained with the team since he opted out…“I haven’t seen Jamie. We communicated obviously when he left and a couple times since then, but he hasn’t been with us. I don’t know if he’s been with the players outside the building, but I haven’t seen Jamie here. I think he’s training.”

On whether he is worried about where his players’ heads are right now given the loss to Florida and the SEC game cancellations due to COVID-19…“I think you’re always concerned as a coach. I mean, you’re playing at 11 a.m. central, I think, on the road. It’s always interesting when the crowd’s not there and not full, and that’s tough. It is what it is. It’s what we prepare for. We talk about it, and we try to get them ready for it, but I  don’t have a concern that they’re not ready. I’m more worried about preparing them to be ready, and that’s what the job of a coach is— to prepare them for any situation. That’s the leadership’s job, and I think our kids are doing a good job. Like I said, they had really good energy today.”

On how excited he is for the younger guys to get chances to play and how players such as Major Burns and Chris Smith responded to the feedback post-Florida…“They handled it well. It’s very technical. I talked about it on Monday. Nobody wants to play good more than those kids do. It’s really important to them. If it’s not important to them, then I don’t want them on my team. Those two kids meet extra, come in and want to get it right, they do. I’ve always said in our league, until you’ve played four to five games as a starter, you’re going to have silly mistakes, mistakes I can’t explain. I’ve never seen a player not have them. I call them growing pains. So, until you go through those growing pains, it’s going to be tough. Major has growing pains, and Chris didn’t really have growing pains, but he had them already. He’d kind of gone through it last year and some this year, so I’m proud of the way those guys have responded this week. They get a sense of urgency to learn now. They sit in the meeting for so long, and it gets numb, and they get bored and don’t listen. Then, all of a sudden, they’re in there like, ‘Wow. I should have listened in those meetings.’ And they start doing it a lot better, so it gets their attention.”

On whether his recruiting approach will change after the loss to Florida, particularly with the COVID-19 protocols in place…“No, my message doesn’t change: ‘We’re looking for high execution. We’re going to play in three to four top 10 games a year. You’re going to be at one of the elite programs, and you’re going to get a great degree at the University of Georgia. If you want to be a part of our family, then we want you. But if you choose to come here, you’re going to do things the right way.’  We’re going to demand discipline, toughness. We’re going to play really hard and hope they don’t bust coverages and hope they don’t make mistakes and turn the ball over, and we’re going to try to win big games. We believe in developing the total player, and that’s what we sell. Recruiting has nothing to do with the outcome of [the Florida] game, the next game or the next game Recruiting is about relationships, and those kids see opportunity. They’re not concerned with wins or losses.” 

On whether he and his staff redouble their COVID-19 efforts when he sees what is happening around the league right now…“Yeah. I think Ron Courson and his staff have done a tremendous job of realizing that it’s misleading what’s out there. Everybody thinks that COVID is taking over these teams, but it’s not. They’re having mild, one or two cases. It’s the contact-tracing that’s causing people not to play, because when you travel, and you go on a plane, you sit in a small locker room, you sit on a bus— all of a sudden you go from having two guys with COVID to 14 guys contact-traced, and now you can’t play. It’s not the COVID that is doing it, and it’s tough. It’s the contact-tracing, the rules and regulations that we fall under for safety reasons.”

On his thoughts on the way Bill Norton and Zion Logue stepped up against UF and the number of snaps they played…“I don’t remember, in the Florida game, how many [snaps]. I know Bill was in one snap, because I remember it, but Zion played in quite a few. They’re getting better. What kills those guys like that is they never had an off season. They never got like the really heavy lifting. We were concerned going into the game they wouldn’t be able to hold up, because Florida is really big in the run. They did a decent job in stopgapping the run and holding up. We didn’t get a lot of great pass rush out of the guys inside, which we needed, but they did hold up against the run, and Zion made a couple plays. I was really proud of him going in and trying to get through those growing pains I talked about and some added depth.”

On whether Justin Robinson or Makiya Tongue will get chances to play and work through their growing pains in the near future…“Hopefully. Justin works every day. He’s continuing to get better. He’s developing. He’s getting smarter. He’s trying to help on special teams. He’s developing a role. Makiya has been out with a hamstring. He’s in the injury department with the other 100 guys we’ve got in there, and he hasn’t been able to practice. Justin is getting better. He’s learning. He’s competing. It’s been like a cycle in there. It’s been guy in, guy out. That, kind of packaged with new terminology and new words, has been a struggle getting enough guys to play at what I call an ‘above-the-line level.’ We’re hopeful to get some more of those guys back and be able to help us at receiver.’

On the timeline for Richard LeCounte’s return…“We’re hopeful. I’ve asked Ron [Courson] the same question, but he wouldn’t put a timetable on it of four to six weeks. It’s more when he heals right now. He’s getting more exercise now. He’s able to do some things on the bike. He’s still got some open wounds, so he’s not able to get up and train, which we’re hoping we’ll be able to get him in the pool before the end of this week. He’s been out at practice. He enjoys being around at the meetings. He’s making his way back to more normalcy, but whether or not he makes it back depends on how long the season goes.”

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