Video/Transcript: Kirby Smart’s 2021 National Signing Day Presser

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Video/Transcript: Kirby Smart’s 2021 National Signing Day Presser

On the returners…

“I don’t get heavily involved or put emotions in those decisions because we do the best we can to educate those guys and get them information. Ultimately, each player and their family have to make those decisions. It’s an investment in them and we spend a bunch of money on getting the information, whether it’s the services we get talking to NFL teams, traveling to visit with parents, we invest a lot of time and energy in getting them good information to make a good decision. It’s up to each and every guy, and I’m not very critical of those decisions they make. I don’t know if they actually know the right decision, because there isn’t really a wrong one. It’s more of what suits the needs of others. Some guys have graduated and it’s onto the next step, other guys are close to graduation and they think it’s time for them to make that leap. We certainly support those guys, I’m looking forward to them working out and training. We’re fired up about the guys who decided to return.”

On Demetris Robertson, Walter Grant, Julian Rochester and their plans…

“I know most of their plans, some of them are working out with us and some aren’t. To be honest with you, we’re worried about the guys that are working out and I don’t want to get into specifics about those guys. Some of them may not have even made up their minds yet, but most of them have. It’ll play out over the next several weeks as spring practices come to fruition.”

On Georgia’s position needs and how the team is managing its roster….

“I’m very pleased. I don’t look at this as a signing day zoom because our class was pretty much done in December. I think that’s the way it’s moving forward too, especially in terms of COVID-19. It’s kind of anticlimactic to talk about the signing class because we’ve been focused on them since they arrived mid-year and were able to practice, enroll in school and begin workouts with us. I’m excited about those guys and it’s an interesting class because the first time you saw some of them was when they were walking in for school or practice because you didn’t get the official visit time with them. I’m excited about those guys coming in to work and they’re a really good academic group, we thought it was a good class all-in-all.”

On Will Muschamp’s role with the football program…

“As of last week, we were able to get things completed with Will. He’ll be joining our staff in an off-the-field role— we call it an analyst. He’s already made a lot of strides in terms of helping me [and] helping our staff. He’ll be able to help coach the coaches, and he’ll be working with the defensive side of the ball. It’s very helpful to have a guy who has been a head coach at two places in our conference. He knows the ins and outs of this conference. He’ll be able to help our staff, our coaches, in a lot of ways, and I’m excited to be able to have him join us.”

On an update for players who had postseason surgeries and spring availability for Nakobe Dean, MJ Sherman and Micah Morris…

“Those guys had some postseason work done. Each one will be individually based on whether they’re ready for spring, based on their recovery and the time it takes to recover. I don’t know if Nakobe will be able to go through spring or not; he’ll certainly be able to do a lot of things, but he may not be full contact. The guys that have labral repairs most of the time won’t make it to the spring, in terms of contact. So, if you’re talking about MJ, Micah and Nakobe, you’re talking about labrums.”

On when Will Muschamp expressed interest in returning to an unfilled role at UGA…

“I would say that any time you’re an aspiring coach, you want to get on the field and get an opportunity to go coach on the grass. I know he’s not through with his coaching days, and that’s really important for him to be able to get out there and have the relationships and go develop a position group and coach. I know that’s important to him, and his family has been his focus here recently, because I know he feels like he’s moved his family all over the country. This is an opportunity for him to get back to get back to them and be with them and be able to watch his son play.”

On how he knows when a player is verbally committed to his program during COVID…

“It’s no different than it’s ever been. [Prospects] can text you, they can call you, they can zoom— they didn’t always do it in person. As a matter of fact, most of the commitments I’ve ever received were not face-to-face. Most of the commitments I’ve received occurred after a kid came and visited. You know, he wanted to go home, sleep it off, spend time with his family, and check in with his coach. Whenever they he felt comfortable making a verbal commitment, he did it by calling you and letting you know, or maybe letting the position coach know, and then that coach referred him to the head coach. That really hasn’t changed. The matter of how they go about committing hasn’t really changed. The entire recruiting process has changed because we don’t get much face-to-face interaction.”

On what the process of getting the early enrollees on campus was like and what he has seen from them…

“You mean, do you want me to create an unrealistic expectation for them? Is that what you want me to do? I mean, I’ve gotten to be around them a little bit, yeah. I’ve been able to see them work out and lift in the weight room, but the guys we got to see practice briefly, I think we got maybe three or four practices in with those guys before we had to go to Atlanta for the bowl. So, no, I’m not ready to put any stamps on anybody or any unrealistic expectations on anybody. I know that’s what a lot of people want to talk about, is those guys, but for me, unrealistic expectations are the biggest avenue to failure. I don’t want to place that burden on anyone. I want these guys to grow and learn and work hard. They’ll get a chance to perform in the spring.”

On his preliminary plans for the secondary and how the transfer portal affects that…

“l I think the number one thing is the secondary is a developmental position. Number two, especially for us, is when you look at it across the board, the number of players we’ve had that play as freshmen have been few and far between when it comes to defensive backs. There have certainly been role players but not many guys that can just step in and play. So, it’s a position that needs to be developed, we have some guys that we’ve been developing that need to step up and play. We’ve also got some young guys that we’ve signed that we just talked about that will have to grow quickly and will get an opportunity to compete for positions. We certainly have availability at that spot and we certainly knew that was coming for a long time, because we had some talented players that we knew were going to have the ability to leave as juniors. So, these young guys will begin to work, some of the older guys that got to play in the bowl game more than normal, they’re going to get a lot of opportunities and we’re going to try and develop some of these guys. The best part of the secondary will be the front four getting some pressure and being able to rush, so that will be just as important as anything else that we do.”

On whether there has been any indication about the possibility to host prospects on campus this spring and whether the style of recruiting throughout COVID has recharged him and his staff in some ways…

“Yeah, I would say that the travel aspect. I enjoy going to the high schools. I enjoy going to the basketball games. I enjoy promoting our game and our sport. I don’t look at that as taxing, because if you are not doing that you are doing something else. It is not like it ever stops; I have probably been more involved with my family, my kids, my players, our team here, with their activities after hours more than normal. I haven’t been on the road to basketball games, in-home visits, and have all of that under control. All those things that you would typically do in a January time period. As far as us getting kids back on campus, that is up to the NCAA. They have pushed it back several times, and we will find out shortly here if they have pushed it back this date back that we currently have. I am looking forward to getting guys back because I want to find more about them as men when they come to campus. I want to learn more about their families and have them get around our players, so that we can feel comfortable about the guys we are bringing in.”

On what players he has not met yet and what made them come to Georgia without the normal atmosphere…

“I met them all by Zoom, obviously. I met a lot in person for the first time. We were not able to get to see these guys. looking down the list they weren’t able to come to games this year, so we weren’t able to sit down and visit with several of them. We are excited about them. Just different because the official visit you feel like you get to know their families and so many things about them. We did not get to do that as far as time on the phone and time on Zoom. I think those same selling pieces convinced them. One, a wonderful education. We have a really stellar class in terms of academics, so this class bought into the fact that they are going to one of the top 20 public institutions in the country. That was a key ingredient. The fact that we have an opportunity to be successful. They see the support; they see what our program has been able to do from a facilities standpoint. They want to be a part of that and align themselves with that. We got a lot more kids from our own instate, in-state kids. I know Georgia means a lot to them, they watched Georgia growing up, and Georgia going to be successful is important to them. I think that was probably the number one factor because they could not factor it off of visits. They couldn’t do it off of games they had to do it off of what they knew and understood.”

On whether he sees the timeline for recruiting and signing players changing in the future and what he would change about the process…

“I don’t see this changing. I see it only moving up more and more, because more and more kids want to go here, [and] they want to start their college education here. COVID only accelerated that because they did not get the opportunity to play spring sports in a lot of cases. So, I don’t see that changing. In terms of the timing of things, it is tough for us, because you are making decisions blindly. You don’t know who is coming back, who’s not, and those decisions aren’t made. I think those decisions are made in the right timeline, but unfortunately, our early signing prevents us from getting that information, so there are two different dates that are not aligned. It is really hard to fix that. You can say the way to fix that is to push back singing day until after the junior declare day, but then you are right back to where we were before. A lot of kids want to be able to early sign and take the pressure off of January and February, so you are not going to be cohesive in either one.”

On whether there have been more players signing in December in recent years and, if so, how that has changed recruiting…

“I wouldn’t say more, I think it has always been that way, right? I have always seen January as a chance to jump ahead on the other guys. We just have a little more time now because you are on less 2021 kids because your class is pretty much done. We have always put a big emphasis on that next class. That has not changed it has just seemed to be that way. Those kids are making earlier decisions with the outlook that they may not get visits, or that they may not get an opportunity to go places and do things. “

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