Video/Transcript: Kirby Smart’s Media Day Presser – Georgia vs. Missouri 2020

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Video/Transcript: Kirby Smart’s Media Day Presser – Georgia vs. Missouri 2020

Opening statement …

“I’ll open today and talk about Missouri. I think Eliah [Drinkwitz] has done a tremendous job up there. The quarterback is playing really well. They have caught a really good rhythm, scoring a lot of points, and played really good defense most of the year. Their defensive personnel is one of the best we have probably played against. They do a lot of different things than people in our conference, defensively, and create a lot of problems. Winning five of the last six games — it’s great momentum. It’s a great opportunity to play a really good team on the road in the SEC, and I know our guys are excited about it.” 

On scheduling more conference games in the future and any long term changes to scheduling as a result of this season …

“Hard to speculate. My mind certainly hasn’t been in the scheduling format lately with so much other things going on and on our plate. So, I haven’t thought a lot about it. I certainly — I love the conference games, I love the ability to play every team possibly in a shorter span, but I also love the traditional rivalry games — the outside the conference rivalry games. The cross-conference games — playing a team once every two years every now and then, getting an out-of-conference team. I like both of those in terms of it. I certainly think it makes for a tough, physical season. I would love to see a schedule like that, whether it was all conference and then a couple of Power 5 cross-over games where we had a true offseason to condition our guys and get them prepared for the physicality of what we’ve had this year. In terms of the timespan it takes to schedule those games — I think those games are scheduled so far out so that people can account for their money and their revenue and know how many home games I am going to have, how many away games I am going to have. Doing it last minute makes it a lot tougher. People have done it successfully this year, I agree with you, but it’s not necessarily because of financial reasons. We like to have things set in stone in terms of financial reasons.”

On Missouri scoring 91 points combined in the last two games and if this is a challenge or an opportunity for his defense …

“It’s both. Every challenge is an opportunity. Their quarterback is playing at a high level. He understands coverages and looks. Eliah does a great job of having passing-game situations where based on the look he gets he can get really easy soft-zone throws. He does a good job completing those and they get yards after the catch. He does a good job of shots down the field, which they have been able to hit off their play-actions. Any time you’ve got the backs they’ve got, they’ve got the run game built in to where they can take shots downfield. They do a great job. I just have a lot of respect for the quarterback because he’s got great composure and accuracy. He just does a really good job in the pocket. He throws a very catchable ball.”

On the disappointment level of the seniors last week and his confidence level that they will play on Dec. 19 …

“I don’t want to dwell on that. That is kind of in the past. It was Friday when we found out. I hated it. It is what it is. There’s not a lot that anyone can control in that situation. It’s out of our control really completely, and some of it is out of their control. So, there’s just not a lot that you can do about it. I think obviously our players wanted to play and wanted to play at home. As to the 19th, you would have to ask Vanderbilt that. I don’t know that.”

On keeping players’ spirits up after the late postponement of the Vanderbilt game….

“You do the best you can. You just tell them honestly the information that you’ve been given. It’s pretty simple. We can’t control everything that happens. We try to be honest with them. We have to take advantage of the opportunities we get and don’t take anything for granted.  We told them that against Mississippi State. We can’t take anything for granted because you don’t know what lies ahead. The only thing you know is the minute it’s in front of you. That was evidence last week, right up to the last minute we didn’t know it was going to get canceled until really late. Our guys have handled it well, they’ve bounced back and I’m sure they’ll be awesome today. We get to be around them. I’m looking forward to playing a really good Missouri team.

On the late postponement of the Vanderbilt game and having to switch to preparing for Missouri…

“We knew we were going to be playing Missouri. We thought we were playing them previously and we have prepared for them all the way through the Wednesday practice. We didn’t get to have the Wednesday practice, previously, but a lot of the game planning was done. You have to be careful because they’ve played three games since then and we have more information dating all the way back to him (Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz) at App State. There is a lot of information out there as him as a coach. We gathered that in the off season because he was a new opponent in terms of offensively.  We have a lot of history when we look at that information, but at the end of the day it’s about what we do, how we play, how we tackle, how we cover, how we communicate. Those things are all going to be really important and that’s independent on what they do, it’s about what we do.”

On former Georgia assistant coach Shane Beamer being hired as the head coach at South Carolina…

“Well first off, I wouldn’t take credit. Shane is a good friend of mine and we’ve been friends for a long time. I certainly appreciate what he did for the University of Georgia while he was here, he worked really hard to help shape and build our program. He did the same, I’m sure, at Oklahoma with Lincoln. He’s done a good job where he’s been. I’m not taking credit for that. He’s earned this opportunity on his own merit.”

On the return of Jordan Davis, Kendall Milton, and Richard LeCounte…

“We are hopeful on all three. All three are going to be able to go out and do some things in practice. Kendall is probably going to be in a black shirt. Richard will probably be in a black shirt, non-contact. But they’re both going to be able to do some things. They progressed last week and had some good GPS numbers, have been healthy and moving around. Jordan, it’s kind of unrealistic to say a black shirt because of where he plays, there’s not a lot of no contact in there, but he’s going to be able to do more than he’s done in the past weeks and we’re hopeful that all three guys are able to play. We’ll know a lot more after today.

On the challenges of taking over a Power 5 program for his first head coaching job…

“Getting comfortable in what you want to do. And understanding that it’s your choice and your decision.  For the first time, you’re making the ultimate decisions. Not some of the decisions, all of the decisions. You have to be comfortable that you’re going to make good ones. You’re going to surround yourself with people who you trust, want to be there, and have the same goals and aspirations in mind that you do.  That may sound simple, but you can get overwhelmed because of the amount of information pouring in, the amount of people that want jobs, and the opportunity to be in the SEC. You have to sort through all of that and you have to get the right fit. Assembling the staff is the first step and then also making sure that the players on your current roster develop as well.”

On conversations with assistants considering head coaching jobs…

“Just thankful for the opportunity. I always thank them for the work they’ve done for us. The coaching profession is not necessarily easy work hours or an easy schedule, especially when full-time recruiting is going on. It can be very trying and tough on families and wives and kids. So, I thank those guys for the service they have provided and done, and tell them I’ll help them anyway I can in the future because I think that’s what you should do when someone gets another opportunity and you try to help them any way you can. It’s all about relationships in this business. I want to have good relationships with those guys who’ve worked here before, and we’ve been able to keep it that way with the guys who worked here and went on to head coaching jobs.”

On challenges of playing Missouri later in the season…

“I think those challenges just come up with their offensive success because their quarterback has more experience. You’re playing a guy that’s got more experience, very similar to our offense of young players that in week four or five, they were making some mistakes. In week seven, eight, nine, they’re not making those mistakes. So, they’re playing more efficiently. The backs are strong and physical. They’ve got a big offensive line. People just aren’t tackling as well around the country because as the season goes on, there’s less contact in practice, more and more injuries, less and less depth. So, when you see these games, when you see some sloppy play, including ours—when you look back at South Carolina, it was probably our worst game from a tackling standpoint.”

On new information gathered about Missouri…

“I think they’ve changed, kind of like us. You grow into who you are, and they’re not the same every game. They use different groupings versus different teams. I think the things they’ve done in the last three weeks have been successful for them, but they may have chosen to do those against Vanderbilt or Arkansas or South Carolina based on another set of circumstances. And you don’t ever know how they’re going to play you. They don’t know how we’re going to play them. A lot of them you find out in the game and who can adjust well.”

On his first five years as Georgia head coach…

“Grown a lot, learned a lot. (I’m) trying to figure out what’s important and what’s most important every day. I came in with a mantra of ‘What’s important now?’ and I don’t think that’s changed. Dealing with the problem or issue that’s at hand, not trying to look too far down the road, and knowing that every day is going to be different. Those are things that day one to day now, whatever number it is, continues to grow. If you stop growing as a coach, then you probably need to give the business up because we’re always growing and adapting to the changes that are happening in college football.”

On comparing Drinkwitz’s system to other opponents…

“I don’t know. He uses, like everybody else does, some plays that other teams have used. We call them copycat plays, but he has a system that he believes in and he does a really good job executing it. They have become very efficient in running the ball. They’ve got really good backs. I can’t say one team specifically. I certainly know that we’ll see some overlap from some of the teams that have had some success on us, but that’s what good coaches do.”

On dealing with cold weather in Missouri…

“I think it’s important to train and practice in the environment you’re going to play in, so as much as you can simulate that, you want to. It’s a tough simulation when you’re not controlling the weather, and unfortunately, coaches don’t control the weather. So, we’ve got to deal with what we have. You want to bring it up to your players and understand that you could be playing in these conditions, which I think affect any time you’re transferring possession of the ball. It doesn’t look like the outlook’s going to be anything crazy, so we’ve got pretty similar weather here and you want to be able to practice in it here.”

On if he plans to use the last two regular season and bowl games to begin preparation for next year…

“I just think that the goal is to win the game. It’s not experiment time. We have been out of control of our destiny for a while. There is not a lot we do differently and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this or this.’ I think that you owe it to the best players on our team—not necessarily the oldest players on the team, but the guys that are the best players, that practice the best and prepare well to go play the game and play the game to win. That’s what we want for our seniors. We want to send them out on a positive note and have them control what they can control which is playing these games and hopefully reward them with a bowl game, a bowl opportunity. You always want to play in the best bowl game you can against the best competition you can. To do that, we have to try and handle our business this week and that’s really all I think about. How are we at our best for each and every game this week? Not towards next year.”

On Azeez Ojulari’s growth…

“He’s a really hard worker. Since the time he has gotten here, he came in with an ACL injury, and he’s worked so hard. He’s one of the hardest workers we have ever had in terms of rehabbing that. He works so hard that he put himself in a position to play in the bowl game his freshman year against Texas. I thought he played really well during those practice weeks. We knew that we had a guy that was going to be a good football player. The thing you love about Azeez, and I say it all the time is he is the ultimate ‘Say less, do more.’ He says less and does more every day with his work habits and his work ethic. He sets a really tremendous standard for our team. He’s like the example of, ‘Hey, if you go work really hard and you work on your trade and you get better and take coaching—it can equal good production.’ He has been able to produce because he’s worked so hard in practice. The games come easy to him.”

On the challenges that pertain to having a signing day during a regular season game week…

“Yeah, well we’ve never really had it fall where we are actually in a signing day week. We are usually practicing for a bowl game or something. This is unique—we do feel like we have a good understanding of who all is going to sign. You communicate and you do that. The problem is if you have a lot of mid-year enrollees, you have to have available spots. Well, that is controlled by a lot of things out of our control—juniors early-out declaring and seniors that have an opportunity to stay. So, when you start looking at the numbers you can’t fit more numbers into less spots you have, but you don’t know how many spots you have. You can say, ‘Well, you should know.’ I mean, no you don’t know this year because you don’t know every senior that has decided to stay or juniors that have decided to stay. Their decisions are later and the mid-year decisions are earlier. I don’t think that people understand the difficulty there. It really only arises if you have an abundance of mid-year enrollees that want to come. We have a unique year where we have more guys that may want to enroll early than we’ve ever had, and you have to find the spots for those.”

On the relations with NFL general managers and where the communications starts…

“They have a scouting department, and they have a process in which they go through. It’s been different this year than it ever has been before because they can’t come to our universities and our practices, which is unfortunate, but due to COVID[-19] they can’t. They have been doing those methods they have always done, they have just done them by zoom. They gather information from academics, strength staff, to position coaches, to player personnel guys. They have their sources they talk to within the organization to get the information that they want. It’s not as in-depth as they’ll get before the draft, but it’s just general information that they want to achieve. As far as general managers, as a head coach I feel like I owe it to my juniors and this year seniors, where most of the time seniors are not an option. But, we have done a lot of digging and referencing. We want to get accurate information for our players, and let them make an informed decision. We feel like we have access to really good people in the NFL, whether it’s general managers, advisory council, to gather information so those guys can make good decisions. That process hasn’t changed, it’s only become a little more important because of the seniors wanting to get good information.”

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