Watch/Read: Kirby Smart Post-Practice Presser September 29, 2020

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Watch/Read: Kirby Smart Post-Practice Presser September 29, 2020

On how he felt with Jack Podlesny as kicker going into the first game against Arkansas and how he got the starting job…
“I thought he did a tremendous job. He had a lot of composure. Trust me, it was not easy for him to win that job. There were a lot more intense battles throughout our 26-26 practices for him to get to that point. He’s done a great job. The best thing about him is he’s improved. Rod [Rodrigo Blankenship] was here and he was kicking with Coach [Scott] Fountain and those guys and working each day and didn’t really stand out, and he stood out this year. He’s done a great job. He’s really been impressive with his kick-offs. He kind of won that job first in camp, and then he continued to battle at field goals with Jared Zerkel and Jake Camarta, and he ended up winning the job. He’s a great young man. He does a great job. I know his high school coach [Rocky Hidalgo] really well, and he bragged on him all the time. Rocky Hidalgo told me how good he was, and [Jack] came to us, walked on, and he’s done a great job for far.”

On the performance of UGA’s defensive line and how much freshmen Jalen Carter and Warren Ericson have helped bolster the rotations…“They’ve both done a good job. They’re a work in progress. Like most freshmen, they’ve had some mistakes. They were able to go in and play and the kid who didn’t get to make the trip based on sheer numbers but is playing really well. The one thing I’ve learned is how much better kids get during the season by going to the scout team. Warren [Ericson] goes down there, Jalen [Carter] goes down there, Naz [Nazir Stackhouse] goes down there. Naz has gotten reps in and is getting so much better by going against Trey Hill and Justin [Shaffer] every day. They just get so much work, and it makes you realize how much faster you can get better. Those guys have helped bolster the rotation for sure.”

On the center and right tackle positions and the players he is considering for those positions…
“Those battles will continue all year, to be honest with you. If we didn’t think they’re the best players, they probably wouldn’t have been there in the first place. So there’s 25 plays, 25 practices that are a body of work, and I think a lot of times people think you’re going to magically fix it with a change. You’ve got to get your players to play better, and where you’ve got an opportunity to make a change or you’ve got a competitive battle, you certainly have to use it that way. Warren McClendon and Owen [Condon] continue to work at right tackle. They both played in the game, and that was really the first real game action—and when I say real, I mean Warren [McClendon] got to play some in the past, but Owen and Warren really got in their first game action. They’re going to grow and get better, and then Trey Hill as always been a rotating guard for us. He has been every year he’s been here, and [we have] Warren. You have to have two to three centers every game because that’s a situation that you could get in trouble. So, we’ve got three guys we travel— Warren Ericson and Trey Hill; all rotating guards. We feel good about those rotations we have. I thought those guys pass-probed pretty well. We didn’t get the holes we wanted in the run game, but some of that has to do with a lot of other things.”

On how close Clay Webb is to jumping in the battle at center guard…“Clay isn’t playing any center. Clay hasn’t played any center for us, but he’s in the battle. He’s been battling ankle injuries, and unfortunately he’s had an ankle injury. That’s why he wasn’t able to make the trip [to Arkansas].”

On the body of work of his team/players and how he decides and balances decisions going forward, particularly concerning D’Wan Mathis at QB…“Again, that’s why I wasn’t tremendously upset after the game [against Arkansas], because I’ve seen the body of work. When you’re sitting there with 25 practices under your belt, you’ve seen some practices that probably looked something like what we saw out there [against Arkansas]. I’ve seen some things that I didn’t, and they go against a pretty good defense every day, whether it’s our ones or twos. We’ve had days that were like that where we’re one play away, one penalty, one thing, so I don’t get overly emotional about it. I try to say, ‘Look— we have to get better at what we have to do.’ I look at the scrimmages as games, and we had three of those, and we’ve had one game. That’s the body of work you try to go by, and the practices you go by, and you try to make the best decisions for your team and your organization off of it.”

On the status of Tre’ McKitty and the performances of all his tight ends so far this season…
“Tre’ was able to practice a little bit Monday. [He] did some light work [but] didn’t get to do a lot of stuff, then today he increased that a little more. So, he’s coming along nicely. He’s got a chance to play. It’s one of those deals that you’d like to him to get some really good live action before he goes out there in the game, but I don’t know if we’re going to get the chance to do that. He has certainly improved and is getting in better shape. [The tight ends] group has worked really hard. Coach [Todd] Hartley has done a good job with them.”

On his thoughts on John FitzPatrick’s performance against Arkansas last Saturday…“That group has worked really hard. Coach [Todd] Hartley has done a good job with them. Fitz[Patrick] has had a really good camp. He got dinged up in one of the scrimmages and missed a little time, so it’s almost like he was just getting back when we got ready for this game week. If he had had the entire camp he would be even further along. But what’s happened with Fitz being out a little and Tre’ [McKitty] out a little is Darnell [Washington] has gotten a ton of work and so has Brett [Seither]. Those guys are getting a lot of reps.” 

On his response to Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s comment that UGA is the most talented team in the SEC…“If you ask somebody the week of the game—the team they are playing will have the most talent in the league. Then the next week, that team will have the most talent, then the next week that team will have the most talent. That’s called coach speak. So, thanks Gus [Malzahn]. He has the most talent in the SEC, himself.”

On the performances of Nolan Smith and other outside linebackers…  “They all have roles. They all have different strengths, and they feed off of each other. They are a fun group to coach. Coach [Dan] Lanning does a great job. They are very prideful in their performance, and that’s the way it should be within your unit. We try to find more ways to use them in our defense and be creative about creating roles for them that cause problems for the offense. I am very pleased with those guys. Nolan [Smith] is fun to coach. He is full of spirit. He has never had a bad day. He is fired up out there on the practice field. He is one of those guys you just like to coach. He texted me the other night and said, ‘Can I go to the scout team? I am not getting enough reps. I am having to rotate among three guys. I want more reps. Can I go get more reps on scout team?’ That is just the kind of kid he is.”

On how much worry he has about Auburn’s receiving core…“Well, they have the most talent in the SEC, so I am very concerned when it comes to their receiving core and their talent-level. It always worries me when you play Auburn. They’ve got great players. They have a quarterback that can get the ball to those guys. Chad [Morris] is doing an unbelievable job of moving guys around and putting them in spots they are not normally in. Their skill level at receiver is really good.”

On his thoughts on the Georgia-Auburn rivalry…“I’m probably not versed in history as well as I should be. I say this with much respect, I grew up a high school football fan. I did not know a lot about college football. I grew up going up on Saturday to watch the [junior varsity] team play and washed the uniforms. My games were always on Friday nights, and those were my heroes. I didn’t get to really watch the long-time, early-80s—I didn’t really start paying attention to Georgia-Auburn until I got to Georgia. Probably in high school is when I started really noticing the game because I had friends at Auburn, and I had friends at Georgia. But, I obviously played in some really classic battles—the first ever overtime game, I guess in the SEC—maybe in college football. I was a part of that one. I was a part of heart-breaking losses to them, and some big wins.”

On what he expects this weekend to look like from a recruiting perspective for his staff…“There is none. Everybody is trying to celebrate recruits virtually, and that is about all you can do. They can’t come. There is not a lot we can do. [We can] try to generate an awesome atmosphere with our fans, make social media videos, FaceTime guys when we can—there’s just not a lot we can do. Maybe there’s somebody doing something better than us. We can’t fill up the stands, and that’s the best way to impress them. Probably the next best way is to play well, and that’s what we need to do.” 

On the progress of JT Daniels…“He’s an extremely bright kid. He’s delightful to be around, very intellectual. He asks a lot of questions. He digs deep into the game. The game is really important to him. He is fun to be around. He gets the ball out really quick. He’s got a quick release and great arm-talent. He’s doing a good job. He’s out there working. For us, it’s not really different than it was before. He was practicing before. He’s just practicing more now.”

On the decision to travel JT Daniels to Arkansas last Saturday…“The hopes that he would be cleared.”

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