Watch/Read: Kirby Smart Tuesday Presser

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Watch/Read: Kirby Smart Tuesday Presser

On Tre’ McKitty’s rehab and whether he will play Saturday against Arkansas…“He’s doubtful for Saturday. He’s up and running and moving around well. He got on the AlterG and been able to run some. We don’t think he’s going to make it in time for Saturday.”

On the direction of the offense under Coach Monken/whether it is influenced by the success of other programs’ and their RPOs (Run-Pass Options)…“I don’t think that the offenses that are highly success aren’t necessarily RPOs—I would disagree with that… Yeah, it’s built around what we think we can do and be most successful with the players we have. Certainly, [we] study a lot of teams that were successful last year, as we do every year. [We] look [at] what we have similar to other teams that might have something similar to us—meaning if there is an elite receiver or an elite tight end or maybe [defensive] backs or a really good, featured quarterback. Whatever it is that we think we can simulate with the players we have that teams have been successful with. You have to be careful when you talk about that because our league is very different than many others. The outlier for me would be obviously LSU last year, being what they did. You can see on every Sunday what they had, and what they were capable of with the ammunition they had. Everybody tries to copycat to an extent, and do what people do well. We have to build that around what we have and what we are capable of doing with what we have.”

On Nakobe Dean and how much more productive he has been so far this season/whether he will be a third down back…“Nakobe [Dean] has had a really good fall camp. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s extremely competitive. He loves football. He is a great leader. He has made himself a better player. He came in a really polished, really well-coached player, and he’s only gotten better in our system. I expect him to have a really good year and be a successful player for us. He sets the tone and makes a lot of calls for us in our defense.”

On what he has to worry about— aside from COVID-19 and injury —in terms of defense this season…“I don’t know. It depends on who you ask. I didn’t think we had a lot of preseason hype with our defense in terms of All-SEC guys. I would think that all the better defenses are somewhere else because I don’t know that we put but two guys maybe? I don’t know. Richard [LeCounte] and Jordan [Davis] were the only two I noticed on the accolades. For us to have all the great players, they’re certainly not getting recognized that way. They played really hard last year. I thought our defensive staff did a tremendous job putting them in good positions. [There] are a lot of things we can do better from last year which is create more turnovers, trying to create the havoc that we talked about last year that we didn’t get to do it at the rate we would like to do it. I did think we played good in the red area, and we did a pretty good job on the third downs. At the end of the day we kept people from scoring, and that was probably the most important stat there is with the scoring defense we had. You mean what keeps us from doing that again? Probably ourselves and the teams we play. Potentially, what happens with the offense too because if you are scoring a lot of points people are playing you different. We were in a lot of tight ballgames last year it seemed like—probably some weather conditions were favorable for the defense in terms of tough weather conditions [we had] to play in throughout the year.”  

On the COVID-19 situation amongst his team/whether the Notre Dame decision today worries him…“It’s not really a question that we’re answering. I’m not going to discuss it and put anything out there, if that is what you are asking. Is it a concern? It’s a concern every time we test. I worry about the health and safety of the players first and foremost. Ron Courson and his staff have done a tremendous job educating our players. We’ve started every meeting with an education process, and we’ve been pretty fortunate in terms of where other people are. I don’t even know what you are referencing with Notre Dame and Wake [Forest] so I may be out of the loop because I’ve been preparing for practice all day.”

On whether a starting five has been determined on the offensive line and how the O-Line progression evolved during the preseason…  “Well, it’s tough to measure. We’ve got some guys that obviously, you know in the bowl game. We’ve got some young players that I think are going to be talented that might not be ready yet. We’re trying to develop depth. As you know in the last two to three years here at Georgia we haven’t made it through the year without an offensive lineman missing games, and a lot of guys going out in games and multiple guys going out during a game. We’ve tried to piecemealthat back and forth—if this guy is out this guy is in, if he’s down he’s here. What gets your best next player on the field, and that’s always tough. It is really tough during a pandemic when you may not always have your full arsenal. I am proud of the way they have played. They play with toughness. They play hard. They block a really tough front every day. I think it is going to be really important to our season’s success that we can get movement and run the ball upfront. We struggled to do that last year, and that was probably one of the toughest things for us offensively was to be able to run the ball. We had a really experienced, talented offensive line. We have to be able to run the ball to set up other things. I am proud of the way those guys have worked. We’ve probably have seven or eight guys that we feel comfortable rolling through there.”

On running the ball/how he makes sure the quarterback does not get hurt…“You can’t control it. There’s no way we can control it. I mean, we have injuries every day at practice; there’s an ankle sprain, a bruise, a contusion, a knee. It’s a violent game. Football is a violent sport. It’s a contact sport, and there are injuries in it. It’s really not something you can control, and you really can’t control it in games. Quarterbacks are much more vulnerable during games than they are in practice, so it’s always a concern for us, which is why we recruit hard. [We] develop [and] establish a roster, and we get guys ready. We’re very fortunate that we have the ability to practice a lot of guys and develop them and try to get them ready, but it’s always a concern about guys getting hit, especially guys that haven’t been hit before.”

On what D’Wan Mathis learned from Jake Fromm…“I would probably say just being level headed. I think all the quarterbacks that were here last year — the two, really, and a couple of the walk-on kids — really learned that the composure is such a big and important part [and] that no matter how well you practice, or how poor you practice, or how good the play was, or how bad the play was ,the next play is the only one that matters. I think composure is a big part of it, and I think each one of these guys have learn that from Jake [Fromm]. I think Jake had a set routine he did during the week, and he set a standard pretty high for the quarterback position in terms of preparation.”

On whether he has notified the player or the entire team about who will start as quarterback on Saturday…“I would say that’s a team decision, and we keep our team stuff to ourselves.”

On the progress of freshman WR Ladd McConkey/his role with the team this season…“He’s fast. He’s athletic. He’s got really good hands, and he comes to work every day. He’s a guy who has worked some of our scout team, and he competes. He blocks. He’s a lot more physical than you would expect a guy his size to be, and he’s gotten bigger since he’s been here. I’m excited about him and his development. He works so hard each day and has really good ball skills and has caught the ball well.” 

On whether the team has transitioned into game week/whether it has been more challenging given everything it has taken to get to this point…“They’ve transitioned well into game week. We started Friday on Arkansas, and that was a pleasant change for them to get past camp and the brutal reality of going against yourself all the time. I think they enjoy the idea of a new opponent and transitioning into that. They’ve done well this week. There’s been really good energy out there. We’ve had really good weather, and they enjoy practicing. They like going against each other and a lot of them would rather go against each other the whole practice than go against the scout team so they get to compete. They just really like playing football, and that’s what makes coaching fun.” 

On the part of Arkansas’ offense the team has focused on/expecting for Saturday…“Arkansas has great skill. Chad Morris knows what he’s doing when he recruits a lot of these guys who are big athletes. A lot of them played last year. They have a lot of match-up issues for us. They have two good tight ends. They’ve got one of the best backs in the SEC. Look, Sam [Pittman] has been coaching offensive line for a long time, and he’s got an O-Line coach who he’s known for a long time, so I’m not falling into that trap— bringing a young offensive football  team on our side of the ball — of thinking it’s going to be one of those tight games. That’s not the case. Our kids are going in with a lot of respect for Coach Pittman. They know that [Arkansas] will practice hard just like we practice hard. [Arkansas] has a good football team, and it shows up when you look and say, ‘Okay. What have these guys done? What has Coach [Kendal] Briles (Arkansas Offensive Coordinator) done in his history?’ He’s run a lot of plays. He’s running really fast. He’s not going to sit there and let us get our cleats dug in the ground and play defense. He’s going to make us play left-handed, and our job is to try and not let that happen.”

On whether there is anything in particular during a game week that helps him feel comfortable as a head coach…“No. I usually judge that off our kids’ demeanors— their approach, walkthroughs, meetings, [and] guys who come in to watch extra. Just the attention to detail the players show is the number one thing that tells me they’re ready or they’re focused. When you have silly mistakes, and they don’t focus in, it usually shows and it gets you concerned. That’s probably the only thing that gets me at ease, is the seriousness approach to the game the players have.”On where he stands on the issue of Cade Mays…“Unfortunately, I’m not able to respond to that. In due time, it’ll play itself out, but it’s not something I’m allowed to comment on.” 

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