Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart’s post-practice press briefing:
‘’Had a good Tuesday practice. Obviously a little ahead on some of the game planning from last week and we were able to get a jumpstart on a lot of situational football stuff. I thought the guys practiced good today, had good energy. It’s easy to motivate this week because they all want to play well and they’re all practicing hard.’’
Today we noticed that you had the scouts out there actually running the tackling instead of those guys working on tackling each other. Is that a little bit more of a focus this week?
‘’No, before you guys come out there every day, we do that. That’s just the more of an emphasis of having extra guys. We end up hitting each other a lot, so hitting each other sometimes we bring scouts guys in and let them get extra reps so we get more guys practicing tackling. But we do that before y’all got there for four minutes, where everybody gets to practice it.’’
Do you normally discuss the stakes of each game with the players?
‘’We don’t really talk about the stakes of these games. When I talk to the team, I talk about every game is important. I mean, the last SEC game is just as important as this SEC game. The next SEC game is just as important as this one. We prepare for all the games the same because if you’re not doing that then it’s kind of like, ‘What are you saying to the players?’ So we are very consistent in our preparation and very consistent in our message that it doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve got to go play our best game. We feel like if we play our best game, then we’ll come out on top.’’
Is there any benefit that last year’s team went through a similar experience against Auburn, like this team is going through following the LSU game?
‘’I think last year’s team is so different. I do think that there are people in this room (at team meetings) that understand that. But we don’t catastrophize anything. We look at it as an opportunity to get better, and that’s what they’ve done. They’ve worked for, what, five or six practices to really get better and hone in on the things they can work on.’’
How has Feleipe Franks progressed since last year?
‘’First and foremost, he’s a year older. You play in this league, you get better. You have to. You have no choice. You play in front of an offensive line that was full of sophomores or maybe some freshmen, now those guys. I mean, we do a sheet and one of them has like 30 starts, 40 starts, 27 starts. They’ve got guys that have started forever. So he’s playing front of a much more experienced offensive line that went through its trials and tribulations for a couple of years. Those guys are a lot more experienced. But he’s playing at a much higher level and I think it’s because of his confidence. He has better wideouts. Dan’s done a great job of developing him, and he’s got a really good offensive line in front of him. So with all those things considered, you get better in this league when you play.’’
How is Ben Cleveland progressing from his injury?
‘’It’s the same that I told you guys the other day. He’s not going to be able to play this game. He’s getting better. Everything looks good in his healing process and he’s rehabbing. He’s now weight-bearing, obviously.’’
Is the punting job still up for grabs?
‘’It’s been up for grabs in the off week. We’ve had two guys competing. We had two guys competing today. We punted both guys quite a bit, but Jake (Camarda) is still our punter right now.’’
How has Elijah Holyfield been able to produce such a high average yards per carry?
‘’Elijah does a great job. I mean, I think he’s one of the best running back in our conference. He runs really hard. He’s tough to tackle. He’s like that every day with our guys. I think the wear and tear is important because he’s a 205-, 210-pound back, not a 225-pound back. So you’ve got to be careful about the wear and tear. A lot of guys 200 pounds carry it 25-30 times a game, especially in yesteryear. But we do everything we can to get those backs the ball as much as possible. He’s guy we want to carry the ball.’’
Do you go with the ‘hot hand’ or do you have a set rotation with the backs?
‘’It’s really based on carries. We try to get 3-4 carries per guy and then a lot of times they get winded. We don’t have a lot of times when they get 3-4 carries in one drive. I can think of maybe Brian Herrien against Tennessee once and then maybe Holyfield and D’Andre (Swift) each once. We like to sub those guys. You want fresh backs in there and if you feel like those guys are equal at running the ball and they’re all gonna read the same things, then you want to have them in the game and get those guys touches. Our backs do a great job, but some of the looks we get from defenses sometimes don’t make it easy to sit there and keep handing it off over and over, when you get some looks outside from some guys that we think can win one-on-one matchups. Obviously, we’ve got to do what is successful, whatever that success is. If that’s carrying it into a loaded box, if that’s throwing it into not a loaded box, we’ve just got to be successful.’’
What kind of challenges do Florida’s backs present?
‘’You’ve got to strike blockers up front. You’ve got to build a wall. You’ve got to tackle well. Every team in our league has multiple backs, so they’re gonna have fresh backs. We usually play a lot of D-linemen, when we have a lot of D-linemen, and we play a lot of backers. We feel like a guy tackles fresher than a guy that’s worn down, having hit the same guy over and over. That’s why they substitute backs. That’s why we try to substitute D-line and linebackers when we can. That’s all predicated on your depth and how good your players are. We’ve played a lot of players up to this point and we’ll continue to do that if it helps us. If we’ve got a guy that’s playing really well, then we’re probably not going to do that defensively.’’
Were you happy with the amount of substituting on the defensive line you did in the LSU game?
‘’To be honest with you, we didn’t have a lot of guys that we could substitute in. Tt was harder because we had David Marshall out. We had Devonte (Wyatt) out. We subbed a ton of guys in that game. But with Devonte being back, that helps us because it gives us a 300-pound body. So when you’re subbing out guys that are 270, 260 and they’re playing on 300-pound people, they’re gonna get worn down. Our offense tends to do it to people. So having another big body back is a big help for us. Jordan (Davis)’s development has been a big bonus for us. Go back to that game, and he played well. He held up on blocks. So we just need more guys to play that have big bodies and we can build the wall that will not let backs through there.
You talked about Jordan Davis. How has he been able to maintain his conditioning?
‘’He may be one of our best conditioned players now because he spends all of his time conditioning. The big goal for him was all along. It makes me wonder, ‘shouldn’t every guy be doing what he’s doing. He doesn’t play a lot on third down, but he plays really hard when he’s in. He’s able to sustain better because he runs a lot on his own. He comes in in the mornings a lot on Monday and Tuesday, and he still has practice. So he does a lot of that on his own because he’s trying to maintain his weight. But he’s held up well in those two games. It’s been cooler in both games.’’