On Thursday, UGA head football coach Kirby Smart appeared on the Paul Finebaum Show to discuss a wide variety of topics related to college football, and the current state the world is in.
Smart met with beat writers Monday for the first time in a while to discuss how his coaching staff and team were adjusting to this period of social distancing. But he didn’t comment on players not being allow back on campus or the cancellation of spring drills or G-Day.
Below is a transcript of what Smart said on the Finebaum Show on Thursday, per 247 Sports.
On these unusual times, and how it has been so far…
“It’s unique. If you’re not ready to embrace a challenge or getting comfortable with being uncomfortable; we always use that statement around our place, this is the ultimate get comfortable being uncomfortable. When coaches have to go onto virtual networks like Zoom it’s not always good for guys that aren’t as young as these players. I’ve found that most of our guys are much more compatible with dealing with computers than some of the older guys are. So it’s been an experience, we do staff meetings by Zoom, I know NFL teams we’ve talked are doing the same thing and we’re able to do Zoom meetings with our players. What’s amazing is how easy it is for them but how complicated it is for us.”
On overcoming the current situation…
“It’s not overcoming as much as it is making the best out of it you can. We’re trying to visit with more staffs, it’s been really unique because professional development is a big part of football so you want to see what other people are doing and visit with other people. I’ve actually found that we’ve had it wrong all along. We were flying to go see USC or we would go visit another program whether it be Miami … and learn football and learn what they’re doing. Well now, we’re able to visit everybody just by way of Zoom. We’ve probably averaged 3-4 NFL teams, a couple colleges per day just going in the afternoons after we do the work that we need to do. That’s been unique for me and I’m able to sit in because I’ve got a laptop, I’ve got a phone, you can be in the 2-3 different Zooms at once kinda watching what’s going on.”
Concerns about no spring practice…
“I think if everybody didn’t have it, it probably wouldn’t bother me as bad. It certainly, you know, we’ve got a new offensive coordinator (Todd Monken) and a new quarterback coming in, whoever it’s going to be, and to not get those practices, boy, that’s tough. But not very many people got a lot of it. On average I think we got three to four practices, or some of the SEC teams got in before they shut everything down. In the grand scheme of things that’s not a lot. I certainly think some young players, some mid-year guys that maybe came in thinking they were going to get a leg up on people, that may not be as big of a leg at all because they weren’t able to have those practices. If you were fortunate enough to have spring practice early, like some programs do, I certainly think that helps. To get 10 more practices in is huge.”
When would things need to start back to begin the season on time?
“That’s a big talk. That’s a big debate. I’ve visited with our strength and conditioning coach, all of our… in Ron Courson we’ve got one of the best in the business as far as athletic trainers go. He’s done it for a long time. I don’t think it’s good to speculate. I really look at it this way, if you’re looking toward the end of the season at the beginning of the season, you’re probably going to come across some pitfalls. I don’t think anybody should be really thinking about that right now as much as if we could put all our energy into washing our hands and the social distancing, we would do a lot better for ourselves than speculating on some of those things. We just don’t know the answer to so many things right now. The best thing we can do is batten down the hatches so we can have a season.”
Do you plan on if the season is going to start on time?
“Yeah I think you have to go that way. Look, college football has changed so much. Fifteen, 20 years ago we didn’t have meetings leading up to spring practice. The NCAA changed things to where you can walk through and do football, actual accountable time towards football before it starts. So we were able to get some walk throughs in and get some things done that you didn’t do back in the older times and older days. You look at the NFL when they had the lockout, the pro players, they had a lockout. They had to come back and still have their season after a lockout with very minimal time. I know they’re probably higher level athletes. So you look across the board, there’s been scenarios, not quite like this one, but they’ve been pretty close where people were able to get it done. That’s the hope of all the fans, especially in the Southeast, and certainly all the (Athletic Directors) and the presidents want that, but the well being of the players will be the ultimate decision maker.”
Will programs have obstacles when things return to normal?
“Absolutely. There’ll be all kinds of protocols put into place. They’ll probably check everybody for fevers. They’ll have ways of monitoring, quarantining guys. Are guys going to live together? Because football players tend to live together and if one goes down, is that whole apartment? There may be all kinds of things like that. Now I think right now it really is just speculation and there’s not a lot we can do. I do know that most of these kids, these young men who are NCAA athletes in all sports, you look at the spring sports and they took the ultimate hit. They lost a complete season. But these are resilient kids and they’ll overcome it. Most of them are training in their own ways. Social distancing but still training and doing the things they’ve got to do to get their bodies in shape.”
How do you think recruiting during the early signing period will be impacted?
“I think it definitely depends on when we get back and when kids are able to come to campus. Because you know as of right now we’re working off a May 31 date that anybody can come on a campus. Well, if that date keeps getting pushed back, it’s getting closer and closer to that early signing date. There’s a lot of debate and speculation out there. Should that early signing date apply? The problem with that is if you push that, you’re now pushing back on the next class. You’re going to push the next class back because a lot of that are in the 2022 class, the next signing class, that’s when they do their visits, in January.
So it’s very unique and I think we’ll work our way through it. I’ll also say this, there are a lot of kids in the 2021 class who are already fed up with it (recruiting during the shutdown). Because when you think about it, Paul, the recruiting has ramped up because we’re not really spending any time with our players because they’re not on campus. You talk to a 2021 prospect right now, he’s averaging about 10 to 15 calls a day and he’s about fed up with it. So a lot of those kids are going to make their decisions maybe a little sooner than anticipated.”
What’s home life like now?
“I can tell you this. I’ve figured this out. I’m not getting up at 6:30 again and going down with my wife to the Peloton to ride a bike. That only happened once and that won’t happen again. I made that mistake thinking that I could go down there and compete. I learned real quick that at 44, I’m not near as competitive as I used to be in the workout rooms. I’ve got to find other ways to get my exercise done, but I’ve enjoyed the time around the kids. So many people say it happens so fast that you blink and their gone. We’re actually getting to be present in their lives more than we ever have. I may never get this time again. So just trying to make the most of that.”