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Coach Smart and Players Discuss Matchup vs Arkansas


Coach Smart getting prepped for Arkansas. (Photo: UGA Sports Comm)

ATHENS, Ga. --- University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with a pair of senior defensive players previewed Saturday’s Top-10 matchup against Arkansas. The Bulldogs and the Razorbacks kick off at 12:00 p.m. ET in Athens, GA.


On Tuesday, Coach Smart, Senior Robert Beal and Senior Latavious Brini offered the following comments.


Head Coach Kirby Smart

On areas of emphasis in practice this week…

“Physical contact, healthiness, execution, the same area of focus every week in football, right, you got to out block out tackle out compete, it really hasn't been a unique circumstance because we have a normal protocol we go through Monday we practiced on Tuesday it was a get after it day, we got after it. Kids had great energy, they're excited and they got a lot of respect for Arkansas and, I mean, the same areas you know we got to be explosive and not give up explosives and we got to create turnovers and not turn it over so not a lot of different ways to say that.”

On Darnell Washington and Tykee Smith this week…

“Both up and down, and they both practiced both days. I thought Tykee (Smith) looked better on Monday. He was quick moving around and we got him on pitch count. You know they're only able to take limited reps from a standpoint of your foot getting sore, as the volume goes up. Darnell (Washington) struggled a bit yesterday but then he looked good today, I thought he did a good job today. And, you know both of them are, they've got a ways to go, I don't know if they'll be able to play in the game or not but they're working towards it, I can promise you that. It's not just being cleared, you know it's everything else involved in it from being behind, stamina, execution, getting them reps, it’s tough, I'll be honest with you, but I'm still very hopeful that they both can help us.”

On Barry Odom’s defense…

“Ah, well, they've been able to change. They've had some different kinds of opponents this year they've had Rice, they've had Florida Southern which was a little more traditional stuff, and then they've had Texas and Texas A&M. They have multiple packages they can use and Clemson had the same options so you know some of what they do is somewhat of us and some of what they do is not so you have to prepare for more things when you play somebody like that. He does a really good job, you know, of being able to change it up and be multiple. “

On Georgia facing a top 10 opponent…

“It probably says the most about our conference. I guess, I know not all those are conference games because there's probably some bowl games mixed in there but, I mean, that's, that's where Georgia should be, right, it should be playing in marquee games, marquee matchups. I mean there's a lot of good football teams we play against, and a lot of good opportunities, but I like that, you know the prep of the week is a lot more focused, a lot more energy around the game, of course I feel like every SEC games that way, whether it's top 10 or not. But it's great. I mean, I like it.”

On trusting Georgia’s scouting and evaluation of players …

“I guess the answer to that would be yes, I mean I don't know how other organizations it do so it's hard to compare. I do know how we do it and I mean, I don't think any college coach would tell you, they make decisions based on what the rankings in the recruiting rankings say, I mean I really don't think a college coach would say that I think they do it based on the evaluation they see on tape. And that's what we do, because I really have found that if you go off camp, it’s a hell of a lot better accuracy than any ranking or anything, even the tape you see in high school. Um, you know, we didn't love Adonai Mitchell’s high school tape, and we were like man I got question marks, but we loved him in camp and we loved his COVID workouts that he did, and I get a lot more accuracy with information, like to me information removes arrows and we're in a game of not making mistakes right, we're trying to get the right kind of kids, talk about mentally and physically, and we go through a lot of evaluation. I don't think so, and I don't know this for certain, but I don't think a lot of teams do the evaluation process as deep as others. Some people fall in love with a player because it will play, and then they just go recruit them but we don't do that here we watch a lot of tape and I'm on my coaches all the time that, hey, the tape and the camp is gonna speak volumes to who they are, trust your evaluation, and we worry about the ones we get, not the ones we don't. And it's helped us, you know, we've been wrong, we've made mistakes, as much as anybody but I do think that character matters more now than ever. And, you know, guys like Ladd, that do a tremendous job and have speed. I'm like shoot man why would this guy not be a good player, he is. “

On Barry Odom and the offense and defense playing left-handed….

“We try to. Defensively I don’t know that we’re as good at it as Barry (Odom) and those guys. Barry and them come at you very differently schematically. We’re probably closer to the norm in terms of our league and Barry and them are not. They’re an extremely tough prep because of the way they play. It’s just different, I can’t explain it, you would have to watch the tape. Their kids play extremely hard, extremely physical, the strain is enormous. If you don’t match their strain then you’re gonna have a frustrating day. I got a lot of respect for the way they play. Our main thing is stopping the run and that’s always been an MO of ours. We’ve just been able to affect the pass a little better this year. These guys run the ball really well and Coach Pittman is very involved in that. Coach Briles does a good job of that and so, offensively we obviously try to dictate with some tempo. We try to dictate with our playmaker’s ability getting them to our playmakers. But I can't say that we make people left-handed as much as they do.”

On the importance of JT Daniels’ patience….

“Well, everybody says they drop a lot of players, those same players are the ones tackling people in the backfield. So, you know, that they don't always drop them, they’re aggressive. They know, in order to stop the run, they've got to be great eye control, great run-pass readers. They’re right a lot, their kids understand the game. They trigger on runs and they’re really elite at beating blocks. They run guys to the ball so it's not like they're out there, just dropping on air giving you all kinds of opportunities they can suffocate you with the way they play defense and they do a really good job. We just got to do a great job of making good decisions. That's what forced the quarterbacks they beat into poor decisions they forced them into bad decisions.”

On Kearis Jackson’s injury and his return to the field…

“No, he’s not 100 percent. As a matter of fact, he’s been struggling this week some, so no I felt like he got back. I don’t know what he was last week 90, 95 in the Vanderbilt game. He was out there playing, made a couple of plays, and it’s bothering him some this week. He’s been hindered some and practicing, I think he’s going to be good to go but he’s a little banged up. But Kearis is tough, he loves the game, he wants to get out there, and if anything with Kearis you got to hold him back because he’ll go out there injured.”


On Tykee Smith and Latavious Brini…

“Yeah Tykee brings experience. He played star position in West Virginia and he played with Coach (Jahmile) Addae, he did a great job playing there. So, once he went in the portal we felt like, you know, that was a perfect addition for us because not only had playing experience, he's a good tackler, He was gonna make our team better, and he's done that. Unfortunately, the injury is putting it behind some and, you know, we felt good about Brini, you know, we felt like Brini played well in the Cincinnati game. He's been around our defense for a long time. He practices really hard, he got more confidence through the Spring, and through these games we played, so they're both really good players and good people, and we're hoping to get Tykee back soon.”


On Treylon Burks’ impact on defense…

“Well, he's a tough matchup because, I mean, first of all, you could put him everywhere. He's in the backfield as a quarterback, he’s a receiver, he's a slot receiver, a tight end, I mean, he does everything. They find ways to get him the ball. He’s been fast, faster than you think he is. He gets out there on the edge and can go on. He’s really tough. So, you know, obviously, when it comes to 50/50, ball size matters. And he's got great length and really good ball skills, so he was a problem for us last year. He's been a problem for the SEC for a while and he's a really good football player.”


On Jalen Carter’s growth as a player…

“He’s more confident in the system, I think, more confident in his ability. Obviously, he's taking more reps so he understands the defense better, but he's playing quicker to me. There was a time where he got a little heavy towards the end of last year and he's really quick now, he's athletic. He can move and disengage blockers. He’s really powerful. This guy was a really good basketball player, he could dunk and do things. He plays with power when he strikes people, so, we're excited about what way he’s playing. He's gotten better and grown as a player and he's got two great role models there in Jordan (Davis) and Devonte (Wyatt).”


On Latavious Brini growing as a leader…

“He's been a pleasure to work with the whole time. He's nice, he’s never truly been a problem. He's a guy that goes to class, does what he's supposed to do, has discipline, is fun to coach, appreciates hard coaching, you know, he's one of the guys that's come up to me before and thanked me and said, ‘Coach, I really appreciate how hard you push me and how hard you coach me.’ Not everybody feels that way and it makes me respect how far he's come, and he's a great young man and he's gotten better from being here and he's a good role model for our players and he's a true example of if you work hard and you learn the defense and you get better than you'll get your opportunity, and he's done that.”

On preparing to play against KJ Jefferson and how playing against DJ Uiagalelei has helped in preparation against Arkansas…

“Yeah, probably helps in terms of wrapping up and finishing because you don't ever get to practice tackling somebody that big, but he's a little different. DJ was not trying to run the ball and they didn't really try to have a quarterback run him much where KJ does do that and KJ is a more physical downhill runner and he throws the ball really well too. He got an extremely strong arm, but he's a true running back runner, they can do those things and I don’t think DJ, that's wasn't what he was, but in the pocket, you know, probably helps that we had to tackle a guy that big.”

On Robert Beal’s maturity off the field…

“Now Beal’s grown up a lot, he's playing good football to us, we think he's done a good job. He's a kid that's worked really hard, he's had some injuries, he's been banged up some, and we just think how long he's been here and really what he's been through. He's a tremendous kid, and I’m very thankful for the growth he's mad. He's really helped our team on special teams and I think of all the reps he's taking in practice on those scout kickoff and scout punt return units and now he's out there doing them and he's put us on third down and he's really physical. He gives us something on outside backer, some of the other guys don't get.”

On crediting Coach Pittman while he was on the staff at UGA…

“Yeah it's probably morale and positivity, you know, Sam’s a really, really optimistic, positive guy, especially with his players and his relationship with them. He was always good for me to be around leading up the games, you know, or if you're worried about something, Sam always had a great spin and a great vibe on it and he was great for our staff, you know, staff morale and he's just a phenomenal person. I'd always heard so many good things about him as a coach in Alabama, and we tried to hire him a couple of times and could never get him and then when I got the job (at UGA), he was the number one guy that I targeted and I’m so thankful that he came with us.”

#33 | Robert Beal Jr. | Sr. | OLB

On the decision to enter then leave the transfer portal…

“First off, I was not really happy with my playing time and I knew I could play anywhere else in the country. It would have been bad for me to leave honestly. I talked it over with my mother, I talked it over with my dad and I just figured it might work and came back.”

On having experienced players on defense…

“It helps a lot. There are a lot of veteran guys around who have seen a lot and done a lot. I think it helps us out overall. It keeps the new guys in check too.”

On forces fumble and attitude on special teams…

“On that play, it actually wasn’t me that caused the forced fumble, it was Jaylen Johnson. I hit him low and he hit him high and knocked the ball out. But special teams, I think it will get me to the next level.


#36 | Latavious Brini | Sr. | DB


On confidence from the Cincinnati game and progress…

“The confidence I got from the Cincinnati game, it has continued building. It is a building process to try and take every week at a time and just keep building that confidence from Cincinnati.”

On having big-game experience…

“Like I said earlier, it just helps my confidence, boosts my confidence.

Every week we go in with a game plan which helps me to say ‘we are getting better every week and lets just do this for the week to come’.”

On Georgia playing top-10 matchups…

“Like I said, week to week, we just come to work. We come to prepare and get the game plan, go hard in practice, study hard and prepare to play every Saturday.”