Coach Smart and Players Recap Clemson, Preview UAB
ATHENS, Ga. – University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart and select players offered the following comments during Monday's press conference. The Bulldogs will open up the 2021 home season on Saturday against UAB at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Opening Statement… "I was really proud of our players and the way they competed. We talked about composure and attention to detail, I thought we kicked butt in the composure department. We lost the attention to detail battle because we lost a couple of things. A big piece of communication for our guys moving forward is discipline. We talked about it today whether it is a noun or a verb, some of our players see it as what they do when they're in trouble, others see it as doing what they're supposed to do when they do it. We didn't do that at a high enough level, we had a lot of bad disciplined eyes, decisions, blocks, really all over. You'd think it was just offense, that wasn't the case. We had a lot of busts that we didn't see that happened during the game. Defensively, that could have cost us or haunted us if we would have been exposed on it. Moving forward, we're really concerned about that. Today is about UAB, we've got a lot of respect for their program. I was over there for years right by them, Bill Clark is a great coach and a close friend. He coached high school football and I recruited his school for a long time. He got into college coaching and has been very successful. They've done a tremendous job coaching and recruiting talent and winning football games. They've got a really good team, if you watch them on tape you'll see it. When teams block punts and are good on special teams, you know they're well coached. Our guys are really excited because it's at home and it'll be the first time we have a home atmosphere like we expect. So I'm looking forward to get ready for these guys." On Tate Ratledge and filling the guard position… "We've had the luxury of having some depth. That's one of our deepest positions on the team in terms of sheer scholarship numbers. Not necessarily talent, but sheer scholarship numbers we can use to move around. It's very unfortunate for Tate, he's done everything we've asked and he's such a competitor. It's going to be a tough four-to-five months for him, he's going to work through it. Injuries happen in our game, it's not the same injury as Darnell (Washington) or Tykee (Smith), but it's still a tough injury. I'm hoping he gets back by spring ball to get back to work. As far as where we go from there, we have a couple of options. Jamaree (Salyer) has played at guard, we've got Owen Condon, Warren Ericson stepped in and did a tremendous job. Xavier Truss got up to play guard, we feel like Broderick (Jones) is at tackle ready to go and play. So we'll have to wait and see. Jamaree took an extended amount of time and worked at guard and center while Warren was out. He did double duty tackle-center and we really wanted to do double duty tackle-guard. Now we'll look at it if it's Jamaree at guard, Broderick, Xavier at tackle or vice versa. We must do that, because if one guy goes down again it might be a different move. There's no definitive answer, it's this is what we're looking at. We'll look at Jamaree, Xavier both at guard-some, Warren and Owen will continue to play guard. The fear of having Warren and Sedrick in there, is they're the two best centers. You've got a higher likelihood of losing one if they're both playing, You can't function without a center." On foot injuries… "Foot injuries are pretty common in football. It happens a lot, there's actually been four. We've been dealing with Fitz (John FitzPatrick). Very different injuries, completely different. There's been a big study done and we've worked hard in the off season. We had someone come in and tell the guys to wear the right kind of cleats because athletes all want to be fast and shoes have gotten lighter. It has nothing to do with Tate's, John's, or anyone else's. Making sure our guys wear the right shoes because every company makes a speed cleat and a bigger cleat, but you've got to fit in your weight category. They all did that, but they've all been under different circumstances. A lot of them have been non-contact, so it isn't a matter of contact." On the performance of the offense… "Well, I think, you've got to be careful, because with the receptions, you've got to score touchdowns, and we didn't. So, we're a very matter of fact judgement and it's like 'okay so we didn't score but, why? Why did we not?' You go through the reasons why and you go through each play. A lot of it was attention to detail, not converting on third down, missing a couple of explosives. They played us very different than what you would normally say a Clemson team would play. They prepared for speed breaks and shots and fast balls because that's what they had given up. They did a good job of defending that. But, to say that we didn't function or didn't run the ball well – I mean, we ran the ball well at times. Any time you can run the ball down someone's throat in four minutes, it's pretty obvious that they knew we had to run the ball there and we were still able to, so we did some really good things offensively. Hey, I'm excited to see what our guys can do moving forward. The greatest jump you make is from Game One to Game Two, so we got to find a way to be more explosive. You can see on tape that it's there, so I'm glad we got the attention of those guys." On the expectations for the young players… "No, there's a standard that's always set here and we didn't play to that standard on offense or defense in terms of execution. Now, results, you could say the defense did, but in terms of execution, we didn't play to our standard. In terms of guys doing their job, I do think, in my years of coaching, there is a certain number of times something has to happen for a guy to be able to function and do it right. So we have a play, Brock Bowers misses a block and Arian (Smith) lines up wrong, AD (Adonai Mitchell) is in the wrong spot and doesn't block the right guy, and the play is unsuccessful. Well, those three players – and you guys probably think of Arian has an experienced vet, well, I look at him as really a freshman, because this time last year he was in rehab – so, there's three players on one key play that all do the wrong thing, and now, we have to make sure that doesn't happen again, because it happens once, nervous energy, different things, you miss things, you know these guys are going to grow and get better and we're going to develop from it, but my expectation is they do it from day one all the way through." On Brock Bowers and the tight ends… "Well, several of those were right targets just for Brock, he was the open guy. Some of that was get the ball out quick against a really good pass rush, and not being able to see… how long are we going to be able to protect? Are we going to be able to get vertical down the field? What's the easiest way to throw a short pass to the tight end? Who do they probably least expect? Brock Bowers. So, a lot of that is happenstance, but he's certainly a good player, and not every play that he got the other night was designed for him. It just ended up that way because some of those RPO's, some of those were boots, and there's two or three options." On Jermaine Burton… "We've had roughly 45 practices. Out of the 45 practices he's practiced 10-15 times. He missed a lot of time, and he was already a young player last year who grew. For him, he knows the upside. His best football is in front of him, and he has done everything we asked in terms of getting well. Rehab and pushing himself, but he's not in game shape. He's not in game speed. We've got to improve that and work on it. He's certainly a very talented football player that were excited about. And he will help us be explosive. He's just got to practice more. On the similarities between the 2017 Notre Dame win and the Clemson win… "It means a lot for confidence, okay. Confidence can help. Can overconfidence hurt? Yes, but there's a line there. The experience of the environment is what I value. Win, lose, or draw the experience of that environment was going to make us better, and that is what I gain from it. Does it give some of the players more confidence? Yes, it gives them more confidence. It does, but it better not give them overconfidence because humility is one week away. We're playing a good football team, and I know none of y'all believe me when I say that. I know a good football team, I know a good conference, and I know a well-coached football team when I see one. Watching them (UAB) on tape, they are very well coached. I'm not ready to compare Clemson and Notre Dame as games of the past because there are a lot of different scenarios about that. I don't see the link as much as previous players do, no disrespect to them. I see it as it is one game. It's over with. Now we are worried about UAB. On what J.T. Daniels was up against with Clemson… "All the talk about the weapons that he does and doesn't have is a moot point. That's what everyone wants to talk about and you can make excuses for me, for JT, for coach (Todd) Monken, but we've got good football players. We have to take the football players we have and be explosive. It doesn't matter who is out there. That's just pity or something. We have to be explosive. We have to get better at it. The way they played us and what our game plan was… Protect JT and get the ball out, have some different protections, and some different things. The game plan was to not get in third and longs. We didn't get in many third and longs. How many sacks did we give up guys, one. Check Clemson's average (sacks) per game. The game plan was to be efficient and be in manageable down and distances. Get the ball out of JT's hands. I feel like we did a good job of doing that. We didn't do it consistently enough to score points. On the distribution of carries and performance of the running backs... "I do not even know what the distribution was. I did not look at it and say, 'He got this, this and this.' I looked at it as, 'How did each guy do with each carry? Were we efficient when we had to run the ball?' When we had to run the ball, we were very efficient. When we had a chance for 50-50, we had some poor ones. Some of that had to do with uncharacteristic busts on run plays, as in, 'Why in the world would you block in that direction on that play?' Some of that was youth. Some of that was anxiety. Some of it was inexperience, and some of it was what Clemson did. We can play much better up front and then be better in the run game. I am not really concerned with the best players getting the touches or the hot hand to get the touches. Our backs are all capable, and they are also incapable if we do not block the right people. On the first full-capacity home game in two seasons... "I think it is awesome. I think that it will play a little more into our favor, because last week was much tougher due to the split environment and a tremendous atmosphere. I expect it to be the same way this week, but I think that they will have more confidence, being in a familiar place with more of our fans in there. I am hoping that it cuts down on these unknown errors that a kid does 100 times, and then he messes up in the game. In my experience, it happens. It happens to first-round picks. They just do it until they do not do it anymore." On the little things holding back the offense... "It frustrates me, because we did that, and we practiced that. We showed that look. How can you see yourself doing it here and then not do it here. It also excites me, because it is not a lack of ability. Some coaches have to go out, and they could not do any better than they did. That is not the case with us, because we have the ability." On Dominick Blaylock and Kearis Jackson's injuries... "I think, in those kinds of games, it is great to have guys that have played in big games. To have guys that have that kind of experience is great. Dom is really close. He is going against our defense with the scout offense. He is getting closer. It is a confidence factor for him. It is about feeling comfortable, going out there and knowing what to do, and Kearis is the same way. It is not as simple as 'We are getting him back next Wednesday.' It is a feel. With Kearis's injury, it is not a straight-line injury. It is a plant-and-cut injury. There is nowhere else, position wise, that you have to accelerate, plant and cut than defensive back and wide receiver. I want to get him back as much as anybody, but he is not yet, and we are going to be patient to make sure that they are ready to go." On the difference between Clemson in the first and the second and third quarters… "They really didn't do anything different. We always say it's about what we do, not what they do. Everybody wants to say, "Ooh they had a good second or third quarter, they must have had some new calls." No, they did the exact same defense, just changing them up and mixing it up, it's like pitching. So, if you pitch well and you change it up, you're going to strike somebody out every now and then on a pitch that you weren't expecting. They hit some good calls against things and we did things to self-inflict wounds during both of those. So, there's nothing I can say they did great. They played soft zone, they sat back and didn't give us a lot of shot opportunities and made us execute down the field, which we didn't do at a high enough level. On the two Adonai Mitchell pass interference calls… Some of that's dictated, I mean people misunderstand, some of that is dictated by a look, by favorable matchup, by RPO, so you say, well 'we got two PI's, target him more'. There were a couple targets where we didn't find the ball or we were off through it too, they were incompletions. So, there was one that was not a PI, that I know was on our sideline, that sailed over his head that we didn't find. So, we got to be sure we're targeting the right guys the right amount. I do think he's going be an explosive player, he's going to be a really good player. I compare that game to Jermaine Burton's Arkansas game, where it was his first game out there and I thought he did a good job of drawing the PI's he got, but he could a lot of other things better." On Jake Camarda's Performance… "He had an elite kick of 50 something yards with a five something hang time. That's something… people don't do that. 53-55 and hang time or something crazy. He had some really big punts, and the ones that got downed he actually missed his field zone on a couple of those. Arian Smith made phenomenal plays, so I want to give Arian some credit. We come in this room and sit here and say okay Camarda what is your percentage downed inside the 20 and our goal is for his to hit around 70percent. Since he's been here in his career he's batting about 75-80 percent. He doesn't do that alone. That ball doesn't not roll in itself. He has gunners and people out there. We practice that really hard, and I think coach Hartley does a great job and we were able to down I think two or three in there. On Kelee Ringo… "I think Kelee is a really good player that works really hard. I'm excited to see his future. His performance could've been better. On Ron Courson… "Ron's doing well. He's had a tough run. He's the hardest worker I've ever met in my life. He's never not been in this building on any day. He's never not been here two days in a row, including spring break and off time. It's killing him to not be here. His health seems good. I'll be honest with you guys. I'm as concerned as I've ever been and because we have three or four guys out with covid and we have a couple staff members that have been out with covid here recently. For us, were at our highest spike. People are talking about vaccination. These are people who are vaccinated. We're talking about break throughs. So that concerns you not only for the players on your team that are unvaccinated that are playing and not playing cause we want everybody to be safe but it concerns me for the players that are vaccinated. That we could lose them. It's at the highest it's been since fall camp right now. Think there is this relief that everyone feel like everything is back to normal. Just not for us right now. On fifth year players making a statement in the game… "I don't know the answer to that. I mean I can't control what other people do. I'd love for y'all to promote that message and tell every young player on our team, 'look at these guys, look what they've done.' But it is a what can you do for me now society. What can you do for me right now? You guys, you want something now right? Everybody is like what can you do for me now? We are trying to sell a team sport and a team game and there is no greater example than Chris Smith running down the field with the ball and (Latavious) Brini right beside him. Both didn't play great, they played good, they didn't play great. But, they played like they played because they got the experience last year. You know Brini played in the Cincinnati game so he had more confidence because of it. Chris Smith played his first week out and he had more confidence because of it. They also have confidence because they each have done those things a certain number of times. To everybody's loving of rankings and loving of recruiting out there, I get it, I understand it. I love recruiting too. You can't just walk in here and be immediately perfect and do everything right, you have to gain experience. Those guys have done that and they have been behind some good football players and they did wait their turn, fight and battle. You know what they had been contributors on special teams…That really is the model to me but in the world we live in now it is, 'show me playing time or show me the door.' We try to recruit to kids that want to be at Georgia for a long time cause it gives you a chance to be successful when they are older." #36 | Latavious Brini | Sr. | DB On the patience and reward of him, Christopher Smith, and Ameer Speed staying back an additional year to get their opportunity… "I believe, when you believe in yourself and believe in all the hard work you put it, everything will come to you." On his experiences against Missouri and Cincinnati last year preparing him for this game… "Those games last year prepared me to just slow down the game and not be as nervous. The game comes slow, so just going through those games really helped me for sure." On the transition to playing safety… "The transition has actually been amazing. Just knowing and learning different positions, like Coach says, adds to your bank. It makes you more valuable, just being around the ball, just knowing more stuff." #90 | Jake Camarda | Sr. | PK/P On the team effort and improving… "Back to freshman year, just working hard at everything. I'd like to think that since freshman year we've gotten better. It's a lot more of a team effort than me just punting. I definitely think we've improved since freshman year." On the key for improving… "Just working on it in practice. Working on the side, making sure I can keep the same drop every time. Trying to have a clean hit on the ball." On how much focus goes into a big game… "I don't know if there's something on how to play in those moments, we have really tough practices. One of the things we try to remind ourselves of is that practice is going to be harder than the game. I think with how Coach Smart runs practices, it really prepares us for the games" #50 | Warren Ericson | Jr. | OL On his start in the Clemson game… "We have a motto, stay ready so we don't have to get ready. That was kind of what my mindset was. I knew that if any guard were to go down that I would go in. So as soon as I saw Tate (Ratledge) going like this (tapping the top of his head) I just had to run right back in." On Tate Ratledge… "It is tough, as an offensive line we pride ourselves on being a brotherhood. So it is tough to see someone go down, especially on an injury like that, just a freak accident. We are going to be there for him, no matter what he needs we will always be there for him." On last weekend's environment… "I mean the environment was electric. Whether you were playing or you were in the stands or whether you were watching on t.v., it was electric. It was just fun. It was just good to see guys who hadn't had as much playing time be able to play. It was just a good time."