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Coach Smart and Trio of Offensive Players Detail Spring Practice


PHOTO via UGA SPORTS COMM

ATHENS, Ga. --- University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with a trio of offensive players spoke on spring practice.

On Thursday, Coach Smart, junior Brett Seither, Dominick Blaylock and redshirt sophomore Broderick Jones offered the following comments after practice...

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement…

“Well I will open with that I want to welcome Coach Abe and her family to Athens, our new basketball coach. I know Mary Beth and I are looking forward to meeting her and her family and we are excited to have them in Athens. Certainly, an event we like to attend, their home games so I am looking forward to meeting her. Today we finished up practice number eight I believe and we will have nine Saturday, it will be our first scrimmage. I thought our guys really competed today, that was the challenge to have about a two-hour session before the scrimmage and get better. The guys are growing, we are getting a lot of young players reps. I don’t know if I can ever recall a time where we have had so many first-year players, actually mid-year players that are getting valuable reps. Most of the time those guys are coming in your door and going with the three’s and we have a lot of them going with the two’s. It just shows the excitement they bring but also what we are trying to with and get better. I think the kids are doing a pretty good job with that, I have seen some pretty good leadership signs out there. I am excited to see what happens out there Saturday, coaches go off the field and find out who can tackle.”

On the leadership in practice…

“I think we have a lot of guys stepping up. I think Pop (Jamon Dumas-Johnson) Is doing a great job stepping up. Sedrick Van Pran, Warren Ericson are guys that continue to lead upfront and Broderick (Jones) has tried to take on a little bit bigger role, Kearis (Jackson) continues to do that. Nolan (Smith Jr.) has been tremendous at being vocal when things aren’t going right, Kelee (Ringo) has done a good job with that. Really a lot of guys you can just see them trying to assert themselves and encourage more than discouraging.”

On Brett Thorson’s punting…

“It is just punting. There is nothing special about what he is doing. I think when you think about Australians you think of rugby punting when they roll and punt. From obviously watching it he can do that and that is something that we will explore but that is not what we are working on right now. We are working on our different protections, different looks, checking protections and allowing him to kick under pressure because that is the thing that he has not been able to simulate, to kick under pressure. Replacing Jake Camarda will be key. I thought he had some good punts today and he hit his directions which is important. If you have to punt left you have to hit it left and if you have to punt right you have to hit it right, we call that our field zones. I thought he did a good job of doing that. So far this spring he has been a pleasant surprise. Probably not where Jake was last year but he has done a really good job. He has had a really smooth transition.”

On the offensive guards so far this spring, specifically Devin Willock…

“A lot of reps… (Xavier) Truss, for the most part, last year, doubled as a guard tackle. He’s continued to double as a guard tackle with some injuries that we’ve had at the offensive line, so he’s been forced into some tackle reps, but primarily he’s gotten a lot of guard (reps). (Devin) Willock has gotten a lot of guard reps and Warren Ericson continues to get guard reps there, although we’ve got him a lot of center reps. (Dylan)Fairchild’s gotten quite a few, Micah (Morris) has come on and had some good practices, so it’s a great competition among a great group of guys to see what they can do. Devin (Willock) and Xavier (Truss)) probably provide us with the most size in terms of length, girth, not necessarily all weight. Micah (Morris) has done a good job there, and Dylan (Fairchild) had a sprained ankle, but he’s really competed. He’s missed a couple of practices, but he’s gotten back out there and pushed through it to the point of getting healthy, so he’s done a good job.”

On what he is looking for from the quarterbacks in Saturday’s scrimmage…

“It never changes with the quarterbacks. You could come back in 10 years from now and it’s going to be the same thing as it was last year—decision-making, accuracy, leadership, intangibles—great quarterbacks are accurate and they make good decisions. If you can make good decisions and be accurate, and you have good football players around them, then you’re going to be a pretty good football player. I want to see them execute the offense, lead the offense, make plays with their feet when things break down—things that are difference-makers for them— and overcome mistakes because there’s going to be some adversity out there. The good thing is that those guys get the opportunity to do that every day at practice, sometimes in a scrimmage you don’t get put in bad situations, but in practice, we’re going to manufacture tough situations and they get to do those.”

On Arik Gilbert…

“The biggest hurdle for him has been the conditioning level. I think that’s the biggest thing—learning the playbook and the conditioning level—catching balls, I mean, you can catch balls if you’re an athlete. He came back a little heavy, and he admittedly will tell you that. He’s done a tremendous job of being in our cardio club and dropping weight—probably between 265-270 (pounds)—and he’s dropping. What’s happening right now, he’s starting to make more and more plays, but he’s having to really work his stamina to be able to sustain during practice. I mean, play-after-play-after-play, it’s like ‘oh man, I’ve got to condition myself to get back, go again, burst and run.’ I’ve been pleased with him and Brett (Seither) and Oscar (Delp) have taken a tremendous load on and have gotten a lot of reps.”

On Broderick Jones’ leadership development…

"I think confidence has helped. I think he has heard from some really good leaders. Jamaree and Justin, both those guys are great leaders. I think he has learned a lot from them. He has to continue to learn to be productive and physical. One thing about those two guys was they were extremely physical. They enjoyed the contact part. The run game came really easy for them. That part, for Broderick, he has to work and strain at that. He's a really good athlete, a long guy, so pass-pro is much easier for him. In the run game, he has to get his pad level down, strain, and become a good player, but he's trying to be more positive than the other guys. He's trying to encourage them when there are mistakes because years ago he was that guy. He's growing into his role."

On Arik Gilbert and the tight ends…

"We think he is a tight-end at the end of the day. Last year, it was probably a greater deficit, something that he wanted to be - more of a wide-out. He was lighter. He's a little heavier, now. He's more physical. He's a tight end, and that's probably how he is going to develop. The certain requirement that it takes to play receiver is it requires stamina, running every play, going to cut off blocks. Our tight ends are receivers. They do play receiver. They don't go out all the time, and that's something he's had to do. He's comfortable in his own skin right now, and he's got a way to go. He has not arrived. He's come so far from not being able to execute a play to be able to execute a play, know what to do, and hurry back to get the call for the next play and line up. I'm just proud of the way he's fought to learn it. He's fighting stamina out there because he is taking so many reps. I'm really pleased with his growth."

On how Dominick Blaylock has handled his injuries…

"He's wired in the right way. This kid came up tough. He's had two older brothers who have helped toughen him up. He didn't grow up soft, and he's not afraid of contact. He never complains. If anybody has something to complain about, it would be him. All he does is work, and he's probably still not electric in terms of his vertical speed. He's a really savvy route-runner. He made a play during two minutes that was a big play - a diving catch that set the offense up to win it. He's getting better and getting more confidence in that knee. I'm excited to see where he goes, but more than anything I'm excited to see him get out there and play. Our team takes on a lot of his resiliency DNA, and it's something we sell our players on."

On how he has evolved the program since he started…

“I don’t like comparisons, you know that. I don’t like comparing one thing to another. And, I don’t really know much about how it was before because I wasn’t here. We take a lot of pride in trying to do things well, in terms of our discipline, toughness, all those. We tried to do that for a long time. It wasn’t just me, it was the first staff I hired. The men that left helped set that standard, and the men that come in have continued that standard. I don’t know that there’s a clear example. It’s just day-to-day hard work. If you work hard each day, then you’ll sign good players, your kids will graduate. You hold them accountable, that’s what you have to do to develop a program. I think we’ve started to do that. We’ve been pretty consistent. That’s one of my big pet peeves, is how consistent can you be in your performance, in the way you work. And it shows in wins and losses and also the players we develop.”

On updates about CJ Washington and EJ Lightsey…

“CJ Washington had a really tough injury. I actually didn’t see the hit that happened. It happened late, almost right out of bounds. I turned to walk away and heard some oohs and ahhs. Then he was face down at practice. I thought our medical staff did a tremendous job getting to him quickly. He was concussed. He has a neck injury. We don’t know the complete severity of that or the length of time it will take to recover. But what we do know, is he has all his extremities. He can walk, he was out at practice today. He's going to be in a neck brace for a while, but he has a great spirit. I mean, he’s smiling, laughing, cutting up over here every day. He misses it. But I don’t know what that timeline is for recovery. He’s meeting with several doctors tomorrow so we should know more. And EJ Lightsey is coming up and seeing us. I’ve met with his coaches a couple of times. He had a really unfortunate incident where he was an innocent bystander and got hit by a stray bullet – several of them. So, he is actually very lucky that it wasn’t worse. And according to Ron (Courson), it was an inch from probably getting into his heart. He’s just a tremendous kid from going out and recruiting him. Everybody in the community talks about him, and it’s a really tough situation. But I think he’s going to have a full recovery and be able to start with us.”

On Carson Beck…

“Well, I think he has really good composure. Carson is never up, never down. I think that’s a great quality in every quarterback I’ve seen. Guys that are emotional and up and down like a roller coaster, he’s pretty even killed. And to be honest, most of our quarterbacks are. There’s no guy there that loses it one way or the other. But he does a good job being very even killed, and I think he understands the system. He’s got another year in the system, so it comes naturally to him. He’s not nervous about what the call is, what’s my read, what’s the motion, what’s the shift. He’s very cool, calm and collected and does a good job of managing those things with the offense. So, he has earned some confidence and earned some confidence with the players.”

On Dominick Blaylock playing on both sides of the ball…

“He played special teams before. So, he’s continued to play special teams. He’s actually taken on a role at the end of the year last year where he worked on kickoff coverage; he works on the punt return, as the returner but also in other roles on the punt return. So, I think he has developed more confidence about playing receiver with the contact he’s had on special teams. A lot of times, special teams gets you back going when you’ve been injured because it gets you the confidence to be on the field. And he played some roles for us on special teams at the end of last year, and he’ll continue to do that. If he’s the best guy, then he’ll be out there to play. But I’m excited about what he can do for us at receiver too.”

#80 | Brett Seither | TE | Jr.

On the tight ends, specifically Arik Gilbert…

"We are all in there getting reps. Everyone is taking on a huge load with the tight-end room going down. Those guys are fighting in the training room to get back out there. [Arik Gilbert] has been good. He's played well. He's doing extra and working hard."

On his personal game and skill…

"I think my skill is more like a pass-catching tight end, but I would really like to develop as a run-blocker this spring."

On the spring as an opportunity for him…

"I think I have definitely taken advantage of my reps. I'm trying my best out there every day to make an impact. We are waiting for everyone else to get back on the field with us."

#8 | Dominick Blaylock | WR | Jr.

On how he is feeling so far this spring…

"So far spring has been going good. I'm getting the feel for everything. It's the first spring practice since freshman year, so everything is going well, so far. I feel great."

On what Coach Smart means by ‘he’s wired right’….

"Ever since all the injuries, I've been trying to keep a level head. I'm trying to keep moving forward and get back to the best ability I can. Everything so far has gone good, so I'm just trying to keep a good mindset about everything."

On his physical state now...

"Right now, I am feeling a lot more confident. I'm feeling great, so far. The knee is feeling awesome. I am just trying to do the best part I can for my team, and I'm trying to get back where I have been back in freshman year."

#59 | Broderick Jones | OL | RSo.

On taking snaps in the national championship…

"It was a surreal feeling being in that play in the national championship game. That is a huge dream that any kid who plays on the college level dreams for. I know I didn't play as much and I didn't start, but I felt like I have gotten better over the last seasons that I have been here. I've been preparing myself to step up when my name is called."

On how he adjusted once coming to Georgia…

"it is a nig change, but it is nothing that can't be done. You can't expect always to just go in and do what you have always been used to doing. You have to change. Life is about changes. If you are not able to make changes in your life, you will not be able to succeed. I knew when I came in that I would be pushed to work harder and better myself as a player. I just came in with that type of mindset."