Georgia-Auburn Preparation in Full Swing
The Georgia Bulldogs practiced two-hours Wednesday, Sept. 30, in preparation for the first home game of the season versus Auburn University. The Bulldogs will kick off against the Tigers in Sanford Stadium at 7:30 p.m., ET, on ESPN. Before practice, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart participated in the SEC Football Weekly Media Teleconference and provided an update on the Bulldogs. Following practice, Kearis Jackson and Justin Shaffer offered these comments on the contest with Auburn. Selected comments from Smart and the student-athletes follow: Coach Kirby Smart Opening Statement "This is a big game at home. We are excited about College Gameday being here and a top-10 matchup- which is what the SEC is all about. You have an opportunity to play a great program at Auburn. Gus [Malzahn] and them have done a tremendous job—always have. Their kids play with tremendous toughness, very physical team. Every time we play them, although it's usually later in the year, it's extremely physical." On keeping D'Wan Mathis' mentally focused this season and an update on JT Daniels... "Well, with the D'Wan [Mathis] question, he is working. He's continuing to work. He's getting better. He's growing as a player. He has learned from some of his mistakes, and [we're] trying to get the players around him to play better too so that allows him to have success. Really the same thing with JT [Daniels], he's continuing to work. He's doing a great job—glad he's cleared because he is able to play now. We're excited to see him and see what he does." On the deep rotation in the backfield... "It just depends on how far it needs to go based on injury and things like that. We have five guys we feel comfortable with. Good thing is the young guys have gotten a lot of reps with some of the other guys—Kenny [McIntosh] was dinged up in camp. We were able to get Kendall [Milton] and Daijun [Edwards] on a lot more reps because of that. I have a lot of confidence in all five of those guys. They do a good job and work each day. Not to say we are going to play five every game, but I have confidence in all five." On addressing the team about the differences of this season and gameday with COVID-19 protocol... "We addressed all of that earlier in the year and that's been the mantra the whole time. We've played scrimmages with nobody in there and with parents in there, one time with donors in there. Anything in the stadium is more than what we've had for our game-like scrimmages. The psyche part of that is what we have already addressed that." On how valuable Jake Camarda is for the team... "Jake [Camarda] has done a tremendous job. He's worked really hard. That was one of his goals for the year is to obviously pin some more people inside the 10 [yard line]. He was able to do that with some help from some really good gunner play." On Jamaree Salyer at right tackle and update on Tommy Bush... "Jamaree [Salyer] has done a good job. I thought he helped lead the group. He's got a little more experience than those other guys. He is still relatively new to the position. He has worked really hard at it. He is going to be challenged more and more as the level of competition goes up. We know that's one of the toughest places to play in the SEC. Hey look, there's nobody perfect over there. We just lost two first-rounders at each edge, and you realize that it is a tough league to play in when it comes to that. He really plays hard. He's really conscientious about it. He goes against really good pass rushers every day in practice. He is continuing to get better, and that is what we need to build around at the quarterback position is a lot of guys that are each individually getting better. As far as Tommy [Bush], he is working with us and doing a good job. He's closer to healthy, and [we are] hopeful that he can help us." On the growth and value of Dell McGee's responsibilities over his time at Georgia... "He has been a tremendous asset for us. He is one of the guys that has been here from the original start. That's always important. When you sell values of your organization and what you believe in—it really helps when you've got guys that have built the continuity of being here. He's been that. He's been a rock. He's been here a long time, and he knows how we like to do things as an organization. He's been a big part of that. He helps me tremendously. He's a great guy. He is probably one of the first guys I go ask questions to in terms of making decisions because he is very experienced." On when players go back to their home state and play a game and if there are any factors that contribute to a player's mindset... "I would think so. I think it's that way all the time. It's that way in coaching and it's that way—when you're coaching against maybe a school you went to or that you played at—I've always said that. I thought that that was a factor in some of our games last year. Certainly, that is the case. It doesn't necessarily mean that we didn't want them. We wanted a lot of those guys and got beat on! It's a matter that you play with a chip on your shoulder because it's your home state and you probably have more family at the game. Sometimes, not always in Auburn's case, you have kids that are closer to Athens than necessarily Auburn, that's not always the case with them. Yeah, I think it's certainly that way. It would be no different with the kids we have on our roster from the state of Alabama." On how experience plays a part in the growth of a player and how that has helped Bo Nix... "You can't put a price tag on experience. I don't think there's—I saw that with Jake Fromm. The first year you saw these simple mistakes then the next year it was like, 'I know the down of distance better. I know where the yard marker is. I know I am in field goal range—don't take a sack. I know where I am going with the ball. I have seen this defense now eight times, I know exactly what to do with the ball.' It's one of those deals that with experience you make better decisions. It's very obvious that [Bo Nix's] learning curve is really fast in terms of being able to understand his offense, how you use it. He made some decisions in the last game that last year he wouldn't have made that decision that fast. What happens when you make that decision a split-second sooner, it gets that wideout and extra yard to run after the catch. That it is also a big play instead of a catch and a tackle. He's done a tremendous job, and he is a really good football player." On not losing confidence as a young player... "I don't think you can, not lose confidence. Realistically it affects you. Emotionally, it affects you. With the kids we deal with nowadays they live in the outside world. They have to learn to tune it out at a young age. That is really hard to do. We support them internally. We communicate with them. We build strong relationships. We use the players on the team, the leaders on the team, to continue to develop and grow him so he can do it. You can't but a band-aid on it. It's something you have to try and use to learn from." #10 Kearis Jackson | R-Soph. | WR On his play as a punt returner… "I love special teams, especially punt return. I specialize myself there and build my game on special teams and being back there at punt return is a blessing. It's something I used to do in high school just knowing that every time I touch the ball I'm trying to score. That's the goal every time we get on punt return is to get into the end zone. Having the guys up front, those guys are important with their blocks and making sure I'm safe back there catching the punt. They do a great job of that but there is still room for improvement." On how the quarterbacks have prepared this week… "Everybody is getting reps right now. We have Auburn this week, a big top-ten matchup. We have to come out every day like we've doing and just keep attacking it. Treating every practice like it's a game, making sure that we keep working hard. We can't slip up because each week we're trying to go 1-0. We just have to execute our game plan and play hard for all four quarters." On how the route running has been this season… "We've just been making sure that we know the details in the routes. Making sure we get the right depth. Every route, every concept we have it has to be ran a certain way. We've been doing a great job in the off-season up to this point making sure we're doing the small details right. Making sure we're in the right place at the right time. #54 Justin Shaffer | Senior | OL On what the offensive line has been doing to prepare after Arkansas… "Coach [Matt] Luke is doing a great job rotating everyone in and out. I just felt we needed to get on one page. This week we practiced staying on the same page, everybody staying on the ball, husting to the ball. Just doing the right things. We just couldn't get into a groove that we needed to give us that push." On getting back in shape for this season… "It was challenging, but quarantine helped me a lot. I went down to train in Miami and was working out because I had a chip on my shoulder. I knew I had to get back into that starting five." On him playing his senior season after his various injuries… "The only thing that was going through my mind was playing and getting back. When Dr. Ron [Courson] told me everything was going to be okay, I did rehab and did what I had to do." On Auburn's D-Line... "They play hard and they look good on film. They're in shape and they're going to go on every play, so we have to come out with our 'A' game."