Georgia Continues Preparations for Texas A&M
ATHENS —— The Georgia Bulldogs continued their preparations for their Saturday contest against Texas A&M with a two-hour practice on Tuesday afternoon.
Head Coach Kirby Smart, along with senior linebacker Tae Crowder, fielded questions from the media after practice. Excerpts from their sessions follow:
Head Coach Kirby Smart:
‘’I thought the kids were energized, really good practices. Yesterday we had a good practice, got a good start on Texas A&M, and today we followed that up. Bunch of the guys had good energy because, I guess, the weather was really good and they like going good on good. So we tried to do a little more of that against each other. We were able to compete against each other.’’
What’s been the emotional focus this week, coming off such an emotional win?
‘’Yesterday it was tough. We try to slow things down Mondays, take a little bit off their legs and get some stuff introduced. Today I thought they were good.’’
Georgia is 114th in the country on completion percentage on play-action passes. What have you identified as the problems there?
‘’Well, to be honest with you, we don’t play-action pass as much as we have in the past. Play-action pass is set up by a really good, sound running game. And the games where we’ve been able to run it, we’ve thrown it well on play-action pass. Tennessee being one of those. We don’t look at stats particularly. We look at the ways we can have explosive plays, and play-action pass is a good way to do that. A lot of ours have been to stretch the field. We threw two or three big posts early in the year, but we didn’t hit any of them. But those are to keep people honest, and you’ve got to do that. Saturday we were able to hit one, to Dom (Blaylock). You may not hit a high percentage of those, but when you do, you do get explosive plays. We’re trying to get more and more explosive plays as much as we can.’’
Where is Julian Rochester physically, and at this point in the season, is there any thought to redshirting him?
‘’Maybe we’ve been thinking about that the whole time. That’s kind of what we’ve been working towards. It’s not set yet because we don’t know how many games we’ve got left. He did a great job in the Tennessee game, when Jordan (Davis) went down. He filled it and he’s done a great job contributing. But it’s something that we’ve thought about since the beginning of the year.’’
When do you think the light went on for Malik Herring?
‘’I think we talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but Georgia Tech (last yer) was the coming out party, I thought. He’s really athletic and he fit playing against that style of football, the triple option. He’s just been getting better and better. He works really hard. He’s a great kid, comes from a great family. I’ve enjoyed being around him. He’s continues to get better. He’s got to continue to get better, too, because he hasn’t arrived. He struggled out there today, so he’s got to keep getting better. For us he was the Player of the Game on defense, he and Monty (Rice), but sometimes guys play well and start to feel good about themselves and don’t think that what actually got ‘em there is what they need to do. You can’t rest on what you’ve done in the past. You’ve got to continue to grind.’’
With your options at right guard, how much of your decisions will be based on performance and how much on health?
‘’Oh, it’ll be both. Absolutely. I think health is Number One factor because if you don’t have health, you don’t have an opportunity. But some of that’s gonna be based on health vs. ‘Is a 90 percent better than a backup that’s 100 percent?’ Those decisions will be based on that. We’re hopeful that all those guys are going to be able to play. Cade (Mays) has been out there working. Ben (Cleveland) has practiced, so we’ll be in a good spot.’’
What has Tyler Clark brought to the program during his career?
‘’He’s played so many snaps. He played as a freshman because he had to. We weren’t very deep on the D-Line. He wasn’t ready, but he had to play because we didn’t have the depth. Then he had a really good sophomore year, and then he fought through a lot of injuries last year. He had a lot of issues with his hands, fingers and his wrist. He couldn’t use his hands well. This year he’s been better suited. He’s quick, he’s twitchy and for us to move him in some of the things we’ve done, the plays he’s created havoc have been him moving, and we’re doing more moving this year, which suits him better. I think it’s allowed him to make some more plays, like the one he had Saturday. He was moving on it.’’
You mentioned yesterday that Cade Mays wouldn’t practice. Did he both Monday and Tuesday?
‘’Cade didn’t do much yesterday. He was out there, but he did a lot more today, as far as reps and things like that. Hopefully, he’s gonna be able to go. He didn’t do a lot yesterday, but he did more today. Hopefully he’ll do more tomorrow.’’
What problems are created by the split-back formation that Texas A&M uses?
‘’The split-back stuff they use is unique to football now. It wasn’t unique to us in the early stages of football. Jimbo has done it. He did it with Dalvin Cook (at FSU). He did an unbelievable job, and (UGA Offensive Coord. James) Coley has been with him. Can it create problems for you? Yes. I can create a lot of problems for you with a running quarterback. The quarterback almost creates a wishbone back there, when you’ve got two guys, two slip backs, and the quarterback, and the tight end that’s blocking. He can go anywhere. They do a great job of that. They’ve really hurt some teams with that. It’s something that we’re working on because we know they’ll be able to use it. (Regarding the ability to pass from that set) Yeah, if you can run the ball out of any set, it makes for a great passing set because everybody’s going to be playing the run. It’s a play-action deal. Not many people are doing it in college football. I mean, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to be able to stop it. They’ve got a really athletic offensive line. They move well. They really hurt South Carolina in those sets and did a great job. So it’s not something that we’re used to seeing. The good news is, we have been 2-back around here in the past, so our kids have had a little bit of exposure to it.’’
Auburn used the slant pass a lot in the game last Saturday. Why don’t we see more slants in Georgia’s offense?
‘’You know, we’ve been a slant team in the past. First couple of years here, we ran a lot of slants. If you’ll remember, we ran a slant in the spring game. It was one of the passes that Eric Stokes took from JJ Holloman and it ended up being a pick-six. It doesn’t make it a bad or a good play, one way or the other, but it has not been one that we’ve been extremely successful with. We’ve actually run slants this year. We haven’t thrown slants. No. 1, you’ve gotta have guys that win on slants. No. 2, you’ve gotta feel good about the coverage you’re getting on slants. Some of what we were doing, you don’t want to give a slant away, but we were giving a slant away, as opposed to a fade away. A lot of that has to do with leverage.’’
Dominick Blaylock has come up big in big moments the past couple of weeks. Is there anything about him that lets you know that he’s capable of that?
‘’Yeah, he’s done it everywhere. He went to the All-Star game (All-America Bowl) and had two or three touchdown catches. He played big in high school playoff games. He had all the indicators of being ready for the moment. There’s no moment too big for Dom. He’s just so level. I mean, he’s not up and down. I don’t think the moment is too big for him.’’
What are the differences between the way Texas A&M played in September versus how they’re playing now?
‘’They’re more experienced. They’ve got more backs playing at a really high level. I felt like the backs were younger then. Defensively, they’re really athletic, active. But he’s committed to the run game. Their run game, I think it’s the last five games, has increased every week for five straight games. That’s pretty incredible when you talk about the SEC, when you go 100, 125, 150, 200, 300. He’s gone up, up, up each and every game. They’re playing really good football right now. Look, they didn’t play bad football before. Don’t mistake that. They were playing against some really good teams.’’
How do you feel like your team has affected the quarterback lately on defense?
‘’I feel like we’ve been consistent throughout the year on that. We don’t get the numbers all the time. Sometimes the numbers lie. I thought there were two or three times the other day where one guy does what he’s supposed to do, we had two busts on a fourth-and-five where he scrambles for the first down. We should have a sack. Guys don’t do their job and we should have more. Statistically, I’m pleased with our ability to affect the quarterback. Sure I wish we had more sacks, but we have played some athletic quarterbacks, and a lot of people get the ball out quick on us.