HC Kirby Smart Discusses Day Two of Spring Practice
Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart discussed their second spring practice today, March 19, 2021.
Head Coach Kirby Smart
On how their second spring practice went...
"I thought it went well. They always seem to start with a lot of energy, we don't have pads on yet so it's combine olympics out there. Who runs the fastest, looks the prettiest, doesn't like to hit anybody they tend to 'look' the best on these days. We'll put pads on Saturday and we'll start to take on more character and demeanor with our team. I've been really pleased with the spirit and energy in practice, but I don't know if I haven't not been in two days. We had better weather today than I expected, so we got to go outside some of the practice. We probably could have gotten the whole thing outside, but we had most of it prepared to go on inside. I want to get outside as much as we can because it's that time of year and we need to. The guys practiced hard, it's just hard to measure football in shorts." On the quarterbacks and how they're coming along... "I don't know how to measure that, they're light years ahead of where they were. We didn't have this last year so I can't answer that question, because we didn't know anything last year. We didn't know who we were, we had no identity, we didn't even know who J.T. Daniels was. We're a lot different offensively, they're doing things they didn't do until maybe halfway through the season last year. We've got some young wideouts swimming, we've got some experienced wideouts that are still swimming because they're trying to learn multiple positions. Last year we weren't able to be very mobile because Jermaine Burton learned one position. We're trying to get Jermaine to learn both sides. He was the 'Z' last year, he needs to be the 'Z' and the 'X.' There are just so many little things that they're so much further ahead as far as knowledge. Since I've been here, it seems like we've had a very experienced defense a couple times, and an experienced offense one year when [Jake] Fromm was back, but we did't have our wideouts back. It's pretty unique to have that much experience on offense. It's shown for two days that we've been behind defensively and ahead offensively." On Lovasea Carroll...
"It's experimental. We recruited him as a running back, but we're really deep at the running back position. He's probably going to be a factor on our special teams because he's really fast. He's embraced the position, he's made some good plays, he's had some bad plays. He hasn't played this position so to put him out there with some experienced wideouts and some guys who have played a lot of football is probably not fair to him, but that's how you grow and how you get better: by failing. I've been around a lot of good running backs, I've had running backs that I've signed that have texted me and said, 'man, I wish I would have played corner,' just based on what these guys are getting paid in the NFL. The shelf life of a corner is much longer than a back and there's a lot more corners active in the NFL than backs. So when you look at the case of those three guys yesterday, Lovasea Carroll has a lot of the same qualities that those guys have. What he doesn't have is experience. He's embraced that role, I wouldn't say that it's permanent, I would say that it's a spring experiment and we will go from there."
On outside linebackers and their role..."I wouldn't say we are looking for more creative ways, I'm saying we have already done it. If you study our defense really hard there are packages where there are three outside linebackers on the field, there are two outside linebackers on the field, they'll get a lot of snaps if they're the best two players. Then there is just one sometimes. So, yes, we are always looking for more creative ways, but we have already been looking for more creative ways. That room is not as deep as it was. I don't know where your barometer is but when you think about Azeez [Ojulari] leaving and then Jermaine [Johnson] being gone it is quite different in that room. There is not as many guys in there, of course I don't know who you are counting. I don't know if you're counting a guy that is injured or a guy that is playing inside backer, I don't know who they are. But you know Adam [Anderson] is not a normal outside backer, he does a lot of different things, he is playing nickel-star for us now and he still plays outside backer on third down sometimes. Then you've got Bill [Rubright], M.J. [Sherman] is injured, and Nolan [Smith] playing there. We are growing at that position, but we are not as deep as we were. Chaz [Chambliss] is coming along, and he is getting some reps in there as well." On what he is looking for from Nolan Smith... "I am looking for everyone on the defense to improve. We have to create pass rush, we have to create havoc, in terms of sac reduction. Dan [Lanning] has made that a priority by the way he schemes the defense, and by the way he calls the defense. We had productive rushers but a lot of that is what he called and trying to scheme to get guys one-on-one. Travon [Walker], I think he is going to have a big year for us. Not only is he replacing Malik [Herring] but in a lot of ways he is replacing Azeez. I think everyone assumes with Azeez being gone that it is now Nolan's job, but it is not like that for us. 60 to 70 percent of the snaps Travon is Azeez, and then Nolan is Azeez, just one is left and one is right. Both of those guys play defensive end a lot " On what steps JT has taken to improve... "I think the wideouts like to throw more even more than the quarterbacks. J.T. [Daniels] does a good job with those guys. But there has been several Saturdays that I have stopped in prior to spring practice starting and they're in there throwing and doing things on their own. They just like to go in there and throw. We did not have a lot of throwing sessions because we wanted to get away from football. The NCAA has given us a lot of latitude with ten hours now instead of eight hours a week. We get a lot of football time with our players to walk through and they'll choose to go throw on their own. Those wideouts really enjoy it and embrace it. Carson [Beck], Brock [Vandagriff], J.T., and Stetson [Bennett] all of those guys have been out there to throw on their own. But J.T. is a really good leader and I think the fact that he has come back, and he has had a little more time- you know he never got a chance to really get to know these guys. I mean he showed up and we are in COVID, then he wasn't playing, then he was playing, and then the year was over. So, he is just now kind of embracing the relationship with those guys." On how he knows who is putting in work during the off season and if he can tell from his young players... “Young being mid-year, it’s hard to tell. The biggest discrepancy in our mid-year enrollees and our young players is usually strength and point of attack. They’re just not strong. I’m not going to call names but we have a lot of guys out there that are mid-year enrollees that may be talented enough but they’re not ready to take on a Justin Shaffer or a Jamaree Salyer or a George Pickens or whoever it is, Jordan Davis. They’re just not ready for it. They’re not going to be able to walk out there and be able to do that. That’s what the offseason is for and what we start to see if that guy in his second or third year take on that role of a Zion Logue or a Naz [Nazir Stackhouse], Tae Crowder, a guy that has been there and been in the program that makes you say ‘oh, that guy is ready to take another step,’ because he’s gotten stronger, he’s been there, he’s realized that maybe the recruiting ranking weren’t as good as they thought they were and they knew they had to get to work. Most of those guys that are mid-years are just starting to experience that.” On Jahmile Addae and if his energy is what made him want to hire him... “It didn’t play a role. I interview the coach and see what he knows, see how he recruits and call people who have worked with him. Whether he’s a hype machine or a cheerleader or yelling and screaming, that’s not my interest level. I’m a lot more interested in his relationship with the players, how he treats players, can he develop the players, does he have a skill set to coach them. That’s what I was impress by with Jahmile, was his demeanor. He’s very intelligent, he thinks things out before he says them and he’s done a tremendous job here of gaining the trust of those players while also learning a pretty complicated defense. It’s not like he just walked in and knew how to do it and we’re going to do it his way. We’re going to do things the way we do things and he’s going to help bring some knowledge into that. He has a lot of energy on the practice field. I think that’s great but that’s not what it was about for us.” On what it's like having Will Muschamp back with him and what he brings… “He’s probably the guy I lean on the most in terms of coaching the coaches and just drill selection. I ask him like, ‘hey how did you do this?’ ‘Did you do this period first or this one?’ Trying to find new things to make our program better and I like having him out there a lot. I like having him in the meetings because it’s not the skill set of coaching, he’s certainly a confident coach and very competent. It’s a lot more for me, I just know he’s done things a lot of different ways. When you’re out there in between drills and a drill is going on and you can walk on and say, ‘how did y’all do this?’ or ask him what he thinks about something, it’s helpful. It certainly builds confidence and gives you more ways to do things.” On whether he’s been surprised at anyone stepping up and being a leader so far... “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. We spend so much time with these guys in the offseason that it’s impossible to say, ‘where’d he come from?’ We had eight or nine 6 a.m. work outs and guys are out there grinding in the stadium in 43-degree weather and working. The leaders are the ones that are even leading then. It’s not like anyone is just popping up new. I think guys are growing more confident. Nakobe [Dean] has stood out to me. He’s been a guy that really is a tremendous leader and has taken on more of a vocal role. That’s big. Obviously, offensively we have a lot of leaders over there” On Kelee Ringo ... “As far as the surgery, he is still getting up to speed; he is cleared to go. Fortunate for us now, but not fortunate for us then, he was able to get the repair done to get recovery time. But to think that you’re going to sit out and not go run against a guy running 20 miles per hour, and just being able to walk out there and go just because you’re fast, that’s not the case. He’s got a lot of confidence to gain in our system. He’s got a lot to learn in our system. And you know what, he’s dedicated to learning it. He’s not shying away from it. There’s been a lot of hype around Kelee, and I think for his sake, he has to work. He has to go decide that he’s going to work really hard and live up to his expectations, not everybody else’s. Because the position he’s playing is like a .300 batting average. You fail so many times out of ten and you’re a hall of famer in baseball. It’s hard out there, it’s tough. We saw it with Tyson [Campbell] and [Eric] Stokes this year, they’ll both be high draft picks. They had some tough competition, and he’s finding that out daily – all our corners are. So, I’m proud of the way he took on this year. A lot of guys get injured, and they check out. He never checked out; he checked in. He sat in the front of the meetings, asking questions every day. But he’s not where he needs to be.” On if he ever had a player he knew he could count on early... “Not that I can remember, no. I’ve had them where he’s going to be inserted into a position that he is not ready to play, but we better go ahead and insert him. He wasn’t ready, but he got thrust into that because there was no one else by default. We’re not very deep at DB, but that’s not going to be the case. We’ve got returning who have been here, it’s not like a midyear has stepped in. A midyear might when the job, but he hasn’t been thrust into it. But I have been places before where we didn’t have anyone else, they’re going to have to play because we are so thin. I’ve been very fortunate to be at some deep places. There have been some guys who we know are going to start on some special teams; he can move and run. He’s really intelligent, and we’ve got some of those guys out there.” On Adam Anderson... “Basically, when you are an outside backer, you are the star. I know that sounds complicated…In a 3-4 system, you have two outside backers. Every snap we play 3-4, we have a star that is an outside backer. So, Mark Webb was an outside backer last year on 50 percent on the snaps. Well, that’s what Adam Anderson is, and if you are going to rush him 50 percent of the time, would you rather rush Mark Webb or Adam Anderson. So, you have to build your defense around the structure of what you want to do. They both have great strengths; their strengths are different. We think that he can help us from a rush standpoint. What we are experiencing with him right now is him trying to cover. He gives us the luxury of playing four DBs instead of five, which helps our lack of DB, and also helps our strength of rush guys when we are able to play with him. So, we are challenging him, asking him to do a lot that if we had to play a game tomorrow, we wouldn’t ask him to do all these things. But we are trying to teach him and have a growth mindset with him.” On when did big data become a thing during his football career... “First time I ever remember hearing about it was around the National Championship with FSU. Jimbo got big into it, and we were using it at Alabama then, but I don’t remember us harping on it. But I remember Jimbo in the middle of practice and keep guys fresh that year; they had the big run and beat Auburn. That’s the first time I remember it coming onto my radar. It has surged since then, but it’s a little plateaued for me now. I look at it almost every night and see if anything pops out or glares at me. I don’t think we would ever overmeasure any little things, some teams might. I don’t overdo it because I just don’t look at it that much. It comes up in our stat meetings, a guy pulls, a guy running track team, and we are just trying to figure out how much volume he has because it’s important. It’s not as important in Spring because they are off between every practice. And you can imagine that data is not the best. Now in season, it’s a lot more volume because we are practicing every day.”