Season Opener Drawing Near for Bulldogs
ATHENS, Ga. — The third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs moved one day closer to their season opener with Vanderbilt by holding a two-hour workout Wednesday.
Before practice, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart participated in the SEC Football Weekly Media Teleconference and provided an update on the Bulldogs, facing Vanderbilt and his memories from his first game as a student-athlete at Georgia. His comments are listed below:
Head Coach Kirby Smart
"Like everybody else, we’re excited to kick the season off. It’s very unique for us to have a road SEC opener, which makes things more exciting, makes camp more challenging when you start thinking about an opponent that is very familiar with you and you’re familiar with them. You’re taking a group of players, a lot of them who haven’t played a substantial amount to play for the first time in an SEC road game. It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere, and we’re looking forward to playing up there in Nashville. I have a lot of respect for Derek (Mason) and his program.”
(On How He Thinks the Bulldogs Will Perform in the Season Opener)
“Most of the time, practice is a good indicator of how they’re going to play. I have seen guys that have some anxiety and make some mistakes and do some things you might not have seen in camp but you rarely see players stand out that haven’t stood out in practice. That’s hard to do, especially with the intensity and the way we practice. Every practice in camp is so intense, you get so few of them that most of the time it makes players show their true colors. If they’re not ready, they’re not ready, and if they are, they are so we try to build them that way. I do think the first one (game) has more jitters than normal.”
(Thoughts on Georgia linebacker Monty Rice)
“Monty is a leader. He gives exceptional effort. He works really hard in the classroom and in the meeting room. For us, he’s done really well, and we’re really proud of Monty. He works his tail off. It’s really important to him, and he leads others. He had an injury last year and that frustrated him. He’s been pretty healthy, especially for a linebacker.”
(On Vanderbilt Coach Derek Mason’s Defense)
“Number one, his players play hard and tackle well. He’s done a tremendous job creating both odd and even fronts. They do a really job of pressuring things and have had some good players, great corners, great linebackers. That comes a lot from his NFL background and Stanford background where he’s been able to play in multiple fronts which can create confusion for your offensive teams, and he’s really good at that.”
(On What you are Most Excited to See from the Bulldogs Saturday night)
“A lot. Special Teams, we have a lot of young kids playing on special teams. I want to see those guys flourish, play well. I want to see what kind of habits we’ve created, both offensively and defensively. How are we going to tackle? This is your first chance to go tackle live in a game outside of two or three scrimmages and some practice. Are all our habits, good or bad, going to pay off for us? You find that out.”
(On the Georgia Wide Receivers)
"I am excited to see those guys play, and hopefully have some success. They know they are targeted, and people are talking about them. They know they’re going to have some one-on-one opportunities with the backs we have and the running game we have. They have to maximize those opportunities and take advantage of them.”
(What do you remember in your first game as a Player)
“There were jitters (before the game). I mean there was a lot of excitement with it being a home game in front of your fans. I remember a lot more about thinking about it and worrying about it than actually playing in it. Once you get out there, it’s football. It’s kind of the natural instinct takes over once you hit the grass and go play. I don’t remember jitters during the game. I remember looking forward to getting on the field and a lifelong dream of getting to play at home in Sanford Stadium.”
Meanwhile after Wednesday’s practice, the aforementioned Rice along with juniors Solomon Kindley and Andrew Thomas visited with the media. Here’s a few of their comments:
Junior Monty Rice | ILB
(On getting hurt at the end of last season)
"The guys we did have out on the field last year played to their fullest potential, they played great. We can't look back and say ‘what if?’ There was nothing I could do about getting hurt. Everything happens for a reason. "
(On the best part of his game)
"I would say the best part of my game is my aggression. I am not afraid of contact at all. That is just me being me. I've always been that way."
(On the game against Vanderbilt this week and their players)
"They have elite guys on offense. Their running back is very good, he is a hard runner. I look at him like a Holyfield-type running back just a little faster. They have a good tight end; he can go up and get the ball. Their receiver can go and make some plays too."
Junior Andrew Thomas | OT
(On when the fun and excitement starts for him)
“I would say Friday when we all get on the bus and fly over there, that’s when it starts to build up. I’m excited to play against somebody else. We’ve been playing a whole bunch of red this whole camp so we’re excited to see somebody else.”
(On sophomore Trey Hill’s growth from last year to this year)
“Playing offensive line as a freshman is already difficult, but playing center is extremely difficult because you have to make all the calls and make sure the offensive line is all on the same page. His transition from last year to this year is being more of a leader at that spot and being more confident in his calls.”
(On what may surprise fans about the defense this season)
“I think the biggest thing is the model we’ve been preaching about ‘make it happen;’ sacks, turnovers, things like that. In the scrimmages we’ve had, they’ve forced a lot of turnovers and things like that so that’s a big deal.”
Junior Solomon Kindley | OL
(On offensive coordinator James Coley being on the field this season and its benefits)
“(Having him on the field) is most definitely going to help. If we execute this play badly, or we didn’t execute it the right way, Coach Coley will be on the sideline and he’s going to tell us, ‘this wasn’t right and you need to do this, run this route that way, block that way.’ So that’s definitely going to be a big help.”
(On if the team is ready to play ball)
“Definitely. It’s go time. The whole team knows that it’s go time. Tomorrow will have to be a good Thursday; come out feeling good, run fast, and get good GPS numbers. Everyone knows it’s about that time for us to hit another opponent.”
(On the travel component that comes with college football)
“As a matter of fact, traveling and getting on a plane was one of the first times I’ve ever been on a plane so that was a great experience for me. I like the plane rides and bonding with my team and not being on my phone too much. That’s really when you get to know your teammates and know your brothers. When you get to know that type of stuff and what they grind for, what they do, that makes you a better person on the field. … When we go to the hotel and we have a roommate, that’s more time for you to talk to your roommate, talk about the game plan, get to know him and about his family so that’s just a great atmosphere and environment when we travel.”
Georgia opens the season Saturday at Vanderbilt on Aug. 31. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by the SEC Network.