• DAWG NEWS DAILY

Smart, Bulldogs Preview Florida Game



ATHENS, Ga. — University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart and several student-athletes offered the following comments during Monday’s media session.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement

“As we get moving forward for Georgia/Florida, our guys took Friday, Saturday, Sunday off and getting ready to go back to work today. It’s another exciting matchup with these guys in Jacksonville. I have a lot of respect for Billy. I've known him for a long time. One of the most intelligent coaches I've been around in terms of preparation and understanding what it takes to run a program, an organization. I think he does a fabulous job. I know a lot of guys on his staff. Got a lot of respect for him. And being a high school coach's son in this state, we grew up very similar. So it's on to the Gators and we kind of started on them last week at the end of the week. And looking forward to a good week of practice.”

On working with Billy Napier at Alabama…

“Like I said, he's very thorough. He's an extremely hard worker. Great husband and father. He's a good leader of men. And I knew from the first time he got to Alabama, I don't know what year it was, but whatever year he got there, he was going to be really good because he paid attention to detail. He took a lot of notes. He was just really smart. You knew he was there to learn. And I think he capitalized on his time he spent there to look at football from a different perspective maybe from what he looked at previously. And he was really successful at ULL. Which is a great school, great location, a lot of good football players. But they won a lot of football games with him there.”

On injury updates from the bye week…

“Smael was able to practice towards the end of the week and did a good job. Didn't see him, really, yesterday in terms of doing anything. So Smael looked good towards the end of last week. Jalen and AD, like I said last week, weren't really practicing with us. Trying to get back. We're hopeful to get those guys back, but still don't know. And Kendall was able to practice non contact on -- I guess it was Thursday, the last practice we had. So we're expecting him to be able to go today.”

On offensive improvements during the bye week…

“Just situational football. I mean, the things you work on the off-week are, No. 1, opponents. No. 2, a lot of work. Probably 90 percent of our work was good on good against each other; situational football, third down, two minute, red area, second and ten, third down, team run. I mean, there's no area in three practices that we didn't work on.”

On injuries to AD Mitchell and Jalen Carter…

“AD is a high ankle sprain. And high ankle sprains when you talk to everybody across the NFL and across college football, it's hard to pinpoint a measurement. The first thing you look for is do they need to do the repair? They do the tightrope and things like Arian did. His was not that kind of injury. But it is lingering. It's a pain in the butt. So he's battling to come back and doing everything we ask. In terms of Jalen, it's the knee right now. It's the MCL. But the degree of that, severity of that just depends on conditioning level, how fast he can get back. He's working to get back and we're hopeful to get both of them back.”

On the absence of Jalen Carter…

“He's a really good football player. I mean, he's -- y'all have seen the plays he's made over his time here. He has not been healthy since the very first play of the season. The very first play of the season against Oregon is when the ankle injury occurred. Now, he continued to play through that ankle injury. Some of that I think was on adrenaline. But I think the ankle bothered him from that point forward and then, you know, he injured the knee. And the knee's kind of bothered him since then. It's not a combination of. Because he feels really good about his ankle right now. It's more so to do with his knee. It just so happened that right when he got back from ankle, he got the knee. And, you know, he's a phenomenal player. I think you can look at the history there and see. And how does it affect you? You know, it affects your depth more than anything. But it's not like he's a one trick pony. I mean, he's like a -- he can really pass rush good, he can play the run, he's disruptive. So he's not a -- you know, just affects just our pass rusher. No, it affects everything because he's a really phenomenal player and you'd like to have him out there.”

On Christopher Smith’s importance to the team…

“Well, first off, he was a really good prospect in high school. He played corner, he played safety. He could do it all. He came here. We flirted with him at corner and safety. He kind of played wherever we needed him to play. And he's done that ever since coming here. He's taken reps for two to three years at corner, he's taken the safety, he's played nickel star. I mean, he's one of these versatile DBs that can kind of do it all because he understands leverages. He knows where his help is. He's an instinctive football player. And we're lucky to have him and really proud of the way he's -- you know, he didn't have success right away. He's one of the guys that truly became a better football player through development, practice habits, learning the system. And he had some good players in front of him when he first got here. And he's been able to work his way into a good football player.”

On AD Mitchell’s impact on the offense…

“AD is a really good wideout. He has twitch. He has explosive quickness. When you watch just across the country and you watch all these teams plays, there's -- you know, there's dynamic receivers.

I think AD is a dynamic receiver. He's hard to cover one-on-one. I mean, I get to see him, you know, every day at practice when he's been healthy. And you know when you got a guy that can -- that can go compete, do some things. He's got toughness, he's got quicks. But to say it's been substantially different with him in or out, I don't know what the analytics say. And, you know, it's hard to figure that. Because so much of that is based on what personnel grouping we're in, how the defense is playing us. You know, are they off, are they soft, are they cover two, are they split safety, are they middle field closed.

There's a lot of thinking that go into that. So I know that we're a better football team with AD healthy, 100 percent. But we're trying to get him back as fast as we can.”

On Anthony Richardson’s improvement…

“He's grown a lot and he's gotten considerably better to me during this season. Like, from the start of the season, game one, you watch every game in sequence and you say, man, this guy is growing and getting better. And they don't just limit things for him. Like, they put a lot of shift motion, they put a lot of things on top of him to handle and he manages those well. The toughest thing dealing with Anthony Richardson is how you affect him. Because you got to be careful. Some of the runs he's had have been better than backs have across the country. And he's had 60 and 70-yard runs. And he can take off at any point in time and you don't know who's going to have him or who can get him down. He's got elite arm talent in terms of strength. They clean things up for him on a lot of reads. And he does a really nice job. So I give them a lot of credit -- Billy a lot of credit for the development, what he's done from the start of the season to now in being successful both with his legs and his arm.”

On the Florida defensive front…

“Extremely disruptive. You know, the size and girth in the middle is what you want in the SEC, to control run games and control the A and B gaps. And then they still got the edge guys with Brenton, being probably the most disruptive guy that we've played in terms of just violence, striking, knock-back, setting edges, affecting the quarterback. He's a game-breaker at that.”

On the performances of previous opponents this season…

“You answered the question initially. I haven't been paying attention to it. I mean, I really haven't. Our focus has been on the next opponent since Thursday of last week. And not to not answer your question, but I just don't concern myself with it.”

On delivering fiery messages to the team…

I think it's just how you feel like where your team is. You know, what space they're in in terms of confidence level, focus, attention to detail. And a lot of times, it comes better when it comes from the players and the leaders within the team. Which the best teams have guys capable of communicating to each other and they listen to each other much more than they listen to me. So I don't -- you know, I don't calculate it, figure out when I'm going to do. If it's -- if the appropriate time is there and I think we need it, then certainly we do it.”

On the team’s post-practice treat last week…

“I had to go speak to the superintendents of Georgia, which they were in town. So I never got to see it. I bolted off right after practice. So I didn't get to partake. But I was glad the players were able to get a treat, you know, for a off-week. We got some guys that need to gain weight, so I figure that's a good way to do it.”

On the recruits coming to the Florida game…

“We're allowed to use tickets, but we can't host them. We can't do anything. So I never understood -- I never understand -- what would we do with them? We can't legally see them. We can't talk to them, we can't host them. Visit with them. We can say, There's a ticket at the gate. Enjoy the game. So that's, really, all we can do. We'll do that. We'll have some kids go to the game.”

#29 Christopher Smith | Sr. | DB

On his favorite memories playing Florida...

"The game as a whole. When you step into the stadium you see the crowd split 50/50. The build up because it is always a great game between those two teams. The game as a whole is a great rivalry.”

On how the team prepares for the rivalry...

"You know the kind of game it is going to be whenever we play Florida. They are a big rivalry. We can't go into this game focusing on our past. We have to go into this game and this week being able to execute. I was on the field when we lost it two years ago. Last year was a tough game, although the score did not reflect that, it is always a tough game when we are able to play those guys. We know we will have to be prepared."

#13 Stetson Bennett | Sr. | QB

On playing in the rivalry game...

"I can tell you that it is hard to get a feel for how much the players care and feel about the rivalry until you play in it. You can throw records or whatever you want to out of the window, more so than any other game on our schedule when we go down there and play Florida. I think Coach (Billy) Napier is building a good program. I loved him when he was at Louisiana. They are always going to be a force to be reckoned with down there."

On focusing on the finer details during the bye week...

"Practice. Getting after it and going. Being critical of ourselves and listening to corrections. It has always been said that a player-led team rather than a coach-led team is better. I think that is because you keep guys accountable. It is easier to talk to them. It is easier to get things done the right way. I think that is what we have got. It is not just the coaches telling us we need to fix things. It is us going in the film room after practice or before practice looking at the script, knowing what we have to do and when we don't do it, knowing what we have to go fix. I think that is a sign of maturity, and I think we did a good job of it over the bye week."

On what type of motivator Coach Smart is...

"I love a little fire. He will get after you, but you know it comes from a standpoint of wanting the best for the team. When you put in that emotional bank, you make deposits and you can pull it out when you get after someone. As far as motivations, I love him. I think he is one of the best I have ever heard. He gets us fired up in his own special way. It makes you ready to play football."