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Smart, Bulldogs Preview Samford Game


Georgia head coach Kirby Smart instructs his defense in the 2022 Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game played September 3rd in Atlanta, GA, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Photo credit Perry McIntyre.

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 “I’d be remised if I didn't wish Coach Dooley a Happy Birthday. I think they had a nice surprise for him the other day, certainly happy for him to celebrate his 90th. So that's a heck of a deal. I hope I can get there one day. Looking back at the tape, I think it's never as good as it seems and it's never as bad as it seems. And that's kind of the mantra coaches use. To be honest, it's true.So it's never -- you know, you go to the tape to watch it and you think you played really good, and you see glaring mistakes and errors that you made that you got away with. It brings you back to reality really quick on Saturday night and Sunday morning when you watch that tape. But I was pleased with the way our players went about the connection piece. We challenged them to stay connected and be connected. There was a lot of examples of guys celebrating other guys' plays. So I thought that was awesome from our guys. Now it's moving on to a guy I know a lot about and a program I have a lot of respect for. And he's done a tremendous job everywhere he's been. And it'll be a challenge for us getting ready for Samford at home on Saturday.” On the performances of the freshmen against Oregon… “They have a lot to improve on. The most obvious is there was a lot of mistakes. I mean, mistakes that even they'll tell you are, like -- we call them WTFs. There's, like, a lot of things that are, like, Why did you do that? You didn't do that all year. The largest growth for those guys is game one, two, three in terms of reaction to their mistakes. And, you know, what makes a guy -- I've always wondered, you know, who's going to sell the potion that allows a player not to make the most glaring mistake, things that you repped a lot. And you have those in the first game. I've come to accept them. It's more what's your response is to them. We'll get to find out what those young freshmen's responses are this week.” On his praise of the coaching staff… “The buy-in of those four coaches, the alignment, the understanding of this program's bigger than me and that I'll sacrifice for the program. They understand their role. They've done what they've been asked to do and they embrace it. And there's a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm at practice. And it works. So it's created a really good kind of connection among the staff.” On Stetson Bennett serving as the holder on kicks… “He's held ever since he's been here. I mean, he's held probably a thousand times. He was Camarda's backup holder. So it wasn't a new thing. It was we lost the guy that held before, so we go to the next best holder or the guy that's next up. And we're training a guy for when Stetson isn't here. So it's one of those things that I think it's important to the kicker to have who they're comfortable with. And those two guys get to spend time together, and they do. They take a lot of time after practice, pre-practice, pregame to make sure they're on the same page.” On the growth of Ladd McConkey… “Probably confidence. Ladd's always been a good player. That's not something new. He's always been an extremely hard worker. He's dependable. He's conscientious. It's important to him. He gives you everything he's got every day. And the biggest difference is, you know, he has confidence in himself to perform because he performed on big stages last year. And when you're one of these guys that has confidence, talent and you work really hard, then the sky's the limit for you. And he's worked really hard each and every day. And he knows the things he's still got to work on and he's got a lot of those things, too.” On the current makeup of the offensive line and performance of Amarius Mims… “Yeah, you're constantly in search of the best five guys, right? It's not on a marker where we say we've got the best five. It's a continuum. It's, like, what did they do today at practice? Because you're only as good as your last practice. So how are they going to perform today, how are they going to do tomorrow, how are they going to do the next day, how do they do the next matchup, how do they do when things get tight and pressure grows, when things don't go well. We didn't see that. You know, we didn't have a situation where there's a lot of adversity or required a lot of composure. So we'll figure out who those best guys are as we go along. Amarius did a good job in the game. He came in, I think, the third series. Played with some confidence. Those guys getting some experience, it's critical so they're ready to play when their opportunity comes every down. And I think early in the season, especially, those guys' conditioning level, it helps to have three guys playing at those positions.” On the improvements of Ladd McConkey and AD Mitchell… Confidence. They're both much more confident. And in the system a second year. So, you know, there's -- every play you run, there's a reaction to what the defense does. They've seen what the defense does at a higher level. So the number of times they've run a play and had to react to something, it's almost infinite. And they now are starting to get where they can react faster.” On the impact of a 12-team College Football Playoff on Georgia… “I don't know how it affects Georgia personally. Yeah, and I think -- hesitant to say that just supported it. I wouldn't say that I've been clearly in one camp over the other. I think there's some good and bad to both. And I don't think we know the repercussions of going 12 over 4. There's been some good things about four. There's probably some good things about 12. It's just everybody loves change. It's on a continuum. So it's, like, there will be somebody complaining about something about 12. I don't really get into whether or not it's going to be beneficial for us or not, because I think it's year to year on what kind of team you have and how the other teams do in the country.” On continuing to play FCS opponents… You know, I think it depends on where it goes. What they require you to do and where the FCS, some of those conferences end up with the realignment and some of those things, it's going to depend a lot on what you talked about; the scheduling, how many conference games you're playing. I do know it's critical for these programs to be able to survive. And, look, high schools are our feeder programs, just like we are for the NFL. And if you're going to have good high school programs, you got to have kids getting opportunities to play at all levels. Because there's a lot more kids playing at a non-Power 5 level than at the Power 5 level. So if you're a supplier of talent and the growth of the game comes from your youth sports and your high school sports, you're going to diminish that as these programs fade away. And some of these programs cannot, cannot survive without these games. That doesn't mean that I embrace them and love them. It just means that the programs can't survive without these kind of funding without these games.” On working for Samford head coach Chris Hatcher at Valdosta State… You know, his charisma. He's always been one of the best recruiters in terms of his relationships with high school coaches. He was incredible, his disposition with the team, was always confident. And just believed that we could win every game. And he embodied that. He embraced that. His players loved playing for him because of the energy he exudes with the players.” On Carson Beck’s performance against Oregon… Carson was very calm, cool, and collective. His disposition is such that the moment's not too big for him. Like he's done multiple times before, I thought he did a good job. He made some good decisions and had a couple poor decisions. And I think he'll be the first to tell you that he would like to improve on some of those. But the good thing is he got to come in and have an opportunity and run the offense just where it wasn't a run-oriented system just to end the game.” On Mykel Williams’ performance against Oregon… Yeah, practices led to it, just like it'll lead to him not starting. If he doesn't practice well, it's not real hard for us -- you know, you base it on who practices the best, who gives you the best chance to win. And he's done that, really, since he's got here. His work ethic and his humility has been off the charts. And if he continues to do that, coupled with his ability, then he'll probably continue to start. But he's got to play well and he's got to play big for a guy that's 260, 265.” On stopping Samford’s offense… “Well, they do a lot of different things. They do a good job in the passing game. They have a lot of confidence in the passing game. Quarterback came in, played really well against Kennesaw State. They believe in throwing the ball. And they -- people mistake that they can run the ball, as well. They did a good job at the end of the game to be able to run the clock out and handle that. I think if you look and see what they did last year against Florida and throwing the ball all over the field and scoring points, they did an incredible job. For them, for their players, this is an opportunity to play on a really large stage. And Chris Hatcher does a great job of getting his team prepared for moments like this and confidence in throwing the ball.” On getting Malaki Starks into the game early… We just talked about how to play the players. We had a plan all along. All depended on how he practiced in fall camp and how he grew. And we have a plan on every player. We talk about every and where they are and what our plan is. And that plan can change in a game. The plan was to get him in early and we did. And he made a few mistakes and he made a few plays. And we got to try to limit the mistakes.” On the performances of the linebackers… “Those guys had some WTFs and they have to improve on those. They can't have those in order to be elite players. But they played with confidence. And we call it, you know, being loud and wrong is better than quiet and right. And they had some moments where they were loud and wrong. But they were confident in what they called. You know, when you go with a team that plays some tempo and hurry up, it creates a little chaos. And I thought those guys managed that well. They managed the leadership position well. Physically, there's things we can improve on in terms of toughness, tackling. All the guys can. I mean, we didn't tackle the man with the ball real well.” On Christopher Smith’s impact on the defense… it's important. All the pieces we have that have played are integral to make the other pieces play well. So Chris is a piece that's played and he brings a lot of confidence to the other players around him, especially in the eye of the storm. I told the players today, we asked for composure and connection. We got a lot of connection. We don't really know, we never really got tested. So it's not their fault. But they didn't get tested in the composure category. And that's going to come. And when that time comes, are you going to be ready for that storm? And Chris is a guy that you feel pretty good about.” On Javon Bullard’s performance… I think Javon, he'll tell you, he probably had some first-game jitters like the other guys. And A couple times where he didn't get lined up right, maybe didn't have his eyes in the right place. He plays really hard. He plays really physical. He's going to continue to get matched up on some big guys. He's got to play big for a guy that's not a real big size. But he's another guy that doesn't back down from contact. And works really hard every day. He gives you everything he's got. And he's a starter I think on every special teams, too, which is a credit to the way he plays.” On the SEC East this season… I'm focused on us. I'm focused on how we can get better. Because we got so many glaring things we can improve on. And that's going to be critical, how mature our team is to grow. Look, standards don't need motivation. So when you look at it, if you play with a standard, you don't need motivation from outside sources. I don't care if it's who we're playing, who we're going to play, how somebody else is playing. Standards don't need motivation. So if we're a mature team, then we'll go practice today to our standards.” On the differences between opening with a close game versus a blowout… “Yeah, I don't know how to answer that because, I mean, each one, I think you learn something. I think you learn something valuable about your team and their approach to the team. A lot more learned in the steps leading up to the game and during the game than the result of the game. You guys are about results. I'm about process of how we went about the game, how did we do in the game, how did we do as coaches, how did we do as players during the game, halftime adjustments, end of game, a lot more than I am just the results and what we learned from the result because the result came from what we did during it.” On deciding to keep Stetson Bennett as the starter last season… “You guys don’t see every single practice, every single rep that led up to the Alabama game and all the reps from South Carolina to the time he played UAB all the way through — there's a million things you don't see against a pretty good defense, against a pretty elite defense. So there was enough of that to convince me that we were going with the right guy. For who we were and who needed to be, he gave us the best chance to win. And it didn't take a lot of conviction to stick to that. It doesn't really matter what people say outside of our organization. It matters what we think in it. And we had conviction on that.” On Nazir Stackhouse and the impact of his personality… I don't know how to answer the last part. I've never seen any of his TikToks. So I wouldn't really know. I'm a lot more concerned how he plays on the field and how he handles himself off the field and all the things he does to help our team. He's worked himself to get better. He's gotten in better shape. I think Tray is one of the best developers of defensive linemen in the country. And this is a guy that, hey, he needed development. He came in here really raw. And he wasn't the player when he got here that is today. He's come a long way. And he can still get better. But he's one of our thicker, tougher guys that can anchor. And if he continues to get better, it gives us a chance to have a really physical presence in there.” On the relief of being back in season… It's never a relief. I mean, I don't think relief is an adjective that comes with anything positive. Because when you become relieved reeled, you become complacent. And that's just not who we are. So there's no -- you don't approach things that way. I don't think from a mental standpoint it's good to approach it from relief.” On the performances of Oscar Delp and Arik Gilbert against Oregon… “I thought both those guys got to go in the game, tried to gain some confidence. Certainly, they've got two good players playing in front of them. We think the sky's the limit for both those guys. I'm looking forward to seeing them work today.” #69 Tate Ratledge | R-So. | OL On the depth of the offensive line... "I think it is pretty rare for an offensive line to be able to rotate people. I think we have a really solid two-deep that can play." On what the defense was capable of against Oregon... "They perform every day in practice. They come and bring it. We go against them every day. It makes us better, and we make them better." On his performance against Oregon... "Physically, I felt pretty good. It took me a minute or two to get used to it again with nerves and everything, but after that was gone, I felt really good." On his biggest takeaway on where he can improve heading into week two... "Personally, it is definitely foot work and things. Little things like hat placement and stuff like that. It got me into situations that I did not need to be in up front." #15 Trezmen Marshall | Jr. | LB On his health... "I feel great out there. Being out there is the best feeling. I'm trying to stay healthy. That's something that is really not in my control, but I just get treatment every day. I talk to Ron [Courson] to see how I'm doing. That's still out of my control, but I get guidance. As long as I stay readied up." On Malaki Starks... "Malaki was in beast mode when he stepped onto the field. He's really young, but if you're good enough you're old enough. As long as he keeps chopping and working every day, he'll be alright." On "going to the doctor"... "Going to the doctor just means fixing our mistakes. They didn't score, so it looks like we did not play a bad game. But you still go to the doctor on Monday and see what you did wrong to get better. I could've had a possible takeaway, like the pick. I could've completed one of our goals with a few takeaways. There is always room to do better, and we're trying to come back and practice Monday to work on that." #10 Kearis Jackson | So. | WR On Ladd McConkey and Adonai Mitchell’s improvement… They are starting to build their confidence up. They’ve been in this offense for more than one year now, having the experience of last year translating over to this year, having the whole fall camp, having Stetson Bennett as our quarterback the whole fall camp, really gave us confidence as a receiver group. Those two guys were able to showcase their abilities and especially how they make plays.” On how his confidence grew over time… “It builds game by game. When you get that opportunity to go out there and play, I just wanted to go ball, because you never know when that next opportunity is going to come. So when it does come, I just wanted to showcase my ability and put it on tape.” On the team’s offensive identity… “We’re still trying to find our identity. That was just the first game. A lot of people trying to dictate, ‘Oh, Georgia’s going to be better than last year,’ it’s just one game. We just have to be able to be consistent. If we can keep being consistent, then maybe that [the air raid] will be our identity.” ###