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Smart Discusses Team’s Second Scrimmage


PHOTO: UGA SPORTS COMMUNICATION

ATHENS, Ga. – University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart met with the media Saturday afternoon and offered the following comments regarding today’s scrimmage and the upcoming 2022 season.



Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement

“I thought it was warm today, which was great. We needed it to be. It was not as hot last week, so I thought the temperature allowed us to play through and push. I did not think we started with as much energy at the start of practice as we did last week, but we did sustain better and had good ebbs and flow. Offense made some plays in some situational stuff; defense made some plays. I was pleased with the overall effort and very pleased with the toughness we’ve had in camp. At this point, we’ll be moving forward toward getting prepared for some future opponents and we’ll start on Oregon.”

On Arik Gilbert's progression in fall camp...

“Arik’s done a good job. He understands his assignments. In the spring, he got thrust into things a whole lot more, in terms of reps and volume of reps. With the other guys being healthy and (Oscar) Delp being further along…we couldn’t do two-spot in the spring as much. We didn’t have enough guys. We’ve been able to do more two-spot, so that’s helped. Darnell (Washington) coming off the injury, Brock (Bowers) coming off the injury, Delp coming off the mid-year, and Arik as well, we get a lot more reps. He has to be able to sustain. He’s developing as a special teams player also—it’s something he has not done as much before. I’m always a lot more concerned with Arik’s well-being mentally, than his well-being just on knowing assignments and what to do, and that’s the most important thing is that he feels comfortable with our team and can help us.”

On the defensive line in today's scrimmage...

“I would say it was an improvement, but not where it needs to be. We got a little more pressure than we got last time, not where it needs to be in terms of affecting the quarterbacks in our league.”

On the younger players' contributions to the team...

“It all depends on injuries during the year. As it is now, and I don’t know what you define as young, if you just mean the freshmen class, probably half of them will have to play a role, whether that’s special teams or as a backup or substitution role when they go in and play. Some of them may start. But if you talk about young players like guys who didn’t play last year but will have to play more this year, there’s certainly even a larger number. You get up into 45, 55 percent of our roster would be freshmen and sophomores playing, that actually go play. Any time you have that, you’re susceptible to lack of experience with mistakes, anxiety mistakes, composure mistakes, so we try to create situations in practice to make them want to do right as much as they can and feel like they’re in a game, so that when they’re in a game, they can just relax and go play. There’s a lot of those guys that are going to help us. I think more and more we’re finding every year there’s more freshmen that have to play and contribute.”

On the quarterback competition...

“I’ve said all camp all three quarterbacks have done an excellent job. I’m so pleased with the progression of those guys, all the way down to Gunner (Stockton), who hasn’t had as many reps in our system or in general as Brock (Vandagriff) and Carson (Beck) have. We try to have a lot of two-spot where I feel like Gunner’s getting reps and getting work. There’s times, where like in scrimmages, you don’t have two scrimmages going on, so there’s quarterbacks on the sideline. In our practices, I’d say 80 percent of the time, there’s two quarterbacks on the field because we’re doing multiple things. So that helps the development of those guys, certainly Carson and Brock are ahead of where Gunner is, and both of those guys are different but they both play winning football. They do an incredible job of understanding. They both took some reps with the ones today in preparation, and they continue to get better.”

On Brock Bowers and Jamon Dumas-Johnson not playing final high school seasons...

“It’s a tale of two players there. One played—I don’t know if he started—but he played a bunch against Clemson. Brock certainly made some plays and did some things right away in the Clemson game and had no acclimation problems there. He came in the spring. Pop (Dumas-Johnson) was a different scenario. He didn’t play his senior year, but he also didn’t come in that spring. He was a little bit heavier, a little out of shape, so it impacted Pop much differently than it impacted Brock. I think that had to do with not having spring practice and not being able to sustain quite as much. Any time you can play your senior year, you’re going to be better off because you will have played football. Unfortunately, Brock didn’t get that opportunity to, but he did get an opportunity to get 15 practices and probably 100 walkthroughs with our team in the spring which helped him play early. Pop would’ve probably struggled to play for us last year because he hadn’t played football senior year and because he didn’t come in the spring. Obviously, we had some guys in front of him.”

On Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff...

"I think both of those guys have done an incredible job. They're really good quarterbacks, and they understand our system at a high level. They've been through multiple springs, and they're both playing winning football. I'm pleased with both of their growth. We're trying to get them more opportunities because we are trying to evaluate them as a one, more than you are as a two or three. Sometimes your offensive line changes when you do that."

On his scheduling philosophy...

"As far as scheduling philosophy, it's never changed for us. You look at it as if you make decisions right now, for right now. Decisions made for this year or next year were made a long time ago. It's always been my philosophy to go play quality opponents, Power-5 opponents, a good matchup. I don't care if it's home and home. I don't care if it's neutral site. Go play a good team that helps your team get better. When you play in the SEC, you're going to run the gauntlet anyways. What's playing one more good, physical team. We don't run from that at Georgia. We try to embrace that. Our fans want that—I want that. It generates a lot more excitement, and you recruit off that. You go and get to sell the opening game, playing in big-time games. I think that's important. As far as the philosophy, us playing more SEC games if that happens, so be it. It's not going to change our philosophy as far as what we do non-conference. We had already moved to that before the realignment. We were already trying to schedule big games every year, and that's just the way that we think is best."

On injuries in fall camp...

"We had some nicks, bumps and bruises today. I don't know that outcome of all those, yet. Kearis (Jackson) has an Achilles or ankle that is bothering him about halfway through the scrimmage. We thought he could've gone, he thought he could've gone, but we held him in the back half of the scrimmage. Kendall (Milton) did not go today, but he is much better. He is much closer to being full speed. Having not practiced, we didn't want to put him back out there because he did not practice before the scrimmage. He should be back to full speed. Earnest Greene is still struggling with an upper leg injury. Rian Davis did scrimmage today. It's really his first day back. He's been able to get back up to 80-90% of velocity and speed. He was able to go for a little bit today. Tramel Walthour scrimmaged today and was able to go and do some things. De’Nylon (Morrissette) was running and is back to about 70-80 percent. He did route-running,"indys," and all the drill work, but we expect to get him back next week. Brett's (Seither) back has been bothering him, and we've been working with him on that. He scrimmaged today and did fine, but he's been in and out."

On the backup quarterback competition...

"They're different - they're two different guys (Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff). They each possess different parts of what Stetson does well. The thought process is there. We are going to find out who is the best guy to give you a chance to win, who are you playing, what kind of packages are you running, what are you carrying that week with Stetson, and how does it fit those two guys? They continue to do a great job. Carson has taken more of a body of work with the two's reps than Brock has, but they've both done a tremendous job and will be ready to go."

On leaders within the defense...

"Jalen Carter has done a great job. Pop has done a great job. Trezmen Marshall has, Kelee Ringo has, Kamari Lassiter has. There are several guys that have stepped up and really taken on that responsibility. Even Robert Beal. He's not a guy of many words, but he has certainly been around here a long time like WIlliam Poole. We've got a lot of guys that know how to do it and have seen it done right. They haven't been the featured player, but they understand how to lead and have seen it done the right way."

On connection in today's scrimmage...

"We talked a long time about connection. Connection is one of our four DNA traits. Connection is seen or heard through language or touch. If you want to visually see connection, you have to touch somebody—you have to high-five somebody, celebrate with somebody, you have to be connected. You see that through what you say. I don't think you can be really connected if you don't have great energy and focus. If you're showing good energy and staying focused onto what's going on, that usually creates a good connection. I thought we had more moments later in the scrimmage. Last week, it just flattened out. This week, it was more upward. It got better in terms of energy as the scrimmage went on, which at least lets me know that they are in better shape."

On Arian Smith and the health of the receiving corps...

“They are the highest soft tissue injuries. His is not, but you tend to have a lot of soft tissue injuries in that position because of the volume of running and the scholarship quota and numbers. What is your scholarship number at that position? We have had years where we thought 12 was the number, 13 was the number or 10 was the number. We brought more into camp this year than we ever have. I want to say we brought 18, not scholarship, but 18 in our 105 number. It is hard to keep up when you two-spot things and work things. You are always looking for extra legs to cut the volume on those guys. We actually cut volume on the top four guys this spring and this camp than we have last camps just in learning, don’t work these guys too hard and keep the volume down on these guys. Some of the injuries we don’t control and are not soft tissue. Arian’s situation is just football, and it happens from time to time. The number one thing we can do is to have more depth at the position and not have to count on freshmen. Ever year that I have been here we have had freshmen lead us in receiving.”

On Kenny McIntosh...

“It is work ethic. He has always been a worker. He was in the shadows of those other guys and now, he steps up and he leads. He pushes guys. He’s got better stamina. There were times where he would get tired in practice in the past. He might be gassed and taking reps. Now, he might be the rush guy. He can go cover a punt. He can run routes out of the back field. He is elusive. He has to work really hard on his weight to maintain his weight. I think it is really important if he can stay above that 205 to 210 mark for bulk and protecting himself. He has had the best camp he has ever had by far in terms of no mental lapses and picking up pressures. He has done a tremendous job.”

On skill players who impressed in today's scrimmage...

“It is hard to single anybody out without watching. I hate to say that. Dominick (Blaylock) made a nice play. Young guys at wide out continue to step up. I thought that Stetson did a good job getting the ball out to those guys. It probably wasn’t as good as an explosive offensive day as it was last time, which is probably a good thing for the defense. I thought a couple of guys on the defense made some plays. Pop has some good plays. David (Daniel-Sisavanh) made some good plays. Malaki Starks showed up a few times and made some plays. It is hard without watching the tape to say that anybody stood out over someone else.”

On the special teams today...

“I thought both of those guys (Jack Podlesny and Jared Zirkel) kicked off really well. I’d have to check the numbers. I don’t know the hangs and distances, but just watching it off the foot and seeing it in the air, I thought they really kicked off well. Field goals we have to continue to work on. I thought we had great effort on both side, protection and rush, which is critical for us defensively and protection-wise. I thought that (Brett) Thorson hit some good punts. We punted situationally today where we were trying to pin some kicks inside the 10 and work on some different things. It wasn’t about the distance. It was more about directional and trying to work on some different things. I thought all of those guys continue to get better.”

On preparation for the Oregon game...

“We don’t touch it just yet. We would be reassessing our team and our roster, stacking the roster. We are going to look at some numbers and say, ‘If we have to go on the road in the SEC, who are the 70? Who are the 80? Who are the 85? Where do those number fall? What are the decision we have to make? If we are not taking that guy, then we are taking that guy.’ We have a lot of things to look at in the next day or two as the players get a little recovery time. We will start working as coaches on Oregon in the next couple of days, but not with the players until later in the week. We will work on some future opponents we got before the off week in the coming days just so we have a little bit of history there when we get ready to play them.”

On the progression of freshmen in fall camp...

“Everyone is different. We definitely have some freshmen who have hit a wall right now. They are like, ‘Gah lee, this camp is a grind.’ It is the most physical, toughest practices they have ever gone through. It is part of being at Georgia. We have multiple scouts and different people who come to practice and say, ‘Man, Coach, y’all practice with great energy and great toughness. Your kids get after it.’ You don’t realize that when they are telling you that, they go other places and you realize with these freshmen that the bar is huge for them to jump from where they used to practice to where we are practicing. That can be overwhelming. Sometimes those guys hit a bump, hit a wall, and we have to do a good job as coaches to encourage them. Some of those guys have run through the wall and will help us immediately. Others are seeing the writing on the wall and go, ‘It ain’t my turn yet. I have got to continue to develop and get better.’ That is what separates great staffs and coaches from average. You have got to bring those kids along because they are the future of your roster.”