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  • Writer's pictureDAWG NEWS DAILY

Smart, Lassiter, and Thorson Talk Prep for Kentucky


ATHENS, Ga. — University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, junior defensive back Kamari Lassiter, and sophomore punter Brett Thorson met with the media on Tuesday evening after practice and offered the following comments. Head Coach Kirby Smart On how practice has been this week... "It's been great. Thank you for asking." On Javon Bullard's status after the Auburn game... "Unscathed. Sore. He had a long game. He hadn't had that much running, physicality and use in two weeks, or whatever it was, 14 days. You get sore when you don't do anything for that long and then you go do that much. It's just typically what the body does. He's been good. He recovered Sunday and Monday. He's great. We had a lighter day on Monday and got after it today. He seemed good today." On preparing the defense for Kentucky's rushing game... "You go against our offense who runs some of the same runs they do. It's very pro-style based in terms of what they do run-game wise. They do a tremendous job of putting window dressing around all of their runs. They have really good people blocking it. They have very experienced tight ends on the edges. They got kids that have been there for two or three years blocking. They've got a great back. They've got a great run system that has all the ingredients to be excellent. When you have a physical offensive line, a head coach and an offensive coordinator committed to running it, a great back, several great backs, and then they've got weapons on the outside. They are a very talented group and got a lot of guys who have played a lot of SEC football in that group." On how the team simulates pressure periods... "I won't get into the details of it. I think that's more private for our team, but I do think it's great for the team morale and it's great for [Peyton Woodring]. You can't simulate what he had at Auburn. I mean you just try to. We try to put him in a thought process where he has to come off the sideline and he's got one shot. It's different than kicking five field goals in a row because it's three-for-five, four-for-five, and you feel like you've got another shot. It doesn't feel that way in a game, so we do it that way more in practice." On what he has seen from Jalon Walker... "He's grown in two positions. It's exactly what we talked to him about when we recruited him and some of these other inside backers. A lot of kids don't play high school inside backer. Their coaches put them out on the edge so they can defend the grass, or they put them out at the edge so they can run and set edges. They don't get to play inside backer because there's probably another kid on the team that can play that. His skillset has grown because he's very natural on the edge as a rusher and get off and he has some of the best pass-rush moves in our group. He needs to be able to play all downs so he's continuing to work at inside backer. The beauty of Jalon is that he goes down and takes reps against our offense, reads keys, and gets better at that position while at the same time being a dominant special teams player and a great third down player for us." On similarities of how Mark Stoops build his teams compared to his teams... "I don't even know by the way it looks because I never talk to him about it. I don't know philosophically if they have a certain number of this position or that position. I don't know nothing about how he builds his team to answer that fairly. I would think that they are close, but I don't know that. I know that they play very physical, and our kids always feel like it's one of the most physical games of the year. Just the size they have, the way they play the game, the game really shrinks when you play them. The clock is running. I mean, we had a drive in '21 that was the longest drive I've ever seen. I would think they are both built in a similar way, but I can't say how he builds his." On the team's slow starts... "I would start with absolutely we need to improve it – but we look at everything, and I think we went three-and-out one time on offense. Every other time, we moved the ball, which that’s what you want to do. Of course you want to score, but you want to move the ball so you can create field position. On defense, we've gone three-and-out maybe once or twice. We did last week. So it’s not the first possession, but it is the first quarter. Some of that has been circumstances of missing a field goal, some of that has been circumstances of we defer, so if we win the toss we never get that extra possession in the first quarter because they get it. But those are all just excuses. We’ve got to play better. There are a lot of reasons why it happens. I’ve been here years where you score every first possession and you stop them every time, and then for a while we couldn’t get it started in the third quarter. We could never get any momentum going, and we were awful in the third quarter. One of the years, we won a National Championship. It’s something you try to address and think about the way you start the game but don’t overthink it because we’re trying to plan for the whole game. On the team’s similarities to Florida and learning from Kentucky’s matchup against the Gators… "There's some similarity there. I don’t exactly know what they are doing in some situations. It’s not complete overlap like some defenses I’ve seen before where we’re married up exactly the same. I don’t think it’s exactly the same, but at the end of the day, Kentucky played physical. They had explosive plays, they got some turnovers, they started really fast, and once a back gets hot and gets rolling – he got really hot and started rolling, and he [Ray Davis] was hard to tackle. It doesn't matter what defense you play. It’s not about schemes. It’s about striking blockers, getting off blocks, and tackling. We’re not out there practicing schemes right now. We’re out there trying to strike a block and get off a block.” On playing the first ranked opponent of the season and other SEC teams on the rise "I personally think every SEC team should be ranked. I guarantee you that there are some teams that don’t want to play them that are ranked. I literally have no idea what you’re referencing because every team in the SEC is good enough to beat us. Whether they’re ranked or not, I could care less. I’m trying to be more physical to them and outscore them, and that’s the only thing I’m concerned with, not their ranking." On the idea of not much separation between anybody in college football… "I haven’t watched everybody, so it’s hard for me to say. I just feel like there’s a lot more parity out there, and I don’t know why it is. I don’t think anybody is as good as they were three or four years ago. I watch games of three or four years ago, and I don’t think high school football is as good as it was three or four years ago. I think less kids are playing football, and the quality of the football that’s played is a little less. At the grassroots level, the teaching of it, less people played football that are coaching it. When you struggle to find officials because people didn’t play and they don’t want to officiate, and they have to rotate high school games because they don’t have enough officials, and when you can’t find coaches to coach youth organizations and they didn’t play, the quality of the sport goes down a little bit. It deteriorates, and I’ve been able to see that. There are just less people playing too. That’s more saying that it’s a sloppier game than it is a finesse game or a power game. That doesn’t explain why there’s more parity.” On Kendall Milton and Ladd McConkey returning from injuries... "They've been great. We didn't do a whole lot Monday. We scaled back what our typical Mondays were, and we got after it today. They were great." On scaling back practice on Monday... "It's going to be physical [Saturday's game against Kentucky], but that's after our fifth week - our sixth week - we do that to recover a little better. We want to give 48 hours recovery if we can, so we had Sunday and some of Monday to help them get their legs back." On Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins' status... "He's still the same deal. We're on non-weight bearing, waiting for some pictures to come back. He had a four-week shutdown, and then after five weeks we will take another picture to see where it's at and decide whether or not we can wrap up." On Brett Thorson's growth in his second year in the program... "He's just more confident. I think more than anything he's more confident and easily more social. He came from a long way away, and coming to a new place like Athens - the guy flew in here and the day he got here, we were leaving to go wherever we were going. Maybe it was the national championship, and he was like, 'Hey, it's my new family, and everybody is leaving. They're gone.' He's enjoyed Athens a lot. He's a very interesting character. You guys will enjoy him. He's got a great personality. He just does different than all the other guys. Just from where he's from - he thinks different. I enjoy him, and I just stay out of his way." On if Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton can mirror Devin Leary's running capability in practice this week ... "Yeah, he's got the capability, for sure. They've done some quarterback runs looks with him, and they did some last year against us, as well. Brock and Gunner, I mean, we don't run them on quarterback runs in practice. It does us no good if we can't hit them, and we're not going to hit those guys. We have other guys do it." On the overall benefits of playing football... "There's two things that football and life have in common. They're hard. I don't know how many of you guys have put on 30 pounds of equipment in pants, a shirt, and then gone out in 100-degree heat and practiced for two-and-a-half hours. Not that that makes you successful. That makes you willing to go out and work for something in life. Because if you are willing to do that and put a helmet on, you're probably not going to be afraid to go '9-5' and pay the bills. The one thing I've learned in life is that life is hard, and football teaches a lot of those lessons. I think the sport is one of the great teachers of lessons in life.” On his son, Andrew Smart, playing football... "He's got a lot of his mom in him, so he's a good athlete. All three of them are good athletes, he just likes football more than Julia and Weston do. They all enjoy their social time, and they all enjoy their sports." #3 Kamari Lassiter | DB | Jr. On how Georgia prepares you to stay physical late in the game... "That is just something we practice every day. It is something we pride ourselves on here at Georgia, being physical in all phases. So, we just have to focus on the game plan, zero in on everything we've been working on all year and do whatever it takes to win." On the Kentucky game last year apart from the freezing cold... "It was so cold; I am just glad it's not going to be that cold this year. Kentucky is always a super physical game. From the moment I got down here, that is all we talked about when we got ready to play Kentucky. Last year was no different as it was very physical and very cold. The thing that pops up about this game the most is the physicality." On what he has seen from Devin Leary on what he did at NC State and what he has done so far at Kentucky... "He is a very good quarterback. He is very poised in the pocket, he has a really big arm, and he has some really good targets out there to get the ball to some guys who can extend plays and make big time plays for him." On what the biggest lesson he learned playing football... "It taught me how to be consistent. I have to be consistent in my work ethic, be consistent in the way I prepare every day, and how I approach every day. I'd say the game of football has taught me how to be consistent because at this level, you have to come in with a workman's mind set and work every day to get to the point you want to be. Growing up, you can sometimes just do whatever you want and still be the best on the field. But in this league, there are a lot of guys who are just as good as you, so you have to do what it takes to set yourself apart from others." #92 Brett Thorson | P | So. On if he did any rugby-style kicking in high school… “That skill, I guess the traditional punting as we call it, is something we learned in Prokick. That’s what we actually learn to do and convert to when joining the program. The rugby skill is a bit of the one we acquire by playing Australian rules football. So, when we join the program, they teach us to try and throw all those habits out and teach us how to punt traditionally, but it’s an acquired skill that we’ve been kind of doing for 15 years, so you can always pull it out. When you get here, it depends on the team you play for, so some guys like Jackson Russ as Tennessee are doing kind of both. He can roll and do a kind of traditional style punt or an end-over-end as we call it, call it like a drop punt, and mix it, or someone like Flynn Appleby who kicks pretty much as end-over-ends, so it depends on the team you go to. And that also goes into the recruiting of when they go to Prokick the side says, ‘What do you have that fits this type of punter, and then they put their best guys out.’” On where he has improved the most since coming to Georgia… “I think just feeling comfortable. Obviously when we come over here, I’d never been behind a line of scrimmage with protectors. We replicate it in Prokick, but you can’t replicate six foot five, 300-pound O-lineman protecting and moving, and then also guarding guys sprinting full speed at you, so I’d say just getting comfortable behind there and knowing where and how to make myself feel comfortable, so that involves no necessarily just trying to kick a good ball, but it also involves the placement. What I need to do to get that ball where it needs to go.” On his recruitment experience with Prokick… “When you join the program, you kind of just commit to going to America. You have no idea where you’re going to go, so I joined the program just hoping to come to America on a scholarship, and I trained for roughly about six to eight months. It was a bit broken up with Covid. Until Coach Hartley got in contact with the Prokick coaches, and they linked us together. I talked to him about once a week for roughly a month and a half, and then they said, ‘Yeah, the spot’s yours.’ I then kept training until about it was time to come her in January 2022 and kept talking to Coach Hartley and building that relationship. It was mainly him that I talked to and a little bit with Coach Smart here and there.”

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