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Smart, Mondon and Chambliss Preview Road Test Against Kentucky


Photo: UGA Sports Communication

ATHENS, Ga. — Head coach Kirby Smart along with sophomore Smael Mondon along with Chaz Chambliss spoke with the media Tuesday evening after practice and provided the following comments regarding the team’s final conference game of the regular season against the Kentucky Wildcats.




Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

On the defenses lack of forced turnovers in two of the past three games…

“We talk about it a lot. We try to change up drills. We show NFL clips of turnovers. We show all SEC turnovers. We talk a lot about it, and I thought that we actually did our best job this year of trying to punch balls out and strip balls out on these guys because they had a lot of loose plays where the balls out in the open. We just didn't get any. We certainly got to do that to offset of our own.”

On the team’s preparation for Kentucky’s offense… “Well, you have to adapt on defense. You adapt or you die. So, you have no choice but to adapt - it's what you have to do. It's been good. They enjoy it more when we get to show clips of the 49ers and NFL teams. That intrigues the players a lot more, playing against an NFL style offense. It motivates them a little more because they know that a lot of teams look at those tapes. With their coordinator coming from the NFL, it's more the kind of style of what they'll play against at the next level. So, that part excites them.”

On how Jalen Carter’s ability to force turnovers…

“He's explosive, he's quick, he's disruptive, he's in the backfield. He's on the quarterbacks, in terms of when you get to quarterbacks before they throw it, you typically have a shot at getting a force out, and when you get running backs in the backfield, maybe before they're passed line of scrimmage, you got a shot to get an arm on the ball or knock it out. He's certainly a powerful, explosive player. So, those guys tend to have more turnovers, outside of just strip outs.”

On if getting to play in and potentially win the SEC Championship game was a motivator for the team…

“Yeah, we really haven't. We haven't talked about the SEC championship game or going to the SEC championship. That's just not our conversation. We keep our conversations relative to what's one foot in front of us. It really has never been mentioned as a goal, nobody talks about that. We just talk about Kentucky.”

On the athletes that were recruiting at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic playing above expectations…

“I would venture to say, I don't know this for a fact, it's just my opinion, that everything would be off that year because there was no true evaluation. So like, what are you evaluating it on? What are you basing it on? The people who evaluate that in the first place, I don't think of them as experts at it, per se. I don't want to take their opinion over my own. I think that's something that we do well as a staff, is evaluate. So, regardless of which year, or which rating, or what people said, we go back and do a review of how those classes performed, how each guy did kind of after three years, because you can't get a real evaluation until then. So, those guys really haven't had enough time to be evaluated. It's hard to say they outperform their rating because I don't know the rating. I don't care about the rating. I care about our evaluation of them, and we think our evaluation is the most important.”

On the difficulty level of getting talented walk-ons…

“It's not hard to find the pool. There are thousands of kids wanting it. The hard part is deciphering what you're going to take, because some of the walk-ons that we get have opportunities have scholarship offers. Some of our preferred walk-ons have turned down full rides from schools and they want to come to Georgia. Maybe because they want to go to school at Georgia maybe because they want to play at Georgia, but we've got a pretty good track record of the PWO's. We only get a few of those a year. So, we have a limited number of spots for an unlimited number of people. We don't have to go beg people to walk-on, people are dying to do that. We get countless requests of that. We're more selective of who we bring out there because some years we need offensive linemen, some years we need defensive backs, some years we're short at running back. We try to get our needs out of the walk-on class and, every now and then, in our state especially, you got tremendous high school players who get overlooked. There's no greater example of that than Dan Jackson. Several guys, when I first got here, Prather Hudson. These guys were really good football players that contributed. Aaron Davis I think was one when I got here. They're just really good athletes. So, we're very blessed to have the opportunity to bring in the walk-ons we have.”

On how he evaluates how far the offensive line has come…

“I think we spoke about it before, I had high expectations of this offensive line from the beginning, and I've been very pleased with this offensive line group. I try to compare them relative to other offensive lines, not other Georgia offensive lines, other offensive lines we face in the current year. Because collectively, I don't know that the quality of football right now is as good as it's been in two, three, four years ago. It's just hard to find really good quality units in all aspects. That's across the NFL, it's across college football, it's across high school football, everybody you talk to. I'm very pleased with the way our unit has performed. Could they do better? Yeah, but I've been I've been very pleased with the depth, the use of the depth and how hard those guys work. So, I think Stacy's [Searels] done a tremendous job with them.”

On who has stepped on the team with Adonai Mitchell sidelined…

“Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint probably the most. Ladd McConkey and Marcus have played the most snaps, and Marcus has been beat up and banged up, he's been dealing with some injuries last two weeks and he kind of recovers during the week and then gets out there and goes best he can in the game. But the beneficiary has been everybody. The backs, we've gone a little more 20 speeds, the tight ends, we've gone more 12, when you have less receivers then you have to use other angles. Dillon Bell has played the X where he's been, but Marcus doubles as an X and a Z. So, I would say Dillon, Ladd and Adonai probably the most.”

On the team’s approach to Kentucky after it lost to Vanderbilt this past weekend…

“They've had a good approach. I think there's a major league respect for Kentucky in our program because the the kids that have played against Kentucky, it's been a bloodbath, man. Like, the game last year was so physical, so tough, rugged and they run a lot of physical runs, we like to run a lot of physical runs, and you end up just clanging against each other. When you come out of the game, you're really sore. So, that was that way that 14 to three or whatever game it was, maybe up there in 2020. Man, we had guys dropping like flies, it was just really physical. So, our guys respect Kentucky, I respect Coach Stoops and what they did last week has no relevance to what they'll do this week.”

On how he assesses the inside linebacker’s development…

“They've done a good job. They need more depth in there. Trezmen [Marshall] and Rian [Davis] being back has really been a huge help to Jamon Dumas-Johnson [Pop] and Smael [Mondon] because you can't really play two inside linebackers and get through a game, you got to have three or four to rotate. It's like half defensive line, half defensive backs. They got to have some rest and some recovery, and those guys have stepped up and helped them a lot. E.J. [Lightsey] is getting better, Jalon Walker is getting better. Coach Glenn Schumann does a great job with that room, he prepares them from day one. They've done really well considering who they had to replace.”

On where Smael Mondon has developed…

“Probably maturity, being able to handle failure, mistakes. He struggled a little bit in the Missouri game when he had the injury, he made a couple mental errors, and then he bounced back after the injury, and he's played with a lot more confidence since then.”

On Javon Bullard and Adonai Mitchell’s status for this week…

“I’m hopeful for both of them.”

On Jalen Carter’s performance since coming back from injury…

“He’s been good. He’s a good player, man.”

On how the team tries to combat the weather during games…

“I don't know any tricks for that. Players got their tights; they got their leggings. They got a different wardrobe they can wear, but outside of that, there's not a lot you can do. Practicing in it, prepare for it, worry about the guy across from you and not the conditions. Usually, you get good outcomes when you focus on the task at hand and not the things you can't control.”

On if he has spoken to the team about the University of Virginia shooting…

“We talked a little bit about it today. I didn't talk about it yesterday because I didn't know much, and I didn't know many of the details and still don't. I certainly got a lot of respect for Tony Elliot. I've known him, he's been a good friend of mine since he was at Clemson, and I recruited at Alabama. We always spent time together on the road. I just cannot fathom having to make that call to someone's parents. Carla Williams is up there, who I have a lot of respect for, and she did a tremendous job here. To have to go through that with their team and what they're experiencing, our hearts and prayers go out to them.”

Smael Mondon #2 | LB | So.

On preparing for the challenge that the Kentucky offense poses...

“One of the things we have to do to get ready for a team like this is to have physical practices. We like when a team is just trying to run downhill at us because we’ll be able to play physical with them.”

On where he thinks he’s grown the most this season...

“I would say my confidence level has grown the most this season. Going into this season, I had never started before, so now that I’ve seen what I can do, it’s given me confidence that I can build off.”

On staying healthy personally and as a team this late in the season...

“People say in the SEC, nobody is going to be fully healthy after that first game, so as far as dealing with your body, you have to get iced up more, and get your rest. I don’t think people take it into account as much, but sleep is a huge factor. I still get treatment because I like to be proactive with injuries rather than reactive. I just try to treat injuries before they get worse and become a lingering injury.”

#32 Chaz Chambliss | OLB | So.

On what has stood out to him about Kentucky's offense...

"The difference of the last couple weeks. Kentucky plays with five tight ends. They go with 14, 13 and 12-person personnel. A lot different than what we have faced the last couple of weeks."

On the defense preparing for Kentucky's offense...

"We just get back to our base stuff. Going back to 12, 13-personnel packages and playing hard nose football."

On creating turnovers and ending possessions for the other team...

"We all say, it is points when you get the ball out. It is just a momentum swing every time you get a turnover."

On forcing field goals and not letting other teams into the end zone...

"We always call it putting out the fire. We know that when offense gets a turnover or something does bad on special teams, we are able to respond. We get better the tougher it gets. When it is in the red area, it gets tougher. We have gotten better at that.”