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Smart Offers Post-Practice Comments Leading into Showdown with Tennessee

Smart to see some familiar faces across the field from him on Saturday. (PHOTO: Walt Beazley)

Head Coach Kirby Smart (Full transcript)

On what he sees from Tennessee’s offensive line…

“[Tennessee[ has great size. They’re very experienced in our league, one kid who has played a lot of ball last year against us and has gotten better. They’ve got a tremendous offensive line, probably one of the best in our league. [Tennessee], us— I like our offensive line— I know Alabama has a really good one, and there are several others, but these guys are talented. Cade [Mays] has played in our league at the tackle position. He’s proven he can block the best guys in the country. They’ll be a great challenge."

On the defense complementing each other this season in terms of the pass-rush creating opportunities

“I think that’s always the case— you want to compliment each other, and they’ve done a tremendous job of doing that. They’ve got a lot of experience, but they probably haven’t been challenged like they’re going to be challenged this week."

On an injury update of Tre’ McKitty “I’m hopeful that Tre’ is going to be able to go. He practiced today and did a good job. We thought he was going to be ready for last week and didn’t want to have to play him unless we had to."

On his assessment of Darnell Washington

“Darnell has done a good job. He’s been kind of thrown in the fire. I wish his conditioning was at a higher level. I wish he could sustain his high speed longer. He gets tired pretty quickly, but he is physical. He’s not afraid of contact, and he’s got great hands." On what led to the effectiveness of Adam Anderson and Azeez Ojulari in the pass-rush game against Auburn… “The situations they were put in [like] third-and-long. If you put anybody in third-and-long, it’s not usually hard to rush the passer because receivers have to go further downfield to get to the sticks which therefore gives them more time. That has a lot to do with it— a lot of one-on-ones." On what Tennessee presents that UGA hasn’t seen in the first two opponents… “They’ve got a really physical offensive line. We talked about that. They’ve got a great running attack, very calculated. They understand what they want to do. They know a lot about our defense. Will (Friend) has gone against our defense for a long time, [Jim] Chaney has gone against our defense for a really long time, [Jeremy] Pruitt knows about our defense. They know the ins and outs, but at the end of the day, you have to block the person in front of you. You have to move some people. You have to strike them, so they present a challenge of being able to run the ball. They really have really good wideouts. They have a very experienced quarterback who’s going to get them into the right play. They’ve got backs who catch the ball in the backfield. I expect to see quite a bit of empty from Coach Chaney, because he likes to do that— change things up. [Tennessee] will present a lot of challenges [like] tempo. They go with tempo at times and go fast…Tempo plays to their advantage, and I think everybody is using that. Every offense in our league is."

On the status of the quarterbacks... “They’re doing great.”

On whether he has tried to implement anything LSU did last season

"There's a lot of people trying to emulate what they did. There’s a lot of copycat going on, where you see plays from LSU, not necessarily just being run on us—  LSU ran the same plays on everybody; they didn't change their plays. They didn’t have to. They ran the same plays over and over and over, and they ran them better than you could stop. You could know what was coming, and it didn't matter. You didn't stop it. At the end of the day, it didn't have anything to do with that. I mean, we did work on things that we thought could have worked better against LSU but, I mean, the combination of what LSU had is hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good teams in our league but there were a lot of good players at a lot of good spots. We do some things offensively that LSU does. Tennessee's doing things LSU does; everybody does. LSU didn’t invent what they do. They got it from somewhere, so it's just more of some of the copycat part, but that hasn't been anything that spurred us. We're just trying to get better. We’re looking at what other teams and other conferences did that maybe is not in our conference. There are a lot of defenses copycatting."

On John Jancek joining the staff… “We had two quality control positions that we weren't able to fill before the pandemic broke. We were on vacation or on spring break, and we had a couple spots that were open that we were unable to fill. We put the hold on those and didn't know if we were going to have a season, so we weren't sure we were going to fill them. Then a week before or maybe a few days before the Arkansas game, we decided to fill that role. [John Jancek] breaks down the opposing team's defense, and coaches the coaches in terms of the insights of what that defense does and what their tendencies are and [is a] a defensive mind on the offensive side of the ball, which is very common in the NFL, and it was important to Coach [Todd] Monken that we had somebody that could fill that role.”

On the growth he has seen in his young offensive linemen, particularly Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge... “They are getting better. Each one of them has a long way to go. Broderick [Jones] missed a lot of the minicamp time with a foot injury—really hurt him as far as getting caught up to speed and not getting to go during that learning phase. Tate [Ratledge] has missed a little bit of time as well. I think if either one of them had not missed time they would be further along. I don’t know if they would be contributing right now. They’re going to be good players, and we are trying to catch them up as fast as we can. Look, if there was a pill you could take to speed up, expedite these guys development we would do it. You can’t get enough reps fast enough. Then, the season starts their reps really get minimized because you are focused on the other guys. I am very meticulous about the number of reps they get day-to-day, and whether they spend more time on the scout team to get better reps. I’ve seen Isaiah Wilson, Elijah Holyfield—I’ve seen a lot of players, Tae Crowder, go from being on scout team to being really good players. Those guys are no different. They are working really hard to get better.” On his relationship with Jeremy Pruitt and Pruitt’s coaching experience before Tennessee... “I’ve known Jeremy [Pruitt] a long time, even when he was a high school coach. He was best friends in college with Will Friend, who is on his staff, and I was best friends in college with Mike [Bobo]. We cross paths a lot. Mike and Will worked together and then Jeremy and I were always close with those two guys. Of course, he joined them here on the Georgia staff for a while there while I was at Alabama. Jeremy worked his way up through the Alabama systems. He worked in the weight room. He chased players, made players go to class, sat in on meetings. He became a better coach, and he learned a lot being over there. He was a good coach before he ever went to work at Alabama. Then he went to [Florida State University] and worked on his own. He has worked way all the way up, and he has done a tremendous job doing that.” On the best way to describe the identity of his best defense and how close this year’s defense is to meeting that… “First of all, it is not my defense—it’s the University of Georgia’s defense. It’s Coach [Dan] Lanning and the defensive staff and the defensive player’s defense. I’m not sitting here trying to take credit for something those guys have done. I certainly put blood, sweat and tears in with the rest of them. But, those guys put a lot of hard work into making decisions and the players. If the players do not buy into what you do defensively, it’s not good. I think Dan and his staff do a tremendous job selling who we are to the players. Dan imparts his personality on that, and I think the players appreciate that. I don’t think it’s a one-person gig. If you had to define a great defense it would be relentless effort. It would be reckless abandon. It would be constant pressure and pursuit—not giving up explosives. We’ve done a good job of that, but also, we probably played one of our worst defensive games last year against Tennessee, when you look at it in terms of tackling, getting pushed around, big plays. It just was not indicative of who we are and who we want to be." On whether Jalen Carter did anything during his time in high school that impressed him… “Yeah, lots of times. He had a bunch of dunks—he had a bunch of basketball dunks that were pretty incredible. Then, he had a one-handed catch at tight end, caught passes as a fullback in his offense. [He is] a really athletic, big man." On how tight the right tackle battle is between Owen Condon and Warren McClendon... “Yeah, it’s a good battle. We get to see a lot more of it than you guys do. They get to go against good people every day. So, we see it up close and personal. I guess you guys only get to go off what you see in games. We’ve seen a lot of it. I think both of them are good players. They are different kind of players. They play with toughness. I think both of them are very bright young men. They have a lot of respect for each other. It’s been a tight battle. The guys that practice the best during the week will get to play.”  On how UGA reps quarterbacks/whether there is a set, standard way… “We do it all kinds of ways. We change it up a lot.” On the progress of John FitzPatrick’s development... “He’s developing well. He’s doing a good job. He plays with good toughness, understands the game, understands leverage. He had to battle some injuries in camp, otherwise he would be further along. He was having a really good camp and got dinged up and missed a quite a bit of time. He’s really just coming back. He’s really just coming back since the Arkansas game so he’s just kind of in week two. He’s developing well. He’s getting better with his blocking, catches the ball well. If we can get Tre’ [McKitty] back to one hundred percent. We will have three really experienced tight ends there.” On whether he knows what Jim Chaney likes to do/what he expects from him this weekend... “I worked with him for a while here and got a lot of respect for the job he did and what he built here. He did a really good job. He had some really good game plans. He put some good packages together. He continues to do that. He’s got a lot of stuff. It’s not like he can run it all against us. We are certainly trying to defend it all. So, you go out to practice and try to prepare for it, but you have to be careful that you don’t do too much defensively, and I’m sure he’s the same way. You can do too much offensively, and not do anything well. It’s a lot about, ‘What is he going to do, and what is he going to do off of it? What is he going to carry this game? and How well we can adjust to it, fast.’” On Stetson Bennett and whether Smart has seen a difference in him since being in a starting role… “No, he’s just more mature. He’s wiser, smarter, more experienced—just like you would say any quarterback. He’s more seasoned. He probably forced the ball and made some mistakes early on. I don’t know if the scout team is always good for you because we are always screaming and yelling for him to throw the ball over there. Sometimes it’s not good to throw the ball. On scout team, we want to play the ball. He has some bad habits from times when he was down there early in his career. But, he got to go to Mississippi [Jones County Junior College] and play in a really tough league. Then he got to come back here and get a ton of reps as a two, and go every day and prepare like he’s going to be the second guy. He’s gotten a large amount of experience so it allows him to understand what’s going on around him and make good decisions.”   On stopping the run and the difference between Tennessee backs Ty Chandler and Eric Gray… “I don’t know that they are a whole lot different. They’re both hard, downhill [players]—they hit the zone play. They hit it to pry it open. There’s no indecision. They’re going to bust through there. I respect how they run the ball. They are physical. They are good receivers out of the back field, kick returners, punt returners—all around really good backs. I compare them to our guys. That’s what they remind me of. They are good football players.”

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