• DAWG NEWS DAILY

Smart, Podlesny and Sherman Eye Next Road Test at Missouri



ATHENS, Ga. — University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart along with senior Jack Podlesny and junior MJ Sherman spoke with the media Tuesday evening after practice and offered the following comments sharing their thoughts about the team’s forthcoming trip to Columbia, Missouri to take on the Missouri Tigers.

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

On Missouri run defense...

"They're really physical and big up front. They did a good job of stopping the run last year versus us. Their size up front, their athleticism up front, is really aggressive. They played Auburn really aggressive in term of the box count they were in. Some of the run stunts they run are some of the ones we run. They're getting after it and challenging you to do something outside of that. They don't have to have that many and they can still stop the run because they're physical up front. If you just watch our game last year, a lot of the same people are playing on both sides. I feel like Missouri has always been massive and one of the most physical fronts to play against."

On offensive line struggles against Kent State...

"We have the same guys up. We are always trying to clean up and play better. When you don't punt, it's hard to say you played poorly. If you had 500 yards of offense, it's hard to say you played poorly. I always want to play better. There's not a guy out there - it's not the guards. You can point a finger at the quarterback, the center, the guard, the tackles, the receivers. Everybody can play better, and we can coach better, too, as coaches."

On MJ Sherman...

"Tremendous job. Tremendous toughness. He comes to work every day. Every time we do the academic report, they talk about how much better MJ is doing this semester. Really, he just had one bad semester when he first got here, and ever since then he's been on point with his academics. He's become a key cog in our special teams. He had some really big plays on kickoff on Saturday, and he's a leader on the punt block and return team. I'm really proud of the maturity he's shown, and he's gotten a lot better as an outside linebacker, too."

On Dell McGee...

"He's been very consistent. Number one, he is a great recruiter. He's a great leader of men. He's a great husband and father. He's been tremendous in all aspects of having someone that has been a head coach before, and you can lean on him for input. He has a good pulse on the team. All of those things are critical to my success and critical to our team's success. I think he's been a key cog in our success because a lot of players have a really good relationship with Dell."

On Jack Podlesny...

"He's been so consistent. We hate that we have had to kick as many as we've had. That's been the Achilles heel of our offense. We may not punt, but we kick a lot of field goals. It's fun for Pod, but it's not fun for the rest of us. That's been one of the areas that we have targeted to get better at coming off of last year, and it's really great to have Pod. The reliability and the consistency that he has played with has been great, but the hope is you don't have to rely on him all the time because you score touchdowns."

On MJ Sherman buying into special teams...

"We all do that. There's not a player on the team besides the quarterbacks who aren't a feature on the special teams. And even they hold. That's culture. The players before him did the same thing. Nolan Smith starts on two units. There are guys out there that play on special teams that play in positions, and he knows he is still developing as an outside linebacker. And he's also got two guys in front of him who are pretty good. As he gets more opportunities, he'll make the most of them. He's started to make more and more plays out there on the field."

On touchdown percentage in the red area...

"It goes back to the run game. When the field tightens up and shrinks, that's where the run game is more glaring because the boxes are tighter. They're tighter to the box. There are less people in parts of the field, and they are in your front yard. You have to block them and run through them. Some of them are just misses. You go back to the Samford game where we struggled, and there were a couple times that we had guys open, and we just missed them. We have to do a better job. We've looked at it really hard. First down run percentage, second down run percentage. Third down conversions in the red area are critical because they get you a new set of downs. We've been there a lot, but we haven't converted as much as we need to. If it all had to boil down to one thing, I would say accuracy in the passing game, and then being effective at running the ball at the heavy boxes."

On Stetson Bennett holding on placekicks...

"He was the best one to hold. He played baseball in high school, and the kicker wanted him. We don't have holder tryouts. We just get the best one, and we felt like he was the best one to do it."

On the weather affecting plans for this weekend...

"We don't have anybody going out this Friday night for recruiting, so it shouldn't affect that. And it's a good thing we didn't plan on that because most of these games are getting moved to midweek, a lot of tonight's, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. We aren't sending anybody out, so it didn't matter. As far as I know, the last update I had was that we are still going to be comfortable getting out of here. There is a concern that we would have to fly to Atlanta, like we used to, and we would have to leave earlier if the panes can't get into Athens. As of right now, it looks like we are going to be able to get out of Athens."

On Jack Podlesny following Rodrigo Blankenship at Georgia...

"He handled it with class. Really just like ownership. He got to watch Hot Rod and see his routine. Pod has his own routine in his own right, and he follows that. Psychologically, he is really strong. He doesn't really let things affect him. A lot of times, kickers can get into their own head, and he hasn't been one fazed by that. He lets things go, and when he gets his one shot, he goes for the kill. If he doesn't get it, he goes for the next one."

On Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins...

"He's done a good job. He's gotten more physical and aggressive. He's practicing better. He's stronger from the weight room and getting better with each game, gaining more confidence. I'm proud of the toughness he's shown, and he's growing up."

On expectations for the receivers based on the success of the tight ends...

"You recruit receivers independently from tight ends. The skillset of the tight ends we recruit has changed because we want tight ends that complement each other, and we want receivers that complement each other. We are not really looking across at tight ends and receivers to compliment. We would like to have that done within its room. If we are heavy with one type of tight end, we might need a different kind of receiver. When you have ten, eleven, twelve scholarship receivers, you need a variety there. You need guys who can play inside, outside, be vertical threats, physical threats, matchup threats - you need it all. That's hard across the board. I don't think anybody in the country can tell you they have a full stable of receivers because if they do, they're looking to go somewhere else, I can promise you. Every receiver is looking for an opportunity to touch the ball, and it's hard to have enough receivers."

On practice updates for Arian Smith and AD Mitchell...

"Arian more than AD [has practiced], but we're still hopeful on both."

#96 Jack Podlesny | Sr. | PK

On if he feels his kicks are guarantees…

"I don't think it's taken for granted at all. We practice it every day. I think every head coach is unhappy when he's got to settle for a field goal and not a touchdown. But at the end of the day, I just tried to walk out there be consistent, make the points.”

On following Rodrigo Blankenship’s footsteps…

"There's definitely a lot of pressure. Rodrigo left a huge legacy here. I mean, he's going to be a name in the history books, probably until this program runs itself into the ground, whenever that is, probably never. So, there was a lot of pressure coming in 2020 trying to win the job. Stepping in filling his shoes, just trying to my best job and hopefully I can account for something.”

On the relationship with his holder, Stetson Bennett…

"It's definitely grown now since the season started. I got to put a lot of trust in him. At the beginning of spring, when I was told Stetson is going to be holding for me, I was like, 'Okay, that's going to be interesting.' Jake Camarda had held since his freshman year and Jake did a great job, no one better to do it. And so, the spring was tough, had to trust Stetson and there wasn't much trust at first in the spring. It was kind of like when you play golf, like stepping up and you've got your three iron out, not good. Not a good look. But over the summer, got some work, early into August, got more work with Stetson, got really comfortable with him. So, that relationships grown a lot and I'm happy to see that.”

On kicking off turf versus grass…

“I definitely prefer kicking off grass. It's a little bit easier on the bones and joints. But, at the end of the day, it's got to be the same, I've got to treat it the same and I really can't prepare much differently. Your foot is probably going to sink into the grass a little bit more, it'll give. Versus turf where it's pretty solid.”

#8 MJ Sherman | Jr. | OLB

On his role on special teams...

"I take it very seriously. Every day we try to fight for opportunities to show that we are capable of doing what we have to do on the field. As seriously as you take your nine to five job is as seriously as I take my special teams job because that we what we have to do. I take a lot of pride in fulfilling my job and helping the team win. I try to do that every week, specifically last week."

On the lessons he has learned from his father, who is a senator in Liberia...

"The main lesson that I took from him go back to one of our core traits that we have right now, which is resiliency. There was a civil war that broke out in Liberia, if you had not known, which forced a lot of immigrants to America. Through all of that, he kept his political atmosphere status and did whatever he had to do to make sure that it stayed there. While doing that, he took care of his four children, even though I wasn't there just yet. He took care of his children and made sure everyone was okay."

On his growth from last year...

"I would say that I grew a lot. Moreso in a sense where humility was part of that and a lot of understanding. Connection was a part of that, too. Coach Smart preaches that most about connection and how we have to stay connected. That is one of the things that really helped me stay grounded and humble throughout the process of being a reserve. The front seven and the 11 that are on defense, there were talented folks out on that field in front of me. What does it matter for me to throw my hands up and complain or kick rocks on the ground instead of just appreciating where I am at and understanding how to learn from those guys in front of me?”