Smart, Georgia preview rivalry game against Georgia Tech

kirby-smart

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, addressed media on Monday ahead of Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech. They offered the following comments:

 

Head Coach Kirby Smart

 

Opening Statement…

We’re looking forward to a great opportunity this weekend to play a very physical, good Georgia Tech team. Obviously they have a different style of offense than we are traditionally used to facing, and that will be a great challenge for us defensively, and also a challenge for the offense. They have got to play well and possess the ball, and sometimes you play in this game, you get a limited number of opportunities because of the clock and the way Georgia Tech runs the ball. I am excited for our seniors. Obviously it’s their last home game. They have been very important to our staff, our program. They have done a lot of great things around here and they are going to be very missed in this program, and obviously want to send them out the right way, so that’s a big challenge for the group.”

 

On preparing for the unique offense Georgia Tech brings…

“It’s tough. You obviously do a lot in the off-season. First of all, you don’t put it all in one week. We’ve done a lot of off-season study, off-season planning, off-week work, spring practice work, camp work, because as much carryover as we have every week between offenses pretty similar, there’s no carryover this week. That’s the challenge. Also, the look you get from your scout team is so different. So you have to have certain type of players on your team to give you a good picture. We’ll challenge some of our players on the scout team to do some different roles this week to give us the speed of the game; it’s so hard to simulate and they do such a good job of coming off the ball right at you that that’s part of the challenge.”

 

On the seniors’ role in the team’s transition to the current staff…

“The transition was great. They know that I have a lot of respect for Coach (Mark) Richt, and so do they. They were recruited by Coach Richt and his staff, so they understand that. They know that things like this in this business happen, and they respected our staff and our program to the ‘n’th degree. A lot of them have supported everything we have been about. They are the glue that held this team together during some of the adverse times and we appreciate them and we have a chance to recognize them Saturday. So we just want them to go out on top, and that’s what’s important is that those guys have been really helpful to this team this year, this season.”

 

On the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry…

“I think any time you play your state rivalry, first of all, it’s good for the state. It’s a lot of people split down the line when it comes to this game, a lot of passion and energy goes into this game on both sides of it. We tell our kids all the time: ‘You’re remembered by what your senior class does and what your record is against Georgia Tech.’ So I think the same case as any rivalry. You’ve got to keep it within the grasp of your emotions. You play with emotion, but you’ve got to play with controlled emotion. You’ve got to make good decisions on the field. You’ve got to prepare well. It’s a different week of preparation because it’s Thanksgiving week. So it’s so different a week than your traditional, got classes, come over; the schedule is different for both teams. So everything is a little bit different when you play Tech, when you add in the offense and the time in the week we are not in classes. So it has been a great rivalry, and when I’ve played in it and coached in it, it’s always been heated and there’s been a lot of close games.”

 

On Georgia Tech’s ability to not take penalties…

“(They are) extremely disciplined. I think that they are smart in how they do things. They don’t have a lot of penalties offensively or defensively or even on special teams. Again, that speaks to the discipline of the organization, the decisions they make on the field; the decisions their players make to not hurt themselves. They try really hard not to beat themselves, and they do a good job of that.”

 

On the 1999 game against Georgia Tech…

“To be honest, I don’t remember much about that game. Was that the Jasper (Sanks) game? Yeah, I think I was up in the box helping out watching their offense trying to help the defense out. I don’t really remember the fumble much. I remember it being in the paper a lot afterwards and years afterwards but I don’t remember much about where I was other than assisting the defensive coordinator and defensive coaches in the box with just eyes.”

 

On practice schedule changes with school being on break…

“We try to keep it as normal as we can. It’s certainly not normal for the players because they are able to sleep in. It’s a chance for us to get ahead academically. We have some guys coming up with some big finals and things, so we’ve got a window for academics each day. We’ve got a window of opportunities for players to come in and watch extra tape where we make reels for them and they get to watch that tape and assist them with having good practices, a little better chance to watch the practice tape. A lot of times in the game, you can’t watch every snap from practice because your meeting time is so small. We’ve got more meeting time to utilize watching tape and we’re going to try to do that. Now as the week goes on, it gets even more different because you’ve got Thanksgiving Day. We’ll move practice up just a little bit, but not a lot, so that players can get some time with their family or friends here in town.”

 

On how past games against option teams will help this year’s preparation…

“I think the Georgia Southern game would be more applicable than the Charleston Southern (game). The Charleston Southern (game) was a little different. It was not truly triple option. It was remotely triple option, had a few plays in it. But when you look at it, it’s tough to defend because it’s tough to simulate. So when you start trying to simulate it with your players, sometimes the first thing they see live is the game. That’s not the case when you play against these other offenses, because our offense can simulate what most other offenses do. Our scout team can simulate what most other offenses do. It’s harder for us to simulate what Georgia Tech does. We have to do a great job with the planning, the understanding. They give you a lot of different looks and so preparation-wise, it’s just tougher. I mean, it’s a lot tougher when you start trying to scheme for it because your players have to have really good discipline, really good eye control and they have got to tackle and block protect well.”

 

On the importance of limiting big plays against Georgia Tech…

“It’s huge. They are looking for chunk plays. You want to make them drive it through. They do; they are very methodical. They manage their down and distances really well, and they stay ahead of chains, it makes them tough to stop. So every time you try to give them a negative play or do something to put them behind the chains, you put yourself at risk. They know it’s a numbers game. They are really smart at what they do. (Georgia Tech coach) Paul (Johnson) has an immense amount of experience at what combats what. So it’s not like you’re going to go out there and outsmart the guy who has been doing that offense all his life and knows where the weaknesses are of each thing you do and he can expose them. The key is being sound, tackling and not giving up big plays, and that’s what our goal is, to do that.”

 

On Jacob Eason’s progress in making his reads…

“I think he’s just more confident. He could tell you at the beginning of the year what that first, second and third read was. But him being comfortable with figuring out where I go, when I go and patience in the pocket, not to get happy feet, not to try to abort the pocket and stay in a clean pocket when it’s there; he’s grown in that regard. That’s just a confidence factor and I think the more confident he gets, he can get to that second, third option sometimes. The more he does that, the better it makes our total unit.”

 

On the importance of the defensive discipline to stop Georgia Tech’s offense…

“I think it’s a challenge. The discipline aspect certainly goes to the perimeter, the edges, the interior linebackers; where on the defensive front, it’s really about being able to strike, stay on your feet, understand what your job is. If you know what your job is on the front, and you’re athletic enough to execute your job, you can be successful. I do think that it’s tougher when you’ve got guys who have not played against this type of offense. We’ve got several defenders who have not played against this type of offense. When you look across the freshmen, even Davin (Bellamy) and (Lorenzo Carter) in last year’s game, they only played a few snaps because of Jordan (Jenkins) and Leonard (Floyd). It’s key when you have got guys that have played this before that understand how fast it really comes; where our freshmen probably won’t know that unless we’re able to simulate it.”

 

On a turning point with the seniors’ leadership…

“After the Florida game, we had a meeting in here with the seniors and I thought it was really good. I opened the floor up for those guys, and they were really good. They communicate well. They are not afraid to speak their mind, which I think’s good in that setting. But they are also not locker room lawyers. You know, they understand that they have got a role to lead this team and to keep the demeanor right, and I thought that they all did. I mean, (Ryne) Rankin did, Quincy (Mauger) did, Reggie (Davis) did, (Brandon) Kublanow, (Greg) Pyke; there’s a lot of guys in that group that played a lot of snaps and they have helped communicate to the rest of the team what the message is.”

 

On what he has learned so far as a head coach…

“There is a lot of things that you learn. You learn more about yourself. You learn about your team. You learn about your staff. You learn about things you like, things you don’t like. I can’t specifically sit here and say that I learned this or I learned that. I certainly think that you grow because there’s certain things I’m more comfortable with than others in game day management in decisions about practice. But you do that throughout the year, so I can’t say that — what you say you’ve learned, it could be different next year, because it’s a different team. This team’s different than the next team will be. This team’s got 11 seniors. This team’s really young. I’d like to think we are eventually going to have a mature team that’s got guys that have played a lot, and I think you treat each team differently. I hate to say it, but I just don’t know that I can point to one certain thing that sticks out.”

 

On injuries to Isaiah Wynn, Natrez Patrick and DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle…

“I think I’ll know more today. I can only tell you what we knew going into Saturday right now. I mean, they are still getting treatment. They got treatment yesterday. They got treatment Saturday. They got treatment today. And we’ll find out a lot more about them today. I think Isaiah (Wynn) is going to be good to go. He was really close. DaQuan (Hawkins-Muckle) got to go in warmups last week and is much closer to going. And the same with Natrez (Patrick). He’s been really close for the last couple weeks. We hope he’s ready, but I will know a lot more about that after today.”

 

On the importance of experience of Coach Kevin Sherrer and Coach Tracy Rocker against Georgia Tech…

“I think that’s important, any time you’ve got people with experience of playing against this type of offense, certainly in the off-season, we went and visited several people who face it for a living and face it. And the off week, same thing, you call around the country and talk to people about different ideas they have and things they can do well. You’ve ultimately got to take your personnel and do what your personnel does well. You see all kinds of schemes against these guys. You see a little bit of everything when you watch them. And a lot of people copycat. A lot of people look at it and say, well, I’m going to do that; I’m going to do this. But you’ve got to do what you’re comfortable in playing against it. Having Coach Sherrer and Rocker, who have experienced it for really two and three years, in some cases, helps, because you learn what you don’t want to do and you also learn what you think works. Sometimes it changes in the game, what they are having success with. You’ve got to have something to answer it.”

 

On discussions with juniors about leaving early…

“I think there’s a time and a place for that that you talk about it, and the time and the place is after this game. Before the bowl game, we visit and sit down and talk to guys, and that’s not the goal or the important thing to those players, either. I think the most important thing to them is doing it right for the seniors, and then there will be a time and a place to visit that and gather information and educate them on the process, but also help them with information that they are not privy to right now so that they can make the best decision moving forward.”

 

On Smart’s ability to implement his culture on the program…

“I think that you never completely do that. I think you have got to continually change and merge based on your team, like I talked about earlier. Certainly the practice intensity with which we go at things Monday through Friday is a big culture change that I’m trying to set. We are going to get work done these days and we’re going to work really hard and you have to trust that expending this energy, you’re going to get to recover on Thursday afternoon, Friday and Saturday before the games. And then as the season goes on, we try to cut back on so that you’re fresh for the game and you don’t wear yourself out. But that’s a big part, the discipline. From a penalty standpoint, I think we can do a lot better when it comes to that. I think just the overall culture of the program is what you make of it, what you do to it, how you impact it. I think that when you have seniors that have done it one way for four years and then you come into a new way, I think you find out how comfortable they are being uncomfortable, which I’ve stressed since getting here, is we are going to make you uncomfortable. Well, with those guys in the back of the room, those 20, 30 freshmen, they don’t know any other way. So it becomes their culture and their only culture and then as you get used to it and more guys get used to it, it becomes a majority deal, and they buy into it, they understand it. They understand why you’re doing what you do and that’s a big part that we tried to impart knowledge on them is this is the way we’re going to do it, so you accept it and you buy into it, and to be honest, most of them have.”

 

On Trenton Thompson’s play…

“I think Trenton has worked really hard. He had a spell in the middle of the season there where we thought Julian (Rochester) was practicing better and playing a little better than him, so Julian was playing a little more. Trenton has gone back to work and out-worked him, out-competed him. We thought he played and practiced well the Auburn week. Actually started him in the second half of Auburn. He played well in that game, and then he practiced well last week, and got to start last week. So you know, every week in our group, in our units, there’s competition at certain positions and they know they have got to go out and earn that. I think Trenton has really responded well to the adversity he’s had and he’s had some games that he’s really played well. And he’s got to continue to develop his technique, I would say, but he is an explosive, athletic defensive tackle, which is hard to find.”

 

On if some games carry more important results than others for the season…

“I don’t get into hypotheticals, I’ll be honest with you, I really don’t. To me, it’s the next game. It’s a large rivalry game. Especially to our older fan base, the history of this rivalry is really important to a lot of people. It’s really important to me. It’s really important to this team. You could see it in the buzz they have for it. But as far as outcomes and hypotheticals, I’d rather not get into it.”

 

On the scout team and checking with other teams about defending Georgia Tech’s offense…

“We certainly have more experience with our other opponents, and our other opponents have a lot of common denominators and carryover. We don’t (check with other teams) as much for other opponents. We certainly talk to other people about teams we know we are going to play that might have played them well or played them different than we do. But there’s a lot of carryover in our conference of people playing the same way. You don’t see a lot of different (philosophies). You might see different in a bowl game or a team from another conference plays one of your teams.

 

But as far as what you said on Georgia Tech, we’ve got a couple guys, Sam Vaughn is going to help us at quarterback, he’s a good athlete. Caleeb Roberson, another kid that’s a good athlete that gives us a good picture. Tim Hill, historically has done a good job, as well, being slot backs and also being the quarterback. It’s hard to simulate their offensive line because they come off the ball really hard but we’ve got ten guys over there that give us a great picture and we do a good job of that. And you know, a couple other guys, Ian (Donald-McIntyre) and Prather Hudson have done a great job all year being backs and they really fit this style of offense, and they will do a great job at perimeter blocking or being a fullback, because they are really quick guys that can get up in there.”

 

On what the young defensemen are learning about Georgia Tech…

“Number one, you have got to have the pad level low and you have to have your hands low, and they have to do a great job of playing with pad level low. They cannot get away with popping up like they do on some of the bigger linemen we face in our conference. Our guys can get up high with them sometimes, and you can’t do that this game. To stay on your feet is critical. You watch the teams that really play them well, they do a great job defending the cut block. And the cut block is really simple if you can just play the cut block. They all want to go make the play behind the cut block, and that’s when they get in trouble. If they can just focus on the task at hand and then get their eyes converted and their eyes transferred to the right thing; it’s just easier said than done. I’ve been in those games where you talk about it all week, you try to simulate it, and you get in the game you and can’t simulate what they do for a living. So it’s really critical that we give them a good picture this week.”

 

——

 

Senior OG #73 Greg Pyke

 

On Georgia Tech’s defense…

“They are very fast and physical up front. We watched a little film today and as the week goes on we’ll watch more but they are very good up front. It doesn’t matter about the records or what’s going on between the two (teams), it is always a good rivalry game. It is going to be heated out there, probably a little bit chippy too. They are a very good defense.”

 

On keys to Georgia Tech game…

“It is going to be a very physical game, obviously. We have to dominate up front. We have to dominate the line of scrimmage and set up that play action that we are very good at. But it will come down to us up front in order to open up room for those wonderful backs we have.”

 

On Head Coach Kirby Smart’s first year at UGA…

“It’s been different. The SEC is like a business so it’s not like you can chose who your coach is and isn’t. Coach Smart has brought a lot of energy and fire to this organization. One thing that he saw in the seniors is for us to really buy in to what he is trying to bring into their program. He is really trying to change the culture around Georgia football and he has been doing a very good job of it all season.”

 

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Sophomore CB #18 Deandre Baker

 

On facing a triple-option offense for the first time this season…

“The extra time (with no classes this week) will help us a lot because (Georgia Tech has) a pretty difficult offense.  We’ll be able to watch more film.  They do a good job of hiding the ball and on the cut-block they provide lanes for the running back so we have to be very disciplined. I’m looking forward to it.  It’s going to be a good, competitive game.”

 

On preparing for the offense…

“We’ve been doing it a little bit everyday.  There’s not really any anxiousness about facing it.  The linebackers have it hard because they’re closing in and it’s hard to see what’s coming at you.”

 

On being disciplined against the run and the pass…

You have to do your assignment.  If everyone does their assignment then we’ll be in good position to make plays.  It’s very important for the secondary to stay in their gaps because without us, the ball will split the defense every time so we have to come up, be physical and stop the run.”

 

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Junior N #97 John Atkins

 

On facing the triple option for the first time…

We watch and practice it everyday, so we have a feel for it and we know what we’re going to get.  We work on cut-block everyday in individual drills.  With Coach Rocker, you have a cut ball out, it’s about playing with your hands and staying up in traffic.”

 

On the discipline to begin on defense against this offense…

“We always have to work as one.  If one guy moves out of the way it could open up for a big play.  The key is to stay in our gap and maintain in order to do what the coaches want us to do.”

 

On helping the freshmen understand the Georgia Tech offense..

“It’s not a trick offense. You’re going to know exactly what’s coming to you, you just have to stay in your gap and maintain your technique.  Everyone has to play as a whole.  All of us have to stay up off the ground and stay out of traffic to keep our feet and play off the blocks to make tackles.”

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