Kirby Smart, Bulldogs preview South Carolina game

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart Missouri at Georgia Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 Photo by Andy Harrison

ATHENS, Ga. — University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed the upcoming game against South Carolina with media on Monday. The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs take on the Gamecocks at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Sanford Stadium. 

 

Smart and the Bulldogs offered the following comments on Monday. 

 

Head Coach Kirby Smart 

Opening comments … 

“ We are on to South Carolina —  a team that is really hot, playing well. They are playing with a quarterback who I have a lot of respect for from his days over in Opelika. We did not play against him last year, so they have a new spark of energy and have played really well this year — have had some tough injuries but have played through them. I think Will (Muschamp) is doing a great job over there with the team, the moral, the energy they play with. They run the ball much better, they have more experienced players on defense and they have always been good on special teams. I think they are one of the best special teams groups — when you talk about all the units, everything together — that we will play this year. So, it will be a great opportunity to play in Sanford Stadium. I expect our fanbase to turn out for what I expect will be a great game.” 

 

On comparing Sony Michel to other players he has coached in the past … 

“I have been around some defensive players that are similar to that. I have not been around a lot of running backs that have the personality that he has. He is not afraid to step up and be a leader. Sometimes running backs just don’t like that role. They want to carry the ball. They don’t want to be asked to stand up in front of people and have to get on them if they need to or do the things they have to do. I think he exhibits his leadership through his special teams play, through his carries, through his unselfishness. So, when he speaks people listen because they take pride in the fact that he gives all the effort himself, so when he speaks everybody wants to listen. He has been a great asset for us.” 

 

On the bond between him, Mike Bobo and Will Muschamp and if they have time to catch up throughout the season … 

“I take pride in the fact that we all kind of grew up educators’ kids, coaches’ kids. We grew up around the game. It is what we have been around all of our lives, so I respect both of those guys and think they do a great job. You know, no, we do not have time to catch up in season.”

 

On getting back late from the Florida game and if that affects anything this week …

“Just lack of sleep I think is the biggest concern. Not getting back until 2 or 3 in the morning makes it as if we had to play a night game on the road, which can be frustrating because the Florida game technically would be home-and-home usually, but we end up traveling each year. The weather got us and it was a situation we can’t control, so when you have situations that you cannot control you overcome them.”

 

On the College Football Playoff selection committee’s release of the rankings and if he likes getting a snapshot …

“No. Not really. It just matters how we finish.”

 

On Reggie Carter coming back from injuries in his career … 

“He is an incredible kid when you think about it. He has been through some knees, some shoulders. He has been banged up. He has always been a really good player. I can still remember the first time I saw his highlights when he was a ninth and 10th grader. He has come a long way. He is really a good leader for us. He understands the defense. He knows how to execute it. He is not real emotional. Reggie is a kid who gives you his best each day. It shows how resilient he is to come back from the injuries he has overcome.”

 

On if Georgia is doing anything different on the offensive line this season compared to last year … 

“Really has not been much change — probably a little less gap plays than we have been in the past, but not a whole lot different scheme wise. We ran a lot of zone plays last year. We have run a lot of zone plays this year, probably just less gap plays is the biggest difference. Having some situations where we get a little more favorable boxes is what we are always trying to do.”

 

On Lorenzo Carter and Roquan Smith being named finalists for the Butkus Award … 

“They both work hard. We have talked a long time about team success equals individual success. I think a lot of these kids on this team are deserving of some of those individual accolades, but you do not usually get them unless you have team success first. I think some of the team offense, defense and special teams success can lead to some recognition, but to win it you have to play well. You have to certainly be a very productive player, and both of those young men have been that.”

 

On how they addressed the playoff rankings when he was an assistant at Alabama … 

“They talked about rat poison a lot and things like that (laughter). We don’t really have to address it if you confront it from the beginning, so the rankings that have been coming out up until this point  — the AP ones — are the same thing. It’s just a distraction, so it is just a matter of who can manage it best and which team is mature enough to handle it because it has zero outcome on performance on Saturday. It’s only a distractive measure that we have to contend with.”

 

On the inside linebackers and how they have performed … 

“Juwan (Taylor) and Monty (Rice) should be commended for guys that came in and gave us some really good, quality snaps. There’s a lot of anxiety when you are playing in one of those positions and you have not played in a lot of games and getting through that anxiety I think is going to pay off next year and the next year for us getting those young guys some reps. They take a lot of practice reps. You guys do not give them much credit for all those reps they take, but then they go in the game and we expect them to go in there and execute, and they have done that pretty well so far.”

 

On South Carolina QB Jake Bentley and how what he saw from him compared to Georgia’s quarterbacks the last two seasons … 

“I did not see a lot of the growing pains. I got to watch several of the games in the offseason, but as we played them he had not played much. Then, after our game, he came in and really played well. He has played well this year, so I do not even see him as a freshman — he is a sophomore — but I did not even see him that way last year. He has just been around the game his whole life, so the guy knows where to go with the ball, he understands the offense, he does what they ask him to do really well. He is really athletic. He was a good athlete in high school. He went through a knee injury, but he is running the ball well now.” 

 

On Solomon Kindley and marveling at the size of the linemen in the league now … 

“Solomon, since the ankle injury, has been much more consistent. Part of his deal is staying healthy. He is a very bright, articulate young man and enjoys the game of football. He has fun playing. He is a joy to be around. He still has a lot of areas to improve on and work on. He is not always the best practice player, and he knows he has to work at that. He covers people up well and, as he gains more strength and more quickness, I hope he will begin to get more movement and become a dominant guard to where he can reach his full potential. He is not there yet. 

 

To the size of the linemen — they just keep getting bigger. I thought they were big when I was here, so they just keep getting bigger.”

 

On if opposing defenses will throw more and more resources at slowing down Nick Chubb and Sony Michel … 

“You can’t put any more in there than they are already putting without uncovering somebody. So if you saw the Florida game, if Jake can just throw it to the ones they do not cover we would be ok, but they can’t put many more in there than they are. Ultimately, it comes down to can we block the ones that are in there and the ones we can’t block can we make them miss or make them further away? Ultimately, you are going to run up on somebody that is stout enough that you can’t block them. That could come any week and we have to be able to throw the ball. You have to be able to throw the ball with accuracy and high-percentage throws — they are hard to find with the way people are playing us, so we hope we can keep improving.” 

 

On if he’s ahead of schedule with things he wanted to address at Georgia, including depth and size…

“I’ll be honest with you, there’s no schedule, they don’t have a book on it that says by this time you have to be here and by this time you have to be here.  It’s not really done that way.  It’s done each year independent of the previous.  This year is independent of last year, just like next year will be independent of this year.  You try to reshape your team based on the personality it takes on. We are worried about this year and we’re worried about South Carolina right now. That’s all I’m thinking about.”

 

On the changing and growing role of Georgia’s wide receivers…

“They’ve matured because it’s not about them, it’s about the team.  There’s been no selfishness in that room and that’s one of the things after the game, the first thing I did was commend the receivers because it’s not always in their DNA to be comfortable in that role, but they’ve also embraced that when they get their opportunities they’re going to make the most of them.  And some of them have done that, given the opportunity.  They know the time and place is coming for them to make plays.  They understand that during the week they get to work on that part of their game. It just so happens that for 45 plays in the game, I guess 38 or 37 of them, they didn’t get to work on that part of their game, but they will get to today. They get to go against some pretty good players and we continue to try to develop that part of our game.”

 

On the benefits of having Sony Michel and Nick Chubb fresher late in the season…

“I think you could ask a lot of teams in the country that question and they’d say it’s a huge benefit.  We probably take it for granted to be honest with you.  We don’t look at it that way until we look at someone we’re playing and they say, ‘well, we’ve got this back out, this back bruised up, this guy beat up’, and it’s not because of the last game, it’s because of the cumulative effect of the 15-20 carries.  We’ve certainly had a lot of carries, just spread amongst a good group of backs. I continue to say, and harp upon, it’s not what our backs do with the ball that’s special to me, it’s what they do without it. It’s the special teams, it’s the punt coverages by Sony (Michel), the protections by (D’Andre) Swift. There are so many things that they’re good at.  Swift is probably our best pass protector back there and he does a really good job.”

 

On the biggest improvement he’d like to see from last week to this week…

“Same thing.  We have a lot to improve on. We have to tackle better on defense.  We didn’t tackle.  It was probably our poorest game tackling, getting guys to the ball, run defense was poor. Offensively, we didn’t execute real well. The series we did, it was great.  But when we didn’t time at times we’d go backwards.  We just have to play more fundamentally sound and more clean, we call it.  Execute the assignments. We get sloppy and that’s the disappointing part.  You’re looking to play a clean game and we get sloppy in the second half several times.”

 

On the recruitment of Jamyest Williams…

“Jamyest chose to go to South Carolina.  I’m happy for him.  He’s playing really well for them.  He’s a talented young man that’s playing a really good role for them. He’s a good football player.”

 

On D’Andre Swift enjoying blocking this early in his career…

“I think it comes from the fact that he has two older brothers who have taught him it’s important.  When you look at Nick (Chubb) and Sony (Michel) and what they’ve done over their history of being here- protecting, blocking for each other. Whether it’s a down field play and they’re a guy that has to convert and go block for a receiver, they do a good job of doing it. D’Andre is the same way and he’s learned that from those guys.”

 

On the added competitiveness of facing a friend like Will Muschamp…

“I don’t think so. You want these players to have success.  I want my players to have success just like he wants his players to have success.  It’s not about Will and I.  It’s not about us, it’s about the players. I think he’d be the first to tell you that.”

 

On South Carolina’s ability to get 200 rushing yards in the last few games and their improvements on the ground…

“Their offensive line.  It’s much more physical, dominant up front.  They really come off the ball.  They’ve got some big guys. They’re committed to it. They have two good blocking tight ends.  The backs are running really hard. When you watch them, they do a really good job.  After our Florida game that’s something we really have to improve on.”

 

——

 

Graduate ILB #45 Reggie Carter

On returning to the field after a few games due to injury…

“It felt great to be great. It is very difficult to miss games. The most difficult part is getting back in shape after missing games, but also just watching your team play. It hurts every time you are injured when you have to watch your team play, but you just have to trust the process and hope that it heals right.”

 

On biggest motivation…

“My teammates and coaches. They trust me and I trust them. Those guys are like family to me and they motivate me to get ready and come back to play each day.”

 

On how the inside linebacker rotation due to starters being out…

“The young guys like Juwan Taylor, Monty Rice and the other guys were phenomenal. Even when I got back, they still built on what they did the previous week. They continue to get better and come to practice hard every day. They do a tremendous job in those two games against Vanderbilt and Missouri.”

 

Junior WR #5 Terry Godwin

On the wide receivers facilitating the run game…

“It means a lot to us. For a receiver, you always want the ball in the air. A receiver wants the ball. But when you got that group that doesn’t really care about getting the ball, and will go out there and sacrifice their body to block for another player, that’s a lot. That goes to show how much this team has grown, and also that room as well.”

 

On the development of the team…

“The team, the growth, it’s been tremendous. Just coming from spring of last year to now, we’ve got a lot more team leadership, a lot more players following in the right direction, Going up on what Coach Smart has been coaching and trying to instill in us. We’ve got a lot more kids buying in, and I feel like it’s showing on Saturdays.”

 

On outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter…

“Lorenzo, that’s a different creature. Just to see him practice the way he does, and then go out there and do that on Saturdays. That means a lot to us, because as far as the offense, we know we’re going against this every week, everyday of the week, and by Saturdays, if we barely can stop him, there’s no one else in the country that can stop him. His hard work and his athleticism being displayed on Saturday.”

 

Redshirt freshman OL #66 Solomon Kindley

On returning to his hometown of Jacksonville…

“It felt great. It felt amazing because I got to play in front of all of my people, all of my family. And then, I get to play against a great SEC team like Florida.”

 

On the offensive line mantra…

“The running game opens up the passing game, so if we keep pounding the ball, that’s intimidating. If your offensive line is doing good, that makes your team good. That’s just our biggest thing. If we’re doing good, the team’s doing good.”

 

On growing as a team…

“We always capitalize on our mistakes. We never see the good we did in the game, we always go back to the, ‘Oh, you could make this step, you could make that step, you could make this better, you could you throw this better, you could run better, you could block him this way.” It’s every game, we could pretty much say we had something to work on.”

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