UGA Football

Smart, Coordinators meet with media Saturday

Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker speaks during a press conference at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday, August 6, 2016. (Photo/David Barnes)
UGA DC Mel Tucker. (David Barnes/UGA)

Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator/secondary coach Mel Tucker, met with media members on Saturday. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement …

“Well, we’ve gotten our padded practices in. Started in shoulder pads and got to pop a little bit, so we certainly have gotten a little more work done. Excited about the tempo the guys have — they really push through.It’s kind of starting to get to that grind point of camp where you want guys to push through the pain, a lot of nicks and bumps and bruises. A couple guys banged up. John Atkins (junior nose tackle) had a little bit of a small knee deal but we think he’ll be fine. He’ll be back, but he’s out for a little while. That’s tough, at a position that we’re kind of already thin at. But the three freshmen are chugging along and getting more reps, that allows them to get reps. Big thing for John is he’s going to have to push and stay in shape while he’s not out there with us, but that’s really the only injury of significance. (Sophomore tailback) Shaquery (Wilson) is working his way back in, trying to take a few more reps. And both the young backs are doing a good job. It’s been good to get out in pads, and you feel like you can find out a lot more about kids when they put pads on than you can in shorts. So we’ll be back today in pads, of course, for the Fan Day and we’re excited about having a big group out there for it and getting to go to kind of a different venue. It makes it a lot different for the kids. A different routine is a good change up. We’ll open it up (for questions).”

On junior nosetackle John Atkins …
“Don’t know how long. It’s really just day-to-day for us. We’re going to find out, see how long it takes. But again right now, it’s day-to-day. We want to get him back out there as soon as we can, but right now he’s working in the pool (and) running. He kind of hyperextended his knee. No ligament damage or anything. We’ll see how long it takes to get him back out there. He’s a kid that knows the defense really well so shouldn’t be as bad, other than the fact that we just don’t have enough depth there.”

On offensive coordinator Jim Chaney …
“One of the key reasons I went after Coach Chaney was his quarterback development. I saw what he did at Arkansas and then with Tyler Bray and also the (Matt) Simms kid at Tennessee and then he had a transfer come into Pitt last year. I think it was Nathan Peterman who did a really good job up at Pitt. I have a lot of respect for his development at quarterback. I’ve been able to sit in some of his meetings, and it’s very knowledgeable for me as a coach to get better to hear how he talks to the quarterbacks about the defense. You find a lot out when a guy does that. But he’s a really great asset, he’s a really good leader and he’s doing a great job with the offensive staff, making sure they are organized and have a detailed plan every day.”

On impressions of the quarterbacks so far in fall camp …
“We’ve been rotating those guys and we’ve been spinning them, all three, kind of where they all three get to go with each group, and we’re kind of taking it day by day, where one guy gets to go with the ones, a guy gets to go with the twos, a guy gets to go with the threes and they all rotate. So that rotation will continue today, with today being the sixth practice. So if you do your math, as you kind of go through, this will be the end of the second rotation. So we’re excited to see those guys go out and compete. We’re trying to get them equal reps. It’s been tough, but it’s pretty balanced up. I can’t tell you that anybody stood out more than anybody else right now. It’s too early. They are still in the installation process where sometimes that can be overwhelming. The second time you go back through the installation, you expect it to be a lot smoother, because now it’s the second time this fall, but it’s really the third or fourth time since the staff’s arrived.”

On if he believes his team is getting bigger and stronger…
“Being that we’ve only signed the one class, you recruit big, and you obviously lift to get stronger. I mentioned earlier: I do think that we are stronger as a team. I think the kids really feel that way. We can see it in a few players out there where they are getting more movement and they are able to come out of their hips, roll their hips a little bit stronger, squat and bench and things like that. That’s helped with some positions that needed it but it’s just hard to make a person bigger. You have to go recruit and do well in that area. We think we did that in recruiting along the defensive line, but we really didn’t answer some questions on the offensive line. So that’s being addressed now through recruiting.”

On what he has seen from his team as far as the mental aspect of the game …
“I think that’s hard to do because it’s kind of moving parts. There’s a lot of parts there. It’s hot out there for a lot of the guys, and then being able to push through that. We’ve told them over and over, they can’t let the heat slow the brain. They can’t let the heat slow the heart and they have got to push through. Now, I do think that our leadership group and some of the leaders on the team are trying to lead everybody, but as far as a number, one to ten, it’s not ever where you want it to be as a coach, because if you think you’ve got a ten, then you’ve got problems.”

On Jim Chaney and how he recovered from losing his top rusher last season at Pittsburgh …
“Yeah, you know, I didn’t even realize that at the time, because I was in a different world, thinking about different things and focussing on the season that I was coaching. I didn’t find that out until I went on the recruiting of the offensive coordinator position calling around. Once I realized that, it made it more attractive to say that here is a guy that lost his leading rusher, one of the best rushers in the country, and was still able to be productive with a new quarterback. So, that was a great asset, knowing that the backs that we’re going to constantly have here at the University of Georgia are going to be good backs, and he’s got a really good track record with that. I’ve always felt like the diversity is what I like the most, because I can still remember playing them at Tennessee with three really good wide-outs. They didn’t have a back at the time and they threw it all over the yard – came into Sanford Stadium and put up 50-something or 40-something points throwing it around. I mean, he’s done both, and I’d like to think that we’re going to be versatile enough to get really good wide-outs and really good running backs, and he’s used both. I thought he did a great job last year at Pitt, losing the back and still sustaining.”

On his philosophy on transfers …
“Yeah, I can’t speak much about the Mo (Maurice Smith at Alabama) situation, because he’s a recruited prospective student-athlete. So I can obviously comment that we are recruiting Mo and that he’s a prospective student athlete. But as to the graduate transfer deal, I think every young man that we want to bring here to the University of Georgia, we want them to graduate from this place. And if they have an opportunity to go to graduate school at another place, I certainly think that that’s something we’re going to let them do, when they have an opportunity to go, once they have graduated, I think that’s important to know.”

On junior linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter and comparing them to former Bulldogs Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd …
“You know, those are some big shoes to fill. I got to watch those guys play opposite — every time we had an overlap, you’d see those two guys. They play with high motors, especially Jordan was really a physical presence and struck blockers and played things the right way. To say they are going to fill those shoes I think is unfair for them because I think those are really big shoes to fill. I think both those kids are working hard. But they are not where we need them to be. They are not playing physical enough at the point of attack. And where we’re depleted the most right now, is on the edges of the defense when it comes to five technique, six technique, those type bodies. Not the inside guy so much, but the outside guys being able to hold up. I’m challenging those guys each day to go out and take on tight ends, take on tackles and play more physical. We’re not where we need to be at that position.”

On how he looks for the players to respond with fans in the stands on Fan Day …
“First thing, I just wanted to focus on practicing good. We’re still in day six install and that’s important; that they focus on what they have to do. Now the distraction becomes just because somebody is in the stands and just because you got your picture taken before practice, does that change your demeanor; does that change how you practice; does that change how you react to coaching; does that change how you react to when somebody kicks your butt. It’s very important to me that they handle that the right way, because if they don’t handle that the right way today, they certainly won’t in the Georgia Dome in however many days. It’s important to me that they handle that the right way and that they execute, because a lot of times, guys go out there out there and change the way they do things because they are in a different place and they have got a different setting.”

On defensive coordinator Mel Tucker …
“First thing about Mel, he’s a great teacher. I’ve been around really good teachers when it comes to the secondary, and he’s a great motivator of men, but he’s a great teacher, and I enjoy getting to sit in his meetings. Last year, I was running the overall defense, so I was in there coordinating the defense. But when I left with the linebackers, I didn’t know what was going on in the DB room. I went in there, I didn’t get to hear Mel coach. So this year, I spend some of my time, 25, 30 percent of my time, going into maybe his meetings, as opposed to somebody else’s. And it’s a joy to hear him teach with the passion and energy he’s got for the kids. He gets after it. He makes it fun for them. Makes it fun for the whole defense. He has kind of a different theme each week. The kids like it. They laugh in the meetings. They have a good time. That’s important. The guys will play hard for you when they have a great time learning, and he’s great teacher. I think the defensive backs here have realized that he’s a technician. He’s going to teach them the technique that helps them advance, how to play press man, how to play this, and not just what the coverage is and what my check is. So he’s a really good teacher and that’s been a really great asset to those guys.”

On if he has completely figured out personnel …
“I guess you’re saying what personnel groupings we would be in. I think that’s going to show and be determined by the scrimmages, because the scrimmages, they will be all in the games. So they will all be rotated in. And who performs well, our best offensive grouping, will be determined by how they do in scrimmages, how guys perform, how well the tight ends block, how well our play-action game is. How well the receivers block on the perimeter tells how many of them will be in. The running backs are doing a good job. I do think that both freshmen running backs, both Brian (Herrien) and Elijah (Holyfield) are really competing hard. They are both really tough, physical, what you want in a player. They are guys that are going to be able to help on special teams. That’s the first thing you look for on special teams is where can the running backs help, and here these two guys are, both of them run good, both of them have a little toughness and they are both sharp kids. We’re trying to get some help out of them. What grouping we use will be determined by scrimmage one and scrimmage two, how those groups perform. Also what our quarterback can do, how many backs are healthy that, kind of thing. But I can’t say when that will happen for sure.”

On his involvement with the defense …
“The one thing I’ve learned is that it’s UGA’s defense. It’s not Mel’s defense. It’s not Kirby’s defense. It’s UGA’s defense. It’s Davin Bellamy and Dom Sanders’ defense. We won’t be taking credit as coordinator. We won’t be taking credit as head coach. Nor will we be getting blamed should things not go well one game. But I’ll be spending the majority of my time on the defense, because that’s where I feel like I can be the biggest asset and knowledge. To put a percentage on it, I don’t know what that is yet. We haven’t had an in-week, kind of in-season, in-week game planning, but I certainly think that’s where the most input’s going to go.”

On his interactions with Mel Tucker before Alabama …
“Really not, and to be honest with you, only way I knew Mel was through pro workouts. He was in the league during a lot of the runs at Alabama, so when we had players do work outs, we come in to work them out. That’s the interaction I had with Mel was through him coming to ask about Kareem Jackson or Javier Arenas or Mark Barron. So, those conversations occurred but never in a coaching relationship did I know him. He obviously knew Coach (Nick) Saban and Coach Saban wanted to bring him in, and it was a great hire last year for us and that’s when I really got to know him.”

On the excitement of Fan Day …
“It’s very exciting. I mean, our focus is the practice. I’ve only got so many of these practices. I’ve got 28 and I’ve got to get them all right. So that’s the focus and energy of that. We’re not going to let that be a distraction. I think the big key is afterwards, we’re giving back to the fans. But prior to that, we’re giving to each other. We’re going to be out there in pads, popping, hitting each other, getting after it, competing, fighting for starting jobs, and that’s what you want. But all the stuff that goes on prior to, they have got to be able to separate. No different than game day, they have to be able to separate the dog walk from the game. We want to get used to having those distractions, but also the ability to focus on the task at hand, which is having a good practice. We have some guys that need to have a good practice and who need to move forward.”

On the leadership of Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter …
“A lot of guys on defense are trying to be good leaders and a lot of guys on offense. We have a really good group of core guys. Not all leaders are seniors. It’s kind of a younger team, where some of the kids that are sophomores are juniors are having to lead, and we only have a few seniors out there. I do think that both Davin and Lorenzo are trying to lead from the standpoint of emotionally, physically, day-to-day, doing things the right way. We’ve just got to play better. We’ve got to play tougher. We’ve got to play the tight ends blocks better. We’ve got to strike people, and that’s the part I’m not pleased with with them. It’s not the leadership part. It’s playing the blocks the right way and doing the things (outside linebackers coach) Coach (Kevin) Sherrer is asking them to do.”

Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker

On how the setup will be with head coach Kirby Smart as far as calling plays on defense …
“It’s a team game. We’re going to work together as a team, as a staff. You know, obviously I’m going to call the plays and Kirby, he’s heavily involved in the defense and I’m very comfortable with that. I think it’s going well so far. We’re having a lot of fun and we’re coaching the players.”

On impressions of head coach Kirby Smart before and after he took this job …
“Kirby, he’s just a great coach. He’s got a lot of energy. He’s got a tremendous passion for the game. He’s very well respected amongst the coaches in college and NFL. Just everyone knows he’s a stand-up guy. He overall is just a heck of a person.”

On the importance of technique on the defensive side of the ball …
“Yeah, I think the foundation for players and for defenses is technique and fundamentals. If you don’t have that, I think you’re going to struggle to reach your potential, your full potential. We emphasize technique and fundamentals every day. The players, I think they embrace that and I think they understand that’s what’s going to make difference.”

On inheriting veteran players in the secondary …
“I really like the guys that we have. Obviously, I’m coaching the secondary, so I work very closely with all those guys in the back end. It’s a fun group to coach. You have guys with tremendous experience. You’ve got Malkom (Parrish), you got Dom (Dominick Sanders), you’ve got Q (Quincy Mauger), Aaron Davis. Those guys, they are tremendous. And then we have some young guys that I think have a chance to be good players for us. So just overall, the group, they are very, very coachable. I think they work well together. There’s really good energy in the room, and I look forward to seeing those guys every day, quite frankly.”

On playing man-to-man defense …
“We work on it every day. We work on press technique, man coverage, with the wide receivers, tight ends and the backs. Again, it’s just technique and fundamentals. We do a lot of drill work with these guys. We coach them off the tape, as well. They embrace the techniques that we’re teaching them and I think I see constant improvement with these guys, and they have tremendous ability, as well. I feel good about our ability to play man-to-man when we want to and when we need to.”

On the defensive line rotation …
“It’s going to be important to keep guys fresh. Regardless of who you play at almost any level, you want to have a really good D-line rotation and keep guys fresh. Teams are going to go fast. That’s a big part of college football right now. And so you want to make sure you have a good rotation, have depth, and the more guys that can contribute, the better.”

On the defensive line’s pass rush and the importance of rushing the quarterback …
“I feel good about the guys we have. We talk every day about having a coordinated pass rush and having the rush in, that covers working together to affect the quarterback; and that’s one of the things we have to do is affect the quarterback with rush and coverage. I think we have guys that can push the pocket inside. I think we have guys that can give you some rush off the edge, and I think we have more than two or three. I think we have quite a few guys that can get that done. I feel good about it. It’s a work-in-progress but we’re working on it every day, and the guys, they are getting after it out there.”

On any feedback he has received from his players so far …
“Yeah, I think so. It’s been an aggressive installation in this camp so far. You see improvement. You get the feedback from the players. We ask a lot of questions in the meetings. It’s dialogue, back and forth. It’s a good dynamic. And the guys, I think they are comfortable enough that they don’t understand something, they can ask, and we have answers for them. And I see constant improvement. I see guys having a better understanding of what we’re trying to do each and every day. So I’m encouraged by that.”

On coaching at the college level compared to coaching in the NFL …
“Very similar. I spent eight years in college and I went 10 years in the NFL and I’m back in college, my second year back. I’ve never really changed the way I coach players. You just want to be a great teacher, and you want to motivate and develop the players. Coordinator, defense, it’s a team effort. It’s not just one guy doing it. We have a great coaching staff and we all work together, and with Coach Smart and with the players, and we’re going to get it done as a group.”

On what has most impressed him about this defense so far …
“I’ve been impressed with the energy of this group. When you walk into the meeting room with those guys, you know, they are bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, paying attention. They have really good attitudes. They seem like the chemistry is getting better and better, and they are just very coachable, and you can tell, they want to be great. They want to do it the right way. They are pleasers. In terms of things we need to work on, we need to work on everything. And I know that sounds cliche, but every phase of what we’re doing: Run defense, pass defense, pad level, things like that, eye discipline, reducing the penalties, things like that, we adjust those things every day. Our goal today, when we go out there today, is to improve in all phases.”

On philosophical similarities with Alabama …
“We’ll have to see — I’ve got an idea. We’ve got multiple fronts, multiple coverages, and various packages that we’re going to use. And obviously there’s going be to be some carryover from what we’ve done at Alabama, but we’re going to do some new things, as well. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out.”

On who is the emotional leader on the defense …
“I’m not sure about that. I see a lot of guys who are leading by example — and I believe that anyone can be a leader. It can be a young guy; it can be an older guy. You know, you can affect people in a positive way by being more vocal. Some guys want to lead more by example. But I think we have a really good mix of older players and younger players that are working together, and we’ll see how the leaders emerge, kind of as we go. We haven’t had any adversity yet and that’s going to be a big part of how we handle adversity.”

On head coach Kirby Smart relying on him …
“Kirby’s doing a great job. He really is ultimately — he’s prepared every single day. I mean, he’s an attention to detail guy. Everything is detailed out to the second. The staff is working well together, and he leans on all of us in different ways. We have a lot of experience on our staff on both sides of the ball, and he always asks for input, which great leaders always do that. And what ever I can do to help Coach Smart, I’m going to do.”

On the ambition for him to become a head coach one day …
“You know, the way I approach it is — I’m going to approach this job and I’m approaching this job as though this will be the last job that I’ll ever have. This is the only job I’m going to ever have and that’s going to be my focus day-in and day-out. And then, you know, you never know what the future holds, but I feel like it’s a privilege to be here and to be the defensive coordinator here at the University of Georgia. I feel like that’s a privilege and I’m excited to be here. I’m not thinking about or focusing on anything else.”

On the defensive line …
“I like our group. We have a good mixture of size and athleticism. I think we have stoutness up front. We have pass rush ability on the edges. I think we have some young guys that are going to be able to contribute for us. We’re going to have to see how they go. We haven’t scrimmaged yet and we haven’t been in live situations yet but I feel great about the group. We’re going to have as many people — we’re going to assign roles to as many people as we can. The more guys that have roles, I think the better that we’re going to be. And so we’re looking for guys that can play for us; that can play winter football for us, and we look to have a strong rotation up front.”

On junior linebacker Lorenzo Carter …
“I tell you what, Lorenzo, obviously he’s a tremendous athlete. He responds well to coaching. I’ve been impressed with him. He runs to the ball. He gives great effort. He works at it every single day. He’s a team guy. He has a very consistent, positive attitude towards what we’re doing and that’s what you’re looking for from your players. Someone asked about leadership earlier; I see that he’s a guy that’s going to be able to provide leadership for our group.”

On the development of freshman Mecole Hardman …
“Mecole, he’s doing fine. High expectations for all these new guys that come in, highly-recruited players. But when we get them here, we’re just working and working hard. Trying to get these guys dialed in to the techniques and fundamentals of what we want them to do and how we want them to do it, and he’s responding well. He’s a hard worker. He’s got a great attitude. He works well with his teammates. He fits well in the room. And he always wants to know, “Coach, was that good? Is that how you want me to do it?” And he’s always paying attention in meetings and things like that. I think his future is very bright.”

On taking in the atmosphere of the Athens community and the University of Georgia …
“Bulldog Nation is tremendous. I probably can’t say enough. My family and myself, we’re very excited to come here and I think we’ve settled in. The kids started school. Things seem to be going well there. It’s just a great town, great community. Everyone’s moving in the same direction it seems like, and it’s good, positive energy just around the university and around this program. Like I said, I feel like it’s a privilege to be here and it’s a blessing, and I can’t say enough great things about this place.”

On the competition and how he will decide who starts …
“There’s nothing set in stone. From a competition standpoint, the guys are competing for roles. There’s no one on our defense that has anything cemented in in terms of starting. But those roles will be defined as we go based on production. But the more guys that have roles, the better and so we want everyone that’s here to be able to contribute in a positive way to our defense. And so that’s our goal; to develop everyone and bring everyone along at a good pace so that we have more guys that are capable of playing winning football for us.”

On junior defensive back Malkom Parrish …
“Malkom, he is a tough, hard-nosed football player, very well respected in our locker room and on our staff. He is one of the hardest workers that we have. He’s very durable. He takes all of his reps. He’s focused in on his techniques. I see improvement in him. I mean, he’s just so coachable. He wants to be great, and he puts it out there every day. And so you know, the guys like that, and we have tons of guys like him. But those are guys that motivate you as a coach. Those are guys that you look forward to coaching to those guys every day, because you know what you’re going to get and it’s contagious. I think he’s doing fine.”

On live tackling in practice …
“We’ll have to see. I don’t have a crystal ball. But whatever the tempo is of the day, whether it’s tag-off or it’s thud, or high and hard, try and stay off ground, or it’s fall live to the ground, I’m sure our guys will do or attempt to do what we ask them to do.”

On inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann …
“Coach Shumann, first of all, he’s a tremendous person, high-integrity guy, just like all of our coaches are. And I got to know him last year at Alabama. High, I mean, high-level intelligence, tremendous passion for the game, excellent teacher. Cares about the players. Good staff guy, staff chemistry guy, and extremely, extremely hard worker. Very detailed, has a great understanding of our program from a scheme standpoint defensively, but also just how we operate as a program in general. So he’s a tremendous asset to our staff.”

On Glenn Schumann’s maturity as a young coach …
“It doesn’t surprise me. When I met him a year ago, I mean, you could see right away that he has a great understanding of the game. This is a great opportunity for him and I think the players respond well to him. I see improvement from that position, from the spring to now, and they improve every day. And that’s our jobs as coaches, to teach, motivate and develop players, I see that happening.”

On overall defensive philosophy …
“Again, and I really feel strongly about this: It is not a Mel Tucker defense. It is the University of Georgia defense, and it’s going to be a team effort. Our foundation is going to be in the best condition, to play with technique and fundamentals, play smart, play fast, play physical and just overall, a brand of relentless defense and relentless football — high velocity, nonstop. We want to stop the run, and we want to affect the quarterback with rush and coverage. We want to force takeaways, we want to be great in special situations and make people he can which check don’t give up big plays. In a nutshell, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney

Opening statement …
“The kids are working hard out there, guys. You’d be real proud of them. They are working through a lot of heat. It’s been fun to watch them as we move the depth charts around, watch them compete to see who is going to get on the field and represent Georgia this fall on the football field. So far the competitiveness has shined. We have some kids a little bit better shape than others. Some are working themselves into shape. They are fighting through a lot of dings out there. We’ve seen a lot of good mental toughness as they demonstrate that play-to-play. It’s been a lot of fun thus far. We’ll see how it goes. We’re a week in with our installations. The volume of offense we’re asking our kids to know right now is tremendous. We’re pumping a bunch of plays at them right now. Trying to test their aptitude to see how many can learn and how much they can learn. As you guys well know, we are only as strong as the weakest link in that chain. So we figure out our individuals and what they are able to do, and then we go from there. So it’s been fun so far, learned a lot about this football team, all the young kids coming in and seeing how they are performing. So far, so good. It’s been exciting and from that point on, I’ll open it up for anything you guys have.”

On comparing this year’s quarterback situation with any he has experienced in the past …
“Not really. This is a little unique that I think we have three kids that can go out and perform on the field and, routinely for me, I have not had three guys that can go out and play. Now, everybody has their opinion on the quarterbacks. It’s a polarizing position. You get a victory, you get told how great you are. You get the losses, you get told how bad you are. That kind of comes with it. This is a unique situation with the age group of these three kids we’re competing with right now to find out who is going to play and who is not. So it’s been a lot of fun. We have been rotating them around and they go from one group to another, and they are competing hard. But for me and my history, it is a little unique because I like all three of these kids. On any given day, I like one a little bit more than the other. I told them yesterday, I got a little upset with them. I said, somebody needs to start emerging a little bit here, showing a little bit more. As the volume comes in, it gets a little tougher on some of them. Some can handle a little more volume than others. That doesn’t necessarily make you the best player and the one we’re going to choose. But at the end of the day, every one of us are human beings, and like quarterbacks, we have fleas. We’re not all perfect. So they have to figure out what they do good and do it as best they can and work on their weaknesses, and I feel comfortable in saying they are all doing that right now. The competition is hot and it’s alive and it’s very competitive and it’s been fun to watch them. But it is unique to me to have three of them right now battling for this spot.”

On what factors into deciding who the starting quarterback will be …
“It Inevitably gets to who can score points and who can secure the football, because winning football games is so much about ball security. Here comes the cliches: Who can secure the ball, who throws is to our guys and not the opponent, and who shows that discipline to be able to make that decision; if I call a downfield throw and it isn’t there, to check it down; who can show the discipline to learn a new game plan week-to-week; who can do those things, and ultimately, who can drive and lead ten other men down into the end zone. So we are looking for that and we are putting them in those environments to see who can do that. So who can secure the ball and who can move a group of men and lead them down in the end zone. Who can affect others in a real positive way; that’s the best way to say it. And that’s how we’ll judge it at the end. You quantify as much as you can; this quarterback is on target this much, he’s making this many good decisions. And I can put all the numbers on everything they do. But at the end of the day, get down to Coach Smart, making that decision who he’s wanting to go with, with some of my influence on that one way or the other, and it’s not always about the math. Sometimes it’s about a gut feeling what you’re going to do. So at the end of the day, let them compete, it will sort out when it sorts out. There’s no timetable on this. And we’ll figure out where it goes from there.”

On junior quarterback Brice Ramsey and his ability to learn from three different offensive coordinators …
“He’s doing a fine job. I have no empathy. I’ve had three different schools in three years. What’s the big deal. Grow up, kiddo (laughter). If you want to go on and play, you’re forced to learn, regardless what style it is, who is the coordinator, none of that. Players play, coaches coach, administrators administrate and there is no overlap. Do your job to the best of your ability, learn, work your butt off, strive to be the best you possibly can be and see where it goes. Does it harm him knowing more football in different systems? I’ve never got the feeling that’s a negative. I’ve always felt like that’s better. You have the ability to have something to fall back upon; oh, that’s like this, that’s like this. And I’ll probably train him different than Mike (Bobo) or Brian (Schottenheimer) did and that’s kind of the way we all have to do our things. But do I think he’s behind the 8-ball and it’s unique? Not one bit. I think it’s a benefit to him.”

On junior wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie …
“Well, anytime you’ve got someone special with the ball, you’re always looking for ways to get him the ball. He’s good with that. He’s demonstrated that year-in, year-out; that he has that ability to do that. So we’ll be finding ways to get Isaiah the ball. Things I’ve noticed about Isaiah, he’s a physical football player. Everybody associates physicality with big guys. This is a little guy that pound-for-pound is as strong as anybody on our team and it doesn’t bother him one bit to mix it up. So that’s a good thing. Attempting to become a better football player and a leader on our football team. It’s interesting to watch his growth and maturity from the time we walked in the door to now. We’ve got him kind of quieted down a bit. He likes to talk a lot and we prefer just to go play. So he’s learning who we are and we’re learning who he is, and I think he’s doing a good job in that maturity and that growth, and I’d expect him to be on the field playing football for us. Do they need to be specific packages? There might be. But also, he can go out and play full-time for us if we need him to do so.”

On freshman quarterback Jacob Eason and what went into recruiting him …
“I’m flying down on plane, throw the Pitt shirt off, put the Georgia shirt on and meet with him an hour later. That’s the world we live in. Everybody else, that’s like craziness. But for us, it isn’t. You sell who you are. We’ve all, after 30-some years, have developed resumes, and some of my resume is good, some of it is not so good, just like you guys. We’re not different. I think people look at us in a unique mode because our lives are so public, but we’re just employees and we’re just workers. We have the same type of things, the good and the bads, everybody else does. So we get in here and we sit down and we talk a lot, and got to know Jacob and his family, and I enjoyed him a lot. I think he felt comfortable what we were going to try to do with him, as far as developmental and the program we were going to try to put up for him would fit his needs, and so he stuck with us and tickled to have him here. He’s an extremely talented young man that’s learning his way around of being a good quarterback.”

On the tight ends …
“I think it’s as deep as any group I’ve ever been around. They have the ability to do a lot of things. They can be inline blockers, we can detach them and throw them footballs as a wide receiver. They have a unique ability to learn. This is a pretty sharp room. You walk into that room, they have a high aptitude. It doesn’t bother them to learn 14 new concepts in a day. They will pick that up quickly. We have smart kids at that room, which at that position, you need to have. Other than the quarterback spot, there will be more demand at the tight end position than any other position on our football team. They have got to learn to be a tackle in the run game and a wide-out in the passing game. So I can see us in a multiple tight end sets, if needed, if that’s the direction we need to go to win that football game, then I feel real comfortable doing that. What I’m looking for is all those pieces. If I have to play with three tight ends to play in a game to win, we can. If we’ve got to play with four wide receivers in a game to win a game, we can. And that’s what you do in recruiting. You try to develop enough depth in your program that you have enough players that when they go on the field, you feel comfortable when you’re setting a game plan that you’re not hindered by your personnel, in saying, well, I’m not sure I can do that yet. And right now, in our infant stages here, I’m trying to figure out how many of those wide-outs we can win with, how many of those tight ends we can win with, as we approach this season and it’s coming up on us pretty quick. But I feel real comfortable with the depth and aptitude on that room.”

On the playmakers he has on offense …
“A playmaker, that’s interesting. I think people associate playmakers with people who are creative when they have the ball in their hand. I think (Isaiah) Wynn is a tremendous playmaker in the front. He is a lightweight kid with great feet and great football intellect and seldom gets beat. He makes plays when I don’t expect him to and gets leverage on a D-Lineman he shouldn’t. So he’s a great playmaker; we associate that with the ball. Do we have players that can do that? Yeah, we have guys that can run fast vertically that might not be as shaky, so their play-making ability might be on vertical balls. We have these big tight ends that might be those third medium guys that are forced to make plays. The first round picks we associate that with, I don’t know. Let’s go play and find that out. But as far as having enough players to move the ball down the field, I feel comfortable in saying, I believe we’ll be okay that way. We’ve got enough players. I think coaches, we always want better players. Never been a coordinator up here that doesn’t want 10 great wide-outs, four tight ends, seven running backs, four quarterbacks, 20 linemen. We all want more players. We want better, great quality players to win in the SEC with, and we’ll continue to do that through recruiting. But I feel comfortable in saying we should be able to find a way to utilize our talent to move the ball down the field.”

On how much the decision at quarterback depends on the injuries to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel…
“I think you’d be a fool if you didn’t consider that early on, but I don’t know how much. It will be weighed, but I don’t know how much weight it will carry in that decision. Inevitably it’s going to down to which one of those boys can move the ball down the field and score enough points. But that has to be looked at, the health of positions whether it be tackle or running back or whatever it happens to be, everything. Nothing is looked at in a vacuum. Everything is the totality of what you’re dealing with. In the quarterback position, it doesn’t just affect our offense. It affects our football team. And Coach (Kirby Smart) is very much aware of that and sensitive to those issues. We’ll keep working our way through that, but yeah, I think that you have to think about everything when you’re picking quarterbacks. But I also don’t think you should be so — it’s just another one of 11 positions. I tell the kids all the time, at quarterback, your job is one job: You’ve got to get the ball and deliver it to the playmakers, either hand it to them or throw it to them. That’s it. Don’t overthink this thing. Don’t think you have got to do something outside of the system or you’ve got to do all that craziness. Just do your job and do it the best you can daily.”

On influence he had in bringing offensive line coach Sam Pittman to Georgia …
“Not much. I tried to convince him to stay. I didn’t want him around here. He’s a pain in the butt (Laughter). No, you guys know Sam and I’s history. We’re dear — he’s one of my best friends and he’s a heck of a line coach and an outstanding line recruiter. I always feel comfortable when Sam is with us. We’re going to have good players and he’s going to coach them better than anybody else. If I had any influence on it, I’m tickled that Kirby offered him a job and we got him here. He’s a good football coach and a good man.”

On why he and Coach Pittman have such a great relationship …
“I don’t think that we take life real seriously. I think we understand where football fits in the big picture. We’re trying to help these young men grow up. We want to win football games and do the best we can, but we also laugh at ourselves a little bit. I think his personality and my personality blend really well. We understand and we desire the same things in life. We want to win football games and that keeps a smile on our face.”

On how he wants to use Nick Chubb going forward …
“I think Nick has demonstrated in the past what a talented football player he is. I don’t see us changing a lot of what’s been done with him before. Nothing’s broke there. So let’s don’t fix it. He can go downhill as a heavy running back and that’s what we’re doing. He’s out there on the field working every day to get himself in shape, and I feel comfortable we’re on track of where they are at with the medical stuff. I’m sure Coach will talk more about that when he gets here, but from my perspective, and I stay out of all the medical questions. But at the end of the day he’s practicing hard like everybody else is. I see Nick Chubb being the player he’s been before and will continue to do so. He’s a downhill-running son of a gun, so let’s hand him the ball and see what he can do.”

On how he evaluates the highs and lows of his offense …
“I think that when you’ve been doing it as long as I have, you’ve got to watch yourself and don’t get too stagnant. You belief in some certain beliefs in a pro-style offense, that right now things that are in vogue in college football are a little foreign to some of the things you do. So I have to force myself to stay educated constantly on the newest things. Whether or not they fit in our system or not and how they fit in our system is interesting. Everybody likes to do a lot of offense, but I look at it, and you guys are going to find this hard to believe, but I’ll draw the analogy of a pie, because I like pie. You just got so many pieces of pie, what do you want to get good at. So we’re going to spend so much time in the run game, play-action, quick gain screens, where they all fit in; all the new RPOs, they take a lot of time, how much time do I have to do that. And you try to blend that with Coach Smart’s philosophy of what he’s wanting us to get done to hopefully manufacture as good of offense as we can. So I’ve got to find time to educate myself on the new stuff going on out there in the spread offense world a little bit, because I do think there’s a lot of good going on. There’s a tremendous amount of creative people out there running offenses. But I do believe at the end of the day to have a successful offense, you have got to be very physical in this conference. You’ve got to win situational offense. You’ve got to win short yardage. You’ve got to win goal line. When there’s three minutes left in the game, you have got to run the ball out so the defense don’t have to go play. And to do that, in my history at Purdue, I was unable to be able to do that to win the close games. That’s when I went in the NFL and came back with a little different philosophical look on the game.”

On how Sony Michel’s injury affects his preparation …
“I just got off the river fly fishing when I got the news and I changed to a wet fly that afternoon when I went out to try to catch some better trout. What am I going to do about it? I can’t do nothing about injuries that take place with kids. I’ll take you back a year earlier at the University of Pittsburgh. We had a tackle, messing around after practice, dislocation of the knee. Lost our starting right tackle for the season. Things happen in life, my goodness. These kids are kids. They are going to go out and do things and things happen. You don’t worry about them. They happen. You learn at my age and our age, I would say, you know the things you can control and the other things you don’t. Now, is it disappointing, certainly because I think Sony is a super football player. And there were specific installation plays that I’ve slowed down and pushed back a little bit, depending on his health. But at the end of the day, I feel comfortable Sony will be back and he’ll be ready to roll and I’m excited about it. I love the kid. I love his spirit. I love his attitude. Things happen, man, they happen. You move on. It’s not for me to worry about too much.”

On comparing this year’s injuries to last season at Pitt …
“I did have, for about half a quarter, and then what happens, next guy in. You know, you just try to get everybody ready with enough quality depth that you feel comfortable with, you can go win those football games, and that’s all we can do as coaches. We can’t do anything else, and injuries are part of the game. You move on. Do I have a magic wand or a special formula? No, I hate it when these young men get hurt. It hurts me deeply when those things happen. But it is life and you move right on and do the best you can.”

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