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Smart, Bulldogs preview Notre Dame game

Kirby Smart
Photo: Perry McIntyre Jr./UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed this weekend’s game at Notre Dame with media members on Monday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

Smart and the Bulldogs offered the following comments during Monday’s media session.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening comments … 

“I will open with a quick update on Jacob (Eason). I know you guys are probably concerned and want information on that. After our medical staff did x-rays and a MRI during the game Saturday night, they found he has a sprained left knee ligament, which is non-surgical. We expect a full recovery this season. He is performing rehab daily. He started yesterday. Not sure the length of time he will be out, which I know you will want to know, but we do not know that yet. It will be week-to-week. More importantly, his family and his parents were with him Saturday and got to spend time with him. He was down a little bit, but he will back from it, he will be back this year and we are actually fortunate that it was not worse than it was probably. So, that is the good news.

On to Notre Dame now for us. We are excited to play a program of that much prestige. I think a lot of Brian Kelly and his staff. They do a tremendous job. They have a very storied program of which our players have been made aware of and understand. They have some really good football players. They played a really good game Saturday and did a lot of good things with their program. So, we are excited for the opportunity. I know a lot of our fan base is planning on going up there. I think these kind of games in college football are really cool because you get to go play somebody that you don’t normally play. I know our fan base is really excited. Our team is excited. I mean it will be the first team ever from Georgia to get to go to South Bend and play and we are excited for that opportunity.”

On clarifying if Jacob Eason will play this week … 

“Just to clarify, Jacob will not play this week but Jacob is going to be week-to-week from this point forward. We don’t know how long it is going to be. It’s going to be kind of week-to-week.”

On how much his confidence increased in freshman QB Jake Fromm following last Saturday’s performance … 

“Sometimes it happens the unexpected way. You certainly don’t script that to happen that way. I thought he came in and managed the situation well. Every situation will be different because App State obviously wasn’t planning for him, so the next team probably will be. We know that. Jake Fromm is a mature freshman that’s going to be able to take over the offense and hopefully go out and execute. He’s got some good players around him. He’s got to use those guys.”

On how much of the offense he trusts Fromm with … 

“Jake does a good job. He is a very mature kid. We are excited about where he is at and we have to continue to work with him. I know the team is really excited about the opportunity to go play Notre Dame and that is what we are focused on.”

On how Eason has responded and what he tells him as a coach in this situation … 

“You be positive (with him). You look at it from the outlook of — I mean we had Nick talk to him. It could have very easily been similar to Nick’s and it wasn’t. We had several guys talk to him. I think he knows that in the game of football injuries happen. Look across college football now and we are not the only ones dealing with it. You look at history — there have been teams that have had this happen before. Other guys have to step up and play and everybody has to play around him. I am just disappointed for Jacob because of how hard he worked and how much he grew and how much better he had gotten. He really didn’t get to showcase that and show it the other day.”

 On any updates on Solomon Kindley, Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish …

“We hope Solomon is able to go. We are going to find out a lot more. We don’t know what the recovery did — not playing the other night. We find out where he is at a little more today. Same thing with AD (Aaron Davis). He got to play a little bit in the game. We think AD is going to be fine and get to go. And then Malkom again is week-to-week.”

On coaching against Notre Dame in 2013 national championship with Alabama and any similarities to this season … 

“It is hard for me to do comparisons because I can’t remember that far back to be honest with you. Obviously, we had a lot of time to prepare for that game and that team was probably a little different. I know quarterback wise the kid, the quarterback they have now is a really special and talented player — extremely fast, extremely athletic. I was aware of who he was because he was at the same high school as Minkah Fitzpatrick when we recruited Minkah, so I got to see him there. But, they have a great program. They always have great players. They have a really good looking offensive line. They’ve got four returning starters. Their defensive linemen are really big kids, so it’s exciting.”

On how he puts together film in a situation like this with Notre Dame only playing one game … 

“I think every place is different. I think everybody does it a different way. They go out and sometimes get film from the last time he was there. They have a staff that come from a little bit everywhere. They have a receivers coach from I think Arizona State or somewhere — they had worked together before. Coach Kelly has been involved in the offense and he is still there, so there are still remnants of that. I think any time you play a team like that you have to do a great offseason study, which is what we have done, and try to put together as much as you can and do the best you can because at the end of the day you have one game tape to go off of.”

On his team’s resilience and response following the injury to Eason … 

“I think anytime you get injuries, especially at the quarterback position, it tests your mettle a little bit. I think that is what this team will do. We have tried to put them through adversity throughout camp, throughout the offseason. It’s the reason you do what you do. You look back — think about Ohio State, which was in a little different place, but a few years ago they lost Braxton Miller. Then they lost (J.T.) Barrett I think with an ankle maybe in the same year and then they went all the way to their third guy. So, it has happened before. Certainly, you do not plan on it happening, but those are things that happen in football and you’ve got to have guys prepared to play. It’s the reason why you do two-spot drills, the reason you have two teams going on. It’s the reason why you scrimmage everybody and not just the one’s, so those guys have to get prepared. I think our team is going to take it in stride. They are going to go out there and practice well and practice hard. They get it. It’s not like everybody is gloom and doom because we did not get to see Jacob much this year.”

On how the freshmen graded out to him from this past Saturday … 

“Some good, some poor — I mean each guy kind of individually. A lot of them got in on special teams. I think the biggest jump they can make is the next game because a lot of them did not know what to expect. To be honest with you, a lot of those kids had anxiety, were a little nervous. Some of them did not do the right things all the time. We hope to use that today to teach and grow, but we are no different than any team in the country. They had guys play for them who were freshmen and those guys have to grow and get better. If they are playing as a freshman that means they are pretty talented. The hope is that those guys are putting them in there for a reason so that in games like these the moment is not too big for them.”

On QB Brice Ramsey  deciding to come back and what that meant for the team … 

“You certainly hope it’s a big blessing because he has been able to get a lot of reps. I feel unfortunate for Brice because your three quarterback doesn’t typically get any reps, so as the three last week it was not like he took practice reps. He did not take a lot of them. What he takes is usually when y’all are there for routes on air. He does not get a lot of opportunity because your second guy has to take all the reps, so he did not get a lot of those. He will be able to get a lot more this week obviously and hopefully use those the right way so he can play a little better.”

On Notre Dame having three guys rush over 100 yards and the challenges of the run-pass option … 

“A lot of challenges. First of all, he (Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush) is an explosive athlete. He looks as fast as any player on their team. Maybe a couple of the wide outs are faster, but he is a very explosive player. They do a good job of the R-P-O system. I’ve had a lot of respect for Coach (Chip) Long for a long time their offensive coordinator. When he was at Memphis, I watched a game one night and I think they scored every single possession of the game once. It was like score, score, score, score, score. He does a good job of using the dual-threat quarterback but the backs are big and physical. I mean bigger than our backs and physical. They run downhill at you. Like I said, they have four offensive linemen who have played for a long time and they are as good looking an o-line as you will play ever. They are all big and they do a good job of running the ball, but the quarterback’s dual-threat, which you saw the guy last week scramble around. This guy is going to be much faster and much more athletic doing that.”

On personal memories of Notre Dame’s football program…

“My memories of Notre Dame are more Rocket Ismail, Tim Brown, around that time.  I was really too young to remember the national championship game and I was not actually in the state of Georgia yet. It’s a special place I know that.  They have had a lot of talented players- the most Heisman Trophy winners, All-Americans, second nationally in victories- it’s just a resume that speaks for itself.  My personal memories are Tim Brown or Rocket Ismail returning punts.”

 

On knowing Jake Fromm beyond what is seen on film…

“Jake is a gamer.  He is a kid that grew up around the game.  I look at him and compare him to a coach’s son, a football junkie.  He likes it. He loves being around it.  He’s always cheering and fired up out there.  Every time he makes a good throw or a good play in practice he is jacked and he is as excited for the kid who made the play as he is for himself.  As a defensive coach you may see him cheering and think that he’s rubbing it in, but that’s just who he is.  He really is passionate about the game.  He can’t let his emotions get in the way for him because, for him, it’s just an excitement.  He’s that kind of way. He’s just competitive.”

 

On the quarterback depth chart…

“We have a plan for that and we will rotate guys throughout practice.  We are very fortunate to have a very good walk-on program.  We have some good guys to help us. It really helps that Brice [Ramsey] is back because it allows Stetson [Bennett] to also stay with us and help us on scout team.  We have Sam Vaughn who did a great job last year with the scout team and took a lot of reps in the spring when Brice wasn’t here.  We have a couple other athletic guys that can play quarterback, so we will do it by committee and kind of by period.”

 

On what made Jake Fromm come to Georgia behind another five-star quarterback…

“I don’t think Jake Fromm cares about the depth chart.  So many people think that kids do, but the best quarterbacks that I’ve ever been around are the ones that don’t care.  I don’t think he ever cared.  He loved Georgia.  The kid has loved Georgia since he was growing up and he has wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog all his life, so that is what he chose to do.  It didn’t matter who was here.  He is pretty confident in himself and the best ones are.  That’s what he made the decision based on.”

 

On J.R. Reed providing a spark in the secondary…

“I have been a J.R. Reed fan since he got here.  He is very competitive.  He loves the game.  He plays fast.  He is a good open-field tackler.  I think the kid is a student of the game.  He takes it serious.  He has the right approach to the game.  I have enjoyed watching him grow.  I thought he played a good game the other night, but he has to continue to play better and improve.  He played a position, STAR, that he had really only started practicing recently and he also played safety.  I thought that he was one of the bright spots to go out in the game and do it with the lights on.  We need him to continue to play well in the secondary to get where we got to go.”

 

On grading the offensive line run-pass-block, specifically Andrew Thomas…

“Up and down.  I think each guy was up and down.  A couple good plays, a couple bad plays.  I thought Andrew handled that moment well, he had a couple MA’s, but that was to be expected.  They did a couple things that we hadn’t seen that were new to him. Welcome to football.  He will get that every week in this league.  Nobody is going to be just predictable and do the same thing.  We will continue to work with those units and try to get the best guys.  The hardest thing is not knowing about Solomon [Kindley].  Whether or not he’s going to be able to go and be there.  He had earned that starting right, but with his injury he wasn’t 100% healthy.”

 

On the concern of playing in an iconic venue, especially having 17 true-freshmen who played ….

“I really don’t know.  The kids nowadays are different.  If it was my freshman year and we were going there I think it would be much more intimidating.  To be honest with you, these kids know Notre Dame’s players.  A long time ago you didn’t know Notre Dame’s players unless you saw them on TV because you didn’t get recruited with them.  These kids have gone to All-Star games with those guys. They know those players.  Our kids from Philly played in the state championship game. There are a lot of guys who have played in big games before.  I know it’s not the same thing as playing at Notre Dame, but to them there is not a huge difference.  Certainly, when you go on the road the environment changes.  You have to try to simulate that environment, make sure they are calm and that they play well.”

 

On Stetson Bennett…

“Stetson is a talented player.  He is a bright surprise of our camp.  Coach (Glenn) Schumann does a tremendous job with our walk-on program.  It is one of the best in the country because you have a lot of kids that would love to come to the University of Georgia and to get that opportunity to do that.  His father went to school here and he decided to come.  He has been a really pleasant surprise. He has great arm strength.  He sees the field well. He’s not exceptionally tall, but you can ask our defensive players, he’s been a handful on the scout team.  He has done a great job with that.”

 

On Notre Dame’s offensive line, especially Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey…

“I think McGlinchey is going to be a first round pick, if not, he’s going to be really close.  He is very impressive.  That whole left side is really strong and powerful.  They have a good offensive line as you see.  We are excited for the challenge.  Our defensive line has to step up and play well because they are going to play against some big, physical guys.  Once you include them and the tight ends, it’s a very impressive group, size-wise.”

 

On the challenges of seeing different offenses…

“It’s going to be a great challenge.  We are going to be finding out a lot more about our defense.  The matchups are going to be bigger and faster.  The quarterbacks are going to be bigger and faster.  The offensive line is bigger, the wide-outs are all 6-3, 6-4, 6-5, so the matchups are going to be different.  It’s going to be a lot different from that perspective.  I have a lot of respect for what Coach Long does offensively.  This team is going to go fast, they’re going to go tempo.  We have work to do and it presents a great challenge for us defensively.  We’re excited for it and we have three days to prepare for it.”

——

#17 Senior OLB Davin Bellamy

On the week-to-week approach…

“I would say the same, but you have to put them on different scales. You never want to take any opportunity for granted. With this place having so much history, and to be going there and Georgia playing in the national championship awhile back, it adds a lot of ‘umph’ to the game. Every week we want to approach every game the same.”

On playing at Notre Dame…

“That’s the place growing up that you always want to play at. Very legendary. The way it’s built, the infrastructure of it. I think it’ll be really cool to play in it.”

On the team message going into week two…

“Things aren’t going to change here. You take every play the same. We’re going to go out there and have a tough practice on Tuesday, and a tough practice on Wednesday, no matter who we’re playing, and I think one’s, two’s, three’s all know that.”

On Jake Fromm…

“If you guys knew how well this guy prepares, as a student of the game, even in the summertime in seven-on-seven. The guy is the real deal.”

#6 Senior WR Javon Wims

On Mecole Hardman and his switch from defense to offense…

“He’s a true athlete. When I went against him [at practice], you’ve got to respect that speed. But he’s a true athlete, he can feel comfortable on both ends.”

On the touchdown pass from Fromm in the Appalachian State game…

“I think it was a perfect throw. He gave me the opportunity to make a play on the ball.”

On playing at Notre Dame this weekend…

“Being from Miami, I remember watching the 30 for 30 on Miami vs. Notre Dame, and that stuck out to me. But also just knowing the history they’ve got. They’ve got the most national championship wins. They’ve got the huge beautiful statue, the Touchdown Jesus. They’ve got a lot of rich history.”

On when he noticed Fromm’s talent…

“I saw it in the spring, with the practices leading up. I thought, okay, this kid might be really good. I think in the spring games, with his throws and his just overall smart, his knowledge of the game.”

#20 RS-Sophomore DB J.R. Reed

On making Georgia debut this past Saturday and traveling to Notre Dame…

“It was amazing. I felt like I was at home. I really liked the crowd and I had a great adrenaline rush when I ran out. It was the first time experiencing 93,000. My heart was beating out of my chest but once I got that first hit everything just settled in and it was easy for me. This is what you dream of. Playing in front of 93,000 and then going to play in South Bend against a good team like that, a historic team.”

On transitioning to the STAR position…

“I always believed I can play any spot back there in that secondary and when coach asked me to play it, I knew I could do it since I played safety. I knew what the STAR position does and I just took a full head of steam and went at it.”

 #47 Senior FB Christian Payne

On facing and traveling to Notre Dame…

“It has been a long time since we have played Notre Dame, 1980. The glory days so to speak so it is a little rematch and I’m sure that they are out for revenge to try to get us back for that. We are just really excited to play a team like Notre Dame, a very prestigious organization and school. The history is great with guys like Rudy and Joe Montana. We are really looking forward to it. It is one of the most historic places you can go in college football”

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. robtrodes

    Sep 4, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Good luck and stay healthy. We’re looking forward to your visit as well; it will be as much of a test for us as for you. Here’s hoping that both teams play in a way that they can be proud of, no matter who wins.

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