UGA offense talks with the media at Allstate Sugar Bowl
The 5th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs are set to take on the 15th-ranked Texas Longhorns on New Year’s Day.
On Sunday, head coach Kirby Smart, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, along with several offensive players, met with the media to discuss the upcoming game.
Below are quotes from the press conference via UGA:
Head Coach Kirby Smart
COACH SMART: I’d like to open with a special thanks to the City of New Orleans. Our team has thoroughly enjoyed our time here. Weather has not been perfect, I would say that. But we certainly have had a great time. Our kids have commented on several of the events.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has been gracious in taking really good care of us. I know my family has enjoyed it and our staff and athletic department have thoroughly enjoyed being here. It’s one of the first‑class bowls in the country, always has been. And Georgia has great tradition and history here with the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish Coach [Mark] Richt a happy retirement. He’s meant a lot to me in my career, hired me, and has been very thorough and helpful in my career and has been a big beneficiary to the University of Georgia. Has given so much back to the University of Georgia and been such a good man and leader of this institution. We wish him well in his retirement.
Also, Ben Watson whose 15‑year career in the NFL is coming to an end. And he’s such a great representative. He spoke to our team last year in one of the most compelling talks that we’ve ever had. And we hope to get him back a lot more now that he’s got some more free time coming up after this season. So I’m excited about those guys.
So as we look at Texas and this opportunity our team has, I think the opportunity in front of our team is as grand as there is, as there can be, because for our guys they’re looking at it as an opportunity to play to a standard, to make a statement, to play to the excellence that we try to create at the University of Georgia. They’ve got an opportunity to do that against one of the top programs in the country.
The guy that just walked out of here, Tom Herman, I’ve had immense respect for, for a long time. Saw what he did firsthand at Ohio State with the offense. That led to Houston where he had an unbelievable coaching career, did a great job. And now he is turning Texas around. I know the standard that he has. I know the way they practice. I know the leadership qualities he has, and I know the recruiting base he has. So we know we’re up against a very, very, very respectable opponent who does a great job on both sides of the ball and special teams. So our kids acknowledge that.
The last I guess 30 days, 31 days, whatever it’s been since our last game, have been wild and crazy because there’s been a lot of action, in all of college football but especially with the University of Georgia. And we’re really excited to get back out on the field and play a game.
Q. You’ve got two physical receivers in J.J. (Jeremiah) Holloman and Riley Ridley. That said, how have they been able to prepare you in defending Texas tall receivers Lil’Jordan Humphrey, 6’4″, and 6’6″ Collin Johnson? Have they been able to give the secondary the looks they needed in practice to defend two guys like that?
COACH SMART: I don’t know if you’ll actually know that until the game because those two receivers for Texas are as big and as physical as we’ve faced all year. They do a great job of mixing those guys up and moving them around and creating matchups for them.
They’ve got a lot of secondaries in the Big 12 who have pressed them. They’ve got guys who played off of them. Those wideouts are elite wideouts, and they’re not just elite because of their ability to catch. They’re physical. They block. They’re tough.
We’ve faced some big wideouts a couple times at LSU. We’ve faced some wideouts of good size in our offense but none quite like these two. So this dynamic will be unique, and we tried to simulate that but not necessarily with just Riley and J.J. We’ve had Matt Landers and Tommy Bush who were good size‑wise, maybe not the bulk as those two, but we’ve been able to get some good matchups and some good contests out there with those guys.
Q. Without Deandre Baker, how difficult has it been adjusting with a new look secondary this week and has Deandre contributed to any game prep?
COACH SMART: Deandre has done a great job from a leadership standpoint, confidence standpoint for those guys. As far as the difficulty of preparing for it, the difficulty comes tomorrow because he’s not out there. The prep so far has not been difficult because he’s not there; it’s been concerning because you’ve got a little bit more unknown when he’s not out there. You feel really comfortable the last however many games, three years, that Deandre is going to control his side of the field.
Now you’ve got not two new guys ‑‑ two guys that have experience ‑‑ they don’t have the experience of Deandre Baker ‑‑ who get an opportunity to go out and play. And that’s probably the most exciting thing, seeing those guys play.
Q. We had a chance to ask Jim [Chaney] about this yesterday, kind of a whirlwind‑type thing with Stetson Bennett now rejoining your program. This is the first time we’ve had a chance to ask you about it. What did you guys see in that and bringing him back? And I know you guys tried to hold on to him before he left the first time. How excited are you to bring a guy like that back who you know so well?
COACH SMART: I’m very excited. I think any time you get a chance to bring someone in your program who is a proven commodity that you know what they stand for, you know how they practice each day, you know how they come to work, and you know his love for the University of Georgia ‑‑ here’s a young man who grew up in state, had an opportunity to go to several universities, chose to come to Georgia as a walk‑on. Really played well. Earned a scholarship. Decided to go to a junior college, played well there. Led his team to a championship game.
Now he’s got an opportunity to come back into a very similar system that he left, and I’m proud of the fact that we were able to get him to come back because he had other opportunities. And we’re looking forward to working with him.
Q. Could you update us on D’Andre Walker and Jordan Davis, their status for the game? And, two, when you said the team was going to play to make a statement, what is the statement? Is it that Georgia was one of the four best or another type of statement?
COACH SMART: I think any time you think standard and statement for us, it’s really speaking to the fact that we want to play to our brand of football, to our level of competition.
Make no bones about it, they’re representing their conference. We’re representing our conference, and that’s always a challenge, everybody plays the SEC with a chip on their shoulder. So we’re coming to play to a standard and make a statement to ourselves that we are an elite program. We want to be considered that. We want to be in that conversation. And I think to do that, you’ve got to play to a standard. And that’s our goal for our kids.
As far as the injuries, D’Andre Walker struggled a little bit. His groin has been bothering him, hasn’t been able to go full speed. He’ll be a game‑time decision, maybe situational, the route we’re using.
And then Jordan Davis has kind of been the same. May be a situational player that he can play in certain situations. But to be honest, both these guys have struggled to get back 100%.
Q. You mentioned about some wild and crazy times since the SEC Championship game. Can you tell about the level of how locked in your team is to this game? And is that hard to gauge for bowl teams?
COACH SMART: I don’t think it’s anything to do with the bowl game. I think it’s week to week you would question as a head coach where are we from a standpoint of focus and concentration. I don’t think you ever know that.
With that much time, it makes it a lot harder because you really don’t really want them focused on the bowl game for 30 days. You want them focused on getting better for 20‑25 of those days. They’ve got to concern themselves with final exams, decisions they have to make, so many other things going on.
We just want to coach and get better. The last, I would say, ten days we really focused on Texas, and our kids have understood that. They have understood the importance of that.
You want to grow that momentum into the game to the excitement of the game. 8:45 kickoff, nationally televised audience, only game going on. We want those kids ready to go play. We want to have good tempo when it comes to that.
I certainly have confidence in our kids’ focus and concentration, they turn the tape on. They see Texas beating Oklahoma and get on top of Oklahoma in a championship game who is a team we have a full amount of respect for and understand the caliber of a team like Texas.
Most of our kids nowadays, they grew up and got recruited with those same kids from Texas. They went to all‑star games. They know every one of these players, and they know these guys are good football players. It’s not about that for us. It’s about how we play and how we control our standard.
Q. Do you like the current targeting rule, or do you think it’s too punitive and needs to be adjusted? How the hell do you coach tackling anymore?
COACH SMART: It’s hard to coach tackling. It’s hard to be argumentative with a rule that’s meant to provide safety. When you look at it from a standpoint of: Does your child play football and how would you want your child coached in football, I certainly don’t want anybody teaching my son to lead with a helmet or crown of a helmet.
I think the hardest part is the judgment of mid‑level targeting, where we’re trying to go for the middle of a person and they move. And all of a sudden you end up with a targeting. That’s the toughest thing, but that’s part of the game. And you can’t say well, I’m going to make it okay for this one but not okay for this one. So it’s a fine line. It’s really tough.
As long as it’s making our sport safer because what I hate to see is injuries deter a sport that I think is really good for people. I think this sport teaches you so many life lessons that because it’s got some injury and stuff in it, we’ve got to do a really good job of protecting our players on both sides of the fence.
But tackling is tough. In bowl games in particular we’ve talked really hard, showed examples every day of how tackling disappears during bowl games.
Q. First of all, what have you learned as a coach in terms of how you get kids to rebound from disappointment? And then, also, is there anything in particular about this season that you think will help the players who are returning next year, next season?
COACH SMART: First thing, I think disappointment is a part of life. I think everybody in this room can say they’ve been disappointed at some time or another, they’ve been let down. But it actually makes, when you do things well, that much grander because if you just won all the time or you just had success all the time, you’d never feel the agony of that disappointment. So we have to embrace that in order to really enjoy the other side of it, which is what we do this for.
The comeback is what’s you do this for. So this is our opportunity to go out and finish it and do it the right way, and we want to do that.
As far as what our players have learned from this season that might help them next year, I think the biggest thing is focus and concentration on every game. For us we played in a tough, hostile environment at LSU and we didn’t play our best game. We didn’t coach our best game, me in particular. So I think when you start with that, you’ve got to be at your best every single game because, in the end, they all matter, especially in the SEC. So whether it’s that game, another game, you’ve got to continue to grow and get better, which I really feel like our team developed and got better throughout the year. And we’ve got to continue to do that next year.
Q. What are you going to remember about this year’s senior class? And what’s going to be your message to them tomorrow night before you take the field?
COACH SMART: I think the biggest thing is they can leave a lasting legacy and what is your legacy going to be? They’ve got a chance to be the second or tied for the second‑winningest senior class to come out of this program, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. They’ve also got the beneficiary of more games than some of the past teams in the ’80s. But it’s pretty incredible what they’ve been able to do in a short time.
And I want them to think about how do you want to be remembered? What do you want people to say about you? You want them to say that you went out and laid everything on the line and competed as hard as you could because a lot of these seniors, this will be their last football game. And I want them to have a positive taste in their mouth, and I want them to be able to come back to the University of Georgia and be proud of the fact that they were able to win a New Year’s Six bowl. And I think that’s really important.
Q. This is more question about the progression and evaluation of practices. But there’s some things up in the air with Isaac [Nauta] and Luke Ford as they go forward. What type of things do you see from those other guys who maybe haven’t gotten the opportunity to contribute this year and how they might be an asset going forward?
COACH SMART: First off, I think Charlie Woerner does a tremendous job. Charlie is one of the most athletic, physical blockers, especially for a guy that played every position in high school football defense, receiver, everything. He grew into a tight end body, and he’s one of the toughest, hardest workers who never complains, never says a word in practice. He just works. He’s gotten a lot better throughout his career and will continue to do so.
Throughout these bowl practices, John FitzPatrick has made a bunch of plays. He’s had to do probably the toughest job on our team. He doubles as a tight end on the scout team. He’s had to play some tackle on the scout team due to a number of injuries on the offensive line throughout the season. But he’s grown and gotten better. I think when you put those two guys out there, they both have a chance to help us. And that’s with the stuff we’ve got up in the air you mentioned.
Q. Mel Tucker, defensive coordinator, now head coach at Colorado, will you be calling defensive sets in this game?
COACH SMART: We’ll be doing it by committee as we talked about. We’ve got a group and a staff that work really hard together. Between Dan [Lanning], [Glenn] Schumann, Tray Scott, myself, the GAs work really hard. Both Wendel [Davis] and Bakari [Guice] have done a great job of stepping up and helping from that standpoint.
We do it by committee most of the time anyway. Mel called the defenses for us. But between series, during the week game planning, it was done by committee because that’s how you put a game plan together. But that’s very similar to how it will be done in this game.
Q. Wonder your thoughts on the two Playoff games the other day. Anything that you saw that further validated your opinion you should have been one of those teams taking part?
COACH SMART: I’ll be honest with you, we were practicing and working during the Clemson‑Notre Dame. So we finished somewhere around the third quarter. I didn’t get to see hardly any of that. We came in as coaching staff and watched the tape.
I got to see some of the Alabama and Oklahoma game and certainly thought that both these teams were really powerful offensive football teams and played a good football game.
But our concern, as you well know, is with Texas. And everything that we’ll be judged on is how we finish, and we want to finish the right way. And we want to play our best football game at the end of the year, which is tomorrow night.
Q. You talked about Mark Richt at the top of the press conference. What did he mean to you on a personal level, and then, I guess, what do you recall when he kind of hired you in ’05 or whatever?
COACH SMART: Mark has been great for my personal career because I got to meet what is now my wife during my time coming back to the University of Georgia. He gave me an opportunity to coach on the offensive side of the ball, which I’ve always said was a different perspective for me.
Neil Calloway was the offensive coordinator, and Mike Bobo was the quarterbacks coach. And they fought to hire me when there was a defensive position on the staff I didn’t get hired for, Mark had enough confidence in me as a coach and recruiter to hire me as running backs coach. And it’s one of the most valuable years of my career because it was the most different, and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity were it not for him and his wife Katharyn. What they’ve gone for the city of Athens and University of Georgia is incredible, and they’re great people.
Q. You touched on this a bit at the beginning of your opening statement. But how was the perception of Texas as a program maybe changed from where it was when Coach [Tom] Herman first took the job?
COACH SMART: That’s a tough one because I don’t really know where that perception was when he took the job. We didn’t play him the time I was at Alabama, and we didn’t really play him since I’ve been at Georgia. So we’ve kind of overland since he took over.
I think the national brand of Texas has stepped up with some of the bigger games they’ve been able to play in. I know from a recruiting standpoint we’ve gone head to head because he’s come to Georgia and recruited nationally. He’s come to Florida and recruited nationally. And we’ve gone to Texas. So we’ve had more times that we’ve actually crossed paths than I ever remember during my time at University of Alabama. So he’s done a tremendous job from that standpoint.
They’ve never really gone anywhere from a standpoint of football players looking at football players. These kids look at things completely different than the men and women in this room including myself because they have a generation of going to play in all‑star games and having social media as a format in which they interact with these kids on other teams. They know these kids on other teams, and they know the caliber of football players. They see the track times in Texas. They see the all‑star games in Texas. They know there’s high‑quality football players in the state of Texas.
Q. With D’Andre Walker limited, who stands to benefit from additional playing time? And talk about the confidence you have in those individuals.
COACH SMART: Behind him we’ve got a group of freshmen that have all kind of played different roles throughout the year with Brenton Cox, Robert Beal. Azeez [Ojulari] getting an opportunity to work in that group, too, with the time we’ve had ‑‑ extended time we’ve had to practice getting him prepared.
And then you got to look at Malik Herring and other guys that play defensive end. It will be done by committee and hopeful to get the most and best out of those young players who are going to get an opportunity to play.
Q. You talk about the importance of the extra practices. Who kind of stood out last year and took advantage of that extra time? Has it been one of the youngsters on your squad who has made the most of these extra opportunities this year?
COACH SMART: The first one that comes to mind would be Azeez [Ojulari]. We were going to work on us for five, six practices ‑‑ we call them camp practices ‑‑ where we would work on Texas a little bit. But Azeez is a kid that came out with an attitude of “I’m going to go play. I’m want to get better.” He did a great job of that.
Channing [Tindall] and Quay [Walker]. I think the young O‑linemen really grew up. Y’all saw them most of the year in Cade Mays and Trey Hill. But those guys grew up a lot. I thought Tommy [Bush] and Matt [Landers] made strides as football players. So when you look across the board ‑‑ John FitzPatrick, I mentioned him earlier during bowl practices.
A lot of guys start to step to the forefront and get an opportunity to hear things a second and third time where they’re not overwhelmed at the speed of the install. They start making some plays and you realize, hey, this guy is a really good football player. He’s going to be able to help our team at some point.
Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney
OC JIM CHANEY: It’s a pleasure to be here with everybody today. I look forward to this football game. Rare privilege for a man my age to get to coach in such a prestigious football game. I’ve been looking forward to someday getting the chance to coach in the Sugar Bowl my whole life. I’ve been really fortunate. I’m lucky as heck.
I’m surrounded by a bunch of great people. Get to play a heck of a football team in the University of Texas. They’ve represented themselves very well, and we feel like we have also. You have a couple of good teams lining up here in a couple of days to play some ball. And I’m excited about doing it. And it’s a pleasure to be here with you guys today.
Q. Can you tell me about J.J. [Jeremiah] Holloman’s development this season? Has it been about what you expected, and how much better can he get?
OC JIM CHANEY: I think J.J. is a very hard‑working kid with a good brain in him. He’s got good soul and a good brain. Anytime you mix those together with hard work, good things are going to come your way. You could see him making a little move in the spring football, and he continues to work, work, work, work.
When the kids hang their hat on hard work and just sitting down and going to work and don’t worry about some negative stuff that comes your way with inevitability in college football, you always see them progress faster than others. And you could see that coming their way. To make the plays that he’s done this year, I’m really happy for him. And he’s done it on the football field. But he does it through hard work. And I think he’ll continue to develop as a football player for us. I think he’s a down field threat for us. He’s a big physical presence. He can handle all the run game the way we like to run the football. And we like that aspect to him. I think the sky’s the limit for Jeremiah. And I think he’s done everything we want him to do and look for him to continue to develop and be a really good football player next year.
Q. Jim, with the current landscape we’re seeing with transfers, quarterbacks in particular, are two quarterback offenses going to become the norm, in your opinion? And how challenging is it to incorporate two quarterbacks into one system or build a system that can keep two quarterbacks happy these days?
OC JIM CHANEY: Well, it’s challenging. Anytime you’ve got good quality depth anywhere, regardless of what position it is,you’re trying to find a way to get good players on the field. When you have them both stuck at the quarterback spot, you want to make sure you’re trying to utilize their skills the best you can to help your team win a football game.
So I don’t know the landscape. I don’t know, really, the answers to it. I don’t know that anybody could sit up here and truthfully tell you exactly what they’re going to anticipate taking place in the next three or four years with the advent of the new rules and the transfer stuff going on. I don’t know. We’re all in a new mode right now as we work our way through this.
And I think kids are kids. They want to play. They’re good football players. They want to play. And, as a coach, our job is to take the existing players on our football team and put them in a position to win. And we try to do that the best we can, all the while having conversations with these kids to know what they’re thinking.
Q. As you take a look at your tight‑end position and how you’ve worked with those guys all year, where do you think development of that group is at and how things can transpire with the decision that Isaac Nauta has to make? And looking forward to the transfer portal, how do you feel about the future of the guys you currently have?
OC JIM CHANEY: What’s going to happen is going to happen in the future. I can’t anticipate that. Once again, as I just mentioned, you try to talk to them and do the best job you can.
As far as the development of the position, obviously, Isaac and Charlie [Woerner] play the majority of the reps for us. You look back and you get going so fast during the season some things pass you by. I think one statistic that did kind of pass me by is how many times we were targeting those kids and how many times, when we targeted them, it resulted in a completion at a very high, alarming rate a little bit.
With that said, you would have to be a dummy to sit here and think you probably shouldn’t utilize that position a little bit more than we have in our offense. You can see that probably changing a little bit.
Their development, those guys work so hard in that room. And they’re good quality kids. Once again, I get back to the same thing. If they have a good brain and a good soul and a hard work ethic, they’re all going to continue to develop.
Does it make you worry about the depth of the position? Certainly, it always does. You worry about that at every position. You continue to recruit your butt off and do the best you can to put yourself in a position to have enough players in every position to be able to compete.
Q. First of all, we were talking about the competitive situation at quarterbacks. Does that ever manifest itself in the meeting room and practice situation into maybe tension that you shouldn’t have, you don’t want to have?
And, secondly, you were the coordinator for Drew Brees at Purdue. What qualities did you see in him back then that he still shows today?
OC JIM CHANEY: To the first question, I think every room has competitive spirit to it. You want them to be able to get along and understand and respect their teammates, which I think routinely they do.
But that position, there’s only one of them walking out there on the field. So you can always feel that a little bit. That comes with it. Every job I’ve ever had it’s been that way. You want that. You want them also to be able to support their teammate when they get on the field, too.
As for the second question, when Drew showed up at Purdue, he couldn’t throw a forward pass. He didn’t know what the defenses were. So we had to teach him every bit of that. He was really good when he showed up, so we didn’t have to do much with him. He’s a good football player.
Q. I know we could go a while on Justin Fields and Jake Fromm this year, so I hate to ask questions and sum up everything from the last four or five months. But what was this like this season? What was the thought process on trying to get Justin into games and utilize his skill set but when you had Jake Fromm and what he had accomplished last year and what he was doing this year?
OC JIM CHANEY: Well, it’s been tough, there’s no question about that. Once again, if you separate the quarterback spot and look over there at the wide receiver spots and you say, hey, that kid standing by me on the sideline, he has a unique skill set. Let’s try to utilize him.
If you look at the quarterbacks the same way, we kind of tried to do that with Justin a little bit this year. We don’t want to leave our team at a disadvantage because of any particular position. You try to do the best you can by utilizing the skill set of your existing players. That’s what we try to do.
You look back on the season, I don’t know. I’ll reflect back on it when the season is all the way over. Right now I think we did right and we’ll see how it plays out.
Q. I was going to ask a similar question but just more to the point. Is Justin [Fields] for this game in particular, you know, is he similarly employed in the game plan? Not to give anything away, but just anecdotally?
OC JIM CHANEY: We haven’t changed anything from what we’ve been doing throughout the season. I’ll say that.
Q. Is there any hesitancy, knowing that he could be gone, about what you put in front of that guy because he could be taking it with him?
OC JIM CHANEY: No.
Q. I want to get your state of the union kind of with the offense. It leans more heavily on the passing game and you’re pretty much where you were last year in the running game. How do you guys think you did?
OC JIM CHANEY: I feel good about it. I think that, as a coach nowadays, when you’re clicking around that 40‑point a game mark, you feel like you’re doing okay. You’re scoring points.
But, when you sit in this chair, you’re never happy. We’re looking for that perfect game and perfection at all times. Are we content with what we got done? In some ball games. Other games we didn’t play particularly well.
I think we did throw the ball a bit better than we have in years past, and I do believe that will continue to grow and continue to develop.
I’ve talked to you guys a lot about familiarity of offense. And Jake [Fromm] just ran through his second year in the system. That shows. You asked about Jeremiah [Holloman], third year in the program.
Those first few years we were playing a bunch of young kids, except for the boys that took off for the draft. The thing I’m most proud of, those kids that left for the draft and the quality individuals they are, the young kids stepped back up. And we were able to maintain and continue to achieve at some points that we needed to win a few ball games.
Q. Coach, just interested in your overall impressions of the Texas defense and, in specific, the secondary.
OC JIM CHANEY: Let me say this: I’ve sat up here for a lot of years and spoke to a lot of people. And I think the thing I take most pride about my own offense and the units that I’ve been in charge of, do they play hard and do they play together and do they play physical?
And, when I approach a game and I look at the defensive side, I ask the same questions. And I would say that Coach [Todd] Orlando and that defense does. They play super hard. They play very physical. And they play together.
So, to me, check the number one box. They’ve got that figured out. They’re playing their hind ends off. I’m not arguing that some teams do and some don’t. But, to be realistic, this team does.
In the back half of their defense, their secondary is very physical. They will come up and tackle you. Is that unique? No. But maybe unique from the first play to the last play. They show up and they play, and they seem to enjoy it. And that’s a good thing to have when your back half wants to tackle. Because we’re going to try to run the football. And there’s no question about that. So that’s what comes the difference between the goal line and not a goal line run.
Q. Your running backs [D’Andre] Swift and [Elijah] Holyfield, how well do they complement one another? And how tough is that for you to dole out reps to those guys?
And number two on Elijah, he’s got an interesting situation being the son of a legend. How has he handled carving out his own identity?
OC JIM CHANEY: I tell you, he is a wonderful young man. He has had no issues doing that. The team loves him. He’s a great teammate. He plays his hind end off. I would argue, day in and day out, he’s one of our hardest workers, our strongest player on our football team. And anybody that works that hard, you immediately get the respect from your teammates. And he’s a quality young man. I can’t say enough good about him.
As for the reps, with Swift and him, Dell McGee handles that, does a wonderful job for us keeping those kids fresh. Do they complement one another? Yeah, I think they do in a lot of ways. I would be interested to get a defensive coordinator’s perspective on what he sees. I have my own opinions, but I’d rather not share them today.
Q. In just two years Sam’s [Pittman] been able to turn around the offensive line and make it a really effective group. Why do you think he’s been able to do that?
OC JIM CHANEY: Well, Sam is a heck of a football coach. He knows what he’s doing. He does a heck of a job recruiting talent into that room. It’s difficult to do what we’ve been able to do if you didn’t have an immense amount of talent. The kids in that room compete, and Sam puts them in a position to do that.
It’s a competitive environment now. There’s not just four or five guys that can play. There’s more than that. So they have to go to practice and improve and continue to warrant being the guy that plays that spot. And I think through depth, that gives you more competition. And I think Sam does a wonderful job coaching them. So when you’ve got talent and a good coach, you’re usually going to be pretty solid up front.
Q. Just your thoughts on the College Football Playoffs.
OC JIM CHANEY: I think they’re wonderful. I learned a long time ago as an assistant coach my job is to do my job. I stay out of all of the business outside of it. You guys that know me know that I’m not going to open nothing up or anything. I coach the offense. My job’s to do the best I can. Someone else handles the playoffs, and they do the best that they can. I trust that they do that. And we live with the results of what they decide.
Q. After the LSU game, was there kind of a “Come to Jesus” moment where you kind of had to reinvent anything or approach anything differently after that game?
OC JIM CHANEY: I think, when success doesn’t come your way, you have to reflect. And you guys know me. I do that a lot. Look at myself. I don’t think I called a particularly good football game. I don’t think we particularly played a very good football game. And I think we all had to come to grips with that. We had the bye prior to the Florida game going into that.
The reality of it was, in our opinion, we needed to go out and get it done on the practice field better. And you could see that change from about that moment on. Okay. We’ve got to go out and we’ve got to work harder. You’ve just got to flat work harder. I don’t know. There’s no magic wand, secret pill. You guys know all that stuff that I talk about. You’ve got to go out and work. And I think our kids came back out to work and really had a good couple of weeks prior to the Florida ball game in practice. And it paid off. And, when you can reap the benefits and you can actually see, oh, I work hard, good things come my way, that’s the key to the deal.
And we were having some good things come our way, but I’m not necessarily sure we were working as hard as we should have. And it kind of opened up ‑‑ like you said, it opened our eyes a little bit. Hopefully, we’ve all learned from that.
Q. I wanted to ask you, you guys brought in a couple of quarterbacks in this early signing period, Dwan Mathis and Stetson Bennett. I wanted to find out what was it you guys like about Dwan Mathis? Is there some excitement? And I know Stetson is a guy who has kind of built up a little bit of confidence with you guys. What led you guys to bring him back?
OC JIM CHANEY: He’s an athletic kid. We’ve been trying to get the depth that you’d like to have at that position for some time. And it just showed up at that particular time in the recruiting cycle that we could do that.
And Dwan is a good, talented kid. We had him in camp a couple years ago. We’ve always kept our eyes on him. We watched him and liked him. He’s athletic. He can deliver the ball the way we like for him to.
And Stet, we knew everything about him. We figured he could come right back in our program and know our system very well. And he’s a good football player, so we’re glad to get both of them.
Jake Fromm (Warner Robins, Ga.)
On the team’s attitude to get ready for the Sugar Bowl…
“I think guys are starting to dial in and get focused on this football game. It is New Orleans. We have been here for a couple of days and seen the city. We are getting ready to go out and get ready to show what we can do.”
On freshman quarterback Justin Fields and potentially transferring…
“First, I want to be a good teammate. So any way I can help him, I definitely am. He and I personally have not talked about it. That has been more with him. But right now, I think both of us are not really worried about that. We are worried about this football game and how we can make this team the best that that it could be.”
On transferring to get more playing time…
“I think every situation is unique in its own. It is different for different people and different families depending on what is going on and how everything is being assessed. You cannot just say that because one person wants to leave and go somewhere else that another wants to stay. Which one is right and which one is wrong? You can’t do that. You can’t put everyone in a box. I think it is unique. Everyone is going to do them, and for us, the only thing we can do is respect their decision.”
On the Texas defense and how their play style will affect their game plan…
“We are not going to change much of what we do. We are going to set the tone and run the football. We are going to throw the ball and take our shots, and we will have guys make plays. We really are not changing a whole lot. Understanding what they are going to do helps with a few concepts here and there. But we are going to come out and play our football game.”
On Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa…
“Those two guys balled out last night and played well for their teams. I thought they played good football. It was fun to watch.”
On playing in the Sugar Bowl as a lifetime Georgia fan…
“I am extremely thankful and grateful. I am extremely blessed to be here, especially with these teammates. These are guys that I have worked extremely hard with. We have put a lot in together. It is a thankful moment, and I cannot wait to play one more with these boys.”
Senior Wide Receiver
Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Ga.)
On his feelings about his final game as a senior…
“It has been emotional but I know they must be pushed aside until after January 1. I am going to miss this group of guys and this organization. These past four years have been the best years of my life.”
On what type of legacy he wants to leave as a senior…
“I want to leave behind one of the best Georgia football teams in history and leave a mark for the players to come.”
On what stands out about the Texas defense…
“They have a lot of great athletes, are very physical, and do a great job at attacking the ball. We have to get out there and play Georgia ball.”
On if Texas resembles any SEC teams Georgia has played this year…
“I would not compare them to any SEC team. I honestly would not compare them to any team we have played this year. They are fast, physical, and we will need to come out there ready to play.”
On the College Football Playoffs…
“I think the committee put the best four teams in the playoffs. It is disappointing, but we have to concentrate on Georgia football and beating Texas.”
Elijah Holyfield (College Park, Ga.)
On the Texas defense…
“They are a very athletic defense. Their secondary players tackle very well. They are a really fast defense, and I think they will be a good challenge for us. I am really excited for it.”
On fellow running back D’Andre Swift…
“It is fun to play with a guy who is just as good as you and can do stuff you cannot do. You learn a lot from a guy like that. I try to figure out how I can get better from him. I think we complement each other really well.”
On being part of a running back by committee offense…
“I feel like when you have two great backs, you have to play them both. It also allows each player to be able to play longer since you are splitting touches. I personally think it has helped me.”
On the outlook of the team for next year…
“Jake (Fromm) is going to improve even more, and next year he will be even better. Same thing with D’Andre (Swift) and same thing with me. We are all going to be very deadly next year.”
Sophomore Running Back
D’Andre Swift (Philadelphia, Pa.)
On watching the College Football Playoffs…
“It was good watching games, but we’re focused on Texas.”
On if Georgia was one of the best four teams in the nation…
On if he has faith in the Georgia offensive line…
On the Sugar Bowl experience…
“It’s cool now, been able to have some fun. But as the days keep going, it is time to focus, we got a game to play.”
On what Georgia can prove in this game…
“We don’t need to prove anything. Just keep doing what we are doing. People saw how we played last game. I do not think we need to prove anything. Just keep playing Georgia football. Everything will take care of itself.”
On what stands out about the Texas defense…
“The d-line is real fast. They got the slant. They are pretty solid everywhere – defensive backs, safeties, tackle real well. Linebackers are fast.”
On his improvements this year from last year…
“I think I am a more complete back. It comes with experience, playing more, understanding the system I am in more… just being more of a complete back.”
On what he wants to work on going into next year…
“Get stronger, work on my pass game. I could always get better at that. Get faster, speed training, stuff like that.”
Sophomore Offensive Lineman
Andrew Thomas (Lithonia, Ga.)
On what changed after the LSU game and what fostered the turnaround from that point…
“It was similar to last year when we lost to Auburn. As a team, we just changed our mindset and we had the room for error where we wanted it to be. So, we had our bye week, put in a lot of work to get better and be better.”
On the College Football Playoffs…
“I watched the Bowl game yesterday. We were watching at the bowling alley. That game doesn’t have much to do with us so our focus is on Texas right now.”
On the Clemson-Notre Dame game in the College Football Playoffs…
“Yes I saw somebody tweet something there. Guys are I guess not too happy with our position right now but we’re playing a great team and we have to get ready for Texas.”
On if it bothers the players to be asked ‘Will you be motivated for this game?’…
“No. I really don’t understand why we’ve been getting that question. This is the Sugar Bowl, one of the best Bowls and we’re playing a really good team and this is our lead-in game going into the 2019 season.”
On if the two-quarterback situation is a divisive issue on the team…
“No I definitely don’t think so. The whole team supports both quarterbacks, and we love both quarterbacks. We want both of them to be successful.”
On how aware he is of quarterback changes in the game…
“In the game…actually I remember the first time Justin (Fields) came in. I hadn’t even noticed that he came in. I didn’t notice until I turned around and looked in the huddle because we were going no huddle at that time and didn’t really notice much of a difference.”
On if the team is actively trying to get Justin Fields out of the transfer portal and to remain at Georgia…
“We really try not to focus on that. We support him and whatever decision he makes is best for him and his family but right now we’ve been practicing and working to get better.”