Kirby Smart comments on Bulldogs' Saturday scrimmage
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Kirby Smart comments on Bulldogs’ Saturday scrimmage

Kirby Smart
Photo: Chamberlain Smith/UGA

UGA football head coach Kirby Smart commented following the Bulldogs’ scrimmage on Saturday afternoon.

Below is a transcript of Smart’s comments that was provided by UGA:

Opening Statement…

“Just finished up from the scrimmage a little bit earlier than last Saturday. But, I just wanted to open with a plug for this new ‘Dawgs for Pups’ that our players came up with. I want to give a lot of credit to Cortez Hankton and Josh Brooks for spearheading a lot of it. As we have worked hard with our players, and we’ve been listing to our players—which I spoke to last week. They wanted to do some things in the community. They helped with a food drive, but this ‘Dawgs for Pups’ has really taken off. A lot of the local Athens community, kids in the school system, are struggling to get WiFi. They don’t have it, so this is kind of a hotspot project. Ben Watson, I want to thank him and Todd Gurley. They’ve jumped in. Todd’s foundation, the M.A.D.E. Foundation has jumped right in. Ben Watson pledged $5,000. The Kirby Smart Family Foundation, my family’s foundation, pledged $10,000. There’s going to be a lot of kids in Athens, Ga., getting WiFi, and that’s a direct result of our players in an initiative that they grabbed—about five or six players grabbed it, and Cortez grabbed it. They’ve done a lot. So, it would help us if you guys keep plugging that, and sending that out there to our fan base so we can support those guys.

With that, we had a scrimmage today—similar format to last week. Probably the biggest difference, we did a little more goal line today. We did second and 10, third down—which is not an all third down period. It’s second and 10. If you get five yards, it’s third and five. If you don’t, it’s third and 10. It’s a two consecutive plays. Those were really the major change ups we had. I thought the guys played hard—it was cooler today. We had—the temperature was much better. It was not as hot, so they didn’t have to push through as bad. We [got] about 135-140 plays in. We are very fortunate to be able to scrimmage like that. A lot of our peers across the league are struggling to be able to have enough depth to get that number of plays. Some may only have ones, some may have ones and twos. We have ones, twos and some threes. We are certainly more injured now than we were last scrimmage, in terms of numbers. We got some guys down and out, but we are still able to scrimmage and we still have a long way to go. To be honest, I thought we would be further on along from scrimmage one to scrimmage two, but it was sloppy. I mean, we got a lot of penalties. We didn’t tackle really well. We didn’t play really well in the red area on defense. On both sides of the ball, when we went ones on twos, it overpowered the other one—with the ones on ones being a little more balanced.”

On when he learned of Jamie Newman’s plans and how that affects Georgia’s plans moving forward…

“Yeah, it’s really irrelevant and not important at this point in time. We are moving forward and we respect Jamie [Newman], I respect Jamie. He has done a tremendous job. I respect any kid that chooses to opt-out. He came and let me know on Tuesday. It was a non-practice day for us. It was actually the day we went over to the Hunter-Holmes Academic Center. He let me know. I think he announced it on Wednesday.”

On what he feels he has at the quarterback position…

“It’s a work in progress. We had guys today that went out and practiced well. It almost feels like—we really want a guy to assume the lead and take the lead. That hasn’t happened yet. You’ll have a guy that has a great play and a great series, then comes back with a bonehead mistake and a turnover. Nobody has really taken charge and taken over. I wish I could say that. Both JT [Daniels] and D’Wan [Mathis] went with the ones. Carson [Beck] went with the twos a lot. Then JT and D’Wan both went with the twos a little bit. Stetson [Bennett] went with the threes. We don’t have a guy that’s way ahead. I don’t know what to say other than we are going to keep competing, and we’re going to try and find the best one.”

On whether he expects JT Daniels to be cleared by the first game versus Arkansas…

“First on JT, I am under the assumption that that is going to happen, but that is not my decision. Obviously, that’s the medical decision. He is cleared to practice, which is unique for quarterbacks because they’re not out there getting hit every day—they’re non-contact. We expect him to be cleared by the first game, but that’s not a complete certainty. I know Ron [Courson] feels confident that he’s far enough post-op, and he’s got enough strength in his leg to be in a good position—to be able to play, but that’s going to boil down to Ron and our doctors making that call.”

On what D’Wan Mathis gained last year while dealing with his situation, and where he is now in terms of readiness…

“As far as D’Wan, the advantage that he’s got is that he got to go on the scout team a lot because he was not medically cleared. If you remember he was not cleared to do anything until past-May. We were kind of in the dark on whether or not—we had to go to like six NFL doctors to look at the scans and see the healing in his skull to be able to clear him. During that time of last season, he was getting all the reps against the scout team which is really helpful because you get to feel the rush. You have one of the best defenses in the country coming at you with a makeshift offensive line a lot of times on the scout team. You feel that pressure and you get to go in there and compete. He got to take a lot of reps in that regard. He is in a little different system. It’s not like he’s in the same system he was in last year.”

On what stood out to him on defense that did not during the first scrimmage…

“I don’t think anything really stood out. I thought we had a couple really nice plays to get interceptions, guys broke along the way and high-pointed the ball, and made good plays on the ball down the field. The one defense dominated the two offense for the most part. They went out and stoned them—a couple three and outs. They didn’t give up a first down. Then the two offense got a little drive going and went down and made some plays, which I was very excited about the two offense getting a little life against the ones. Then, in the ones-on-ones period, it was pretty balanced. Second, 10 and third down, I thought the one offense dominated the one defense. Red area, the one offense beat the one defense, but in the move-the-field portion, the bigger portion of it, the defense was a little bit ahead in regards to that. There wasn’t a lot of difference in the defense from this scrimmage to the last. I certainly am concerned about complacency there, and making sure they are competing and staying on top of things because they have a chance to be a talented group.”

On the changes Georgia plans to make on offense now Newman is gone…

“Yeah, not a lot changed in regards to the quarterback. Like I said, Jamie obviously wasn’t there this week and he was the last, so the reps went to really three guys, and then Stetson in the practices that he wasn’t there. It’s not hard for us in practice to give four guys reps because we do what we do called ‘two-spot.’ We are able to get maybe the ones and threes, or ones and freshmen, and then twos and fours, work. The quality of that work may not be equal because the quality of the age and experience isn’t balanced. The quarterbacks get a lot of work in practice. In a scrimmage, there’s not but one quarterback on the field at a time, so that makes for less reps in a scrimmage for sure.”

On the tight end situation, particularly Tre’ McKitty…

“I have been really pleased with Tre’ McKitty. He is tough. He’s physical. He works. He blocks. He catches. He does a good job. He got a little bit of a ding today, and ended up having to leave the scrimmage—I think about halfway through. I think he will be fine. To be honest with you, I’m not sure if it is his ankle or his knee. We felt like he would be good. Ron was checking on him. Darnell [Washington] has been working his way into shape. He was at one time 273 [lbs.]. We felt like he needed to get down to 263 to be effective. He’s a big man. Then we got [Ryland] Goede and Brett [Seither] back. Those guys took some reps. They’ve done a good job as well. Then [John] Fitz[partrick] has been around. We’ve got a good depth there at tight end. We’re trying to figure out what each one’s skillset is as we endeavor in this offense and try to figure out the best way to use those guys.”

On the ‘Dawgs for Pups’ initiative and how it resonates with him…

“I’m excited about it because our kids kept expressing the day we talked — it was the day after the NBA boycotts — and so many of them want to use their platform. [They say], ‘We want to use our platform, Coach. There’s more we can do, Coach. We want to make an impact. We want to make change.’ You make change with action; you affect young people’s lives, and several of the players stood up in the meeting and said, ‘We need to do something in the community, in our communities back home, and in our communities here, and we have the power to do that.’ So, we’re teaming up two powerful things: our brand and the ‘G’ and our players’ social networks, and we’re asking people to support impoverished communities here in Athens that don’t have WiFi. Kids can’t go to school. They don’t have school at home. They can’t bring school to them. I know that we’re really excited about them ordering over 2,000 hotspots, I think they’re going to be able to order, and we’re hoping to be able to fund all that.”

On how unique it is to be preparing for a first game set for late September when the first game was initially set for this coming Monday, especially in wake of Jamie Newman’s departure…

“It would be really tough if our timeline was different, if we’d found out [about Newman] closer to the game. It would have been really tough, but we also didn’t get to start when we would have started, either. We’re kind of through practice 12 or 13, and we’re moving along. We’ve been pretty fortunate, knock on wood, from an injury standpoint. The biggest concern I have is COVID and protecting our players, and when you talk to the other guys in the league as we share information, it’s just scary that at any given time, it can hit your team and you not have enough guys to practice and get better. It just seems like it’s a matter of if it’s going to hit you before this game or that game, but it seems to be going around the league. From a quarterback standpoint, the extra time certainly is big and much needed.”

On why he thinks his team has not been hit by COVID-19 in the same way it has affected other programs across the country…

“I think Ron [Courson] and his staff do a tremendous job, and I don’t think there’s anything we’re doing that somebody else is not. I don’t have a statistic about the positivity rate across the campuses in the SEC, but I know it’s gone up since students have come back which we expected. A lot of our kids are in online classes or in synchronized online classes, and some aren’t. Some are in actual sitting classes. [Positive cases at UGA] have gone up. We’ve had more in the last week than we have had the previous two weeks. It’s a concern across the board. I don’t know exactly why we’ve had a little less than others, but that can prove unfortunate later in the season if we have more of an outbreak.”

On the program’s march last week/how important it has been to see his staff and fellow coaches speak out on the social injustices…

“I think the most important thing is for our players to be heard and be understood. We believe in education in action. We want to educate our players in every way possible in the proper ways for them to take action and for them to understand how they can bring about change. You change things one day at a time, one person at a time, one vote at a time. We’ve tried to really impart knowledge on our guys. We don’t tell them who to vote for, [and] we don’t tell them what to think. That’s a freedom that they have and that we all have because we live in this great country. The education piece has been critical, and I think across the UGA Athletic Association, we’ve done a great job of listening to our student-athletes — because they want to be heard— and also educating them on the circumstances in our country and the ways they can bring about change.”

On the list of things the team wants to do for the community in order to take action/what players have been particularly involved in taking initiative..,

“I don’t know that there would be any one guy involved in the decisions. When we had the team meeting, everybody was involved. We brainstormed with the entire team. I’ve had countless meetings with the leadership group in which I’ve tried to tell them to grab some initiative and just grab the bull by the horns. It really hadn’t taken form until here recently, when we had the meeting last Thursday, and that’s when the ‘Dawgs for Pups’ came about. There are a lot more things on the docket we’ve got working. Every position group, each week, is going to have a Zoom with an elementary school or middle school that have kids who want to hear from our players, and [our players] want to be mentors for them. The outside linebackers are doing a deal with Zoom on Sunday, and they’re going to meet with an elementary school that has kids who want to hear and learn from some of our players who come from the same background. They’re trying to change lives one at a time, but I can’t say that there’s any one position or any group that’s had more input in that than another. It’s a shared responsibility for us.”

On whether he believes he is getting a full read on the potential quarterbacks during practices/scrimmages…

“I don’t know that we’re getting a full read ever. We’re not getting a full read on any of them. D’Wan [Mathis] steps up to scramble today, and you’re having to make a determination of ‘Did he get sacked, or did he not?’ That’s really never fair, and the only way to make it fair is to make it live. That’s the tougher decision, and it’s a decision that we’ve actually thought more about this year than we ever had before. Both JT [Daniels] himself and Carson [Beck]— they have mobility. Even JT has some mobility with a knee brace on, but D’Wan certainly is ahead of them in regards to that, so it’s a hard measuring stick. You’re trying to judge whether the guy was down or not down, did he break the tackle, or did he not break the tackle? So no, you’re not getting a full exposure to what you would like. The only way you’re going to get that is, A. Scrimmage live, or B. Play a game, and the game is next in line for us outside of some other practices to get better.”

On whether there are any players who act as “enforcers” for the team on defense and offense, but also as overall leaders for the team…

“We have some really good leaders. This is a fun team to coach so far. We do things as a group, and I love being around them. They’re funny. They’ve not shied away from any work. I’ve really enjoyed being around both sides of the ball, including special teams. Defensively, Richard [LeCounte] has been a great leader. Jordan Davis has stepped up. There are so many guys who are [leaders]. They seem like they’re experienced, and they lead in the right direction. They’re positive when things aren’t going well, and they have a lot of fun on the football field at time. On offense, I feel like that [leadership] is missing at times, because there’s not a bonafide natural leader out there. Most the time, it’s Jamaree [Salyer] or Trey Hill or [Justin] Shaffer, somebody trying to get [the offense] going. The two backs spark a lot, between Zamir [White] and James [Cook]. We certainly need to find that one emotional guy on offense.”

On whether he works more on silent counts knowing there will be significantly less crowd noise…

“We’ve done a lot of work there, and we were not real good at it today. We jumped offsides on defense, I don’t know, maybe three or four times, and when the offense did go on any hard count, they jumped offsides. It’s supposed to be a weapon, and today it was not a weapon. We were glutton for punishment. We did not handle it well, and we were more penalized today than we were last scrimmage for a lot of reasons. It wasn’t clean, and so [the penalties] were probably the most disappointing part [about today’s scrimmage].”

On what Smart needs to see from the quarterbacks in order for one to separate himself from the others…

“You want them to move the offense and score points. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s a catch-22 here if you’re calling plays designed for a certain quarterback, and you’ve got certain styles. JT Daniels, Carson Beck and D’Wan Mathis are all different quarterbacks. Right now, we’re trying to figure out what they can do. To only call certain things that maybe fit D’Wan or just fit JT or just fit Carson isn’t fair. That’s not right. You’re trying to find out what he can and can’t do. Sometimes I don’t know what you can’t do until I call something to see if you can do it. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what that is. We’re in that stage, instead of just saying, ‘Okay, this guy has these plays [and] this guy has those plays.’ That’s not ever good, because we don’t know what they can and can’t do. They don’t get better unless they get to do [the plays], so we’re going to grow in stages in regards to that. The good news is we have a lot of work to do mentally in preparation to get ready for the first game, but also to get our offense kind of in sync in rhythm to be able to hit things in rhythm.”

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