Kirby Smart comments following second fall 2021 scrimmage
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Kirby Smart comments following second fall 2021 scrimmage

Kirby Smart
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGA

UGA football head coach Kirby Smart met with the media via Zoom following the second scrimmage of the fall 2021 season on Saturday.

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

Opening Statement… 

“I thought we had a really productive second scrimmage. It was not as hot. It was a little bit overcast. It wasn’t nearly as hot as last week. We were able to complete the scrimmage and get everything we needed to do. We had around 120 or 130 snaps, and both our ones and twos had right at 50 or 50-plus, and then the threes got another 20 or 30 of those snaps. The offense did a little better job this time. We had more explosive plays, some good opening drives. Defensively, we started with the tackle. I thought we actually tackled better in the last scrimmage than we did in this scrimmage, which is not usually the way it goes. The more you tackle the better you get at it. We struggled a little bit with that today, so I think it’s really something we can work on, hone in on. All in all, I’m pleased with the scrimmage, but we have some communication things we can work on, getting plays in on time on both sides of the ball, special teams. That stuff probably wasn’t as good as the last scrimmage, so we have to figure those things out. I was excited about the way guys competed. Today kind of ends what I consider to be our camp. We’ve gone inside more this camp than we ever have before, some by NCAA rules and some by choice, but I’m pleased with where our guys are. I’m pleased with the attitude they’ve had. We’re going to take the day off tomorrow and some of Monday and get back to work Tuesday.”

On the star position… 

“(Latavious) Brini is working there. We have linebackers working there. We have a couple other defensive backs working there. I feel really good about the play of Brini from the bowl game. Brini has played that every year of his career since he’s been here. Poole has played a lot of that. We have several guys working.”

On the team’s offensive identity… 

“I think some of that is dictated by who the defense is. We want to dictate to the defense what we do, but, at the same time, some of what they do matters. Every defense we play will be different. There will be three-down fronts, four-down fronts. There will be big, small, experience in this level, experience in that level. We want to take advantage of what they give us. We can identify what we need to work on, but we’re just trying to figure out who the best football players are, not who can read the signal the best and go execute. We’re trying to figure out who the best football players are, and that has been our intent in the two scrimmages, not to go out and trick the defense. We’re going out to play fundamental defense. Now, it will become a little more scheme because we need to figure out exactly what each guy can do and what he does well and who we want to become.”

On Lewis Cine… 

“Lewis (Cine) is a special talent. He has extremely good speed. He has extremely good toughness. He has good ball skills. He has size. When you design a safety, he has all the qualities when it comes to it, and he’s really been a student of the game. He came in as a raw talent who had played up in Boston in high school and then moved to Texas and bounced around. He never really learned a scheme. He learned how to play the position, and he’s really grown at that. He’s played multiple positions for us, free, strong, and the money position. He’s been able to do a lot of different things athletically, and he’s tough, and he’s fast. He’s an interesting kid because his motivation is his daughter, his family, his father, his mom, and he’s spent a lot of time outside of football working on his career. He’s been very adamant to me that his career after football and making sure he’s good and making smart investments when he does make money is more important to him than anything, and he’s done a lot of internships to better himself.”

On players like John Fitzpatrick, Arik Gilbert and Dominick Blaylock returning from injury…

“We are hopeful to get all of those guys back soon. That is the plan with really all of the guys that are injured- we don’t have an injury where there are guys out for a long amount of time. We are hopeful to get all of those guys back, I mean every one of them are day-to-day- I mean some of the guys you mentioned can practice now and are practicing. Each one is a different situation but I expect to be full tilt when Clemson comes, when it comes time to play them. We had more guys today than we did at the last scrimmage, we are in a good position.”

On the offensive line…

“We have really settled in with the five that have been getting reps with the ones. We just rotate to get depth and just to rotate guys around. There is still a good competition at tackle, there is a good competition going on at center. When Warren (Erickson) has been healthy to practice since his return from his injury, so he has been able to practice some and things. Then (Justin) Shaffer and Tate (Ratledge) have been the primary at guard, but we have shuffled some guys around at guard to get them in there. I feel good about our depth within our offensive line, we still have time to determine who the starting five will be in terms of the tackles. It is not like not like we are out there doing musical chairs. I mean they play 20 plays one way and they might play another 20 the other way just to give you the best guys on the field.”

On the defensive backs…

“Yeah, Jalen Kimber and Kamari Lassiter have done a really good job. Nyland (Green) and LC (Lovasea Carroll) continue to work, they are working with the corner position. DK (Derion Kendrick), Kelee (Ringo), Ameer Speed and Jalen Kimber bring us the most experience. Kamari, obviously he is the youngest but he has worked all over the place, the guy has played almost every position on the field. He is a bright young player that has good instincts and we have to find a home spot for him to get him more reps and ready to play. But all of those guys have done a great job.”

On the road or neutral game experience…

“We never-we are pretty secluded. We don’t get around a lot of fans, we don’t get around fans. Our travel is just us, that is not going to change. Our hotel is just us, we are portioned off from the crowds and the people. The biggest difference is the vaccination and obviously that doesn’t make you full-proof, we would never do that anyways. The same precautions that have been taken will still be taken. The biggest precaution is the vaccination, we have a large number of our guys vaccinated and we want to protect against that. I think there is maybe a misnomer out there that we are…It was not a lot different last year because we were secluded but we were always secluded. That will be the case when we travel and that will be the case when we are at the hotels.”

On the decision to keep the media virtual…

“The first thing I’d say is that defers to the medical staff here, and Ron Courson and his staff met on that, talked about that, they came back and visited with us and gave us input. And I follow the input that they give us. It’s usually a safety measure. I will say different than just COVID-posed issues, because those are the primary issues, we also have major, major space issues. I know people don’t really know we are dealing with construction, and we are actually limited to one field right now. And it scares me to death every day that we practice right now with guys on our sideline, guys in the way because we lost a practice field. We have one practice field. When you throw that combined with COVID, it’s a real situation for us. And I know you can say, ‘Well other people are different ways.’ Well, I defer to Ron and his staff, and it’s something we evaluate each week – it’s not permanent. Right now, for us, it’s the decision we feel like is the best for us.

On the program’s current vaccination rates…

“…We’ve been over 90 (percent) for quite a while, so we’ve been over 90% for some time now, not just 85 (percent). But I don’t actually know the exact number, right now because our percentages change based on who is on our team. We’ve had an influx of kids when school started that were walk-ons who came back and joined us. So, it would be inaccurate to say I knew exactly what the percentage was. I saw the Falcons 100 percent, a lot of credit to them, and ultimately that’s our goal, but we are not there yet.

On the progress of Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, Justin Robinson, and Arian Smith…

“Yeah, each one of those guys has had a competitive, tough, physical camp. Each one has a different skill set. So, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is a tough, contested-catch guy. He works so hard day-in and day-out with everything he’s got. He’s a really good special teams player. You know, Justin has taken on a little bit more ownership, in that I’m [Robinson] going to be able to help this team and have a bigger role in this team, whether it’s special teams, as a wide receiver, and doing other things – he’s getting better. And then Arian, coming from track, he missed some of the summer workouts, and we had to shut him down and not do everything. He’s bounced back; he’s been battling a couple of injuries the last couple of weeks. He’s had some turf toe injuries, a toe-nail that got stepped on it was just bad, really bad. But he’s missed a little time. But they all three have a different skill set and they all three are competitors. They continue to grow into that receiver rotation.”

On how the program adjusts to fatigue and other difficulties in camp…

“I think you have be intelligent with your team. Some of that is based on heat, some of that is based on how many practices you’ve had inside or out. We’ve been inside; we’ve actually had a few more inside this year dealing with rain. We have a set schedule and routine that we follow, and that doesn’t change much year-to-year. The NCAA dictates that to us sometimes. They change the parameters of how many padded practices you can have, how you can practice, how much you can tackle. But to be honest, we haven’t had to change ours much. Our model that I have always followed since being here is such that you work hard through camp, take a couple days off after camp that gives the coaches a chance to re-route, recenter. The players get a chance to recover, and then you come back and start getting ready for your opponents. That’s what we have always followed. We don’t vary from that protocol very much whether injuries. We got the guys we got and we go play. But injuries are part of our game.”

On Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson participating in the scrimmage…

Jermaine (Burton) and Kearis (Jackson) both went today and practiced. We’re pretty much full load there at wide receiver. Those guys all got to practice, compete and get better. It was good to have Jermaine out there because he had missed some time in our camp and spring practice as well.”

On JT Daniels getting quality reps…

“JT has for the most part had good rhythm with the guys. You can make excuses all the time, but people get injured in football. You go play with the guys that are out there.  They got to throw all summer, so all the guys were out there all summer. Some of the guys were in and out during camp, but I don’t know any team in college football that doesn’t (get injuries).   In terms of some guys in, some guys out based on pulls, ankles and being banged up.”

On explosive plays at running back…

“We may have had a couple of check downs where they broke tackles and busted loose. A couple runs of 15-20 yards where they did a good job.”

On Brock Bowers…

“Brock has been a good player since he got here. You know he was probably limited some in the spring. He accelerated his learning. He’s competitive. He works his tail off every day.  He’s a joy to be around. He’s what you want in a football player. We’ve got to find a way to use his skill set. He has no expectations from me. My expectations for him are to go out and lay it on the line and compete every day. He does that, so I think Brock is going to be a really good football player. We’re certainly happy to have him as part of our family, and were excited to see what he can do.

On other team protocols…

“With classes going back to full measure, our campus is as crowded as it ever has been. There are more people on our campus than there ever has been. So the efficiency for our players in terms of getting to class, being on busses, interacting with the student population that has a different vaccination rate than our team is a concern.  It worries me because our guys are exposed to that. We’re trying to do everything we can to  not expose them to any greater risk, and allow them to go to class. They have to go to class. We can’t put every kid on the team in online classes. We’re trying to minimize those risks as much as we can, educate our players, and try to stay healthy in terms of Covid.

On Bobby Bowden’s impact…

“He had a major impact on my life. At a relatively young age, I was in a unique position. I was a secondary coach at Valdosta State and a defensive coordinator at Valdosta State. I actually called the defenses at a young age, and I don’t know that I was ready to do that, but I also don’t know that you are ever ready. You’ve got to go do it. I got a call from Coach Bowden to come to Florida State. He, Mickey Andrews and Joe Kines all kind of recruited me to come. I played for Joe Kines here at Georgia. Coach Bowden was just unbelievable. The man, the person, everything you hear about him doesn’t live up to the justice for the way he treated people. There was never a moment that you were with him and didn’t feel special.  There was never a moment where you didn’t feel like you could go talk to him. He did so much for me.  He actually coached one time at Samford college, where my parents went to school. He was as good as there is. His family and all of his kids really embraced the Tallahassee community and took me in as a graduate assistant and helped me start my career. I got to see him from time to time, even after I left. I saw him at a couple bowl games we played at, national championship games. He was always such a good person. I appreciate him, and my thoughts are with his family at this time.

On Dan Jackson and David Daniel…

“David Daniel actually wasn’t with us today. He had a funeral to attend, so he wasn’t out there. He’s had a fall camp where he is growing. He got the spring in to get a lot of reps like you mentioned, but he’s still growing to help our team because we don’t have much depth at the defensive back position. He’s a guy that could have to be thrust into playing time. We had that happen last year in the Florida game when Lewis (Cine) got the targeting penalty. We had to stick a safety out there who hadn’t played much, and David could easily be that guy. Dan Jackson has done a real good job. He is one of the toughest hardest working young men. I think everybody on the team respects Dan Jackson because of the way  he works, and he should be able to help our team this year.”

On Amarius Mims and Broderick Jones…

“Both of those guys are very talented players, everything they are advertised to be. I think unfortunately so many people think so much of guys, and they get rated by you guys and so many people to be so high, it’s hard to live up to that expectation. They are talented. They are very talented. They work hard. They are both great young men. They are having really good camps. Amarius  missed some time, so it’s been a tougher progress with him, but Broderick has been healthy. He’s been competitive and he’s played left tackle, right tackle and he’s gotten better. Amarius is getting better, but he has some lower back issues, spasms, so he’s had to sit out of some practice time. Not necessarily a whole practice. He hasn’t gotten the reps, and you need lots of reps, but he’s going to grow into a really talented player and I’m excited in terms of where they are going. They are in the conversation right now at tackle, both tackles”

On the high dive at the Ramsey Student Center…

“I had no intentions, but at that point I got called out. I got peer pressured and there weren’t a lot of options once you got up there. Lot of regret, I can promise you that. I will always land on my feet and not anything else. I was sore for about three days. My fanny… I will not be doing that again.”

The Georgia Bulldogs are slated to open the 2021 season against the Clemson Tigers in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, Sept. 4 (Buy Tickets).

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