Kirby Smart, Bulldogs preview 2021 Florida football game
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Kirby Smart, Bulldogs preview 2021 Florida football game

Kirby Smart
Photo: Mackenzie Miles/UGA

UGA football head coach Kirby Smart and three players, Ladd McConkey, Jake Camarda, and Jordan Davis, spoke with the media on Monday about their upcoming game against the Florida Gators.

Georgia and Florida will square off on Saturday, Oct. 30 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. (Buy Tickets). The game will be televised by CBS at 3:30pm ET.

Brad Nessler will call the play-by-play, Gary Danielson will provide analysis, while Jamie Erdahl will report from the sidelines.

Below is a transcript of the Florida press conference which was provided by UGA.

Head Coach Kirby Smart 

Opening Statement…
“…Game plan, prep, try to get ahead. Today we will kind of do the same continuation. Players were off this weekend. It was good for them to get a break. I know most of them came back excited yesterday. We’re looking forward to an opportunity to play in what I think is one of the best games in all of college football, in terms of the pageantry, the 50/50 stand, the neutral site. It’s a really cool atmosphere that we get to play in, in Jacksonville, Fla. Looking forward to (playing) a really good football team.”

On who will play QB…
“It’s going to be based on practice. No decision has been made, whatsoever. He (JT Daniels) did practice Wednesday and did pretty good, and he practiced Thursday and did well, in terms of not having pain before, during, or after. That’s what we’re looking for. Is it bothering you today? No. Can you throw today? Yes. Did you throw today? Yes. How does it feel after? No pain. Again, we will continue down that same path today, and see how he feels. The good thing is he was able to get a good Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (off)… Really almost four days if you count from the last practice to this practice, all of the players have… In terms of that, it will be based on how practice goes. No determination has been made, nor will it be made. It’s based on performance on the field. It’s just like our guys that came back from ankle injuries. They were back. Everybody was asking about Darnell (Washington). Darnell was back and he was 100 percent of what he could be 100 percent, but he wasn’t really ready to play yet. I think it all depends on where JT (Daniels) is and where Stetson (Bennett) is, and who gives us the best chance to win. Stetson has done a good job since he’s been playing and JT has done a good job when he’s played. The good thing is we feel like we have really three-four good quarterbacks who are ready to play.”

On the level of competition in the SEC East…
“That’s hard to say. We haven’t played everybody on the East yet. I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that the SEC is a really tough conference to play in. When I sit back and watch games on Saturday, there are some really tough games in the SEC whether it’s East-West, West-East. It’s a tough conference. A lot of games are decided really close, typically. Florida has been in a couple of those that they ended up on the short side of, but they have a really good football team. I think the SEC East is a really good division, side of a conference, but who am I to judge when we see each other more than most people do, in terms of watching tape and cross over.”

On the chemistry of the offense…
“Chemistry is very important, but I don’t typically address it with the team. I don’t think we have a chemistry issue with either quarterback. I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t think our offensive players really pay attention to or know who is back there most of the time. Especially this year, where there has been a lot of interchangeable parts. Carson (Beck) has gone with the one, Stetson (Bennett) has gone with the ones, JT (Daniels) has gone with the one. JT’s been out. Carson’s been hurt. Stetson has had lower back (pain). We’ve had a revolving door in terms of guys that have gone there. I really don’t think that it’s a big deal for the offensive players in terms of who’s in there.”

On JT Daniels
“Again, it’s going to depend on how they practice and what they do. Is it likely that we’ll see both of them? I don’t know that. I haven’t seen practice today. I’d like to see practice today, to know a little better about where he’s at. Based on Wednesday and Thursday, he was able to throw without pain. That’s step one. The next step is, can I move? Can I throw with accuracy? Can I do all the things that are required to play quarterback? I don’t know if he can do those things yet. We will see be how we practice this week.”

On Coach Mullen…
“He does a great job of utilizing the skillset of the players he has. At Mississippi State, he had different kinds of quarterbacks, he has proven he can win with all kinds. Whether it’s a running quarterback, a dual threat quarterback, everybody has all the classifications. He plays to the skillsets of his players and that includes his quarterbacks, he’s done that Dak (Prescott), with (Kyle) Trask, with Tim Tebow. He’s done a tremendous job of packaging what they do well. He has a lot of different packages he uses, sometimes the history of that can be detrimental because you end up chasing ghosts of things he’s done in the past or plays he’s used. At the end of the day, it boils down to a lot more than how the players play, not what defense or offense we call.”

On rotating QBs…
“I’ll say it again. I’m okay with whoever the best guy to give us the best chance to win is. That’s based on practice and health. It’ll continue to be that way the rest of the year. The question of, ‘are you okay rotating them?’ Is not relevant if they’re both not completely healthy. I just go off if they’re healthy and who gives us the best chance to win based on what we think we need to do offensively against their defense.”

On the Braves advancing to the World Series…
“I was excited for the Braves. I got to see the end of the game Saturday night after the college games were over. Certainly excited for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Those guys have done a tremendous job closing and playing at the end this year.”

On the Florida QB situation…
“They don’t hold back. They may feel like there’s differences I’m not aware of, but when you look at the quarterback reels there’s plays within each game that both quarterbacks run. They don’t not run quarterback draw, drop back pass, zone read, or speed option with one guy or the other. There’s most packages they both carry. He may limit one guy’s packages opposed to the other, but the way the games called they have very similar plays. They’re physically different in their build, both tremendous athletes, and both tough guys to defend in terms of 53 yards of sideline, and an extra hat in the run game makes it tough.”

On having Jordan Davis vs Florida this year…
“We were banged up last year and didn’t play well honestly. Any time you’ve got depth at most positions it helps, especially in this game. I think Jordan (Davis) being back and healthy is very important to us in terms of the run game and being able to control it. His ability to play multiple snaps is important, he’s got to play in this game because he’s a dominant player up front. They’ve played against him before, they know Jordan is a good player. We’ll need a lot of guys to play because those defensive linemen they can’t play more than 30-35 snaps a game.”

On self-evaluation over the bye week…
“We look at everything. We look at statistics, numbers, where we are, things we’ve done well, and things we’ve done poorly. Sometimes we try to bring a new wrinkle that maybe another team has done. We study other teams that are doing well in certain areas – third down, red areas. There’s not an area that we can’t improve on. So, we didn’t take the week and say, ‘we just have to do this.’ On both offense, defense, and special teams, we went back and looked at the first seven and said what we did well, what we did poorly, and what we can improve on; and we tried to attack those.”

On Chris Smith, Kenny McIntosh, and Ameer Speed
“They were all able to practice last week. We are hopeful to have them back 100%. They were beat up and banged up last week, but they practiced. So, it’s a matter of are they 100% this week. With three days off, we’ll find out a lot more today about where each one of those guys are. I think Chris and Kenny are much closer. Ameer is hopefully getting there.”

On Florida being unranked…
“This game is not about rankings. It’s never been about rankings. It’s a rival game. Our kids understand that one of their losses was to Alabama, in which they played a really good game at home, and they had an opportunity to win. And then it was two road games. So, it’s not about records and I don’t think it ever is. It’s a lot more about what we do, not about records.”

On recruiting at neutral sites…
“It’s against NCAA rules. So, you’re trying to get a rule changed that exists in terms of being off your campus and being able to recruit. There’s being able to recruit, and then there’s being able to get tickets – two different things. People will argue if you can get tickets that’s recruiting. That’s not recruiting to me just because you hand somebody a ticket because you don’t see them. We had some recruits at the Georgia-Clemson game, but we had no contact with them. So, that’s not really recruiting. That’s an invitation to watch us, which they can do on T.V. They can’t interact with us. I can’t change that rule, that’s not something I can do… We don’t have time. We fly in, prepare for the game, play the game, and then we leave. Are we going to stay afterwards and hang out with them? You can’t really do that, and you are not showing them your facility. So, it’s much tougher in regard to that. It’s not as simple as, ‘Let’s just make it so you can recruit down there.’ That’s not really the answer.”

On the receiving core injuries…
“Certainly, it (the bye week) will help it terms of recovery of legs, but Jermaine has had a grown that has been bothering him, and we are hopeful that he will be 100%. He practiced all last week, so the key there is getting those guys back. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint has battled back from the ankle and continues to improve. Dom and George are probably still a little ways away. It’s one of those deals where we are trying to get healthy. Arian is much closer, but we hope so. If anything, it’s going to help the guys that are playing, their legs, in terms of being fresher and being recovered. But that is all relative because their (Florida) is coming off an off week, too.”

On Kirby’s recruitment…
“I was recruited to Florida. I went on an official visit to Florida. I did a trip down there and it was actually closer to Athens to where I grew up.”

On the bye week schedule…
“We work on future opponents. We look at ourselves. That’s the self-scout piece. We took a portion of what they do on Wednesday, but Wednesday was primarily development and working on our team. And then Thursday was almost all Florida, other than a little bit of good on good. We worked on future opponents, Florida and ourselves.”

On Florida…
“I think first you start out with explosive plays. They’re either first in the SEC or top 10 in the country in explosive plays. They’re a very explosive team. In terms of what they do, their run game has been very special because you talk about the quarterback in the run game, plus their ability to get the ball to three good backs. They do a great job at that. When you talk about Florida, upfront, they’ve got massive men. They’ve got a big defensive line, bigger than what we’ve faced. They’re tough to run the ball against especially inside. I don’t think you can look at one game as a picture and say, ‘that’s the way it goes.’ They’re really talented out on the perimeter, with the corners. They’ve got safeties. They’ve got them and they’ve played a long time for them. Their specialists are really good players too. They play special teams like we do. You can tell there’s a major priority already put on it when their starting receivers, starting running backs and starting linebackers are all over their special teams.”

On Nakobe Dean and Kendall Milton …
“I don’t know about Kendall (Milton), he had a slight MCL. I don’t know how many weeks it will be. Nakobe (Dean) is fine.”

On the secondary …
“I think our secondary has obviously been very young. They’ve got a couple experienced players with Lewis (Cine) and Chris (Smith) and DK (Derion Kendrick) counting in other places. Everybody else is relatively new. They’ve meshed. They’ve communicated well. We’ve made some things simpler for them so that there’s not as much confusion there. I think limiting explosive plays in the run game, which is part of the secondary’s job, and the pass game is really critical in this game. You can’t give up explosives which we did last year. You can’t give up repeated explosives and to expect to win games. It’s just not going to happen, so we’ve got to limit those. I’ve been proud of the way they’ve played this far.”

On the Florida Offense…
“Yeah, it’s very different than teams we’ve seen, because I think Dan (Mullen)’s scheme is different. He’s very flexible in what he can do—he’s not one dimensional. I think last year, you could argue they were a pass-first team (and) had really good weapons… unbelievable tight-end along with a quarterback and all kinds of weapons around them. They still have weapons now, they’re different in the quarterback position, and like I said earlier, he’s using their strengths. He’s using their strengths to the tune of 500 yards of offense a game, which is pretty special. And he’s always been able to generate offense—play really good offense, because he’s flexible in what he does.”

On the 1997 Georgia vs Florida Game…
“It came about whenever George offered me, which was right about signing day, so as soon as they offered, I decided to come, but it was late in the process. As far as that game, it was Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville and a big game, but we were heavy, heavy underdogs. They were probably the more talented team to be honest. But it was a good upset—they had a lot of injuries and we were able to capitalize on some turnovers.”

On last year’s game…
“Yeah, it’s always tough, I mean, I do think when you play a team that you think it’s gonna be a high scoring game or they score a lot of points, you have to be willing to score points with them. You’ve got to be able to score, and we had a lot of opportunities last year to score offensively… We missed some shots, we missed some runs, we missed some things, but at the end of the day, you can’t give up explosive (plays) at the rate we gave them up. And you give up explosives, that’s probably the No. 1 indicator, even more than turnovers, who wins games. We just gave up too many, and didn’t make enough.”

On Bennett’s injury last year…
“I don’t know—it would be hard for me to measure how badly. I mean, I know he got a shot and he didn’t have great feeling in it, but he’s a tough kid, he’s a competitor. I couldn’t tell you exactly how badly.”

On not allowing explosive plays…
“Well, I think we’ve got some different ways to look at things… The communication has been better. I would never say you’re immune to it. People take shots, they’re gonna take shots, we know that going into every game. We got to play well on the perimeter, we got tackle well, we got affect their quarterback. We got to do all the same things we got to do every week. It’s easy to sit here and say one thing has happened… in order to do that, we’ve got to affect the  quarterback, whether that’s through pressure or getting home, but a lot of this year comes around to being able to control the run game and stop the run because they’re tremendous at both.”

#84 Ladd McConkey | WR | RS Fr.

On the chemistry between the receivers and quarterback…
“It’s everything, really, but that comes with the offseason, just getting those reps, running those routes on edge, getting the timing down. Knowing how I’m coming out of my breaks, knowing how other receivers are coming out of their breaks. That’s something that we developed in the offseason, working every day, but it really is a big factor.”

On concerns with JT Daniels returning to the team…
“We are confident in both of our quarterbacks. They’ve done a great job preparing in the off-season, all the way up to this point. We really are so lucky to have two quarterbacks who go out there and compete at a high level in the SEC. We really are thankful for that.”
 
On how JT Daniels has stayed prepared while sidelined…
“Just being at practice. I’m sure the feeling didn’t slack off in the meetings. He’s really helped out Stetson, too, on the sideline you would see them every time they come off the offensive series talking about, ‘Let me hear what you see, let me know what you see.’ Just going back-and-forth, just really being there for Stetson during that time. That just shows what kind of player he is and how he can help the team even when he’s not there.”

#90 Jake Camarda | P | Sr.

On Florida last season…
“The thing I remember about last year when we played Florida was when Zamir White scored on that first play. That is probably the one thing I remember. I don’t tend to remember the rest of the game probably because I tend to focus more on the positives. You know, last year Florida got the best of us, they played better than us. Florida has always been a good team. We are looking forward to playing them”

On his personal performance last year…
“Personally looking back at I didn’t have too many good punts. Had some punts that we didn’t necessarily want. I am just focusing on the positive not looking too much at the negatives, just looking forward to playing Florida.”

On Jordan Davis
“Man, ‘JD’ is awesome! He is probably is one of the better dudes that I get to be around. He is just a good dude. What you see on the field, the guy that is happy and enjoying playing, you see that outside of the field as well. He is a good guy all the way around. He is really one of the best guys on the team, it has been a joy to get to know him. Anytime you are around Jordan I can almost guarantee you that he will be laughing about something. He is going is going to laughing, he is going to be dancing, he is going to be doing something. That is just him, it is consistent.”

#99 Jordan Davis | DL | Sr.

On being injured last year for Florida…
“Florida is always a game that we look forward to and anticipate, especially after the bye-week. It was hard I thought I could have done some things against Florida. I am not going to say it is all one person but at least help the team in whatever way I can. That is the past and this year we want to move forward, and I feel like we are putting a great foot forward and we have our legs under ourselves now. We are just going to keep moving forward and do the best that we can. I can’t control an injury, that happens. Just being there for team morale and just give them a little high-five, a boost or a little word of encouragement. It really hurt me because I was sitting in Athens with my mom, and I was like, ‘I wish I could be there even if I can’t play. I would kill to be there right now just to be with the team and be that support.’ At the end of the day it is a different year, we are moving on, the past is the past, the future is the future.”

On the ‘No Name Defense’…
“It is just about the team. You have to put your priorities first and you know, I was never the kid to put myself first. I always want to put somebody in front of me whether that be family, friends or team. We embrace that ‘No Name Defense’ because it about all the parts working together it is not an induvial thing. You can’t have a car without a steering wheel to drive or tires, it takes all the parts to get that thing moving.”

On Florida’s offense…
“They’re explosive, Florida has a very explosive offense. We have played explosive offenses before and Florida comes in with that challenge of having two QBs and not knowing which one. We have a scheme for both, we have a scheme for everybody. We are just going to go in there and hopefully we can stop and contain them and do our best.”

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