Kirby Smart, Bulldogs preview 2021 Charleston Southern football game
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Kirby Smart, Bulldogs preview 2021 Charleston Southern football game

Kirby Smart
Photo: UGA Athletics

UGA football head coach Kirby Smart and two players, Justin Shaffer and Jordan Davis, spoke with the media on Monday about their upcoming home game against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers.

Georgia and Charleston Southern will square off on Saturday, Nov. 20 at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga. The game will be streamed by the SEC Network+ and ESPN+ at noon ET.

Mike Morgan will call the play-by-play, Charles Arbuckle will provide analysis, while Alex Chappell will report from the sidelines.

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

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement…
“I’ll open with our latest Dawgs for Pups program, Coach Hank (Cortez Hankton) and Courtney Gay have done an incredible job working with our players. They’re opening a new initiative today, the latest one in support of the Family Promise of Athens. Which is a tremendous organization that helps families in need here in Athens, as well as the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. Both organizations are being targeted by Dawgs for Pups, we’re asking everybody to give and fund in support of them. We’re really trying to support that. Dawgs for Pups has been a nationally recognized organization because our players started it and have done a tremendous job being involved in the local community. I appreciate the effort they’ve put into it and it’s kicking off today.

I’m proud of our guys for the other night in Knoxville, they really pushed through some tough, tough adversity. I know they’re excited to play at home, last home game of the season and the last home game for a lot of seniors who mean a lot to this program and team. We’re going to have the seniors honored before the game and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done to this point and for this program. I go back on how to honor those guys, you play well. That’s our goal, to honor them the right way by playing one of our better games and continuing to improve as we get ready for Charleston Southern.”

On declaring senior status…
“We had the same thing last year. We didn’t get an opportunity to do it because it was the Vanderbilt game. We told them if you’re a fourth year or beyond, that you have that opportunity because it doesn’t declare anything. They’re not ready to declare what they’re doing. So Devonte (Wyatt), Justin Shaffer, Julian (Rochester), and all of those guys they were going to walk during that game. We were getting prepared for them to walk, and we didn’t want them to make a decision before they have to. We’re going to honor those that choose to walk and a lot of them may decide to come back. A lot of them have an extra year of eligibility, but we’re not crossing that bridge yet. So, we’re going to have them walk and then make the decision. If they walk twice, great then they have a special opportunity. We’re in different times these days, so I’d rather have them all walk and decide what they want to do than not walk and possibly miss the opportunity. That doesn’t include third-year juniors, that’s a different element and they’ll decide after the season. We’re talking about guys that have years remaining, there’s quite a few that do.”

On Adam Anderson…
“I’m not allowed to talk much about it. I’ve spoken to Adam (Anderson), but that’s the extent and all I can talk about.”

On playing defensive starters the entire game…
“I don’t think any lead is safe when you talk about them. Last I checked, they played 13 plays and had 21 points on Kentucky, and you’ve got to be careful because they score fast. We also only traveled 70. Which about 30-35, I don’t know what the split was, we play everyone on defense anyway. Reporters always say, ‘Man you play 27-28 guys,’ we had a couple guys that were down during the game that were injured or had the flu, I’m talking about Jalen Carter. We only had so many left and we were playing them. To me, when you’re playing that group and they can score fast, I’m not taking anything for granted. We’re going to play our best guys and try to win the game.”

On the flu effecting the team …
“It’s not disruptive. It’s the nature of the beast. When you’re flying, you’re really flying by yourself anyways because every person has headphones on and they’re doing their own things. It’s not like we even notice. We have to take two planes. That’s probably more disruptive than having the third one because we had a few guys go on the third one but I don’t look at it as disruptive at all because it’s really what you make of it. We’re dealing with some of the repercussions now. We’ve got some guys that are just getting over the flu and just getting the flu. We’ve probably got seven or eight guys right now that are not going to be able to practice today but I think they’ll be back by tomorrow.”

On why some positions rotate and some don’t …
“The first answer to that is, ‘What do you have? What is available there?’ The philosophy usually is on the pounding with the backs. A safety doesn’t take the same number of hits that a back does. The taxation of cardio on a defensive lineman is way different than an offensive lineman. An offensive lineman controls his play speed, his cover down and his effort. Where a defensive lineman is covering down, running and chasing balls. Especially in a game like that, you want to involve more. We’ve always had a philosophy here, it’s been a philosophy of our coaching staff, if you want to have six or seven defensive lineman that roll and play, talking about the front four. It’s different at corner. Those guys are supposed to be in the best shape they possibly can be in.  Some people don’t rotate receivers at all. LSU’s year, they went and did all those numbers. We studied it. They had four receivers I think play almost all of their meaningful snaps, meaning when the score was within a two score game. We look at that and we always check and say ‘how many guys are they playing?’ At receiver, we like to play five guys. We like to play six guys. Philosophically, I think everyone is different, but I think across the board you have to play multiple defensive lineman. You don’t have to play multiple DB’s, but if you have guys that are balanced. Like last year, Tyrique (Stevenson) and Mark Webb played pretty even. There was a time when DJ Daniel rotated with (Eric) Stokes and Tyson (Campbell). We felt like it kept them fresh and they were guys that were playing above the line. Every year is different. It’s based on your depth chart. But ours has more to do with where we are right now. We have depth on the defensive line. We don’t have great depth in the secondary, so every position is different.”

On the senior class …
“Resilient. They’ve been through a lot. They’ve had some ups and downs. High quality leaders. Seniors is a loose term right now, because who is a senior? Is it the fourth year, the fifth year or the redshirt juniors? They’re just all over the place, but the group that sits in the front of this team meeting everyday is tremendous in terms of what they’ve meant to Georgia, how they’ve approached their work, and the Dawgs For Pups. A lot of those seniors have given back to their community. They don’t know the mark they’re leaving right now, but they’ll look back one day and be really proud of what they’ve been able to do here at Georgia during their tenure. There’s a really good group of them. I’m really proud of the way they’ve pushed through the COVID-19 year and that was their junior year, most of them. They’ve done a tremendous job.”

On the secondary …
“Christopher (Smith) hasn’t cross-trained much. He’s played strong and free but he hadn’t played STAR until last week. We felt like there was a chance we might need him at STAR and that’s a matchup thing. He didn’t practice a lot of STAR until last week. Some of the guys have to play multiple positions because we don’t have another person to put there. (Latavious) Brini has to be a safety. Lewis (Cine) has to be a MONEY. Ameer Speed has to be a MONEY and a corner. Kamari (Lassiter) has to be able to play STAR and corner. You just have to have those so you can get your best guys on the field, should you have injuries.”

On the value of playing FCS teams…
“It’s a see-saw. You answer the question with, ‘Do I believe these teams need these games to survive and keep the sport of football alive?’ Yeah, I do. I think some of these programs are really struggling after talking to some of their Athletic Directors, talking to some of their coaches pregame. It funds sometimes 50% sometimes 45% of their budget to have one of these games. There’s a group of young men that are going to come in here and get an experience they would never get otherwise – an opportunity to go play. From that perspective, I’d love to be able to, but what you just mentioned (the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC) is going to make it hard. The league is going to expand. The league is going to get bigger. There’s going to be more games, and fans want the bigger games. Fans don’t usually want these games. It’s a pulling of two separate ways. If you’re asking me personally, I am all about promoting the game of football. When I go to a high school program, I want to promote your program; how can I promote your program? My concern is that less kids grow up wanting to play football because less of their parents may have played football and reached out to another sport. When you take away the opportunities at these universities, you take away a lot of opportunities for kids to get scholarships and go play. Some of these FCS schools are what keep these kids’ hopes alive to play football in college when you might not be an SEC-caliber player.”

On injury updates…
“Arian (Smith), I think we know about, so Arian is going to be out. I don’t know how long, but he had a fracture in his lower leg. It’s unfortunate because he has worked hard. He had been a tremendous worker, and no kid has been through what he has been through. He got here and had a wrist surgery. He had an accident in the summer, and then had a meniscus. He came all the way back and got to contribute some last year. He comes back, has some groin injuries, some tears, and he runs track. Then he has another little groin injury, he misses some time, and then has a little bit of small issue down on his shin. Then this happens, right as he is getting back and getting well. It was a weird deal; he was running a route and just banged legs with another guy. It was not really a contact issue, and he’s out. The rest of those guys will all be fine, I think. Dom (Dominick Blaylock) is a little sick and under the weather, but Dom had been practicing and doing a good job. We’re going to get Dom back, but it’s just a matter of going out there to execute and play at a high level. I think everyone has this big anticipation, but it’s weight-bearing on Dom. Dom has been practicing. Dom has been healthy. He just hasn’t been able to jump in the rotation because we haven’t been able to get him enough time with the ones and twos. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get a chance to do that this week. Jamaree (Salyer) wasn’t quite able to play last week. I thought he was close. He went out in warmups, and it bothered him a little bit. We thought he would be close last week and thought he would be an emergency guy. We think he is going to be clear this week, so we are hopeful to get him back. Nolan (Smith) should be fine – he’s got an elbow that’s dinged up. It shouldn’t be an issue. Devonte Wyatt is fine. He had a little scare in the game, but he should be fine”

On playing the best five on the offensive line…
“That’s a hard question to answer. I don’t like to share publicly because I think it’s more relative to our team and where we are and not giving the opponent the information. To be honest with you, we think about that (the best five) all the time. We are going to put the best five that give us the best chance to win out there. It’s not as simple as it sounds. Leave Broderick (Jones) here, put Jamaree (Salyer) there – there’s a lot that goes into that that I don’t discuss.”

On JT Daniels…
“The biggest change is that he has been working with the twos. He goes out to practice and takes really quality reps. He takes ownership in those, and he watches Stetson (Bennett)’s reps and goes over what he saw on defense. A lot of times the plays are the same in terms of what the ones and twos get, so he anticipates the throws and does what he does in the games. It helps the other guy. I don’t know if you’re aiming at, ‘Will he go down to the scout team?’ That’s a way different circumstance, right now, because he’s the guy who is just repping with the twos and getting his reps. He’s done a really good job handling that and continuing to work to get better. He’s done a really good job when he goes against us, all of us, defensively. He gets to work on good-on-good, not scout crew. He does a good job at that, as well as Stetson does. Both those guys are playing well to me, right now.”

On motivating the team…
“I don’t need to worry about that with these guys. I really don’t. This group’s got great leadership. It’s an opportunity to honor the seniors. You get an opportunity to honor this group, it’s what you do, man. They’ve sold this program on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you earn what you get on Saturday. And that opponent is nameless, faceless—doesn’t matter. It’s what you do. And I know everybody thinks that’s “coach speak,” but that’s what this group has done. They’ve gone out and practiced Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, regardless of who we’re playing, and they practice the right way.”

On the inside linebackers…
“Those guys are playing tremendous, they’re great leaders. I said in the offseason there’s not two groups on our practice field who work harder than the running backs and linebackers, and all offseason, those two were paired together in their little workouts, and county fair, and agility drills, and I would go group to group, and it was unmatched in terms of the level of competition and work ethic between the backs and the inside backers, and not necessarily against each other. It was within themselves, but they’re both in the same group. And it was like, if you just measured the effort, it was not a knock on the other groups, it’s just people that work hard—people that work hard in the offseason in competing, and I call it strain, they usually play well. And those two groups have really been a big part of our success.”

On Xavier Truss…
“He’s been repping a lot there, almost exclusively has he been repping at guard, so it’s something he’s continued to get better at, he’s got to continue to get better. There were things that needed to be cleaned up… He does give us a lot of size, but he’d be the first to tell you, you know, he could have played better. It’s good that he got to get in that action, kind of like Broderick (Jones) did at Auburn—he got thrown in there and got to play in a tough environment—and go in and play. But there’s footwork things, ID things, protection things he’s got to clean up.”

On the QB this week…
“Our goal is to go out there and get the best quarterback ready to play and go out and play with best guy. If that presents itself, absolutely. Straight up, I hope everybody gets to play. I really do. I hope everybody gets to play, but I don’t control that. What I control is how we prepare and how we go out and play the game. So the hope is that we go out and play our best game. But, it would be remiss if you go around thinking that and then you’re in the middle of a game in the fourth quarter. You know what I mean? You got to go prepare to play your best possible game, and play your best players, and beat the best guys out there. And hopefully, we get a chance to play all the guys that dress out. But it’s not something that they’re thinking about.”

On 11 former Georgia Golfer’s playing this week at the RSM Classic…
“As far as representing the University, our golf program does a tremendous job. I think if anything, it sells Coach (Chris) Haack’s program. He has the ability to go recruit and have talent come out of the state. It’s pretty incredible when you look at the PGA Tour and how successful the Georgia golfers have been. As far as how it benefits us in football, I don’t really see the correlation there. Not a lot of the guys we recruit are paying attention to how many Dawgs are on tour, but I’m certainly proud of what they’ve done and what they’ve been able to do. I’ll be watching how the finish goes this weekend down there (St. Simons Island, Ga.).”

On the lessons the game of golf can teach you…
“Golf is a game of patience. It tries your patience because even when you are at your best, you are not perfect. That’s the same way with football. Even when you think you are at your best, you are nowhere near perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect golf round, and there is certainly not a perfect football game. We are always trying to get better.”

On the importance of game experience for players coming back from injury…
“I think it’s really importance because of confidence. They need confidence. Not only that, but the guys in front of them need reps too. Most of the guys that have been playing are young players, in some of those positions. Maybe not in Jamaree’s (Salyer) case, but in George (Pickens) and Dominick’s (Blaylock) case a lot of those guys are playing their first season. That’s AD (Mitchell), Ladd (McConkey), and Jaylen (Johnson) getting more work than they’ve gotten. We don’t have a lot of experience. Even Jermaine (Burton) is more like a second-year guy at the beginning of the season because of the time he’s missed. It’s important to gain confidence. I think you can get that in a practice. An older player can get that in practice easier… It’s important to get those guys back out there. Again, I don’t know when that is going to happen. Everybody just thinks well, put him in, but it takes a lot more than that. It takes them getting all the reps, and when you’re giving them the reps you are giving up other persons reps.”

On the flu vaccine…
“We have had several coaches get the flu here recently, some players as well. I think we are 80-85 percent on the flu vaccine, so we had a large number of guys get the flu vaccine. That’s not the perfect indicator for not getting the flu apparently… We’ve had some guy get it that had the vaccine. We encourage it to the players but leave it up to them. We’ve just had a tough run here in the last 48 hours or so.”

#54 Justin Shaffer | Sr. | OL

On the experience of playing after having to wait his turn…
“It feels like a dream come true. It feels like I made it. But I still haven’t reached the goals that I want to make yet.”

On his emotions going into his Senior Day…
“I mean my head has been spinning since Sunday thinking of the game like, ‘this is my last home game.’ Just thinking about it…it’s my last home game, it’s the last ride.”

On the validation this season has given the seniors who returned…
“I mean, that was one of the main goals to win the SEC East. Coming in winning all the SEC games. Just taking each goal and accomplishing each goal week-to-week is all we can do. All we can do is our best.”

#99 Jordan Davis | Sr. | DL

On what you have to learn and recognize at Georgia…
“It is hard work. It is tough, the off-season is tough. It can either make you or break you. People say, ‘pressure makes diamonds and busts pipes,’ and I wanted to be the one who made diamonds in this situation. Yeah, Georgia is not for everybody. But if it is for you and you want to be coached hard and do something really special than this is the place for you.”

On the leadership style of Nolan Smith…
“Nolan (Smith) brings it every day, he brings the juice. When I’m down and I’m really iffy and I’m not under the weather but you know, Nolan brings it every day. He always has that energy, he always has that bubbliness, he has that vibe. So it is always great to play with him. You see it on film, he plays how he talks. He wants that life. Nolan will always be the guy who will bring it and you can rely on.”

On his relationship with Devonte Wyatt..
“That is my brother. All I can say is that is my brother. You come in here and don’t expect that and obviously you would think of him as a teammate…But that relationship and building that bond with Devonte, we almost do everything together. I go to him whenever I have a problem. I went to him last night, I was like, ‘I just need to get out of the house and talk and be with somebody.’ I’m glad I have Devonte and other players to call on like that. That just kind of tells you about the relationship of this team. This year has been a connection, but we don’t really call it connection we call it love. That is how it is with the team in the locker room it is love.”

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