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

Kirby Smart
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGA

UGA football head coach Kirby Smart and three players, Christopher Smith, Justin Shaffer, and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, spoke with the media on Monday about their upcoming game against the Missouri Tigers.

Georgia and Missouri will square off on Saturday, Nov. 6 at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga. (Buy Tickets). The game will be televised by ESPN at 12:00pm ET.

Joe Tessitore will call the play-by-play, Greg McElroy will provide analysis, while Katie George will report from the sidelines.

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

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement…
“Appreciate everyone being here, looking forward to working on Missouri today. Our guys are excited to keep getting better and that is really the message for this group that we have to continue to improve in a lot of areas, there are a lot of things we have to clean up in the tape Saturday. Special teams included, but in all three phases the goal today will be to keep moving forward, getting more depth and trying to prepare our guys to get better for the game this weekend.”

On clinching the SEC East and reflecting on how the program has grown…
“A lot of hard work, a lot of support from our fanbase and our administration, and a lot of recruiting. The expectation is to win the East and play for an SEC Championship. I think it is the greatest conference in the country in terms of the competitive nature and the recruiting battles are really tough. I am really proud of our guys and the work that they have done. Obviously, that is not our goal…it’s not where we want to be, it’s not where we need to be, so we are focused on getting better for Missouri. How can we get better in the areas that we need to improve in? Because everyone knows humility is a week away and they have a good program. I think Eliah (Drinkwitz) is doing a good job, but the biggest thing is how we get better. I am certainly proud of what we have been able to do and accomplish.”

On evaluating Derion Kendrick and his role on the defense…
“I don’t know what analytics you’re going by… I think those things are a joke really, personally. When we go talk to NFL scouts, they laugh at PFF, or whatever the source may be. What they do, they use them to pull up and evaluate guys. A lot of times, PFF is a guy that works at another job during the day and that’s just his secondary job to chart whether or not (Derion) or Nakobe Dean or Travon Walker or Warren McClendon or Jamaree Salyer do their job. Their evaluation is probably not as supportive as ours. With all that said, I’m very pleased with what (Derion) is doing, but I’m not going to base it off what a statistician says. I think statistics are for making decisions on whether you go for it or you don’t or whether you do this or do this, but not evaluation of the players. I’m going to reserve that for the people in our building that have laid eyes on people for a long time and (Derion) is doing a really nice job, doing a phenomenal job of practice, taking notes, and understanding importance. You have to understand, (Derion) came in with a foundation similar to what a senior would be for us. He played really good defense, played in a scheme diverse defense, under Coach (Brent) Venables. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with how he handles practice, walkthrough, he is a consummate, dedicated senior to getting the little things right. When you correct him, he handles it really well. Everything those guys said about him over at Clemson, that he’s very coachable, that he wants to do it right, all those things have been true, so I’m very pleased with that. Can he get better on the field? Absolutely. And he’s been protected by a really good rush as well. He’s had some chances to make plays and he’s made some and then some others he wishes he had back but goes against some really good wideouts every day in practice so I’m pleased with what he’s doing but not by way of anything out there that’s evaluating people outside of our coaches.”

On Stetson Bennett’s running ability being a separator when it comes to deciding a quarterback…
“It’s a separator, but I mean there’s things that JT (Daniels) is better at than Stetson, but it’s one of the things that’s a factor. Mobility in a quarterback is critical. It’s not that JT’s immobile, … it’s just that Stetson is very mobile. Stetson is able to make some plays with his feet. I thought there were five or six plays in the game where his mobility was a factor. We had breakdowns, and you’re going to have some, on offense. And when you have those, you gotta have somebody who can get you out of a bad play, and I don’t mean by way of check, I mean during the play and he does a good job of doing that.”

On the importance of explosive offensive plays…
“Explosive plays are the number one trait to scoring points, in my opinion. I mean, that’s probably the number one characteristic of teams that win games is how explosive you are, especially in today’s day in age. So being able to be explosive is really important and we work really hard on it. Haven’t really been as explosive as we want to be in the run game, but the run game we have had is set up as play-action and a lot of those explosive plays have come off play-action. We’re very pleased with where that is. It’s not necessarily fair all the time to our offense because there’s a lot of games we’re not trying to score because we’ve got other guys in so we’ve had some games those guys didn’t get an opportunity to score at will, to be explosive the whole game. When they’ve had to do things, they’ve done a good job of doing that. I think that’s important. It’s hard to measure us against a team that might have been in five or six or seven really close games because they might be playing it different.”

On Nolan Smith’s comments following the Florida game…
“That’s just Nolan’s personality. Nolan is very prideful. His personality is a very strong personality. He’s very talkative at practice, in flex, and in leadership mode. I love his energy. He comes every day to practice and conveys the message that we want driven home. Whether it’s physical, toughness, or effort, he’s trying to make sure that everyone is going the same direction. I don’t know exactly what he said, but I’m sure for him, it’s in defense of his teammates. I don’t know that it’s just because it’s Stetson (Bennett). He would feel that way whoever was out there. He believes in whoever is out there, just like the rest of the team does.”

On Adam Anderson’s hand injury…
“He has a UCL, finger sprain deal that is bothering him. We felt that he would be more effective in a club than a cast. We would love for him to have grip, but he didn’t feel like he would have grip. A lot of times, when you have a club, you can play without worrying about it. So, the concern wasn’t there of it hurting or hurting it, It was protected. It makes it a little less effective in terms of grabbing, clawing, and wrapping up.”

On how the team has improved throughout the season and week-to-week…
“They have been tremendous. They take the Mondays as give me my medicine. What do I have to get better at? Talk to us coach, What can we get better at? Where do we go from here? They understand that we are not where we need to be, and that has been a consistent theme around here for five-six years. It’s not like it’s all of a sudden magical this year that we just try to get better after games. Regardless of the outcome of the game, there are things you have to work on to get better. Millions of things that you guys don’t see, or aren’t privy to during the game that on the tape coaches watch are mistakes. Five-six busted coverages, but yet all they hear on TV is how coordinated the coverage is. That’s not necessarily true, and you guys don’t necessarily know that. You wouldn’t, but our guys do, and that’s what Monday’s about. Making sure we can clean that up. Same thing on the offensive line. If a guy moves and we miss a double team and nobody sees is they think it’s somebody else’s fault. We are trying to clean those things up. We want to play cleaner on both sides of the ball. That’s what practice is for.”

On being disciplined and preparing for trick plays…
“Just that—discipline. I mean, you can’t predict trick plays, you practice trick plays, but you never practice the right one. So, just doesn’t work that way. There are infinite numbers of ways to run trick plays… ‘Are your eyes in the right place? Are you looking at what you’re supposed to look at?’ Most mistakes on defense are done because my eyes aren’t where they’re supposed to be trained. And if you can get everybody to put their eyes in the right place, then you’re going to be more successful. We’re not doing that at any kind of high rate, because we have guys who have their eyes in the wrong place, and you can only get away with it more when you’ve got really good people upfront.”

On Kearis Jackson’s big game against Florida…
“Yeah, it’s great. It was great to see him make a play one-on-one. Stetson gave him a hell of an opportunity—it was a great play call. It was something that we had worked on all week—thought we had a shot at. It’s just one of those that pays off in terms of capitalizing on it. He’s working really hard. He always works hard. He’s a great leader. And very pleased with what Kearis (Jackson) does for this team.”

On Jack Podlesny’s consistency this season…
“I think he’s been pretty consistent in terms of what he’s done in practice and that valuable work to me is much greater than the 15 or 16 kicks you get to see out there. He just hasn’t been as effective when we needed him most. He also has been in some tough situations, different atmospheres in terms of what we’re playing in front of. Can’t let that affect you. The other day was tough. That wind was violent. It was affecting both teams. Probably more on me for putting him out there in that situation. I trust him and I think he’s a really good kicker. I’m not concerned.”

On what Dan Lanning has done to develop linebackers for the NFL…
“Number one, that credit goes to both Dan (Lanning) and Coach (Glenn) Schumann. They both do a tremendous job. One has the outside, one has the inside but Dan does a good job calling the defense. Glenn has done a tremendous job developing young linebackers and growing those guys so they can go on to be NFL players. I think when guys make decisions on where they want to go to school they want to see what you’ve done in terms of teaching, developing, growing players. We’ve been really fortunate, inside backer and outside backer, to put a lot of guys at the next level. And that’s because the defense we play is very similar to what they do in the NFL and because we have good players. You want big size, speed guys. We’ve been able to recruit to a certain size, speed criteria. In the NFL, they are constantly looking for backers that can play all three downs and can run. There’s a limited number of those guys. We’ve been able to get some and develop some. I’m really pleased with those guys. We’ve taken on some injuries in that position that have made it really tough between Trezmen (Marshall) and Rian (Davis), so our depth is limited there.”

On player-driven leadership…
“It’s composure that I’m looking for and discipline. We have players all of the time getting on other players. And they do it the right way, but there’s a right way to do that and there’s a time to do that. It’s not in the middle of the game or the play. It’s a learning experience and he’s (Kelee Ringo) very bright, very intelligent, and learns quickly.”

On Missouri’s Tyler Badie and the key to covering him this week…
“He’s got great vision, ultimate toughness. I feel like he’s been there forever. He’s a really good receiver out of the backfield. His ability to run the outside-in zone play is as good as I’ve ever seen. They are really good at running that play. And he finds holes that sometimes you think aren’t even there, like ‘how did he get through there?’ He runs with extreme toughness. You see him break tackles and second-level safety tackles. He’s got a great stiff-arm and he runs bigger than he is. He runs at a really good scheme in terms of outside zones.”

On playing defense behind a ball-control offense…
“To me, we are trying to score points. We are trying to score points every possession. When you talk about ball control offense, you’re talking about being able to be explosive because in today’s day and age, there is no such thing as three yards and a cloud of dust unless you’re playing one of the service academies. You’re trying to score. You’re trying to be explosive. It’s a lot more important to us to be explosive than to just be three or four yards. There have been some games that we have had to play a little bit defense because of a defense that somebody plays or maybe our personnel wasn’t the same because we only had four wideouts that were effective for a game. We’ve had different mentalities; we win with whatever it is that we have to do to win that game, whatever it calls for. I think our offensive staff does an incredible job in coming up with that.”

On Zamir White…
“I think he has been really effective. I think he has gotten a few more opportunities because of Kendall and Kenny’s injuries. So, his opportunity has gone up a little more. I think we are running the ball really well. I think our explosive nature of play-action has helped him because just like us running the ball makes it easier for us to be explosive in the pass game, us being explosive in the pass game compliments us being able to run the ball better. He’s gotten good opportunities. He’s taken advantage of it. The design of some of the runs in the run game has helped. I think that’s a big piece of it, but I’m really proud of what Zamir’s been able to do. He works so hard. I think he feels like he’s completely healthy for the first time in terms of breaking tackles, having strength, and not being dinged up.”

On Dominick Blaylock…
“It’s tricky with that injury, it’s a hamstring. They are always tricky and frustrating… as a coach you just say, ‘Tell me when he’s ready. When is he going to be ready, Ron, when is he going to be ready?’ It doesn’t work that way. As long as he does what he can, he is strengthening the muscle. He’s done everything we have asked. He’s trying to get back, and he is much closer this week than he was last. It’s a patient process when it comes to hamstrings.”

#29 | Christopher Smith | Sr. | DB

On clinching the SEC East…
“I actually saw it on Instagram. We follow the UGA fans and UGA fan pages. There are a ton of fan pages that are great, and I tag into them a lot. They tag me in certain stuff, so the first way I found out was because they tagged me in a photo letting me know that we clinched the East. Guys on the team found out and we came together. It’s a milestone to reach, but it’s not the end. We’ve got a bigger goal. We’ve got a goal that we want to reach, and we want to get there.”

On his size…
“I heard it (being too small) plenty of times. Hearing it from coaches, seeing articles and places like that… When I first got here and I was like 140 pounds, a very, very small player. Like I said, a lot of guys in the NFL are small players. Guys like Budda Baker, Tyron Mathieu, Kenny Moore, some smaller guys that are dogs. They let me know that it can be done even if I know from the beginning that it can be done. I’ve been doing this since I was six years old. They let me know that it can be done because at any level, size matters, of course, but you can overcome that if you have heart. I just go out there and play to the fullest of my ability. I’m going to put my life on the line every time I go out there.”

On the linebacker group…
“Those guys are indescribable. They are so fast, so smart. Their position coach, Coach Schumann, he’s one of the smartest guys that I have ever met in football. He does a great job of keeping those guys prepared. They take what he gives them, the knowledge that he gives them, and pour it into us. It’s definitely great to be able to share the field with those guys.”

#54 | Justin Shaffer | Sr. | OL

On the win over Florida…
“It meant a lot. Just coming into the game thinking about how it ended last year, it was just all motivation. Telling everybody, ‘it wasn’t going to be the same as last year.’”

Clinching the East…
“We are not really focused on that right now. We are focused on Missouri because we have Missouri this week. When the time comes we will celebrate but right now we are still locked in for each game week-by-week.”

On Missouri…
“We haven’t really looked at them yet. But from what I have seen on film, they are a pretty good team. They have a solid front seven.”

On his favorite Halloween candy and costume…
“I like Laffy Taffy, the strawberry ones, and snickers. Costume… would probably be a professional football player.”

#81 | Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint | So. | WR

On explosive plays…
“We know explosive plays this year have been a very big emphasis for us on offense. The more explosive plays we get in games, the better chance we have at winning the game. That’s really what we have been trying to focus on. Just the execution part – you can’t get them without execution… We are going to take our shots every game, and it is something that we are actively trying to do. We are trying to get explosive; we are trying to be explosive on offense.”

On preparation for Missouri…
“We focus on ourselves. We make sure that we know what the game plan is going into the game, make sure that we know how to execute the game plan. And that we know that if the game plan goes wrong, we can find another way and have a backup plan. Missouri is a good team. I don’t know much about them, right now, but I’ll know more about them tomorrow.”

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