Kirby Smart, defensive players discuss 2021 Missouri football game
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Kirby Smart, defensive players discuss 2021 Missouri football game

Kirby Smart
Photo: Mackenzie Miles/UGA

UGA football head coach Kirby Smart and two defensive players, Kelee Ringo and Channing Tindall, spoke with the media on Tuesday about the Bulldogs’ SEC home game against Missouri.

Georgia and Missouri will square off at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 6. The game is set for noon ET and it will be televised by ESPN (Buy Tickets).

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 comments on the upcoming home game against the Missouri Tigers which was provided by UGA.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

On Mark Richt being honored during the game this weekend… 

“Coach Richt and Katharyn (Richt), their family have just been tremendous to myself and Mary Beth (Smart), I think my career was probably similar to his in terms of coming up. Being a GA (graduate assistant,) growing up we both GA’ed kind of under Coach Bowden (Bobby) and I think he met his wife at the time, Katharyn, and then I kind of went on my career and then bounced back, by the time I was at LSU and Nick (Saban) went to Miami, ended up getting hired and Coach Richt gave me an opportunity to coach running backs, which I’d never done. It showed a lot of confidence in me as a coach and I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot about being the right kind of person and how to run an organization the right way and it’s meant a lot to my career and I was really only with him for one year, but always followed him from afar because he was an alma mater and I respected the job he did. And he certainly made this a really good job from the way he built everything and the things he did the time he was here. It’s always been very fertile in terms of people and players in the state but he’s meant so much to so many. I think when you talk to the players, I know all the guys that played for him, I’ve seen so many alumni and players that have just, they come back to events and they just rave about their relationship. And you see guys like Terrence Edwards and Ben Watson and these great players that just respect Coach Richt and the things he did for this university, I certainly feel the same way and I couldn’t be prouder to be honoring him. And he’s reached out to me so many times where he and Katharyn have said, Hey, we’re praying for you and your family. I mean, back when I was in Alabama, it just meant a lot that he did those things, but I’m glad he’s doing it and I know our fan base will be there to recognize him.”

On Missouri’s quarterback situation… 

“I think there’s a lot more difference in the Tyler Macon kid, the kid that played a little more, you know an athlete, got a really strong arm, but a good athlete. I mean, would be similar to the Anthony Richardson type in terms of athleticism. They can do some different things. He’s got some really tough run games when he plays with a guy like that because he’s got some tough plays to defend. And they’ve also got Brady Cook who played a little bit against us last year and has played some this year who’s more like Bazelak (Connor). So, we’re up in the air as far as we don’t know whether we’re preparing for Tyler Macon, whether we’re preparing for Cook or whether Bazelak will be able to play soon. So, we don’t really know. It’s probably tougher prep than last week because they were more similar last week as quarterbacks. There’s a distinct difference when the Macon kid is in.”

On Ameer Speed and quarterbacks this week…  

“Quarterbacks looked great. They both did a tremendous job, really pleased with where they’re at. Ameer has been good. He played in the Florida game. He started on kickoff return. Wanted to use him on some more special teams and things, just didn’t know how much he’d be able to handle and tolerate but he felt pretty good. I think he’s like 80-85 percent. And he had a great rep on kickoff return that helps spring Kearis Jackson for that opening kickoff return. And he’s practiced this week and I don’t know if he’s 100 percent But he’s, he certainly much closer to it. He feels more confident in it.”

On starting quarterbacks…  

“I think it’s important for both of them to continue to develop, make good decisions. I mean, part of playing quarterback is accuracy, decision making, mobility. Those things are the critical factors. Anybody can hand it off, we all know that, and anybody can make our run checks and decisions. But it’s the decisions when the ball’s in your hand and you’re having to make decisions where you’re going with it, where you’re throwing it, all those things that are the biggest deciding factors but I’m pleased where both of them are.”

On Stetson Bennett starting again this week… 

“Like I said, I’m pleased where both of them are and I think both of them are doing a great job.”

On staying humble… 

“They’ve had this night seven times And I would dare y’all to know how many of those seven actually won the national championship. Anybody got an answer? One’s the answer. So my point would be to the players and I made the point today and will continue to make the point is why? Why did only one of the seven win it? And it’s pretty easy, because it either went to their head, it affected them. They didn’t continue to grow and get better and the narrative out there will be people will say I’m not saying this because I certainly don’t think it’s true at all. But the narrative is what distorts young people’s minds and they read on social media and things that there’s this upper echelon of teams, and then there’s this other group, and I don’t think that’s the case at all. I don’t see it that way. I see every team in that Top 10, Top 15 capable of beating each other any given Saturday. So, what we better do is distance ourselves from everybody else and get better because we got some tough roads coming down the pipe starting this week and every week to follow when you play in the SEC. So, that’s our concern, not that. We’re not worried about that. I told them they could tune in and watch the Braves, but there’s no need to watch the other because that’s not what’s important and it’s distorted at least six other team’s’ minds enough for them not to make it there.”

On Zamir White sharing carries with other guys and his importance to the team… 

“The sharing carries is more for his health, than anything else. I don’t think a guy can play in the SEC and tone it that many times anymore, I mean it’s just tough. I saw it with Derrick Henry and seeing it with other guys. It’s hard to do and sustain. So what he’s done is incredible. In terms of carrying the workload, the leadership, the work ethic, and there’s not a day he comes out to practice, he doesn’t practice hard. And the best thing about it is he takes care of his body. He does a tremendous job. I’ve seen, come across my office outside my window right here where he’s walking back and forth and I’m texting him, what are you doing? “Well, I’m coming to treatment. I’m leaving treatment. I’m getting extra treatment. I’m taking care of my body so I can be effective.” He’s just a great leader.”

On Zamir White…

“Yeah, this year in carries has been more from his health than anything else. I don’t think a guy can play in the SEC and end the season that many times anymore. I mean, it’s just tough. I saw it with Derrick Henry and seeing it with other guys. It’s hard to do and sustain, so what he’s done is incredible in terms of carrying the workload, the leadership, the work ethic, and there’s not a day he comes out to practice and doesn’t practice hard and the best thing about him is that he takes care of his body. You know, he does a tremendous job. I’ve seen him come across my office outside my window right here where he’s walking back and forth and I’m texting ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I’m coming to treatment,’ ‘I’m leaving treatment’, and ‘I’m getting an extra treatment’, ‘I’m taking care of my body so I can be effective.’ He’s just a great leader.”

On the health of the wide receiver room…

“George (Pickens) is not back, right. Dom’s (Dominick Blaylock) not back. Dom did routes all day for the first time in three weeks. He just ran 16-17 miles an hour. He’s a 20-21 mile-an-hour guy, so he’s not back. Justin Robinson is not back. And outside of those three, I think we have everybody else trying to approach, I don’t think Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is still not 100% and he’s coming off of an ankle and a significant break from last year, so he’s working his way back, but he’s playing. You know, If you compare it to Auburn, I think we’re 30-40 percent better than when we played Auburn. We were really struggling going into that game, but we’re not 100 percent still, I mean, it’s just nobody is. Nobody is at this point.”

On Georgia Pickens and Dominick Blaylock’s status for the SEC Championship…

“I don’t know. I really don’t know either one. I think Blaylock will have an opportunity because of what he was able to do yesterday and today. I think he’s headed in the right direction. He’s actually taking the brace off, so, this is, you know, I think he’s 14 months post ACL, so it’s like not about the ACL. He’s got to get confidence in that knee and confidence through practice. Well, his practice has been hindered by his hamstring and it’s ironic because the brace bothers his hamstring and he feels like it’s part of the reason he pulled (the hamstring). I think the last time you all were there he pulled, so he’s been this big gap, but I think he’s got a chance. You know, I don’t know about George because, you know, we meet medically, periodically with Dr. Andrews, who did the surgery, and Dr. Andrews has been very positive with him. He’s done Cybex testing, he’s done, there’s 9 million tests you do to see where you are and he’s like 85% to 99 percent, to somethings he’s actually stronger on the injured leg than the other leg, so he’s like come a long way, but there’s no timetable yet to say SEC championship or not. We think he may be cleared to practice possibly before then, but we just don’t know. I do know he’s got a meeting set up with Dr. Andrews here in the near future that he’s gonna get to go meet with him and his mom and they get to visit and share things. He got to meet with him at the Auburn game, that’s why he went with us because he got to meet with Dr. Andrews for another update.”

On the decision of keeping JT Daniels and knowing when to take starters out after being up big on a game…

“There was nothing really that kept him (JT Daniels), I mean, we every game we talked on the headphones, we have a two-hour meeting in the morning before the game to go through how we plan to play the players and we don’t always decide that until the day of the game and how to play the players is something that every, at least every coach I know goes through and used to be about red shirts and how many reps guys would get and other guys would play and it’s really more about situations decided if a guy gets hurt, who’s going in if this guy goes right tackle and he goes to left tackle. You go through all those things. We do all those things and we talk about them and then in the game, there is another discussion of, ‘When is the game out of hand?’, ‘When is it not?’, and ‘How are we playing the game?’. A lot of times if you’re playing to run the clock out then it’s not necessarily beneficial for a guy to go in and hand the ball off or do that and then in other games, you’re trying to score it and then you go back to whatever game it was Carson Beck, we were throwing the ball trying to grow him and get him better when we had the pick-six, so every game I think is different. We make the decision based on what we think is best for the team.”

On the last two days of practice…

“The last two practices have been great. They’ve really been good, I mean, there’s been no letdown, hangover, any of that. They’ve practiced really good Monday and they practiced really good today. There’s been a unique buy-in to Tuesday’s/Wednesday’s wins game, so let’s go win it on Tuesday/Wednesday and very spirited, competitive, physical, good practices. The good news is we’ve had enough legs between (Ameer) Speed getting back and the wideouts feeling like they’re pushing 100 percent, Jermaine (Burton) and Arian (Smith) specifically, we’ve been able to get a few more reps than we had in the past, we had to cut reps way down before.”

On his experience as a running backs coach…

“As far as the experience at running back, it was invaluable because I got to sit in a room with Neil Callaway, Mike Bobo, you know, Coach Richt, and hear how they think about things. And, you know, I was charged with watching the defense, which I thought was really cool and trying to tell them what the defense was doing or thinking and I got to listen to game planning how they went about third down, second down. It helped me tremendously in terms of “How does an offensive guy look at it?” and I wish I’d done a better job learning then because it’s been invaluable throughout the years I’ve been on defense.”

On the difficulties of recruiting in season…..

“The difficulties of recruiting in season is time management. I mean, it’s just you have to make a choice of how much you want to commit to game plan, how much you want to commit to player development, player relationships, the mental health of your players and, how much you want to commit to recruiting. And it’s not an easy balance. I mean in-season is extremely hard. So our coaches I think do a tremendous job at night. After our meeting sometimes we get done at nine or 10. Each night is different. Wednesday night, we get done after practice so that’s kind of our night. We recruit hard and we communicate with each other what’s going on and Thursday night we do the same. Just balance whatever you’re comfortable with whatever you feel like best and certainly when we have home games it makes it easier.”

On Keele Ringo….

“Well, I mean I’m gonna be honest, Keele’s not really a leader yet. He’s still figuring things out and he has leadership qualities, but you’re talking about a defense full of some alpha males now and he’s still figuring all that out. He’s learning how to lead and set an example, you know, and it wasn’t more of getting on with a teammate as much as it was. His teammate messed up and he knew it and he knew he was right. He just didn’t mentally handle it the right way. But I’m proud, Keele’s come a long way. You know, he’s got a long way to go but he’s come a long way because I mean, this young man did not practice one time from the time he had surgery last year. So I’m very pleased with where he’s come. I’m proud of the way he works, and he’s got a lot tougher, tough contact, and he’s getting a lot smarter in terms of understanding our defense. But he still has a ways to go and he will be a leader of this team because he’s gonna be a guy that has a lot of experience.

#5 | Kelee Ringo | RFr. | DB

On being ranked No.1 in the first CFP ranking…

“It’s a great feeling, to be honest, but I feel just continuing to just come out every single day and work like you’re in last place in college football could definitely help us to continue where we’ve been going. I feel like that’s a great start to be putting ourselves in right now.”

On the interaction with Coach Smart during the Florida game…

“With our defense we have a certain standard going from teammate to teammate, and coach to coach. As we saw later throughout the game, there were a few passes that I didn’t meet, and I got a little bit frustrated. But the process, it’s a lot of emotion – it’s the type of emotion that wasn’t in the right place at the time which is why I acted the way that I did. We got through that situation, and we solved it.”

On what he can improve on…

“All aspects of the game, to be honest. Coverage each and every single day. We come into meetings and look at what we can work on, telling us about ourselves and how we came out. I feel like just continuing to work on the little things like coming out of the breaks, slowing down on tempos, bailing but also staying close to the receivers during their breaks.”

#41 | Channing Tindall | Sr. | ILB

On the Florida game….

“That Florida game was definitely a challenging week for us. Offensively, for Florida, they run a lot of schemes, kind of like I-violators. That’s what we call them. So like, we just had to buckle down and look at those types of things. We just focused on what we had to do for our job. And so like once we paid attention to what we had to do for our job and just executed that everything took care of itself after that. So, yeah now we’re headed for Missouri.”

On Georgia’s defense and linebacker core…

“In the inside linebacker group, we don’t have a name, something we’re probably gonna have to talk about. Probably going to talk about it tonight actually or at the end of the season. We aren’t really worried about a name right now. But we are just trying to improve each week, we are focused on getting better. So we don’t really try to focus on the past. Last week, we looked at our mistakes, right now we’re just trying to get better and better and better. I feel like that’s what makes our room so special because we’re all competitive. So we’re trying to do better than the other ones. So like when you’re trying to do better than the other one, you focus on everything – the keys, the alignments, you gotta do everything. Outdoing each other actually making us better. So like that’s the number one thing that’s kind of got us to the point that we are now.”

On Nolan Smith….

“Yeah, definitely. In practice, what you see in practice is what you’re going to see in the game. We’re a firm believer that what you do in practice is what’s going to show up in the game. And Nolan’s very passionate, very vocal, and he’s going to make plays. What he does in practice shows up on the field. So all his hard work, he earns it. All those plays you see, aren’t just lucky plays like he actually worked for those.”

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