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Georgia Football

Kirby Smart Discusses Future at QB Spot in Athens

October 20, 2020
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Head Coach Kirby Smart
Opening statement … 
“I will open with we are starting our third Dawgs for Pups initiative. A lot of our kids started this and they have done a tremendous job. Several of them have kind of grabbed the bull by the horns — they did a wifi, food drive, and then also they are starting a coat drive for winter months for kids in the local area who do not have coats. I encourage people who want to get involved in that to do it. I know it is important to our players and they have done a good job. Cortez Hankton has kind of been spearheading some of those, so it’s been a tremendous initiative those kids have taken part in. 
 
“It’s an off week this week. We are a beat up football team. We’ve got some guys who’ve got to get well, but we’ve also got a lot of guys that have got to get better. So we are taking this week, working Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday trying to get fundamentally better, trying to focus on us, not really on opponents, things we can get better at. That starts today. I am excited to see the kids go out and work. We’ve got a lot of guys who probably haven’t gotten to play the number of snaps that we would like in terms of the teams we played and the tight games we have had to play, and we’ve got to get those guys better. It starts today and they will get to work on it today.” 
 
On JT Daniels and if this week gives them time to give him an extra look … 
“We look at the off weeks as an opportunity to get everybody better, so it will be no different at any position in terms of the reps we are able to get. During a game week, we give ones 78 percent of the reps, twos 20-30 percent of the reps, but then our threes get a lot of reps during the week because they go against the other units. This week, we will get to get a lot of guys reps. JT will get reps, D’Wan [Mathis] will get reps, Stetson [Bennett] will continue to get reps. We try to develop our roster — that’s the way we look at it. It doesn’t change, it just gives a chance to give more guys work and see where they are in their progress. That’s true at every position and true at quarterback.”
 
On the difference between being medically cleared and ready to compete … 
“Medically cleared is saying he can go out and get tackled and play football. It’s unique to that position because the quarterback doesn’t go live — maybe in fall camp some — but he doesn’t go live until real game time and then everything else is revolved around who we think gives us the best chance to win. That’s ultimately the decision you have. The toughest thing is getting enough reps once you are down the road of being able to get guys prepared for a game. You can’t prepare three or four quarterbacks to play in a game. You just don’t get enough time to do that. We do get a lot of time this week to compete, have reps. That’s every position. I look at it as every guy that is going out there is getting a chance to get better on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and that is the way we have always done our off week. That doesn’t change. 
 
On what he would like Stetson Bennett to focus on over the next few weeks as far as improvement and if he is still the starter … 
“Like I have talked about before, I feel great about Stetson. He’s done a good job of managing the situations we have put him in. He made a couple of bad decisions. Some of them he didn’t have to pay the dividend for. He threw a couple of balls that he shouldn’t have thrown based on the coverage they gave us, but those weren’t necessarily the ones that got picked. Sometimes, you get batted balls, they get tipped, and you get picked. Sometimes, you throw a ball — you know he missed Jermaine [Burton] over the middle a little bit there, a little bit out of his reach. Maybe Jermaine gets his hands on it more. It’s just unfortunate they picked it. But the ones that don’t get picked concern me more where we throw into coverage, and we had a couple of those. So, it’s one of those things he’s done a really good job executing on third down. He’s hit some guys that have dropped some balls on third down, but we’ve become a better third down team since he has been in there. We’ve got to continue to improve on that. Everybody around him has to continue to improve.”
 
On what he contributes slow starts in the beginning of games or the beginning of second halves to…
“I don’t know that that’s exactly true in all games because we had a couple games where we started moving the ball really well.  In the third quarter I would agree, we have to do a better job of being able to come out of the half, whether it’s the first drive or the second drive. That Auburn drive, defensively, we didn’t come out very good at all. They converted a bunch of third downs. I feel like they held the ball forever on that one drive converting it. It’s not necessarily one thing you can put your finger on. It’s something that we have to execute better. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s the first quarter or third quarter, it’s throughout the game. If you chart our drives, defensively or offensively, and you say a penalty on defense sparks a drive for them because they convert a third down.  On offense, a penalty prevents a drive because you’re first and 20 or second and 15- those are things you have to remove. It doesn’t matter what quarter it happens in. It only matters what did you do to cause the penalty, what did you do to have a mental error or missed assignment. That’s what we’re trying to improve. We’re trying to improve our ability to execute at a high level.  When we do that on defense and offense, we’re pretty good. When we don’t, we’re not.”
 
On how the offensive line performed and the production of the offense if they continue to do well…
“I think our offensive line has probably played pass-pro pretty well this season, in terms of protecting the quarterback and not losing one-on-one battles. I don’t feel like we’ve had a lot of mismatches- where we’ve said, that guy is really going to struggle against that guy. Maybe some of that has to do with who we’ve played and what the defenses are like. I don’t know that defensively teams are as good as they were last year, across the board. We’ve been able to run the ball at times, at Arkansas we really struggled to run it and that was probably the game where we struggled to run it the most- in terms of down in, down out. We have to develop more depth at the offensive line and we have to get the guys within the offensive line to play with even more conditioning and stamina, so that when we do go tempo we can out-compete the other team in terms of conditioning level.”
 
On if concerns about the defense were exposed and can be fixed…
“There are definitely things that we can do better, schematically, defensively to help our players. I don’t know if Alabama is the best offense in the country, I haven’t watched everybody else. So, I can’t say that. They certainly have a very good offense, in terms of their quarterback knows where to go with the ball, they have a talented offensive line- every one of those offensive linemen will be in the NFL one day- and they have really good skill players. We have really good players too on defense. When we execute pretty well, we do pretty well. We probably lost more 50-50 balls- and what I call 50-50 balls is not just fades and touchdown passes, it’s situational third down where can we get a ball out- we’ve probably lost more of those than we have in a long time. Even going back to the LSU game, we didn’t have as tight a coverage on them as we did on Alabama. We had tight coverage a lot of times against Alabama, we just didn’t get the ball out. You have to give them credit for that. It doesn’t cause alarm for me because I know that we have good players. We have kids that care. It bothers them. We have to do a good job as coaches to try to help them in other ways.”
 
On an update on DJ Daniel…
“DJ has been battling an ankle. It’s been bothering him and he’s practiced, he’s done everything we’ve asked, he’s rehabbed. He is trying to get better and we’re hopeful that he gets to 100 percent this week and can get back to the level he was playing at last year.”
 
On Stetson’s pocket presence and confidence in his play…
“[The tipped passes] may have. It may have had an overemphasizing effect on him. But it’s one of those things every good quarterback finds—you look all across the league, in the NFL, in college football, height is not the greatest indicator of batted balls. The ability to use the pocket is, and a lot of that comes from experience. He’s gaining in the experience category. He’s not elite in experience, he doesn’t have a ton of it. We do a lot of drills in practice where we try to simulate the pocket and you have to step up and through it. I thought that was one of the things Jake [Fromm] was really good at. He could feel the pocket opening and step up in the pocket and either run or make a throw. We continue to work with Stetson on that. He’s shown the ability to do that. He didn’t always trust it Saturday…he’s got good pass protectors around him.”
 
On the lack of non-conference play and its effect on player development…
“It makes the off week that much more important, I think. Statistically, I don’t have the number of what we have played versus what we haven’t played, but I know we’ve played fewer for sure. We had to travel, dress fewer. When you play SEC games, the rules are different than non-conference. We knew that coming in. I hate it for the development of the rest of your roster. When you talk across the league, that’s the most frustrating thing for coaches is you’ve got kids that want to play, that’s what they want to do. It’s tough to get them in in some of the competitive environments, so where does their growth come from? You’ve got to sell their growth in practice and when they go against ones on scout team—just not going to be a lot of opportunities to play a lot of guys.”
 
On the status of Kenny McIntosh…
“Kenny banged up his knee early in the game. I don’t know if it was on the opening kick or if it was one of the first carries, I’m not sure when it exactly happened. We don’t think he’s going to be out long, but he’s hurting a little bit, will probably wear a black jersey at least today. We’ll see how he goes day-to-day, but we don’t think it’s anything long-term.”
 
On the play of Jaylen Johnson…
“Jaylen’s done a tremendous job. Jaylen’s hit really good numbers on our GPS, he’s one of our faster guys, he’s tough, he’s smart, plays multiple positions. He’s created value for himself because of his ability to play on special teams, but also his ability to learn multiple positions in our offense. I’ve been very pleased with the work he’s given us.”
 
On the mentality of the defensive backs moving forward…
“The current state is you’re an SEC defensive back playing man-to-man against really good players. The state of Tyson Campbell after he gave up a touchdown pass against Tennessee is not going to be different than a touchdown pass given up to Alabama. When you play in the secondary, you assume the risk. It comes with a note: when you play man-to-man, you will get beat. Nobody is perfect. Nobody is going to play a perfect game, nobody’s going to play a perfect season. Turn on the NFL every Sunday—the best corner in the NFL gets beat. It’s going to happen. What you don’t want to do is get beat by a bust and give up a 90-yard touchdown when you don’t have great communication. That, to me, is a problem—not when I’m pressing a guy and I’ve got this guy and I get beat. That’s going to happen from time to time, and you accept that, and you’ve got to win more than you lose. We’ve got to hit some of those. We’ve got to score some of those to make big plays. Our DBs are fine. They understand they go against good players every day in practice. They get right back out there and compete.”
 
On whether he has any memories about Kearis Jackson and his relationship with his family…
“He’s an unbelievable young man. His mom is a wonderful woman. He is a big brother to a young sibling, and he’s a great example for our team. I love the way he competes. He’s on the leadership group with the SEC office; he represents our team. He’s just a tremendous worker, and when you work that hard, usually good things come to people who work that hard. He’s had some success based on his work habits."
 
On how he has managed the morale at the quarterback position, particularly with JT Daniels…
"The quarterback question is the same as every position. Every day you go out there you have an opportunity to get better. Those guys don’t get the opportunity to play as much as maybe another position does, but there’s guys all over our team who aren’t playing in games who have to go out there each day and improve their craft, and that’s a lot about inherently who you are. Can you grow and get better without being in the limelight? And the great ones all probably have done that in their career. It’s unfortunate in a ‘me now’ society of ‘I’ve got to take care of me right now,’ but that’s hard to do. We challenge them every day, and we give each guy the opportunity to get reps and get better daily.”
 
On how much working with the secondary helps JT Daniels and D’Wan Mathis to step in at the starting QB position, if needed…
“Any work prepares you. It’s the same for Stetson [Bennett] and Carson Beck. Any work you do prepares you for a game. I think the scout team work sometimes is tougher because you’re not necessarily running your plays. You’re not breaking the huddle and making checks. You are throwing the ball and reading the defense, but some of the plays are very similar to ours, and some are different. So, it’s a lot more relevant when they’re getting the reps with our offense.”
 
On whether the whole team is together when in a scout team or whether the team is split up…
"It’s a combination of both. We have periods where we go ones and twos against the scouts, so offense would have ones and twos there against the defensive scouts. Then same thing— one, twos defense against the scout offense. But then when we come together, and we do one defense against two offense, they service each other, much like an NFL team will do, because you don’t have the depth to go past the twos. So, we have periods we would consider more competitive— ones/twos, twos/ones— and we have some periods that are sort of scout periods. We script all that, and not many people do it any different than that. Your goal is to get really good, high-end, quality work when you go more good-on-good, and then as good as your scouts can be. In some cases, we get really good work out of our scouts because we have offensive linemen and defensive linemen who are scholarship players on the scout units.”
 
On the status of Devonte Wyatt and Matt Landers…
"Devonte Wyatt is fine. He played the whole game [against Alabama]. He’s banged up, but he’s fine. He’s good to go. Matt [Landers] has been dealing with a shoulder that occurred in the Tennessee game on what I thought was a pass interference, but it was the play he got banged up on. He came back and helped us in the game on special teams and played, but he was limited during the week of practice. We will go hard this week. We will go physical like we always do on off weeks and try to get better."

 

 

 
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