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Georgia Football

Kirby Smart Gives an Update on JT Daniels, Scott Cochran and More

October 19, 2021
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ATHENS, Ga. --- University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart met with the media Tuesday afternoon to discuss the bye week. Coach Smart offered the following comments. 

Head Coach Kirby Smart

On injuries…

"Christopher (Smith) was cleared last game and we were fortunate to get him back, the plan was to play him in our dime packages. He practiced all week, but we didn't get into dime situations. So, we ended up not having to play him in the game, he's cleared to go and will be practicing all week. George (Pickens) is not cleared yet, he's continuing to progress, working hard and has been able to do more each week. He's done some workouts pregame but is not cleared yet. We'll hopefully get back Arian (Smith), but he was questionable for the game, it was pain tolerance. The last few weeks he's been out, but hopefully he'll be back. Kenny McIntosh is still nursing a hamstring and we hope to get him back, but he's not cleared yet. 

Ameer Speed is close to being ready, hopefully we'll get him back for Florida. He's running on his ankle but not 100%. JT (Daniels) pitch count has increased. He got up to 65-70 throws yesterday with Ron, pain free. He's increasing distance, getting out further, I think he can run 45 yards and hopefully I'll know more today. We didn't really practice yesterday, but we did a walk-through cleanup. He'll hopefully get some quality reps and see what kind of velocity he's got."

On the national exposure UGA is getting…

"I want our players to represent our brand the right way. It's important how you play the game as much as you represent it. Our guys have reflected that with toughness, effort and the energy we play with. Our fans and stadium are on display at home when we play in front of an audience like that. So much of today's kids care about perception, followers, viewers, and the marketability they have in the NIL world. We don't push and sell it, but these kids have an opportunity to come here and play in front of a lot of people to create a brand for themselves by how they play. We gear it towards hard, tough-nosed football and want our teams to represent that. I think our team this year has really showed toughness, resiliency, all those traits we talked about they've shown. It's critical to our success and their success we get better at those things."

On the Georgia vs Florida game being played in Jacksonville…

"I haven't even thought about it, to be honest. I don't concern myself with things I don't control. All I ever say is that the home atmosphere we have is incredible and the ability to bring recruits in is big. If I knew every year, we'd have home games like we've had this year, it'd be less of an issue but it's an issue when you have your biggest rival, but don't have the opportunity to bring recruits in every other year. It's certainly valuable when kids decide before the early signing day in December and they're enrolling in January. Those are the most critical weekends you have to have kids on campus. I stand by the fact that we miss opportunities and everyone else in the country doesn't." 

On Scott Cochran…

"He's back with us officially, working with us. He's going to be assisting the special teams' staff and helping contribute to those guys in an off-field role for the rest of the season. I'm happy to have him back and hopefully going to keep him safe and healthy through his recovery process. We're glad to have his energy and enthusiasm and he'll help us in an off-field role with special teams."

On Arik Gilbert…

"Arik is not back, he's still continuing his journey and we'll hopefully get him back. We're communicating with him, everyone is pulling for him. I don't know the answer to when or if he'll be back."

On the receiving core…

"It just comes down to practice. The guys who go out to practice, get the reps, and perform go out in the game. You don't ever just plug a guy in, you plug him in during the week and give him reps. Whoever gives us the best opportunity to win is who's on the field and that comes from practice. If you can't practice, that's hard to do. If you can and you're not 100%, and you're working your way back then we're going to play whoever gives us the best opportunity to win. Those guys that are injured are trying their best, they're at rehab each day, they're working to get back and we're focused on getting the guys healthy and better. I want to have more depth at that position and that's all contingent on them returning from injury."

On George Pickens…

“There is a long-term plan. I don’t disclose timelines and that kind of stuff. Probably the week of the game we would know more. We did a walk-through yesterday and he was able to do that, get signals, and get calls. He’s done a tremendous job of working and recovery. Dr. Andrews, Ron Courson, myself, and George’s parents have all been involved in that conversation. It’s not something that we’re open to sharing. We are just very hopeful that he is able to get back to 100 percent. That is our concern.”

On engaging the team during meetings…

“It is a team-wide thing. The questions were asked specifically about the defense. It’s not any different for the team meetings, the special team's meetings, or the offensive meetings. They have their different ways of keeping things moving, keeping things interesting. I think all of our coaches are creative teachers. I know when I get in front of the team, I don’t want to say the same thing every day. I want to have a different theme, movie clip, or message. It’s the same way with special teams, (Todd) Monken, and the offensive coaches. It permeates the organization because it has to. If you don’t, you’ll lose these kids. It’s just a method of teaching. I think the specific questions were more about the nuggets and things we do defensively. That pertains to defense.”

On the defensive improvements from last year to this year…

“We’re playing some different defenses. We’re playing a little less of some things we’ve played traditionally. We’re certainly much more inexperienced on the back end. That’s one of the big differences. It has allowed us to simplify some things to help, but we’re also that much more experienced in the front seven. Most of those guys are back. The biggest difference is probably the experience of the front seven this year versus last year.”

On losing momentum in the bye week…

“I don’t know that we are playing at our best, so we’re trying to play better. There’s plenty of things… I think we had a 22-play drive, a 13-play drive. Defensively we didn’t get off the field in some opportunities. Those long drives, you have to have answers to. You have to improve. Why did you not get off of the field? It’s everything. Third and one, third and two. They had four downs. More people may go for it on fourth down, so when you have four downs to get it, you’re going to have those kinds of situations. Offensively there are a lot of things we can clean up. I don’t look at it as worrying about losing our edge. This week I’m trying to sharpen our edge and get better. That is what we have an opportunity to do. We have a chance to create depth and improve players. Not one player on our team would tell you they don’t need to improve, and that starts with us coaches. Looking at ourselves, quality control, how can we improve. What can we do better to help our players be more successful?”

On developing players during the bye week…

“We never go out to practice and say we’re doing one or the other. That would be foolish. We’re trying to develop the roster all of the time. The defensive players on the scout team, we’re trying to develop. For instance, Jordan Davis, his freshman year. At this time I don’t think he played much of a role. Then he went into the Florida game and really came on the scene after a week off of practice. It was two to three years ago that he came on the scene and played in that game. We’re using examples like that to highlight no matter where you are now, this is an opportunity to change that.”

On Coach Hankton…

“He does a tremendous job. Number one, evaluation is the key. Some of those guys haven’t been the most high-profile, top-ranked receivers, but they have gotten better since arriving. Our system being conducive to freshmen being elite. It’s not like it take you forever to come in and learn the system. We’ve been able to have some success with younger receivers, which has its pitfalls too. Sometimes the older ones don’t get it, and in this year’s case, it’s really been about injuries. It has thrust some other guys to the forefront. Whether it be Brock (Bowers), AD (Mitchell), Ladd (McConkey), whoever. They have been thrust up there more by injury than anything else. Cortez (Hankton) does a great job teaching, developing, and working on those guys. We think those guys got a lot of reps in the Spring in AD’s case and also in Fall camp. All of that work with the three’s and two’s, which some of those guys were, paid off.”

On being ranked number one…

“It doesn’t get mentioned much, there is not a lot of time to talk about it. I think the kids see it when the leave and hear about it through social media, that is what they see on their phones, so I know they are not obvious to it. But for us it has not been for anything other than asking, ‘what has made us successful?’ we have talked about this before, and the kids explain what they believe has made us successful, what they believe matters over what I believe. And then, ‘ok what are our threats?’ identify what our threats are. Complacency is the enemy of good becoming great. We talk about a lot; we don’t want those things to affect us. We are very open about it, we have conversation about it, but outside of that the ranking does not come up much.”

On the schedule this week…

“I am not sure about my weekend plans, you are going to have to ask my wife that, I’ll do whatever she tells me to do. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday we are going to practice and get after it. WE are going to work on some future opponents, we are going to introduce Florida on Thursday. Some guys will recruit Thursday, some guys will recruit Thursday and Friday, some guys will just be Friday. Then we are off Saturday, and we are back at it Sunday as coaches and the players are back Sunday.”

On recruiting last year vs recruiting this year…

“Yeah, it is total opposites. There was no such thing as recruiting last year, it was all by phone and by Zoom. The kids not being able to experience the games is hard on them. They are having to make decisions to go places without going places. That is just hard. This year has been seeming like pretty much back to normal, if anything it is heightened. There is the ‘new effect’ because it is new because so many people have not done it. Your sophomores and juniors are dying to go places and your seniors this is like their first trip. So, it has been heightened and it certainly has helped that we have had some premiere games at home to bring the kids here.”

On recruiting trips the Head Coach can take…

“The head coach can use…I can do whatever I need to do or want to do. We have a certain number of hits that we have, that is all we have. We have numbers that are delegated out throughout the year. One weekend we might use five, one weekend we might use four or three. On the off weekend we obviously use everybody. We delegate that based on what games they think it is important I go to versus what games it is important for the assistants to go to.”

On Tray Scott…

“He is young. He is energetic. He is one of the best teachers and developers I have ever been around. He pours into his young men. His unit takes a lot of pride in their performance as a unit, and you see it reflect in the way he leads. He has a great family, a great wife. A class act, he represents the University of Georgia the right way. He grew up under one of the legendary defensive line gurus and teachers in Pete Jenkins. Pete is kind of world renown for developing coaches. Tray came up under Pete and you know when you get one of Pete’s guys you are going to get a good one. We have been able to do that, and we have been very blessed to have Tray and his family here. He does a wonderful job recruiting, pushing young men, challenging young men and developing young men so when they leave here, they are much better off.”

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