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Georgia Football

UGA SCRIMMAGE: Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart "Disappointed" With UGA Defense

August 13, 2022
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ATHENS - Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said he was "disappointed in the energy, enthusiasm and leadership from the defense" during the Dawgs' first scrimmage of the season.

Opening Statement…
“Practice nine in the books. I didn’t think it was the best of our nine practices. It was our first scrimmage, our first chance to tackle live, so you always have to be careful how you assess your team when you tackle live for the first time. In my experiences as a coach, it’s not pretty. Today was not pretty from a tackling standpoint. Offense was ahead of the defense, which is probably to be expected. I’m a little disappointed in the energy, enthusiasm and leadership from the defense. There wasn’t a lot of support there. When things go bad, there wasn’t a guy to pick them up and grab the bull by the horns, we didn’t have the right direction. But I felt the kids played hard, especially early in the scrimmage, we had guys really play hard, physical, came out with the right mindset. Like I said, practice nine in a row, with one day off between the nine. So, they have gotten after it. They’ll get a day off tomorrow and get back to work Monday. We have a long way to go to get where we need to go, and that has nothing to do with Oregon, that has nothing to do with anybody we play, that has to do with the Georgia Bulldogs. We have to look ourselves in the eyes, as coaches, and figure out what guys we have to do the best and get them to go execute that at the best. We have good football players on this team, we didn’t necessarily play with the right energy and enthusiasm across the board as a whole today. There was some good individual performances, but all in all, I think we have to have a better scrimmage next Saturday.”
 
On the young running backs…
“I think anytime you talk about being able to help a team, it’s probably easiest at a skill position, at an early age. When you look at the history here, we have had freshman wideouts lead our teams a lot of times in receiving. And at running backs, we’ve had more of an old head, like there’s always two old guys. It’s not a lack of running backs being able to, we’ve had more experiences backs. These two young guys are different. They’re a little heavier, thicker, run behind their pads and they probably don’t show up best until days like today, because they’re a little harder to tackle. You don’t see that in practice every day. I thought both those guys [Andrew Jones and Branson Robinson] had good scrimmages. Not great, they’re not where they need to be, not where they need to be in pass-pro, but they are hard to tackle and they’re thick. I’m very pleased with where they are. Neither one going through the spring hurts their development in terms of number one, special teams, and number two, picking up pressures. We need them to come along, because durability is always an issue at back. I don’t think I’ve been through a year here where we didn’t have one of our top three backs miss a game. If that happens, one of those guys better be ready to step up and play.”
 
On the QBs…
“I would reserve judgement until I really get to watch the tape. I thought statistically, Stetson (Bennett) had a really good day. You don’t know everything when you’re standing behind them, you don’t get to judge what was going on. Watching them, I thought the offensive line did a pretty good job in the pocket. We didn’t get a lot of pressure defensively, which allowed the quarterbacks to have a pretty good day. I’m very pleased with where the quarterbacks are, in terms of Brock (Vandagriff), Carson (Beck) and even Gunner (Stockton). I thought Gunner made some really good plays today. You don’t get to see as much of Gunner, because we do fours in our practice, he gets reps, which is good, but he gets primary reps in the scrimmage, when he gets to go out there with the threes and things. And I thought he did a good job. I have a lot of confidence in all of our quarterbacks. Coach Monken does a great job with those guys. They understand what they need to do and how to get the ball to their weapons.”

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On injury updates…
“Arian [Smith] is probably the toughest one. The poor kid can’t catch a break. He’s had an injury, probably when he first got here, jumping in the long jump. Then he had another injury his sophomore year, and he’s worked so hard to get back. He gave up track this year, and he’s an elite track runner. And he gave that up so that he could have a successful season. He had a tough ankle sprain, a high ankle sprain. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. It is going to require surgery, but it’s not broken. We’re hopeful to get him back. He’s overcome so much, and he’s such a great kid. He’s got a great family, he’s such a positive kid, and he keeps getting tough breaks. I know that he’s going to persevere that, I think he’ll bounce back. Tate (Ratledge) is dinged up. He’s got turf toe, we should get him back. Earnest (Green III) has got a hamstring that’s bothering him. It’s bothered him, really, for a couple weeks now. He’s had it since summer workouts, it’s been nagging. He’s been able to go some, off and on. Kendall Milton has a bit of a grade one hamstring, but it’s nothing severe.”
 
On the defensive line…
“We’ll probably use the same amount we always use. You have to use multiple defensive lineman, so we would like to have enough depth to roll six guys for those three interior slots, but that’s going to depend on who does the best job. And we’re a long way from knowing that. The young guys are coming on in flashes and showing some plays, but they don’t have the physical or mental toughness to sustain it, like do it over and over. If I can do it one play, and the next play is off the charts bad, the first play is off the charts good. Tray (Scott) trying to get enough consistency out of that room, that we can play those guys. We’re not where we need to be there, that’s for sure.”
 
On the inside linebacker play…
“I thought Trezmen (Marshall) made a couple of good plays, he’s got to continue to stay healthy. He’s fighting a soft tissue calf strain, he’s in and out. He made a couple of good plays today.
Pops (Jamon Dumas-Johnson) has probably been the most consistent guy in that group. We’re looking for some mental and physical toughness out of that group. There’s some talented young players. (Xavian) Sorey flashes, but he’s got to do it more consistently. He knows that, he has some ability to make some really big flash plays, but he’s got to do it more consistently within the defense. Smael (Mondon) has got to play better, too. That’s a group, that group has got to step up and play better, and the defensive line has got to help them play better by keeping the blockers off of them.”
 
On the young wide receivers… 
“Dilllon (Bell) made some plays today. Jackson (Meeks) made some plays today, if he counts as young. Right now these sophomore aren’t young. These sophomores are old. If you count, 40 to 35 percent of our team are freshmen. I thought Dillon Bell stepped up and made some plays. I thought Oscar (Delp) made some plays at tight end. We have him as a receiving weapon. Those guys continue to do a good job. We just don’t have the depth at receiver. I thought (Marcus) Rosemey-Jacksaint did good job today. Adonai (Mitchell) made a few plays. We are going to have to be really good at the perimeter to be explosive. We have our tight ends, but we have to be good outside to compliment the tight ends. We need to get De’Nylon (Morrissette) back, and we need to get Dillon Bell rolling to get where we need to get at wide out.” 
 
On the pass rushing goal this season… 
“There is not entirely a goal. We do not out a sack goal. We put an ‘affect the quarterback goal.’ We want to talk batted balls, interceptions, knockdowns, hurries. You affect the quarterback with multiple rushes. Robert Beal Jr. is having a quietly good camp, which is good for us. A lot of times, the scrimmages get skewed. Last year there was an outlier because of the front and the people we had. These scrimmages get skewed because you take so many snaps that the pass rushing is an effort play. A lot of sacks are what we call hustle sacks and effort sacks. You don’t necessarily win. You give a great second effort. There comes a point in the scrimmage today that they take so many snaps that nobody is fresh and the offensive linemen stay in front of them. It reminded me of our old scrimmages where we did not have great pass rush. Not because we don’t have great pass rushers, but because we didn’t have the juice that we needed. I can’t say that is was like that last year, but it has been like that this year.” 
 
On Dillon Bell… 
“He will work his way into rotation by necessity. We don’t have the depth at the position. It is every year. I don’t think that across the country you will see four senior wide outs. Show me where you have four senior wide outs. Show me where you have two seniors and two juniors. Wide outs are very similar where if they don’t get the ball, they are gone. You constantly have new players. If they are really good they are gone to the draft. That is where one of our juniors is. Everything is cyclical. Right now at wide out, we don’t have great depth and we have a couple injuries. Those young guys are getting thrust out there, and they have to go up. We have done it before. We’ve had productive young wide receivers.” 
 
On De’Nylon Morrissette … 
“De’Nylon hyperextended his knee before we even started camp. He got an injury that is lagging over from camp. He is back running. He should be back here shortly. Hopefully, we can get him back healthy.” 
 
On comparing this to G-Day 
“I don’t even remember G-Day at this point, to be honest. I don’t have a clue what happened or didn’t happen or who was there and who wasn’t there. That is kinda how we play. It was different today because the mindset is not to air it out and throw, throw, throw. The mindset is to do what we do to find out what we have got and to be physical.” 
 
On Malaki Starks… 
“Malaki is doing a good job. As are our freshmen DBs. I think our freshmen DBs are going to be good football players. That does not mean that I am saying they are going to go out there and start. Our freshmen DBs are going to help us. All of those guys have shown a sign of, ‘man, he is going to be okay. He is going to be able to help us. He is going to be a good player.’ Eric Stokes didn’t do a lot his freshman year. It is just one of those things that those guys are going to grow into those positions. Now I think your freshmen are your backups because you don’t have the depth. It really shouldn’t be where they are your 2s, but most of our guys are 2s and in most cases 1s. Malaki having the spring has helped him. He and JaCorey (Thomas) have both come along really well.” 
 
On Kamari Lassiter and Nyland Green…
“Both of those kids are smart, savvy, tough, and physical. I love the way they tackle and play. I thought Nyland had some good physical tackles for him. Kamari is one of the best tacklers on the team, so it’s a lot more about covering at that position than tackling. Kamari did some nice things, gave up some plays. He had a really good day, the other day, where he made some plays on fade ball on A.D. (Mitchell). Kamari is fighting his tail off for that spot and helping us in some special teams spots. I’m very pleased with the growth of those guys. We won’t get through the year with just those three (Green, Lassiter and Ringo) though. We are going to have to have four and five corners to survive the season.”
 
On the kick return game, punting competition, and young guys on special teams…
“Everybody is up for grabs, just like I say every year for punt and kickoff return. Kenny (McIntosh) and Kearis (Jackson) mainly on kickoff. Ladd (McCokey), Kearis, Dominick (Blaylock) and (Mekhi) Mews on punt return. Those four are all back there competing for it. We will pun the one back there who can give us the best chance to win. That might be return for a touchdown, that might be catch every fair catch. It is whatever it takes to win. The punting job is still up for grabs. (Brett) Thorson is doing a good job. Noah (Jones) is doing a good job. They are both punting the ball. They are not Jake Camarda… We are not trying to make them something they are not, but we have to be better at coverage around them and get great hang time. We have to go down the ball that we punt inside the 10-yard line to flip the field on people. As far as young freshmen helping on special teams, it’s kind of the same thing. The first place that you contribute on the team is usually there. Malaki (Starks) is doing a really good job on some units and Darris Smith shown up. There’s a 200m-400m guy that can run. We are going to look at all of those freshmen before the year is over because they are going to have to help us on special teams. The hardest part is when you get an offensive player that has never played any special teams position. Maybe he’s talented like a (Oscar) Delp or Branson (Robinson)… They’ve never played special teams. In high school, a lot of coaches don’t put those kids on special teams and we need their help because they are 220-240 pound bodies that can run.”
 
On Kenny McIntosh…
“He had a great run, but to be honest he’s a great blocker too. Kenny has had a great camp. He’s picked up pressures, played really physical, caught the ball out of the backfield. Everything that he wants to do at the next level in our offense, we have asked him to do, and he’s done a great job at that. Kenny would be the first to tell you he has to work hard and maintain his weight, take really good care of his body. I think Coach Dell McGee has done a great job of taking care of Kenny. He’s done a good job. Daijun (Edwards) has had a really good camp. This guy is playing hard, playing physical. Knows his assignments inside and out. He’s picking up pressures, catching the ball out of the backfield, so to me I’ve been really pleased with what he’s been able to do. Kendall (Milton)  has too, but just the last couple of days he’s been dealing with a hamstring.”
 
On the offensive line…
“Hard one. I can’t measure… I have to watch it. You see so much on the perimeter from where I’m looking. The quarterback decision, the secondary. We had a couple really good runs. We had a couple tackles for loss. When somebody does good, somebody does bad, right? So, I have to watch it and really see because we have probably the most battle on our team at the offensive line. Especially the interior positions. We have musical chairs going and it’s hard for me to say which one was in when good things were happening and which on was in when bad things were happening. That’s what we study the tape for. I don’t have that fresh off in my memory. The battle is there at guard. Those guys are competing for it. I do think we are bigger than we’ve been at guard, which is usually a good indicator that we can be physical. We’ve got (Xavier) Truss and Tate (Ratledge) who wasn’t there today. When you start putting those body types out there, they are just massive.”
 
On recruits being allowed to attend the Georgia-Florida game…
“We’ve always been able to do that. You make an independent decision that each university can decide how they want to do their tickets. For the first time, we are able to a lot tickets, which we do on every neutral site game. We do it with Clemson. We do it with Oregon. We do it all the time. Per NCAA rules we are not allowed to see them or talk to them. We can’t do anything with them, so it’s really a moot point. They get to go, but what good does that do in terms of recruiting that you don’t get to spend time with them and host them. It doesn’t change the official visit they are on.”
 
On Jalen Carter…
 “He’s been the most mature he has.  He was overshadowed maturity wise by the other two (Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt), he wasn’t overshadowed tackle wise by any means. He is massive. He is as talented or more talented athletically than those two. A very different guy than those two, but he is matured. His practice habits have actually improved this year. He is practicing with more consistency and he has to continue to do that. He is very mature. He can admit to you and be honest with you when he doesn’t give great effort. He’s like, ‘you’re right Coach, I didn’t do my best on that play’. But that happens much less often now. I think he knows that people’s eyes are on him, in terms of our other players and he knows he has to be a leader for our defense. I am proud of what he’s done. Most practices he’s given us a full day’s work. He competes not like a guy that has been there and done that. He competes like he’s hungry. That’s what we challenge him to do. He just has to do that every day, day in and day out, and then maybe affects somebody else with him.”

 
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