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Everything Kirby Smart Said Ahead Of The National Championship

January 8, 2023

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LOS ANGELES - The Georgia Bulldogs and coach Kirby Smart are getting ready to take on Sonny Dykes and the TCU Horned Frogs in the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Los Angeles.

Here is everything Kirby Smart said at the joint head coaches’ press conference on Sunday morning:

COACH SMART: A lot of the same sentiments as Coach Dykes. Tremendous honor to be here, 130-something teams start out trying to achieve this. And there's two left.

And I think it speaks volumes to the character of both teams, the way each team has been able to win football games. I think so much is overrated about talent and what so many people put into the game of football, when a team cares about each other and they have a lot of intangibles and really good players at the right positions, it makes for a special group.

And hearing the story of TCU's season, getting to see Coach Dykes at the Heisman; Max, you start looking across the board, it's a hell of a story for these two teams to be playing each other.

And it's an honor for us to be here. I'd like to say thanks to the CFP committee and the CFP group that's hosted us. What a tremendous job they've done in LA to host our players. I know over at our hotel, the players have enjoyed the hospitality room. They've had an opportunity to be together.

And we have the fortune of having a lot of guys last year that left for the NFL but every one of those guys that left for the NFL tell our players you better enjoy this moment because it's different at the next level. And these guys have a special bond that they get to spend together.

There's countless hours and minutes that these teams, both of us, have spent preparing. It's a long process to get to the semifinal in terms of 28 or however many days, and then you've got another 10. And you end up spending a lot of time together through Christmas and through New Year's and through travel.

And our guys have really enjoyed that. I've enjoyed it. That's why we get into this business.

And what a great stage we get to play on Monday night. And just honored to be here and represent the University of Georgia.

Q. Kirby, for you, what is needed to maintain excellence? Your former boss has been in this similar situation, sitting up where you are now and has had to explain it. I'm wondering if you could explain what is needed to maintain excellence like your program has over the last couple of years.

COACH SMART: A lot of hard work, standard, a belief in the culture within it. It doesn't start when the season starts.

It starts Tuesday when the season ends. And it just continues.

I don't know that you can relax and just say, okay, we're going to be fine. You have to make it happen. And I think each and every year you have a different team.

Obviously recruiting plays a part of that. If you don't have good players, you've got no chance.

But a big part of that is the organization that I've been given the ability to hire at University of Georgia. They are 

second to none, my administration, of supporting us, bringing in analysts, bringing in coaches, having the nice facilities.

You need those things to be successful and sustain. But at the end of the day, you better have buy-in with your players. And I think the older I've gotten, the more I acknowledge the relationship with the player matters much more than maybe the play you call, than maybe the practice habit you create, or anything else.

It's will those players play hard for each other, and do they believe in their coaching staff, that their coaching staff cares for them. And that allows you to sustain.

Q. Coach Smart, what kind of challenges specifically does the 3-3 stack present? And conversely, Coach Dykes, the 12 personnel that Georgia stays in offensively or has offensively, what kind of challenges does that present?

COACH SMART: Coach Gillespie does a hell of a job. It amazes me the job he does consistently even from Tulsa, because, like I've talked about, we played Cincinnati a couple years ago, and Tulsa by far and away did the best job against Cincinnati. And we became enamored in that when he was doing it then.

And it allows you to have more depth in your defense. It allows you, when you play spread teams, you have more speed on the field. There's different layers to it, more layers to it. They do a tremendous job.

Take all the scheme part out. It's how you play and strike people. When you watch them strike blocks with hat in hands and the speed with which they play downhill and just strike people, it's a beauty. It's a thing of beauty to myself because I enjoy watching really good defense. And they play it. And it's very unique.

So when you go to prepare for it, it's not as easy. It's different. Now, you could make a case in their league, they may see some defenses like that, but I think the thing, everybody says, everybody plays that defense in their league. They're not all the same. They're not all the same.

And when you play another team in another conference, you get to see their conference and see the defenses. And people would say, well, everybody runs that in that league.

That's not really true. And this is probably the most unique and, in my opinion, played the best of all those defenses in the conference.

Q. Kirby, we get to see Javon on the field and on the sidelines. A charismatic guy, a leader. What is he like behind the scenes and how have you seen him grow in the last couple of years?

COACH SMART: Just a great kid. He loves football. When you start combing our state, I wouldn't say there's kids as talented as Javon everywhere but there's just a lot of kids in our state that love football.

That's what we found during the COVID year. He never got to come to campus, he never got to come to camp. But he sent in at least 100 videotapes of him working out in his backyard and putting out calls, and I said this guy is different. Kids aren't doing this in COVID times where they're going out to work out and making sure they get scene.

And we just kind of fell in love with the culture and the toughness of the kid. And he's become -- he makes our team tougher. He's had injury after injury. He's had some shoulders. He won't put on a black shirt. He creates a dynamic on our team of, if you think you're hurt, look at Javon. He'll go out there and practice every day and he'll have contact and play with toughness.

I think in this day and age that's different in football, and it creates a little bit of an attitude for our team that makes us better. It permeates the special teams. And even receivers see it. They're, like, man, if he can go, then I can go. So I think that's the biggest thing he brings to our team.

Q. Addressing injuries going into tomorrow's game, what's the latest update on Darnell Washington, Coach Smart, and Kendre Miller, Coach Dykes?

COACH SMART: We're hoping to get Darnell ready. He's continued to work really hard, done a lot of rehab. I know he wants to, his first chance to play on the West Coast. He's from Vegas and this game means a lot to him. And I know it's an important one to him.

Q. Coach Smart, I know you talked about not feeling like you were the hunted, but the pressure of being installed as the favorite and being the No. 1 team in the country, to face this group of guys who were unranked all year. For you, Coach Dykes, can you speak to the fact of TCU's becoming a national brand. Earlier this week on TNT, Ernie Johnson, a Georgia grad, bet Shaq that Georgia would win by 28. And Shaq, who lives in Texas, said he'd eat a Horned Frogs if it happened here. But here's an NBA show talking about TCU football.

COACH SMART: I'm not sure I understand the question exactly. In regards to the hunted or being hunted, I promise you there's no greater pressure on any sport than there is on college athletics, especially for major football programs. And I don't think Coach Dykes or myself would be in this business if we weren't used to pressure.

And I don't -- I look at it in a vacuum. I don't get to watch much TV or social media. I just worry about our team and don't get caught up in anything outside of that.

And we've had a saying around our place for a long time that probability is not reality. So we don't control what people say and probability. Reality is what happens on the field in between those lines. That's what takes a lot more courage than just putting out probability.

Q. Kirby, I think you're still on the rules committee. I wonder what you both thought of the concept of limiting what are now being called "exposures," not plays, but exposures for or against. What are the advantages or disadvantages of that?

COACH SMART: You're talking about, total number of plays in game exposures you're talking about?

Q. Yes.

COACH SMART: I think one of the first things you look at the on the rules committee they bring it up every year is the length of games. I think there can be two things there. You're talking about TV viewership and you're talking about exposures to contact in terms of number of plays. There's a lot of ways to manipulate the number of plays, including the clock.

Our big brother in this world of football is the NFL. And so much of what we do is modeled off what they do. They spend a lot, a lot, a lot of money on trying to get it right.

And they shrunk their game into a timeframe that's probably a little bit tighter window than ours, and also trying to limit exposures as well. Although they have a longer season and they've added games to their season.

So when you look at all that, it encompasses a big 

decision. We are dealing with student-athletes, and I think it starts with that.

So I wouldn't sit up here and say I'm in favor of shrinking the game. I do think our game has gotten long, and there are a lot of plays. Because in college football there's a lot more teams that use tempo therefore they want more snaps than you see in the NFL.

That's not prevalent in the NFL. It's a different game when it comes to that.

So it probably boils down to what's safest for our players without changing our game, because our college football game is different than the NFL, and we don't have to mimic that, although we want to make it as safe as possible for our players.

Q. Obviously the mission is to compete for a national championship. But can you explain how the practice time and this time of year is so important to the development and maturity of your younger players? 

COACH SMART: A lot of the same. I said this yesterday at media day, and I hate to repeat myself, but I really think a lot of the reason we were able to turn our roster over from last year to this year was the practices and preparation we had at this time of year. As we were finishing the year last year, we were getting really high-quality work out of about, I would say, seven or eight kids starting for us.

Right now in the game, tomorrow night, we're -- scout team players or 2s -- and the way we do our reps as the year goes, our 2s get a little more volume and our 1s get a little less knowing that the 2s need the work and might be up for call as you have injuries.

So the guys that are playing now that were 2s last year, in some cases 3s, they got a lot of work. And I think Coach Dykes is right; that cumulative effect -- I've always said the states that have spring practices, their kids leave high school football one year ahead of states that don't because they've had four spring practices from ninth grade to 12th grade.

And our kids have had a lot of practices. The counter thought to that is how much we do practice. We have a lot.

And we target a lot of days for our kids to -- the 1s go condition, and the 2s and 3s go get opportunity. And they literally go against each other and just play football.

And I think that does help in terms of getting your team prepared.

I also think, we're in the portal age, when kids feel like they don't have a role, they're quicker to leave. And we're really selling the development.

We're going to show Jordan Davis, from his freshman and sophomore year, working on the scout team, and say, hey, look where this guy was and look at what he became doing it this way. And selling that within your program becomes a selling point to them to stick and stay and truly develop and grow in the organization.

Q. How do you feel about the current college football calendar with regards to recruiting and transfer and signings? And what changes, if any, would you like to see?

COACH SMART: Tough balance. I concur with a lot of things that Coach Dykes just said. It's not the profession that I originally got into in terms of relationships and coaching. It's changed so much.

My position has changed as well from when I first got into it. But it's become a much tougher profession to navigate in terms of your own family and your time constraints on that, especially if you want to try to stay at the highest level and what it requires to do.

And I think the NCAA and the minds that help put all the information together, including ourselves as coaches, we're all to blame for kind of eating our own. And it's like a cannibalizing, because you won't stop. And it just keeps going.

And I think with the playoff system coming up, it's going to be really interesting to see what happens: Are you going to be playing games while you're trying to sign guys in the early signing period in December? It's gotten more competitive than ever.

I mean, you're already looking at junior days, six, seven days from right now. And we're trying to play a national championship. So it doesn't stop for the coaches at the highest level. I'm not sure any of us have the exact right answer, but I do think being smart and legislating time for coaches to be with their team and with their families is important.

The flipside of that is the prospects want their opportunities to make a good decision and the time that's very demanding is tough, it's tough to make those decisions.

COACH DYKES: I want to add one thing to that. Look, we were preparing this week for a national championship game and we had six transfers on campus on an official visit. And you're just kind of like, really? I mean, are we really doing this?

And so that's just the way it is now. And those days were going to be 18-hour days before and the 18-hour days turned into 20-hour days.

And that's the nature of our business. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. I have the opportunity to do

something else if I want to. But we do have to, at some point, kind of sit down and say, okay, look, here's the calendar; what can we do to serve the players, first and foremost. And second of all, try to retain some kind of ability to be a good father and a good husband.

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Top-ranked Georgia enters the CFP National Championship Game with a 14-0 mark following its 42-41 victory over No. 4 Ohio State at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The Bulldogs are aiming to become the first team in the CFP era to win back-to-back national championships. A year ago, Georgia was seeded No. 3 and beat No. 2 Michigan 34-11 in a semifinal and then No. 1 Alabama 33-18 for the championship. Also, the Bulldogs will be looking to become just the third FBS team in the modern era to cap a perfect 15-0 season with a national title as Clemson did it in 2018 and then LSU in 2019 when it beat the Tigers.

Georgia has won 16 straight games going back to last season's CFP semifinal/Capital One Orange Bowl win over Michigan. The school record is 17 in a row set from 1945-47. The Bulldogs are now 4-1 in the CFP in Kirby Smart's seventh season at the helm. In just his second season in 2017, the Bulldogs reached the CFP and won a thrilling semifinal over No. 2 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl Game (54-48 in double overtime). Then, the Bulldogs were stunned by No. 4 Alabama 26-23 in overtime in Atlanta to miss out on a crown. Georgia has won three consensus national championships in its history, claiming the title in 1942, 1980 and 2021.


Georgia owns a 4-0 advantage against TCU with a pair of wins in bowl games and two during the regular season in Athens. The most recent meeting came in the 2016 Liberty Bowl to wrap up Kirby Smart's first season at the helm. Georgia posted a 31-23 win in Memphis. Before that, Georgia claimed a pair of victories during the Vince Dooley era, winning 38-10 in Athens in game two of the 1988 season and 34-3 in Athens in game four of the 1980 national championship season. The first meeting with TCU came in the 1942 Orange Bowl in Miami, a 40-26 Bulldog triumph.

The victory gave Georgia a 9-1-1 season under Wallace Butts and with a team that featured All-America halfback Frank Sinkwich, who played most of the year with a broken jaw. His performance in the Orange Bowl is still considered by many as one of the best in the postseason. He accounted for 382 yards of total offense (139 rushing, 9-for-13 passing for 243 yards and 3 TDs). Sinkwich would become Georgia's first Heisman Trophy winner the next season.

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After capturing the SEC Championship with a 50-30 win over No. 14 LSU in Atlanta on Dec. 3, Georgia erased a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to top No. 4 Ohio State in the CFP Semifinal. The Bulldog senior class has established a school record for most career victories with a 48-5 mark. That mark included just nine regular season games and a bowl triumph during the COVID-shortened season of 2020. The 2021 Bulldog class that finished their career as national champions tallied a 45-8 mark.


14 after Kirby Smart's squad also accomplished the feat in 2021 en route to a 14-1 season and its first national championship in 41 years.

Delta Commemorates Coach Vince Dooley

Delta commemorated the life and legacy of renowned University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley on Tuesday with the dedication of a Boeing 767-400 featuring a memorial seal honoring the Hall of Famer.  

The dedication ceremony was attended by CEO Ed Bastian as well as fellow Delta leaders – and UGA alumni – Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Tim Mapes and Chief Customer Experience Officer Allison Ausband. The Dooley Family was in attendance alongside Gov. Brian Kemp; Lt. Governor-Elect Burt Jones; Billy Payne, former chairman of Augusta National Golf Club; Frank Ros, team captain of the 1980 UGA team; and several Delta employees, who are also UGA alumni.  

"Vince Dooley's legacy lives on through his enduring spirit and meaningful dedication to the University of Georgia and Bulldog fans everywhere," said Allison Ausband, class of '83 and incoming chair of The University of Georgia Foundation. "Delta and the University of Georgia have a longstanding relationship. As the official airline of UGA Athletics, we are honored to dedicate this aircraft to Coach Dooley in remembrance of his impact across athletics, community and family."   

At the ceremony, Vince Dooley's son, Daniel Dooley, shared memories of Dooley's celebrated career and dedication to the University of Georgia athletic program.  
Delta has been the official airline of Georgia athletics for more than 40 years dating to 1980, when Delta first transported Dooley's team to New Orleans to win a national title. In 2022, Delta welcomed home the victorious UGA Bulldogs after a victory in the 2022 NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship.  

In addition to Delta's support for UGA athletics, The Delta Air Lines Foundation has supported the University of Georgia Foundation for many years. This includes projects involving athletics, such as a grant for renovating Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, the athletics administration center that houses the football program, and academic support for programs including the Delta Innovation Hub, the Driftmier Engineering Center, and Delta Hall in Washington, D.C. 

In a few days, Delta will once again carry the University of Georgia football team to their second consecutive College Football Playoffs in Los Angeles, California.  

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