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Georgia Football

UGA Football Coach Kirby Smart Gives the Latest On The 2024 Bulldogs

March 19, 2024
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ATHENS - Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart spoke with the media Tuesday afternoon and offered the following comments about spring practices. 

 

Opening Statement...

"I am excited about where our team is headed. I am really excited about this group. We have had three practices, two shorts and one full-pad practice on Saturday. We will get to be in pads today and keep things rolling. There is a lot of competition out there. As a whole, the overall field is probably a little younger than I remember in the past. Maybe it is the total number of new players, in terms of mid-years. I think we are up a little bit in mid-years. We have broken a record every year with more mid-years, in addition to the portal guys. It is a lot of new faces out there. That is the biggest difference. They are progressing well and practicing well. We have our first scrimmage Saturday. I am looking forward to that. We have a huge coaches clinic going on this weekend. I think we have over 700 or 800 high school coaches who still enjoy coming to our clinic and enjoying that. It is a big piece of it. A lot of spring sports with exciting moments going on. I know our women's swimming program is getting ready to have NCAAs. There is a lot of tennis going on. Baseball and softball are doing incredible. There are a lot of spring sports right now competing that we can all support as Bulldogs." 

 

On Jamey Chadwell and the speakers at the Coaches Clinic...

"I know Coach Chadwell really well. I think he is a great guy and a great coach. We were lucky to be able to get him in here. More than us studying them, there are a lot of high school coaches who try to implement philosophies he has on offense. There is a little bit of option carryover, a new age offense in terms of the ability of the quarterback to run the ball and run option from the jump. They do a really good job of that. He has done that since Coastal Carolina and Liberty. We try to gear our clinic towards benefiting high school programs in our footprint, not just our state, but in a five-hour radius. He certainly does that. Coach (Willie) Fritz, who I have a lot of respect for, he is going to be at our clinic as one of the keynote speakers who did an incredible job at Georgia Southern and Tulane and will now do an incredible job at Houston. He is a really good football coach." 

 

On the offensive line class' progression...

"I recognized a large group of that group. That group, as a whole, has been tremendous at weight loss. I don't know if any of them, maybe a couple, are right there at 330. Nyier (Daniels) has had the greatest loss. He has lost 40-50 pounds, somewhere in that window. Daniel Calhoun has lost a tremendous amount. (Marques) Easley has lost a tremendous amount. (Michael) Uini has done a really good job there too. (Malachi) Toliver has probably had the least to lose. He hasn't had to lose a lot. He is having to play center. A new position that he is developing at. That group across the board, it is unique to have to shift two or three offensive linemen. Having five is very unique. You don't want all five of them all there at once because you get a recipe for disaster. You have five players who are getting better a lot faster. We are trying to integrate them into different parts of the practice, not all at once, because it is hard. The largest jump in all of sports to me is to go from a high school offensive lineman to a college offensive lineman."

 

On developing Jalon Walker...

"He’s played a little bit of what we call SAM STAR. He played out in space. He did rush off the edge. He is still a really good edge rusher. He knows that was part of the development plan because he has seen Quay (Walker) do it. He has seen other football players in our program develop as an off the ball backer and an end of the line backer. He does both of those things really well. He missed last spring to develop at inside backer. He is using this spring to springboard himself into a better all-around football player. It was not a hard sell because he has wonderful parents and siblings. His dad is a college football coach and has been for a long time. He knows football. It is great and soothing to have a conversation with someone who understands the development process. Nobody better than his dad and mom to help him realize how far he had to go. He has been on a journey. He is much more than a football player. He is one of our best leaders on and off the field. He is in a lot of organizations on campus. He represents the student-athlete the right way." 

 

On the inside linebacker group...

"Young, that is the first impression. A lot of youth there and a lot of repetitions. Raylen (Wilson) and CJ (Allen) are way ahead in terms of play time. They are second-spring players. This is their second spring to play deep. In a perfect world, we would like these guys to be coming in to playing time. That is not the case. They got thrust into it and have to learn in trial by fire. The guys behind them are younger than them. Between Smael (Mondon) and the next guy up, there is a big gap there. Part of that gap is created because the two young guys played well and were good last year. If you are sitting behind that, sometimes you start questioning what you should do. The guy who has had a good spring so far has been (Troy) Bowles. He has done a good job. He is picking things up. He didn't get the benefit on his high school not letting him go mid-year. He didn't get the benefit of getting in with those guys, but he just as good of an athlete as those guys. He is going to help us special teams wise. He is going to help the defense. The other three guys who are here mid-year are providing good depth and are learning."

 


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On Trevor Etienne's development...

"Running back is one of the positions that you can pick up really quickly. There are similarities between our offense and (Florida). A lot of the same runs, a lot of the same words in some cases. He has not struggled to transition in that part. Getting comfortable in the offense, there are nuances. I have met with him about it. There are differences in the way we do things offensively that he is picking up on. He is very bright. That is not going to be a problem for him. There have been some mistakes and things, but nothing that can't be corrected. In terms of his efforts and practice habits, we have encouraged him to give great effort, run the ball, pass the last defender. He is a sponge. He has absorbed that. He has enjoyed getting pushed. He is enjoying the competition of that room because there are guys he is competing with within that room. I am very pleased with where he is and hope that he will continue the trajectory he is on." 

 

On Oscar Delp's leadership in the tight end room...

"Oscar is really physical. He does things his way. He is not Brock (Bowers). He doesn't try to be Brock. He is a quiet leader, similar to Brock, but he is really physical. He is tough. He knows the work ethic it requires. The guy is taking a lot of reps since being here. He has been durable. He is doing a good job leading in that room, as well as (Lawson) Luckie is and the two young kids." 

 

On the wide receiver transfers...

"They have been a little banged up. Colbie (Young) has been a little banged up. He had an ankle happen right before we start, right before we went on break. He has been able to practice some and do some things. He has actually gotten better with each practice. He probably did the least in any of his practices in the first practice and a little more his third practice. We are hoping today that he is able to do some more. He is very bright. He transitioned smoothly. Michael Jackson has shown up and made some plays, and so has London (Humphreys). London is really in his second year of college football. Sometimes when you take a guy in the portal you think immediate Rara (Thomas), (Dominic Lovett). Those guys have played in our conference a lot. London had played in our conference but is a young player who is developing. The other two guys are a little bit older. I am very pleased with all three of those guys. I don't sit here and put expectations on top of people of having super high expectations. I want them to fit into our culture, buy into special teams, practice hard and learn how to practice in the spring to come back in the fall and be conditioned and smarter to benefit us more. Each one of them has done that." 

 

On his impression of the tight end room...

"Experience, size and speed. Knowing Pearce (Spurlin)'s unfortunate situation, we were going to be short there. We felt like we are getting a really talented, experienced, mature body type. We need that at that position. Lawson (Luckie) is having a really good spring so far. Oscar (Delp) is a proven player with toughness. We have to bring the other two young ones along really fast. Jaden Reddell is dealing with a little bit of a hamstring. We are trying to get him back out there as best we can. They need all the reps they can get. They just need to get out there, take a ton of reps and keep getting better so that they can grow. We are not where we need to be, from a health standpoint, in that room. It would help to have Ben (Yurosek) here, but he is not. He will be here in the summer." 

 

On the team having a 'get better' mindset...

"Being detailed in what we are attacking each day. Don't go out there without a purpose. I try to have the coaches go in each day and give points of emphasis. If we are not careful right now, there are so many things to correct that you can't see the forest from the trees. It can be overwhelming to a young player, so we try to narrow their focus on small things. We have got 15 opportunities to get better. So far we have done that in the first three, and I have full expectations that they will come out today with intentions of growing and getting better."

 

On Carson Beck's areas of growth and confidence...

"One of the big challenges for him is being comfortable and trusting the receivers around him. He has had the fortune and misfortune of Brock (Bowers), Ladd (McConkey) and Marcus (Rosemy-Jacksaint) being in the lineup. He has also had the misfortune of them not being in the lineup. As a quarterback, you ask any good quarterback, they like wide receivers they trust and know with intuitive ability to think the same way. There is a lot of change in that room right now. Showing confidence in himself and in those players to do their job and trust them is a big part of it. That trust is not given, it is earned. They are earning his trust. It goes both ways." 

 

On NIL and how it relates to college coaches...

"I think the leaders are going to do a great job positioning us for the future in terms of what they do. The choice of each college coach is up to the college coaches. There are certainly higher stakes and higher pay than there has ever been for college coaches across the board. There are guys making money and a living where coordinators can retire now. They don't have to go get a head coaching job. You look back 10 years ago at how much it has changed for coaches. There is no crying out there from my end. I want what is best for the student-athlete. Sometimes i question the system we have now, whether it is best for the student-athlete. Is not necessarily best for the sophomore, junior or senior. It may be best for the freshman. It may not be best for the sophomore, junior, senior. I would love to see a little more fair system for the players, in terms of within the platers. I don't have a lot of coaches complaining, saying they want to get out of the profession. They enjoy the profession. They want the profession to be about relationships, developing talent, rewarding positive performance, both on and off the field. That comes through what you have done in your body of work of being there, not necessarily with a reverse system of the younger players sometimes get more than the other players." 

 

On Will Muschamp's transition to an analyst and hiring Travaris Robinson...

"Will came and talked to me. It was really important that he continue to be a major factor in his son's life. He spent a lot of time around young men in this profession. He has developed a lot of really good players. He has shaped a lot of boys into men. He has a lot of great relationships from the places he has coached. He has players from Florida, Auburn and South Carolina that reach out to him all the time that he is really good friends with. He spent a lot of time developing those kids. He wants to be able to see his son. He wants to be able to watch his son develop and play. He got to see that firsthand with Jackson here, who did a tremendous job for us. Every day, Coach Muschamp got to go on the practice field and be with his son. I can only imagine what that felt like for him. It is that satisfaction of seeing his son each day. Now he has Whit, who has an opportunity to go to Vanderbilt and play. He wants to be a factor in his life and be with him. That was a really easy transition. I thought he handled it very well. He communicated very well with me. Our ability to hire (Travaris Robinson) was tremendous. We got tons of value in our SEC footprint. Recruiting value, football knowledge, leader of men. Anywhere he has coached, he players really trust him and enjoy him. He has been nothing but an asset for us, in terms of knowledge and also in terms of relationships. We will get a great benefit from (Travaris Robinson) coming, and we will get a huge benefit from Coach Muschamp remaining part of our program to help us."

 

On the defensive transfers and his mantra of 'assume nothing'...

"I didn't choose it myself. I had some help. We get outside support with that, so I am not taking credit for that. I have a close relationship with Nike and Phil Knight, and I have been on a trip with him for six or seven consecutive years. I have so much respect for him and his wife and what he has done with business that I thought was really cool. When the opportunity came up to study his success, if you want to be successful, study successful people. They have certainly been that. That is really where that came from, outside sources. As far as Jake (Pope) and (Xzavier McLeod), those guys are coming from SEC programs. They have been in those programs. They are more mature than our mid-years. They are intelligent. They are familiar with our systems. They have bene developing, working hard and competing for playing time."

 

On Jared Wilson...

"I am excited for the rest of the world to get to see Jared Wilson. I don't put a lot of high expectations on people and anoint people. He has a lot to do to be the best player he can be. When you talk about athleticism at the center position, this guy runs faster than a lot of our defensive backs, believe it or not, our tight ends, our quarterbacks. His numbers are extremely athletics, over 300 pounds, can get to the second level as quick as anybody. He is really athletic. He has had the great fortune of learning from (Sedrick Van Pran). Unfortunately, that is not a position that you rotate at a ton. He didn't get a lot of opportunity to play, like maybe (Amrius) Mims or Dylan Fairchild. They got to do in the game and play. He didn't get an opportunity to do a lot of those things. He is a really good athlete and even better person. He has got a younger brother who is going to be a really talented player as well. We enjoyed his leadership. I am looking forward to the center being the leader of the group like (Sedrick Van Pran) was. He has taken on a new role and doing it his way."

 

 
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