ATHENS, Ga. — University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and several student-athletes offered the following comments during Monday’s media session ahead of the Saturday’s game against Kent State.    

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement…

“We’re looking forward to getting another home game. Our second time to play at home against a quality opponent in Kent State. We did some offseason study on these guys. And they have a really unique offense. And, actually, a really unique defense as well. They do a tremendous job. Sean Lewis has done a great job with these guys in terms of coaching them up and getting these guys to play hard. They’ve played a really tough schedule in the teams they’ve played. We’re looking forward to an opportunity to play these guys. 

On playing Kent State as a player in 1998…

“I didn’t even realize we played them when I was here. I do remember that game. I think I dropped a snap. So it’s probably a good idea that I got to throw it to a guy that was 6’7 and 320 pounds. And he was hard to miss; if that was in fact the game it happened on. But don’t remember much about that game then. It was a long time ago. 

On perimeter blocking for pass catchers…

“It’s always been a focus. It’s not like this year it’s new. It’s been a big focus for us. We try to start practice that way every day with some form of fit-up drill, some form of contact drill for skilled players in terms of ball protection. So it’s part of our DNA. It’s important that you’re selfless and willing to block. And it’s not him, it’s what football is now. You know, football has evolved to where there’s two or three and sometimes four things that are given to a quarterback on a play. And two of those four usually involve the perimeter with perimeter blocking. So if you don’t do it well, you have no chance. And if you do do it well, then you have a chance to get some easier yards. 

On Oscar Delp’s first touchdown…

“Well, I think it’s a good confidence boost. But he’s done well in our offense the entire camp. He practiced well, had a good spring. He’s competing out there. He’s learning how to be a complete tight end, both in-line blocker, outside blocker, how to adjust to things when things don’t happen the way you quite expect them to. There’s just a certain number of reps and things you have to go through in order to improve. You just happened to see one play where he got the fruits of his labors. But there’s a lot of labors in there that you don’t get to see. But he’s done a good job in working at it and putting his nose down and grinding to become a better player. 

On Carson Beck’s performance this season…

“Yeah, Carson’s done a good job. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He understands our system. He’s another year in being in the system. And you remember, there’s a point in time where he probably had more reps than Stetson did in terms of volume of work because he took a lot of reps as the two when Stetson took some as the three. So he’s got a lot of work. He’s intelligent. He understands what the defense is doing. He understands his protections. He knows where to go with the ball. He’s accurate. He’s done a nice job with the opportunity he’s been given

On finding ways to get Brock Bowers the ball…

Well, I think the entire offensive staff takes on that burden. And, you know, he delegates a lot of presentations just like we do on defense. And each coach has their area of expertise, whether that be third down, red area, goal line, short yardage, perimeter. I mean, there’s just a lot of facets that go into it. Each guy has to come up with a play. You can imagine each guy in his presentation is trying to get the ball to a playmaker in a few different ways. We’ve got a few of those guys that you got to get touches to. He’s certainly one that I think certainly everyone tries to find ways to get creative. You have to move him around because people know he’s going to be a target. 

On putting emphasis on defensive pressure…

“I don’t know that we’ve put any emphasis on it. I mean, it’s the evolution of the game. And every quarterback’s different. I mean, there’s quarterbacks that scramble to run, quarterbacks that scramble to throw. What you do behind your pressure is very important. If a quarterback’s scrambling to run, you better have somebody behind the pressure that can get him down. If he’s scrambling to pass, you better have more that can cover and hope that he does that, that he tries to throw the ball. I think everyone is different. And in every offensive system we play each week, they take a different approach. Some are not going to let you hit their quarterback. At the cost of grounding, at the cost of incompletions, at the cost of the quarterback possibly making a mistake and throwing a pick. Our job is to be disruptive and pressure the quarterback, affect the quarterback. But that doesn’t always equal sack the quarterback, which is, you know, obvious this year, that that’s been tough to do. But I think a lot of people are looking at us defensively the first two games. Especially, they have to look at last year to determine what they’re going to do this year. Looking at that last year, you’re saying, I’m not going to get sacked, I’m not going to get hit. And they’re trying to protect them by what they do. 

On Darris Smith’s performance…

“Well, he’s really a SAM linebacker as an outside linebacker that also plays in space some. In today’s day and age, you’re seeing every personnel grouping utilized. We want to have the luxury of having a person with more size, be able to play when people go 12 open and people open up sets. It’s really more of a development decision for him. It’s not a position change. He played JACK in the game. He played outside linebacker in the game. We’re developing a guy that has the skill set to run fast, to learn how to play multiple positions. Which is what we told him when we recruited him. 

On Jalen Carter and AD Mitchell’s statuses…

“Jalen is dealing with a lingering ankle issue. He’s, really, had it since the Oregon game. And he’s trying to get well. Trying to get him healthy. Hopefully he’ll be full go this week. He was close last week, but didn’t end up having to play a lot of snaps. And then AD, we’re hopeful to get him back this week. Again, it’s one of those deals last week we thought we might get him back. We’re hopeful to get him back this week. 

On Kent State’s performances against Washington and Oklahoma…

“Yeah, they’ve got a really good football team. They’ve got a quarterback that I didn’t know a lot about who is, No. 1, a tremendous athlete. No. 2, he makes a lot of people miss. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hand. He’s made some wild throws. You’re going to hear about this guy. He’s had some 60, 70-yard passes that are incredible. They have some really good wideouts. They’re a talented team. You go and watch them on defense, they do enough different defensively that it can create issues for you because it’s not what you see every day. It’s a little more new-aged defense, which people are playing to affect teams that are on the perimeter more, second level, fitters able to disguise a little more. I know you guys don’t ever listen to anything we say in here, but this is a really good football team and they have played two really good football teams. And you watch the first half of the Oklahoma game, you have no question how good they are. They, really, played Washington well outside of a couple of drives. Washington scored on them. But outside of that, they went toe to toe with Washington. 

On William Poole’s status…

“William Poole is not going to be with us for the remainder of the season. He’s dealing with a personal matter and he’s going to focus on that and his health and well-being. He will not be with us for the rest of the year, unfortunately. 

On comparing this year’s team to last year…

“I don’t do comparisons. I’ve said that repeatedly. You can’t compare anybody to last year’s. Because last year’s team, 15 of them are in the NFL. It’s one of those things that this team has a long way to go. The worst thing that can happen to this team is to start believing what people say about them. The toughest job we have this week is trying to explain to everybody that Kent State’s a really good football team. I know you think I just sit up here and say that, but you turn the tape on, they’ve got a really, really good football team. And it’s not so much about Kent State, it’s really about, does our team want to grow? And this is a week we need to have growth. We have to get better in a lot of stops. You guys don’t get to see it from our prospective and the fans don’t get to see it in our prospective in terms of what we see on tape and how many mistakes we make, and how many guys we need to get better. We’re certainly going to need them to get better this week. 

On maximizing the team’s talent…

“Practice really hard. Discipline. Toughness. You know, connection. Composure. I mean, all the things we talk about in this organization, they have to permeate it. Whether we win or lose, we go out there to practice today. We can’t treat today any different whether we lost or won the last game. And that has to come from — everybody in the organization has to relay that message. The players are the ones that have to buy into it. To be honest with you, that’s the culture the players created around here. That, Hey, to be at Georgia, it’s tough. To be at Georgia, you have to practice hard. To be at Georgia, you have to earn it. And as long as they believe in doing that, then, you know, we have enough talent that we’re going to have a good opportunity when we go out on the field on Saturday. But they have to believe in that culture. 

On Arik Gilbert’s status…

“He’s going to be day-to-day throughout the week. 

On Ladd McConkey…

“Ladd has been an incredible team person. I mean, this guy embodies what you talk about when you talk about team. Because he blocks so hard, he blocks so physical. He blocks bigger than he actually is. You watch the tape closely, he goes in and cracks on safeties and hits people and he goes and does what you ask. And then he gets the ball in his hands and he makes people miss. It’s really the same thing he did in high school. It’s not any different. If you actually watch the tape, he did that at high school. If you watch his combine workouts where he went and competed against highly rated guys, he did the same thing there. It’s not a surprise that he’s had success because it usually carries over if you’re successful and you do things right in high school, and you run fast, you’re going to have an opportunity to be successful in college. That’s the one thing I don’t think people give Ladd enough credit for, is his toughness and his speed. 

On changes to the secondary with William Poole’s absence…

“We’ve kind of been chugging along. I mean, to be honest, we have Tykee (Smith) at STAR and (Javon) Bullard at STAR. The entire fall camp, Poole played some there in the third down situations against Oregon. But he was working more at corner. But we have the guys we have, and we have to get the guys we have better to go where we want to go. 

On Nyland Green’s status…

“He has a hamstring and we’re hopeful to get him back soon.”

On Amarius Mims’ improvement…

“I think he has more confidence going into the game in more meaningful moments. You know, he’s extremely athletic and talented and we really stressed to him how much he can improve in terms of his run game and his pass game and his knowledge of the game. The only way you get better at that point is to go play. He’s gotten to play quite a bit in the last three games. So we want him to continue to do that. And, really, the conditioning level of these games outside of the heat has allowed us to play three guys and stay fresh at the position. 

On Julian Humphrey and Daylen Everette earning more playing time…

“Experience, confidence, executing in big moments. They both have gotten a little bit of playing time but both of them can improve from when they have gone in the game. They have to do a good job of performing better when they get out there.

On importing air conditioning to the visiting locker room at South Carolina…

“I found it to be cooler. That was — I mean, we try to send our guys early at halftime because it was cooler in there than it was on the field. So we sent the offense in to cool off a little bit. 

On recruiting in the new landscape…

“Hard to say. We haven’t had a really full body of work. I guess you can say you had a full body of work last year, but it’s changed so much this class from last class, it’s already been different. 

You know, I felt like it was, you know, 20/30 percent of the conversation last year and it’s certainly higher than that now. But I can’t judge it or assess it. Because, you know, until you’re through December, you don’t know anything. And you’ll find out more as it goes along. 

On instilling blocking in the receiver room…

“Blocking’s not just for Georgia. Every receiver coach in America will tell you it’s pretty important, you know, when you don’t have the ball, you have to be willing to block. I think you hear me talk about it more. But it’s not — every good team, you know, that wants to have explosive teams, it doesn’t matter what the play is, somebody has to block somebody. So that happens to include receivers. There’s no great receiving core out there that never blocks, right? You have to do a good job of that, whether it’s a receiver screen, your buddy, your quarterback, it’s there. Ladd (McConkey) has no problem embracing that. Ladd’s a team player. I mean, I don’t — we haven’t had any receivers here that don’t embrace blocking. They like catching the ball, but you have to embrace that if you want to be a good football player. If you want to play in the National Football League, you have to block. 

On deciding when to pull the starting quarterback…

“You have to win the football game. So the No. 1 thing is what do we have to do to win the football game? The No. 2 thing is what do we have to do to stay healthy, what do we have to do to keep confidence and keep rhythm in our offense? There’s a lot of things that go into that in terms of experience of the two. There’s no perfect way to answer that question. Because every game is going to be different based on who we play the next week, how did we play that game, where are we, who’s playing around them, what other linemen are in? There’s not an exact answer to that question. 

On differences in recruiting quarterbacks…

“I don’t know if you recruit them differently. You do the same plan of attack. You probably sell it differently. There’s not a lot of quarterbacks out there that don’t think they can come in and play. You’re not selling come here and sit on the bench. You’re selling an opportunity to develop. I think we have a proven track record (Todd) Monken has, our offense has of developing quarterbacks, of giving guys an opportunity to play in a system that they can watch play on Sundays is pretty important. There’s developmental positions in recruiting. Offensive linemen are probably the least played position as a true freshman, right along with quarterbacks. A lot of those positions are developmental positions and you have to grow and get better. I think that’s part of recruiting, is telling them the truth when it comes to that.

#84 Ladd McConkey | RS Sophomore | WR

On Brock Bowers…

“You saw it last year and in practice every day. Brock is a freak athlete. It’s nothing new to us. You get used to seeing it at times when he makes plays like that. He’s the real deal, and he deserves everything he’s been given. I’m just happy he’s on our team.”

On perimeter blocking…

“That’s a huge thing. That’s a big part of the game. If you can throw it out to the perimeter and get five or six yards, that’s just as good as running it in the middle. We really take pride in that. You can’t just run routes and expect to play receiver. It goes both ways. You have to block. I think it’s something we are proud of this year and something we want to build on.”

On the growth of the offense…

“We have had some great success, and obviously that’s what we are trying to build on. When things are working, you roll with it, and I think we have done a great job with it. Getting the players out on the perimeter to do their things whether it’s receivers, tight ends, or running backs. I think we have done a good job of dispersing the ball and letting everybody get a piece of the action. I think that’s what is separating us. It’s not just one player. They can’t key in on one receiver, tight end, or running back, and I think that’s what has helped us a lot.”

On depth on the offense…

“We go four-deep in practice and fall camp. Every single player on our team is getting reps every single day. When you do that in practice, it transfers over into the game. They’ve been getting all those reps, and that’s something that we have been priding ourselves on. When they can get all those reps, they can come in and be prepared because they have been doing it all fall camp.”

#29 Christopher Smith | Senior | DB

On the freshman defensive backs…

“With the kind of defense we have, you have to get used to it (the checks and calls). It takes a little bit of time, but those guys have done a great job of attacking our game plan. Each week they are continuing to get better. Everything takes time, even for me it took a little bit of time to learn the defense. Just freshman woes.”

On the message to the younger guys on playing time…

“You have to wait your turn. You never know when your number will be called. When I was able to play, I wasn’t really expecting it, but I was prepare and ready. All the work I put in at practice and the trust that Coach Smart and the rest of the coaches to be able to put me out there.”

On this year’s team potentially being better than last year…

“I think so, but that just comes with our standard. Our standard is our motivation. We hear a lot of things that people say, but we never fade into that. We continue to work. I think that is a test to all of the hard work that we put in and the coaches.”

#65 Amarius Mims | So. | OL

On his performance the first three games…

“I’ve definitely played a bigger role and it’s been giving me more learning experiences. My great teammates have been pushing me, telling me to go out there and have no worries, just providing me to play well for our team.”

On embracing his role…

“Honestly, it was at first, but with my teammates, it makes it easier when they’re talking to me, patting me on the back, saying ‘It’s going to be good, you’re going to mess up.’ With them telling me that, I have all the confidence in the world.”

On who has helped him grow into who he is…

“Definitely, Warren [Ericson]. He talks to me everyday. Even when he’s not in, he always talked to me and say, ‘Hey man, when you go out there, do your thing.’ Most people don’t do that. I have that big brother relationship with him. With him doing that, I have all the confidence in the world.”

COURTESY UGA ATHLETICS