The No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs will take on No. 11 Oregon on Saturday, September 3 at 3:30 pm in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. You can watch the game on WJBF News Channel 6. Below Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and several players offered the following comments during Monday’s media session.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement

“Thanks for joining us. Excited to get game week going, game week prep. Camp kind of came to end last week for us. I thought we had a really good football camp in terms of physicality, practice, and during the heat. I am really pleased with how hard our guys have worked and strained. It’s not easy to be a football player in the fall because you don’t get to do much but practice every day for three and four hours in the heat and school is not here, people aren’t on campus, and all that has changed now. I am pleased with what our guys have done up to this point. We’re certainly not completely ready for Oregon. We shouldn’t be. We have other things to do to get ready. We’ve got a lot of situational football to get ready for. I’m pleased with where we are, and it’s time to lock in and finish up the prep we got started last week. Probably a little bit Wednesday, a little bit Thursday, and then all in Friday, Saturday, Sunday off, and then getting back to the grind for the players. We know we got a really good program. Mario Cristobal is a good friend of mine and he’s done a great job recruiting players to Oregon, and Dan has taken those guys, and watching what they did in the spring game, and knowing the intensity and the organization and the leadership that Dan has, they’re going to be a hell of a team. They’ve got a lot of good football players on their team. With that, I’ll open it up.”

On Dan Lanning’s qualities as a coach…

“Well, I think first part of that is I had a great relationship with Dan when he worked at University of Alabama, and had a lot of respect for how he went about doing his job. He didn’t try to be somebody he wasn’t. He didn’t try to impress people. He just worked and he grinded, and he really did a good job of just doing what you asked him to do. Always thought he would be successful. He helped recruit while he was there, and when we had a job come open, it was — I think Kevin ended up leaving, and ended up being a no-brainer for us to bring Danny in because I knew the value he had, No. 1 knowledge, No. 2, of being around me. I was very comfortable with him. And he had more experience. So I think when we had an opportunity to hire him as coordinator, I knew he was going to do a great job. Schumann was here at that time as well, and they were really neck in neck the whole time and both took on the responsibilities. Dan would be the first to tell you he never would’ve had the success he had here if not for Glenn Schumann. That’s what made the transition easier when Dan left. Felt comfortable Glenn would be able to take it over along with Will. It’s great when he have two guys that know the system and two guys that can share that responsibility.”

On the depth at wide receiver…

“Yeah, you know, I think a lot can be made about depth at any position. There is never enough depth. You ask me one fall camp. We’ve been here for seven of them. I can’t sit here and tell you that we’ve had enough at any position because as a coach you concern yourself with reps, volume of reps, how do I get enough work, how does each player get enough work. Receiver’s no different that are O-line or D-line or defensive backs. We’ve got a certain number of guys. We got the same number of guys we’ve had pretty much every camp, so I don’t know that there is a major concern for depth there. It’s more staying healthy. We’ve had guys dinged up in every camp I’ve ever been here, and to be honest with you, we look at it every year and every year it’s about the same. Same number of soft tissues, hamstrings and things, and it’s kind of been that way this year. I’m comfortable with where our guys are. We’ve got some young guys that will probably have to play and help us in the two-deep. If you’re going to do it at a position, the position to do it at a receiver because those guys tend to be able to have success at an early age.”

On the progression of young defensive players…

“Where are they right now? They’re inexperienced, you know, and hopefully as talented as we think they are players. At some positions more talented than others, but they’re in need of playing a game. I guess you could say that’s experience, right? So they’re in need of experience, but more so than experience they need to play in a game. They need good things to happen and reaffirm their good habits, and some of them need maybe something adverse to happen and see how they respond. I’ve never coached a defensive player that didn’t give up a play or get beat. How are they going to respond to that in a game atmosphere? It happens every day in practice. How will they respond in a game atmosphere? I don’t know if we know that yet, and that’s going to be the resiliency factor of where is this group, because I don’t think you really know until you go out in the game and have to execute it in front of the fans and against a really good opponent.”

On the challenges of preparing for Oregon…

“Some unknowns. You’re just trying to gather information, trying to figure out where the pieces will be, where is this guy going to play, and who is going to play. That’s for us to worry about as coaches. For the players, we got to worry about what we got to do. If I execute my assignment, what does it matter who is across from me? I’m not getting into the details of where he was at last year. I don’t care where he was t last year. I’m worried about what I got to do to execute. We as coaches certainly like to know about personnel and the matchups, and the game within the game is to try and get a good matchup somewhere out there. Matchups are easier to find when you know the team inside and out like an SEC team we play every year. It’s pretty easy to try to figure out where your matchups are. It’s probably a little tougher in this situation of not knowing your opponent, and even the tape you have of the opponent may not be exactly what they’re doing. So that creates an interesting dynamic, but it’s not for our players to concern themselves with.”

On Stetson Bennett’s performance in camp…

“Consistency, leadership, the things that you want your quarterback to be in terms of confidence; coachable, and understanding how to use the offense to help you. I think any time you have a guy that’s been in a meeting room for two and three years under the same system, it helps. But the reps help more than just the meeting room experience. He’s taken more reps with the ones. He’s gotten more quality work against the best we got to offer. He gets to go against the best we got every day, and I think that has helped his growth. Very pleased with what he’s done and what he’s been asked to do. We need him to play well. Need him to play well because he’s a veteran player now.”

On Oregon not announcing a starting quarterback…

“That really doesn’t impact anything for us. I mean, I know who the quarterback is going to be. I’m not worried about that. Worried a lot more about how our guys play and what our guys do and how our guys execute. You guys use that to write about and talk about, but regardless of which quarterback is in there, they’re going to do what they do. Maybe he does one thing better than the other guy. At the end of the day, they may play both of them. It’s never about the preparation for one specific quarterback as much as the preparation of your team to go play well.”

On having familiarity with Dan Lanning…

“Yeah, on a personal level, I don’t think the game has anything to do with that, and neither Dan nor I will be worried about each other during the game. It’s not about that. He’s fighting to do the best job he can for his organization and his players, and I’m doing the same here. We have mutual respect for each other. Always will, always have. Just it’s what competition is about. You love to go compete, and it’s about our players getting a chance to compete against their players. As far as the familiarities of the two systems, you know, they’re probably is a little overlap there in terms of defense and they’re watching our defense and we watch our defense to get ready for them. They have got coaches on their staff from other places. We’ve gone out and looked at the history of their other defensive coach for ideas and things they’ve done at other places. At the end of the day it’s about how you execute. It’s not about Xs and Os. It’s about who has got the best players and do the best players play the best in the biggest moments.”

On Mykel Williams’ performance in camp…

“It’s continued to grow. I think since he got here he’s been a nontraditional freshmen. He’s never been really impacted by accolades, hype, even intimidation by being here in terms of drills and knowing what to do. He’s fit in really naturally. I think being from where he’s from, Columbus, he got up here to so many practices it was just a very steady climb, and he’s continued to do climb. He’s not had up and downs and lack of effort and tired and not understanding. He takes really good care of his body. He’s very intelligent. He learns the system well and he plays really hard. Those are attributes that help true freshmen get on the field.”

On injury status for multiple players…

“I don’t know if I can hit all those. Andrew had a tough situation in a scrimmage. Tore his ACL, which all guys know. He’ll be undergoing surgery I think tomorrow or the next day it repair his ACL. Tate has been back practicing, doing a great job. Kearis been back practicing ever since the scrimmage. D’Nylon has be been back practicing since the second scrimmage.”

On competition at defensive back and punter…

“Yeah. Our guys are Brett and Noah, and our guys Tykee and Bullard at the star, along with Poole. So all these guys are doing a great job. Probably play all those guys at punter. We’ll make a decision closer to the game, but Brett is probably the leader in terms of punting. But really pleased with the work of all those guys, and expect them to — we say you’re a starter here when you start on special teams, so all those guys will of have a starting role.”

On facing Oregon’s offensive line…

“Yeah, I think we face a really good offensive line day in and day out, and very experience in our own. That provides a lot of good competition.

I think they’ve got more returning starters, returning snaps than almost anybody in the country on their offensive line. It’s certainly a strength in terms of even whet Mario’s history is of recruiting offensive linemen. He did a tremendous job putting together depth at that position, so it will be key that we play well, physical. You have to control the line of scrimmage and strike people to be a good football team. They know that. Dan knows that. There is nothing hidden about that. Our defensive line has to stop the run and be able to control the quarterback, which depending on which quarterback it is, you got some really good athletes back there.”

On Zion Logue’s leadership qualities…

“Consistency. I mean, Zion is a guy that’s been kind of a product of our environment, culture I might say. He’s seen leaders before him. He certainly had a long way to go when he got here. He never shied away from work. He’s been very consistent in his work. He’s worked really hard to earn the opportunity he’s gotten. He would be the first to tell you there are things he can do better. He’s not the guy that we played with last year, but he’s a great leader. He makes up for what he may or may not have in complete talent with effort, toughness, all the things we think are quality leadership things, and he continues to do that.”

On the tight ends facing Oregon’s inside linebackers…

“Again, I don’t know how much they’ll be matched up on those guys. Those guys are inside and the tight ends are outside, so I don’t usually look at it as a matchup between tight ends and inside backers. It could be a matchup where when one is blocking one of them, one might be covering them, but might be a DB too. Are they going to play nickel, play regular? Those are all questions that will be answered the day of the game. They have a tremendously talented inside linebacker room. Both two kids we recruited here and tried to get here, and we had some pretty good inside linebackers when they decided to come. We felt strongly enough they were good enough to come here and play, so they’re talented.

Our tight ends are really good football players. They are conscientious. They work hard. We need them to be successful regardless of who we play because they’re good players, and good players got to play well. I think it would be misleading to think there is like this kind of matchup where it’s this guy against this guy. I don’t foresee that.”

On potential starters for the offensive line…

“No. I don’t think we’ll know until this week gets up. You’re coming off a day where he didn’t do anything and they practiced Friday and Saturday with all of them sharing time with the ones. That’s not going to change all year. I know that’s all you want to know is who is going to start, but there is a group of guys there between Devin, Jared, Tate, and Truss that all roll through there. Micah gets reps, Dylan gets reps, and Warren Ericson is repped some at guard. So it’s not a matter of, okay, it’s going to be these two guys. It’s going to be the guys that play and practice the best, and right now we haven’t made the decision of who’s going to take the first snap so that everybody can talk about who took the first snap. We are going to look and say, who is playing the best in the game and gives us the best opportunity.”

On deciding captains and leadership council…

“No. We pick game captains by week, and it usually has to do with who we think can affect the team or who maybe that week has to have the best leadership role. Played South Carolina and Channing Tindall was the captain because he’s from South Carolina and it would mean more to him being from that state. There is no rhyme or reason. It usually has something to do with who do the coaching staff, strength staff, player development staff think will impact that game the most. But everybody is a leader every game. You got a right to say whatever you feel like saying. It usually comes from — for the first game — off-season workouts and camp. Who had the camp and who was the guy that everybody could count on to be there on that day that’s hundred degrees and you’re practicing for the 15th time. So we don’t base it on a whole lot early. We base it on the fact that you’re a good leader, and everybody has an opportunity to lead. I don’t remember the second part of the question.

“Yeah, leadership council really was — we’ve done it every year we’ve been here. We didn’t do it since the Cincinnati game. It’s been more of — our sessions have been the emphasis on spending time with each other and kind of all sharing in that responsibility and not making it like it’s an isolated group. I still rely on leaders to make some decisions. We have guys we kind of consider that, but it’s not a designated leadership council.”

On playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff and potentially playing Oregon in the future…

“Yeah, I love playing in this game because No. 1, it’s in Atlanta, and No.2 I like playing in it because they do an tremendous job. It’s an unbelievable venue. Your hope is you’re back in the stadium and you’ve got a chance to play in it once already when it comes to the SEC Championship game. So that has a lot to do with it. Just in general, I think playing a big time opponent opening, whether that’s home and home, neutral sites, I just think it fires up your fan base, it fires up your off-season workouts, and some people do it the second game of the year. To me it’s a great opportunity to go out and schedule opponents that get your fan base and your team excited to play. When we scheduled this one a while back we knew the kind of team Oregon was going to have, and we expect to have that same kind of team, so it makes for a great matchup.”

On potentially not using Kenny McIntosh at kick returner and the performance of placekickers…

“Not really. We have kind of had our kickoff return guys lined up all along, so hasn’t included Kenny because Kenny was one of the primary backs, where last year he was sharing that load. He’s still a kickoff return weapon and a guy we can use when we need to. But the kicking has been — Pod has a great job. Pod has been very consistent in terms of he comes to work every day, he has a routine he believes in. He and Zirk are battling for the kickoff spot. He’s probably be the field goal guy barring anything happening between now and then. Very pleased with Pod’s focus and consistency. Really all the specialists. They have a unique group and kind of work on a different schedule than us, and I’m very pleased with where they are.”

#29 Christopher Smith | Senior | DB

On preparing for a new Oregon offense...

“I had the opportunity to watch their Spring game, and it looks like they still probably have an explosive offense with a great quarterback. They have a good game plan. The offensive coordinator does a good job of getting guys open, so even though they lost some players, they are still very explosive. They are a threat to be reckoned with, so we have to lock in, focus on that, and execute the game plan that the coaches give us.”

On Bo Nix…

“He is very athletic, and he can improvise a lot. He makes big plays for his offense. I think when he was at Auburn, they were averaging upwards of 30 points a game when he was playing. He is definitely a gamer, and he is very familiar opponent. We have good rapport with him, so we are definitely going to use the past to get ready for him this game. But like I said, it’s a new offense, a new offensive coordinator, a new head coach, and things like that, so things are going to be different that we have to be ready for .”

On if the defense will look different…

“To me, personally, I don’t think it will be. Here at the University of Georgia, we pride ourselves on great defense, and Coach Smart, Coach Muschamp, Coach Schumann, Coach Scott, and Coach Uzo-Diribe all do a great job at getting everybody on the defense prepared. I’m pretty sure we are going to put the same product out there on the field, that’s how it’s always going to go at the end of the day. Our coaches are going to put together a good game plan throughout the year, and all we have to do is carry it out.”

#4 Nolan Smith | Senior | LB

On the impact of Dan Lanning being on the other sideline…

“I don’t think too much of it. He coached me for three years and he’s an amazing coach. I know he’s going to have those guys fired up and ready to play Georgia.”

On Mykel Williams…

“I think he’s positive to be around. He plays great football and he’s just a great kid that’s ready to learn. He comes through ready to learn every day. I’m excited for all of our young players. They get an opportunity to showcase what they’ve been doing for 14 days. Mykel Williams and a lot of the new freshman they are going to see.”

On what to expect out of this Georgia defense…

“I play on the Georgia defense, I’m not expecting anything… I expect that we show connection. The game is meant to have fun. It’s nothing to show me. I’m just a player and I just want to have fun with my guys. All 11 guys playing the same call, getting our hats to the football. Swarming and flying. That’s connection and that the only thing that we can control.”

#63 Sedrick Van Pran | R-So. | OL

On the confidence level of the offensive line…

“I think it’s the same overall as every game. These guys are really good. I’ve seen 50 (Popo Aumavae), I’ve seen 3 (Brandon Dorlus). They’re really good players. Really twitchy, they move well. I wouldn’t want to necessarily call it confidence because of course we believe in ourselves, but at the end of the day, they’re good players and we’ll go out there and compete.”

On anticipating Dan Lanning’s impact on the defense…

“I think to a certain extent, you have to anticipate that Coach Lanning will do what he loves to do and send those pressures and things like that. But at the same time, we should also expect a bit of a mix-up—something that he may have seen that we do from being around us.”

On Jalen Carter’s differences this season…

“I would say his focus. Everyone knows Jalen Carter is a lot more quiet and he likes to stay to himself and be around with the guys. I think one thing he’s done this year is push the guys around him—Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, helping out the guys like Naz (Stackhouse), Mykel (Williams, whoever they may be. Just pushing those guys, that’s the biggest step I’ve seen him take is being more of a leader.”

#13 Stetson Bennett | Sr. | QB 

On being named the starter coming into the season for the first time…

“Yeah, it’s a little different. Every other year, it’s uncertainty. Last year, pretty much lucked into the getting to go out there and play to an extent. This year, you get fall camp, you get spring, now we’re here. It’s game week. So, it’s weird because it came faster, because you’re so busy in the day. You’re so busy day-to-day, practice and all that stuff, working on little things. Last year, I wasn’t quite as in tune, because not only was I not the starter, I wasn’t the second string guy, so I was like, ‘Well, you know, probably won’t happen this week.’? And you get so caught up in the day-to-day and the little things that you kind of lose track of the overall, ‘Holy cow, it’s Oregon week now.’ Thankfully, I think we’ve handled it really well, and marked down on our calendars like we need to do this by this. Probably a little bit more excited than I was this time last year.”

On playing in Mercedes Benz Stadium, the site of the SEC Championship…

“It’s just been there before and understanding that, hey, it’s the whole Hoosiers thing, like it’s 10 feet still. It’s the same thing but when you go to a different layout, there’s 70,000 people there and something looks a little bit different, and the first time you see whether it registered or not just looks a little off or the field looks a little bit different that, at the end of the day, it’s same size. But after you play in the same stadium for a while, then you kind of get used to it.”

On if the extra snaps he’s gotten with the ones in practice this year has made a difference…

“A ton, right? You can draw up on paper that you got a 14-yards deep route, but you got five different lineups are going to run it five different ways. So, just knowing, expecting whenever Adonai [Mitchell] hip turns, okay, well, now let’s throw, or Ladd’s [McConkey] elbow, now let’s throw. Just little things like that that you can’t think about or you wouldn’t know until you do have those 1,000 extra reps.”

COURTESY UGA ATHLETICS