Kirby Smart, No. 1 Bulldogs gear up for CSU Buccaneers

Sports

ATHENS, GA – NOVEMBER 06: Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts in the first half against the Missouri Tigers at Sanford Stadium on November 6, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

ATHENS, Ga.University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with a pair of defensive players previewed Saturday’s home matchup against Charleston Southern. The Bulldogs and the Buccaneers kick off at 12 p.m. ET in Athens, Ga. 

On Tuesday, Coach Smart, senior Devonte Wyatt  and redshirt sophomore Dan Jackson offered the following comments.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

On Kendall Milton…

“Kendall is back running which is good. I think he got up to 10 to 15 miles an hour yesterday. He’s not truly practicing with us, he’s cutting and running straight lines. Doubtful for this week that we would get him back. But optimistic that we will get him back for Georgia Tech is kind of the timeline we’ve had since the injury. Certainly, hopeful we can get him back in time for Tech.”

On Xavier Truss practicing this week …

“Truss has done a good job. He has worked at guard; he and Warren (Ericson) have both worked in there some. Warren was still out yesterday with flu symptoms from the game, but he was back today and working. Xavier has a lot of ability. Xavier’s biggest thing is that  he can carry over and focus and concentrate to do the things he has to do and really play with a lot of intensity. So that’s one of the biggest things with Xavier is his dependability, his snap count and assignments. And to his credit, he hasn’t been at guard as long as our other guards. You know, Warren has played there since he got here. Xavier was moved in there, now he’s been there for a while, but we still haven’t seen the twist and the action as much as Warren has.”

On Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff’s development this season…

“I’ve seen Brock close up a lot because he’s been the scout team quarterback. He’s simulated a lot of these guys that we’ve had – really athletic, makes throws on the run, very accurate and competitive. He likes going against that defense each day. He doesn’t always have the best protection but we’re not hitting him either. He’s done a really good job. Carson has continued to grow. He hasn’t had as many reps as he had before… before he was working with the two’s. Now his reps come through either middle reps, walk-through reps or three’s reps which we get some in practice. I’ve been very pleased with both of their developments and to be completely honest with you, I’ve got complete confidence in both those guys as quarterbacks because I think they’re really talented players.”

On playing to a standard instead of scoreboard…

“It’s definitely something you worry about in terms of playing to get better. I was frustrated with yesterday’s practice. It’s probably the first Monday that I felt like I was frustrated because I felt like there was a relaxed atmosphere and not that killer instinct that I’ve seen on some Mondays. It was a little frustrating for me because we’ve had really good practices. I don’t know if that was a relief from the Tennessee game or if that was about who we’re playing, but I just was not pleased with it. It was better today but it still wasn’t what I expected our Tuesday to be. I’m trying to reach out to the leaders and make sure that they handle that the right way. As far as playing to the scoreboard or playing to a standard, I always want our guys to play to a certain standard and a certain standard of excellence of how we play, execution regardless of who we play.”

On Jordan Davis’ and Devonte Wyatt’s competitive mentality…

“Devonte is extremely competitive, he hates losing. He probably gets angry quicker than Jordan when things aren’t going well. He was frustrated on the first drive against Tennessee. Sometimes you just have to support Devonte and just tell him ‘it’s going to be okay.’ Jordan has a cooler presentation and level heads will prevail with Jordan. They have very different personalities, almost opposite ends of the spectrum. But they both respect each other and love each other so much. They’ve grown to be really good friends and have very different backgrounds. They’re great competitors, they’ve been great for Georgia. Their decision to come back was probably the most impactful of everybody’s, because they probably had the highest grades of those juniors that came back because it’s so hard to find defensive linemen. Those guys coming back kind of put everything in motion.”

On identifying the potential of defensive success early in the season…

“I don’t really know. I’ve never been overconfident, if anything I’ve been the opposite and concerned. I don’t remember much about the spring. I felt like we were going to be high powered on the offense, then George (Pickens) went down, and Jermaine (Burton) didn’t make it through the spring, so it was like, ‘man, are we really getting tested?’ I don’t remember the front dominating like this, maybe they did, I just don’t remember. When I first realized, it was the Clemson game. They were really good. You know our coaches on staff, Will (Muschamp) included, said it was just a really good front. He thought it was going to be special and he was right. He’s been around a lot of really good ones and seen them and it was just a combination of Jalen growing up, those two coming back, Travon (Walker),  Nolan (Smith) there’s just a lot of good players up there. That front has really helped us. Their confidence exudes itself to the team and carries over and probably helps the secondary. Those guys are not as confident as the front linebackers, it’s helped them.”

On George Pickens’s injury progression…

“Well, we’re doing a lot of good on good, meaning we’re practicing less against the scouts this week and more against ourselves and giving each other good looks. He’s been going against our one defense some. We do 7-on-7. He gets reps. He’s really doing the same thing he did last week.  He’s doing very similar things, just probably more of it in terms of more reps and more volume picking up volume up. He’s still in a non-contact jersey and practices some with us.”

On the overall progression of the secondary and if last week’s game was considered a “bump in the road”…

“No, I was very proud of them last week, very proud and not a bump in the road. They were tested. You know what I mean? They had good players, and they had the ball in the air. You go back to the previous weeks. You can’t go back the previous weeks and say where we made a lot of plays down the field and made plays on the ball. We definitely got tested, and we gave some plays up. We gave some plays up, but when you play the style of play that we played last week, you’re going to give plays up, and they’re tough to defend. So, I was really proud of them. If anything, I think last week gives them some more confidence, because they went out and played against good people. They competed, they covered on some, and then they got beat on some. But we got good enough players up front that they got to win most of their battles, not all their battles.”

On today’s practice being better than yesterday’s practice…

“Yep, that’s exactly what I said. Today was better than yesterday, and today was not to the standard that I expect a Tuesday to be at in-season, but it was better than the previous. I expect tomorrow to be better than today, and to be the standard of our past four or five Wednesdays would be the goal.”

On getting players to better identify things before the snap…

“Reps. I mean, the only way to do that is reps and reps on top of reps on top of reps. Really fast reps, not slow, not video, not talking. Go out there and do it, because you can’t simulate the speed of the game. It happens to these guys, and the only way they get better is by going out and doing it.”

On Dominick Blaylock’s injury report…

“Dom was, you know, bounced back, and he’s been down with the flu bug, so he wasn’t with us yesterday or Tuesday. So, we’ve been dealing with the flu.”

On the progression of Zion Logue, Tymon Mitchell and Bill Norton and their futures in the program…

“I certainly hope so. They’re three of the hardest workers on the team. Zion plays a good bit for us in the rotation. Tymon and Bill haven’t really cracked that rotation, but Bill helps a lot on special teams, and Tymon is probably the hardest, toughest-nosed player we got. He takes more snaps than anybody, and he’s made himself into a good player on the scout team. He’s got some really talented guys in front of him, so  he hasn’t gotten a lot of reps, but we were able to travel him last week, and we were able to travel to Vanderbilt. He’s a great young man, and he busted his butt every day at practice, and I appreciate him.”

On handling being the No. 1 team in the nation for over a month…

“I think early on it was like people tried to make a distraction in the media and questions and stuff, but it’s really just gone away, because, not that I know of, it hasn’t affected anything, because our guys have managed it. They practice hard, they’ve been physical, they’ve locked into the opponent. To be honest with you, I haven’t even thought about it since the questions y’all asked several weeks ago.”

On Tramel Walthour and Robert Beal’s injury…

“Nope, they have both been good. One was an ankle that Tramel was working on, and I think he’s been fine and (Robert) Beal’s been in practice the last few days and has been in good shape.”

#95 | Devonte Wyatt | Sr. | DL

On his senior season…

“This senior year really has been great. It kind of surprised me. When JD and I decided to come back, we wanted to have a Sony Michel/Nick Chubb type of year. We just weren’t finished. It’s our last year, and we just knew we couldn’t leave. With the leaders we had in the room, we knew we could make something great. When he [Jordan Davis] told me he was coming back because I had already made my decision, he told to just keep working, pushing the team, pushing the freshmen, sophomores, juniors. Everybody bought into the plan and look where we are at now.”

On the freshmen on the scout team…

“They’re developing. They’re developing fast. They’re helping us out on scout team and playing a big part. They’re helping us out by moving fast, learning the plays. I really can’t wait to see them play next year because they’ve been working really hard.”

On when he made the decision to come back…

“I just started talking to my family, coaches, teammates, and I just knew my worth. I knew what my talent was, and I knew where I was supposed to be. I wanted to graduate too, so that was another part – I had to get closer to graduation. I just knew my worth, so I stayed another year. I’m not going to leave and settle for anything.”

#47 Dan Jackson | RS So.| DB

On Charleston Southern’s quarterback, Jack Chambers…

“I have (watched film on him). He’s a great player, and he’s really talented. He has a good arm, and he can run it if he needs to. He’s very shifty.”

On Georgia’s passing defense…

“We feel good. We were challenged. Tennessee was a great team. We feel like we needed that, and we were able to step up and make some key stops. We found our footing after the first couple of drives, and I think it was a great challenge for us.”

On learning the playbook…

“This senior class means everything to me. Seeing the work they’ve put in throughout the spring, summer, and all those early morning workouts. I see their leadership firsthand, and it’s really encouraged me day-in and day-out. In terms of leaning on guys, I’ve leaned on a ton of guys this year throughout the opportunities that I’ve had, but everybody in the defensive backfield – Chris Smith, [Latavious] Brini – they’ve all been there for me since day one. Chris is the kind of guy – he got injured – but he would’ve gone out there with one arm against Kentucky and gave it his all. That senior class all throughout, they mean the world to me for sure.”

COURTESY UGA ATHLETICS

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