Smart holds Monday meeting with media, previews showdown with Jackets

Game kicks at noon Saturday in Atlanta

University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with select Bulldog student-athletes previewed Saturday’s matchup against Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets kick-off at 12 p.m. ET in Atlanta, Ga.

On Monday Coach Smart, senior Channing Tindall and redshirt sophomore Warren McClendon offered the following comments.

Head Coach Kirby Smart Opening statement... “First off, I’d like to recognize and give thanks to Jonas Jennings. He does a tremendous job for us as Director of Player Development. Kind of my right-hand man. He does a great job. Today is his annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway day over in College View Hills in Atlanta where he grew up. I think he’s done it now for 13 years. He’s maybe given away over 230 turkeys to an impoverished area over in College View. I just appreciate all Jonas does for our program and really for our kids. For him to give back to that community, it means a lot. He’s done it every year I know that I’ve been here and does a tremendous job. With that, leading to Georgia Tech, our guys get to go play in Atlanta. An opportunity, in one of our main recruiting areas, where a lot of our guys are from. It’s a great atmosphere. I know our guys will be excited for a rivalry game, to play in Atlanta. It’s the next part, the next chapter, and what are they going to write about this chapter with each group? I know our guys will be fired up and ready to go this week.”

On the coaching landscape today... “The opportunity at Georgia came about, and it really wasn’t about the stability or any of that. It was about an opportunity and a place I believe in and a place that I wanted to be at for a long time. Had a lot more to do with that than maybe the history of who had been here or other places. I think the landscape across college football is what it is. The stakes have gotten higher. The pay has gotten higher, and with that, comes expectations. It’s a different landscape now than it was even four or five years ago in terms of portal, recruiting, number of initials. Everything changes so fast. It makes it tougher. It’s a much tougher job. I think you’ve seen a lot of people in our level go to the next level, because it has a little less strain on your family and things. I know it’s a tough atmosphere, but most people would say, ‘They pay you so much, so it doesn’t matter.’ At the end of the day, I hate it for Dan (Mullen), because I think Dan is a good person. It’s a tough situation, but it’s a profession that we chose to be in. I know Dan will be fine. He’ll be perfectly fine.”

On consistency… “I don’t know. I think building it on a strong foundation, not on trying to have a great one year. To build a program, you have to build it on a foundation of strong recruiting, strong people in your organization, retention of staff. Administratively, you got to have tremendous support because you got to be able to go out and hire all the things you need a recruiting. It’s so important to have help, and we’ve got tremendous help here in terms of our staffing. I’m talking about the overall picture, from Ron Courson to Jonas Jennings, to the recruiting staff that we have here, to the coaching staff, to the support staff. All those roles matter so much. I think signing good, quality high school football players is extremely important to building your program. You can’t have a lot of holes from year to year, because the holes will cost you if you have one poor class, or you have a max exodus at a position. It can become really tough. that’s where the screens are in being consistent. We’ve been fortunate to recruit well, and we’ve got a good recruiting base around us.”

On stand out players last week… “Tough evaluation. The game was out of hand pretty early. I thought some young guys got in the game. The young guys that got in the game, there’s nobody that screamed, ‘Play me over the guy in front of me.’ There are guys that screamed, ‘I’m going to be a good player when I figure this out.’ There’s no astonishing views from watching the tape.”

On Xavian Sorey… “He has come a long way. He was here over the spring, but he didn’t get to practice because of foot injury. He came in a little injured, and that probably hurt his progress early in terms of being able to learn and do things. We played him at outside backer early on. Since we’ve had two injuries at inside backer, we moved him to inside backer. He’s probably better suited to play that position right now in terms of size, speed, and strength. He’s not big enough to hold up at outside backer right now, but he has good instincts. He’s flashed on scout team and made some good plays. I thought, not necessarily the pick and turnover, that was a little bit luck, but he had some other good plays where he showed some quickness and some instincts to strike people. I think he could be a big help for us, and he’s a guy who in four weeks we’ve picked up in terms of really getting better and working.

On getting excited for Georgia Tech... “It will be completely different. These kids were all recruited by Tech. They know Tech’s players; they know a lot of those guys. That doesn’t concern me. Our guys are very mature and handle things very well. It was awesome at the game the other day to come out and approach this thing with a ‘will not be denied’ attitude. We’re going out to play our best game. That’s out goal - play our best game of the season. How do we do that? We usually do that by practicing well. That would be the goal for us.

On areas of improvement... “All across the board. I’m not going to single any unit out, but obviously we’ve got to play better on all parts. Nobody has arrived, no group has arrived. I don’t look at it as an area of concern. I wouldn’t vocalize that here. That’s not my way of doing things. I look at it as ‘How do we get better as a team, how do we get better on special teams, how do we become more explosive offensively?’ Going back to the off-season, you’re constantly looking to build your roster to impact your roster. Who can be an upgrade and make us better? Are they in the portal, or a freshman, or are they a guy that we can sign. We had concerns coming into the season that at a lot of positions, at depth, we don’t have the depth we’ve had. On the O-line and D-line, we’ve had more depth than we’ve had. At receiver and DB, I’ve said it all along that we are very thin than we’ve been.”

On Brock Bowers “He’s stayed healthy. We really haven’t had anybody else who has been consistently healthy across the board. I don’t know if we have had anybody who has played every single game - maybe AD. I think he may be the only guy, and he’s a true freshman starting out much like Brock. They both went through the spring which helped them. The biggest thing with Brock’s consistency is, number one, he’s not just a role player. He can block and plays with physical toughness. He’s very intelligent. He takes notes. He comes in early and watches his tape. When you have dependability and talent mixed together, it’s usually what you get, and you have a guy who has put up the numbers he did. Again, he takes opportunities for all the games we’ve played.”

On the Georgia Tech rivalry… “I wasn’t a big college football fan as a recruit, so it’s hard for me to say on how I viewed it. I didn’t go to the Georgia-Georgia Tech games, I didn’t grow up going to those. I grew up going to high school football games and watching TV on Saturdays. When I got here, there’s an engrained, built-in belief that you had to beat your in-state rival. We also had conference rivals, so it became you play on something so many times that it falls on deaf ears, if you say, ‘That’s our rival, that’s our rival, that’s our rival.’ We don’t get into that, because it loses its effectiveness if you use it all the time. Who’s not our rival? We look at it as a chance to grow to be the best team we can become. They stand in our way; we have an opportunity to go play them. You use game reps to grow and become better, everything gets heightened in a game rep. That’s what we want to do, we want to go out there and make sure our team is getting better with each and every performance. We’re trying to play that perfect game. It’s not about the history of the rivalry, because our guys weren’t even born when I was playing. Our guys have no recollection of that.”

On Brett Seither “Brett’s done a good job. He’s came over and worked on the scout team with us more this last week than he has previously. I’ve always said that’s one of the greatest confidence factors you can get, you go against a really good defense. He was over against us, and I know he made two or three plays with the scout team and did a really nice job giving us a look of the opponent. I think that carried over to his confidence in the game, plus he got more reps and opportunities.”

On Georgia Tech… “The biggest thing is they’ve got more talent to me. They’ve stacked some good players that’ve come back to the city of Atlanta. When you look across the board, a lot of kids on that team that went to go play somewhere elsethat all of us recruited, have come back. They’ve had some key injuries. They’ve had injuries at the quarterback position, it’s been in-and-out, back-and-forth, but they always do a good job in the kicking game. Geoff (Collins) always takes part of that, that’s a big part to him that he takes a role in. You can see his influence in terms of the way they play when they rush and return kicks in all phases. They played a tough schedule as well; I have a lot of respect for how they play.”

On the impact of the one-time transfer rule … “I think it’s too early to tell how it may impact. I think you’re always going to have a resource to patch holes. Who patches holes the best? Do we start getting super teams were all guys want to go to a certain place? It would be my estimation, and I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again, that the more you rely on those patches and the quick fix, the more trouble you can get yourself in. If you’re not building it from the ground up, you’re not developing players and you’re not keeping your players within your organization, you’re going to struggle. The flip side of that is the better you are in your organization, sometimes the longer it takes for a young player to play. And, so, the more transient, the quicker they want to leave. I think the culture within your program is so important that the older players embrace the younger players and grow them up so that they become leaders. If you rely on the transfer portal, you’re not always going to have the built-in culture and belief of your organization because guys will be in it for the first time that year.”

On the STAR position … “We play a lot of guys. Quay (Walker), Channing (Tindall) and Nakobe (Dean) all play. We play guys up front. (William) Poole has done a good job at practice. He’s practiced well and done a good job. We’re continuing to develop people across the board. I thought we played Kamari (Lassiter) and (Ameer) Speed. Dan (Jackson) played more at safety. (Javon) Bullard played at safety. David Daniel played at safety. Poole does a good job. We’ve got confidence in him.

On recruiting the Metro-Atlanta area … “I think all metro areas get recruited heavily. I think metro areas get recruited for obvious reasons. You can travel there immediately. There’s a large airport that attracts a lot of people. People come there to recruit them. They probably sometimes get over recruited. Sometimes the metro areas kids are fully developed. They’ve played in a big-time program. I don’t look at it as any more challenging in Atlanta than it is in another major city.”

On different linebacker packages… “Well, we’ve always had that. We’ve had that package always. I mean, we did it against Florida. We did it prior to Florida. We try to get our best football players on the field in terms of speed. We’ve just done it a little more often now, but we carried that (package) every year. We did it in the past against Auburn, and we did in the past against other teams. So, it’s not a role that Channing (Tindall) hasn’t played before. He’s always kind of had that role. It’s been more of a dynamic for us of not being six (defensive backs). So, what you’re seeing is three linebackers where there used to be two linebackers because we had six (defensive backs)—we got five (defensive backs). So, we don’t have that—we have three inside (linebackers) with the five (defensive backs). It just gets really complicated when you think about it… We’re trying to get the 11 best (players) on the field and Channing (Tindall) gives us an opportunity to do that. But we also have to be cognizant [that] there’s more snaps in the game. So, the more the three of them are on the field, is that taking away from the first and second down, which gets you to third down?”

On injured players… “I feel good about all three of them. Hopeful about all three of them. Two of those guys will be back out there practicing. I mean, Nolan (Smith) practiced all last week. So did Jamaree (Salyer), he just didn’t go with the ones. We feel like tomorrow he’ll be back, feel like Nolan (Smith) will be back, and we’re hopeful that Chris (Smith) will be back. He won’t be practicing today, but we think he’ll be back.”

On playing four QB’s in a game… “Yeah, I thought all four guys did what we asked them to do. We gave Brock (Vandagriff) as much of a chance as we gave those other guys because by that time we were running the clock and we had some linemen we wanted to get in the game, some of the walk-on kids that hadn’t played. It’s always important to me that if you’re going to put a quarterback out there, you want to give him the best opportunity to be successful (with) who’s in front of you, but I thought that those guys did a nice job. I think their understanding of the system is getting better and better with reps. They take reps each week, although Brock’s (Vandagriff) are mostly scout team—those other guys get a lot of quality reps—great opportunity to get out there and grow in game time experience.”

On Butkus Award finalist Nakobe Dean “He’s one of the best linebackers in the country. If the award is based on statistics and number of snaps, shame on the award. That’s not what it’s about. It’s supposed to go to the best linebacker in the country. I’ve been very fortunate to coach guys before that have won that, at multiple places. He’s in that same category of guys. It’s tough because I think Quay (Walker) and Channing (Tindall) are deserving of it. You know what’s great about those three guys? They just want to win, and that’s what has been special about this team. As these accolades, awards, and finalist have come out, those guys aren’t worried about any of it. They are worried about winning a championship. I think Nakobe would tell you before anybody on the team, it’s a whole lot more important about how he grows, plays, and continues to lead our team, than just about that award. He’s one of the most explosive, best blitzing linebackers, smartest, that I’ve seen. Quay and Channing both have really good strengths too. They complement each other really well. All three of them.”

On exemplifying ‘Sic Von Non Vobis’ on the Governor’s Cup… “The focus has been on each other. That was the whole connection piece. They’ve kind of had a pact that it’s not going to be about the individualism. It’s about the group. That’s always easy to say in the off-season, but it’s harder to live thru. Especially when you’re going through games. One guy might have a stellar game and another guy gets the award offensively and defensively. It’s been spread pretty evenly. Those guys on  offense. There have been different backs leading us, different receivers leading us, different quarterbacks leading us. It just been by committee, and the defense has been the same way. I think it says a lot about the fact that the kids don’t care and get caught up in it.”

On the Georgia Tech QB and RB… “(Jahmyr) Gibbs is playing really well. He’s an explosive player. Kick return touchdown… They find ways to get him the ball. When you watch the tape, he looks like he’s in a different gear. A really talented player with the way they use him. Both the quarterbacks have had some injuries and been beaten up. (Jeff) Sims is a really good thrower. A really good athlete. They use both of their legs well, to get them out of the pocket and move them around. That’s been an issue for us in terms of quarterback being able to add to the run game this year. They’ll be looking for ways to do that with whichever quarterback plays.”

#41 Channing Tindall | ILB | Sr. On away games… “Man, it is a crazy feeling. I want to say every away game and we haven’t had that many away games this season but the away games this season we have had have felt like home games. You just see so much red and black in the crowd. It just makes you feel comfortable out there, regardless of where we are playing at.”

On the Georgia Tech rivalry… “This game, they have a really good quarterback so we have to be equip for that. Just that old fashioned hate, we are going to their place and it should be a good game. We haven’t done too much yet. Today we are really going to start diagnosing them so there isn’t too much I can speak on right now.”   On the chance to go 12-0… “During our summer workouts I could just tell it was going to be different. We had Skull sessions where we became closer and we talked about just knowing our ‘why.’ Not just going out there and playing and playing for this or playing for that. Now we are playing for his mother or his family or his situation. From there our workouts have just been 10 times harder than they have been in the past. So I just knew this year was going to be special just based off of that.

#70 Warren McClendon | OL | RSo. On Brett Siether’s touchdown… “Especially for the young guys…well he’s not a young guy but sitting behind Darnell (Washington) and all of them and just being able to see him get his chance. Seeing him be able to make his first touchdown was a cool deal.”

On Nakobe Dean being named as a finalist for the Butkus Award… “Nakobe is a great linebacker, we do have some great linebackers. Just the way he carries himself in practice, he works hard, and he works hard in the weight room. He is deserving of it.”

On if his body knows a difference after playing an FCS team versus an SEC team… “Not really because when you get in you play hard no matter who the team is. We have to play to our standard. Body is still a little beat up the next day but was able to get in and get some recovery.”

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