Smart, players discuss upcoming game vs Vanderbilt

Saturday kickoff at noon in Nashville

University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with a pair of defensive players previewed Saturday’s first SEC road matchup against Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs and the Commodores kick off at noon p.m. ET in Nashville, TN.

On Tuesday, Coach Smart, and seniors Quay Walker and Jordan Davis offered the following comments

Head Coach Kirby Smart

On finding a way to develop young players…

“It’s a continuum... You always play the guy that gives you the best opportunity to win the game. That’s what you do, and every decision we make is based on our opportunity to win the game. We don’t, I don’t know that we look down the road and practice. We say ‘okay, this guy is really talented but he doesn’t know our system offense or defense or special teams, but he’s talented, so we might put him in a position to get reps and be a two and grow.’ And then ‘hey, we’re up in this game let’s get him in there and let’s get him some experience.’But we never put him in there before another guy gives a better chance to win, because one play can decide a game. You know the left tackle boxed the wrong guy and the quarterback is hit from the blindside and I would never, I would never put somebody in there before they were the best guy to play the game I guess I don’t know if I’m answering your question”

On Darnell Washington and Tykee Smith…

“They both were running and doing cardio yesterday. They did a good job and ran today. They did not do their position work, meaning they didn’t go and take reps. But that was just walking off the field and they both ran really good today, they both hit at really good speeds. I talked to both of them walking off the field, they felt really good about where they were and they felt really comfortable. They’re not in cleats yet, you know cleats aren’t the best thing to run in for that foot injury. But they are in the rubber turf shoes, and they’re running really well. They’ve built up their volume so we’ll increase that tomorrow and see where they are. They’re in a much, much better place, and I’m really pleased. I saw them running with black shirts on today and I thought, ‘who is that guy that looks fast?’ But it was Tykee and Darnell.”

On Broderick Jones…

“Well, he’s played, right, or he played in the last two games. He played during the rotation. Number one, I think it helps Jamaree’s (Salyer) conditioning. Number two, he’s a good football player. He looks like he’s earned the right to play by the way he’s practiced through spring ball and through camp. We’re not ready to say that he’s a starter right now. He still has some mental hiccups and mental busts. He’ll be the first one to tell you he went in during the UAB game and Stetson (Bennett) threw a touchdown pass and he... completely they completely botched it. They didn’t even block the guy and Stetson got the ball off before the guy could get there,  then he blocked the wrong guy on Kendall Milton’s fumble, the guy was unblocked and he didn’t block his guy. He to clean those things up and get better. But one thing I like about Broderick is he’s always trying to get better. He’ll come ask you ‘what can I do better,  what can I do here, what can I do there?’ And he’s, competing, you know, I mean, we’re gonna put the best five out there. Jamaree we also feel like right now is playing better at tackle than he has at guard. So there’s a lot more to it than just what everybody thinks. I think you guys just think you just play and play, but we’re trying to get the best combination of guys out there and that’s the work in progress.”

On elite defenses in the past…

“Yeah I think everyone’s different. They have different identities. I’ve been around some really good ones and they’ve all been different. I mean some have been good because of the secondary. Some have been good because of the front. Some have been a combination of both. Everyone’s different. Everyone has a different personality and identity and that’s usually created by the staff that’s been signed with them. I think our defensive staff, the likes of Dan (Lanning), Glenn (Schumann), Jahmile (Addae) and Tray (Scott) and Will (Muschamp). They  have done a really good job of getting the players to take on their personality, and they bought into that. So it’s been a good vibe on defense and those guys have really done a tremendous job but this is a different route. This is a really athletic group. I don’t know that I’ve had an athletic front seven like this. We’ve been, I’ve been, much deeper in the secondary. But, I don’t know that I’ve had a group as athletic as this group that can move and twist and in today’s college football world that gives you a chance because of all the spread stuff.”

On the difference in Jordan Davis this season…

“Yeah, I’m really excited about Jordan. I think he’s a tremendous worker, a tremendous person. I think you’re seeing this side of Jordan that we had seen prior. But Tray (Scott) has done a great job honing in his skill set. You know he initially was a block striker, an anchor. I would say that was the immovable object and that was great. But that only gets you so far. And to get tackles for a loss, you gotta be quick, you gotta stunt step, you gotta add twists, you gotta have gains. And I think that’s where Tray and Dan and Schu (Glenn Schumann) and all the guys on the defensive staff have done a great job of creating movement. The guys up front can make plays, you know we went a long time without being sack leaders and getting a lot of sacks and getting a lot of TFLs and the whole habit came about. Probably two or three years ago, I guess that word started popping up. And if you want to be a good habit team, you got to move, you gotta stunt people. You got to bring people and that’s changed Jordan, because that wasn’t Jordan’s expertise, that wasn’t what he was great at and he’s, he’s taken pride in doing that, not necessarily about being lighter because he’s not necessarily lighter but he is quicker.”

On Georgia’s representation in the Ryder Cup and on tour…

“Yeah, it’s awesome. We got so many Dawgs on tour, it’s really incredible what they’ve been able to do. Harris (English) stopped by practice, not too long ago and brought his Dad with him and his caddy and it was great to see him out there - really proud of what he’s been able to do. He’s a great person and he represents the University of Georgia the right way and I love being around him. But we’re pulling for me the Ryder Cup. It’s one of the most watched and coolest events there is in all of sports to me, I love it, so I’ll be tuning in to see how he does.

On players’ reaction to Vanderbilt game cancelation last season…

“Not really, I think, frustration is a better word, anger is probably not a better term. I mean I just think frustrated with the whole process. It was a long year. And it was at the end of it and, you know, there probably would be some guys that would say they were glad. I hate to say it, but they were probably tired and guys who didn’t think they were going to play, then you’ve got a group of guys that want to play every game because it’s an opportunity to get better. And it’s an opportunity to make a statement about who we are and, for some guys it’s the last home game, but not anger I think frustration is the better adjective.”

On Jamaree Salyer’s success at offensive tackle…

“Well, I think it’s his athleticism, he’s got really good feet. You know he’s got an ability to be strong, really strong, so when he stays in front of people, it’s hard to get around. You know, he’s got a lot of experience playing out there, he played at a high level last year and did a good job against some really good pass rusher so it’s not that he can’t play guard, because he’s played good football at tackle, and that’s not an easy place to play in this league, it’s probably the most exposed position, there is and I think Coach Monken does a good job, you know, helping him with tight ends helping him with chips and things like that. But I never doubted that he could play it, and in some ways he plays more confidently there than he does inside.”

On Quay Walker’s development…

“Yeah Quay (Walker) has come a long way. Man, I was kidding Quay today at a walkthrough - he used to get so frustrated when he didn’t know something and there were so many little words and nuggets in our defense. Quay would just get so mad and I think he thought at times he would never learn it. He got frustrated, he struggled academically early and there were times that he you know, he’s like, ‘I don’t want to go to college. I’m tired of it, frustrated, I’m not playing. I was highly rated coming out,” but man, has he made a turn, you know, somewhere, the beginning of last year really last, the spring before last year, he I know he didn’t have spring ball, but he made a leadership term, and he committed to be an excellent and doing what he’s supposed to off the field, and on the field became much more student of the game. He holds people accountable now is like this is the guy that wouldn’t do it, and now he’s doing it all. so it’s pretty awesome to see how far he’s come and I love watching players grow like that because you know I got to sit in his house for a long time and now getting to see him, it’s like a different person.”

On the cancellation of the 2020 Vanderbilt game…

“My emotional disappointment is the players had prepared, you know that already. I think we’d already prepared once. Maybe I can’t remember that season, but I know that there was an expectation we were going to play them. It was more about a home game right, it’s about our last home game and for the seniors. I wanted it because they had meant so much for our program and so many of them had been through, you know, a turnaround, and I just wanted the game for them and then when the coach called me, the interim coach called me I was hurt, but I understood it was beyond his control, and it is what it is. I really didn’t do much to find the game, I mean, I texted a couple of people just hoping but it was too short notice. And I know some of the people upstairs and Josh (Brooks) tried to call and work some things out, but there was no realistic shot at all like it’s never like it was close to anything.”

On George Pickens’ progression…

“I was excited for George, I guess I can’t remember what it was two weeks ago maybe? Two weeks ago, Monday or two weeks ago Tuesday... he had a meeting with Dr. Andrews, and he visited with him and, of course, he’s the foremost authority,  Ron (Courson) went and his mother went.  They all had a sit-down meeting. He felt like he was in a really good spot and cleared him to do some football activity in terms of route running and things on air, you know, not contact. George is running really well, he’s a special guy when it comes to coming off of injury. I mean, he’s out there running and catching balls. You wouldn’t think watching there’s anything wrong with him, but Ron has a protocol, and Ron’s following that exactly. George has done a tremendous job of doing what he’s supposed to do in rehab, being where he’s supposed to be. He works out, you know, during the practice he only gets a little bit of time with us. He’s prescribed, like 15-20 minutes at the beginning of practice, and then he goes and does his rehab program and his lifting program. He’s done a great job of doing all that. So, what is the prognosis, I don’t know. I don’t know the timeline on that. I do know that he’s working really hard and we’ve not made it about George’s return. That’s not what we talked about, we talked about George getting healthy, and that’s what we’ve consistently sold to him.”

On George Pickens’ recovery compared to others…

“I’m not a good judge of that. I mean, you’d have to ask Ron Courson about that, because I don’t know. Ron’s done thousands of ACLs it seems like since being here and he would tell you better. He does say that George’s recovery and his body is just naturally on top of it and it wasn’t as bad as some of the others, you know, others had multiple tears in theirs. He was not as bad as Nick’s (Chubb) and some of those guys.”

On Sedrick Van Pran’s performance...

“Well, his character. He’s a leader. He’s smart. He’s very intentional. Just a very serious dude when it comes to his work ethic and his habits. He does a tremendous job.”

On intensity and focus in practice…

“As far as our focus and energy, I think it has been really good. We’ve tried to change up practice the last two days and do some different things, have some competitions and we’ve done some more. They’ve got some similarities to our offense and defense, so we’ve done some more one-on-ones, two-on-twos. We try to change things up just so they don’t get bored. But they’ve been focused and they’ve handled it the right way and I’ll feel a lot better if they do that tomorrow as well.”

#7 | Quay Walker | Sr. | ILB

On Vanderbilt cancelling last season…

“I just remember preparing all week leading up to that Saturday. We were just ready to play, to be honest with you - it was an SEC game - we were just ready to play. I just know that the moment it was canceled we were pretty much upset that it happened, but you know there was a lot that was going on with Covid and how serious it was and how serious it is now.  But at that moment, we understood but we just wanted to play football at the end of the day. Peoples’ health was way more important than us wanting to go play football.”

On Jordan Davis…

“The biggest point for me is how he chases after the ball. I think everyone saw that play against UAB. That play surprised me, to be honest with you. I was on the field with him and seeing him run - that’s pretty much something he was already doing in practice so I wasn’t surprised, but to see him move that fast - that was the fastest I have seen him move. That would be the biggest thing that surprised me, to be honest, with Jordan Davis this year compared to last year.”

On playing a morning game…

“Not at all when it comes to playing football. At the end of the day, we are in Georgia so we are going to get ready regardless. You already know with Coach Smart and everything and with all of our leaders we are going to have everybody ready. We are going to be ready to play - shouldn’t be a problem at all.”

#99 Jordan Davis | Sr. | DL

On the Vanderbilt game being cancelled last year…

“I remember it vividly. The only thing I remember about the game is that it was after I got hurt, and it was one of the games that we were planning on shooting for some recovery time, and not being able to play and having to wait another week, it was a little bit of an ‘ehh.’ At that point, you just have to move on. Obviously, for everybody, corona is not something to play with, and I understand completely, being short-staffed or having only a little bit of players. It was one of those things where you have to press on. Nowadays, moving forward, it is just the next game that we have to play, so we just have to take care of business.”

On what he thinks of the defense compared to previous Georgia defenses…

“Over the offseason, we had a lot of time to spend with each other, and we gelled together. That was one of the big positives from this year. People come and go, but the standard is still the same. We want to make sure that we play our ‘lights-out’ defense every week, and we have to get better. It is just one of those things where it is more enjoyable this time around, because you truly know your brother and know who you are playing with, so that is one of the biggest things for this year.”

On his lateral movement this season…

“I have not really been keeping up with it. I just try to make the plays that come to me. The UAB quarterback looked at me, and we locked eyes for a second, and he just ducked his head and took off running. I was like ‘I have to get him at this point. I have to keep going.’ It is fun seeing it in hindsight. It is just one of those things where if you can make it, you can make it. If you can not, a teammate will make it. It is fun watching it.”

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