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April 21, 2018

Kirby Smart

Athens, Georgia

KIRBY MART: I sort of think that was an incredible atmosphere. I tell you, the new pathway that we had to go through, our walk was really neat. It was in a lot more shaded area. We thought there were tons of people there lining it and I know our players really enjoyed it. I really just want to thank our fans for being out there that early. It's probably a little warmer than I anticipated but I thought they were awesome.

Great crowd. To see Nick walk out, to see the seniors, honors, for the season they had, I thought that was really cool and neat.

As far as the game, thought there were parts of it that were sloppy. Some of that game was by design. I know y'all will never leave it. Everybody will be asking me about rushing yards or do we have a rushing problem, but if you didn't watch that game closely, you will realize there was not an intent to rush the ball a bunch, in which we think we have the capabilities of doing that; that's not the purpose of our spring game. It's to throw the ball, catch the ball and gain confidence in the passing game.

Defense did a really good job of creating turnovers. Two of them were gifts but we got more turnovers today than we got really all spring. Some of the Red guys, I thought Monty played good and did some good things defensively.

But I'm really proud of the way the guys competed all spring. They came out in a great atmosphere today. We had some young guys busted up left and right and I'm almost so glad they did because now we're getting to teach from it, and when we go back, and we have to do it for real the next time, they will have a little less butterflies. Suited up and played in front of a crowd like that -- there are butterflies involved in that. Let's get those butterflies out of the way. I thought they did a good job with that.

Stetson came in and had some productive drives. We think Stetson is a competitive kid, brings a little different mobility in there and get out of the pocket and moves around and hit some good throws.

Q. You played in this game and you were an assistant in this game and for years, this game had 35,000 to 40,000 fans and in your three years, it's averaged over 80,000. What is the result? Is it the impact of recruiting? Crowds are so big now.
KIRBY MART: I just think that people like Georgia Football. I mean, why, when you have an opportunity, on this nice spring day to come to Athens, I know I would be dying to come if I lived anywhere in the state or in a five-hour radius. Get out of the house, get the kids out of the house, come see who the new faces are.

I think some of it's recruiting but I think people enjoy football in Georgia and want to come watch it. I'm glad they do because the impact it has on recruiting, I can't tell you how many recruits are out there going, oh my gosh, I can't believe it, I can't get over it. It's the norm here. It's the way it should be.

We have a great fan base and they turn out for it and we try to put a good product out there for them to make it a good, entertaining game. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.

Q. The quarterbacks and receivers --
KIRBY MART: Sloppy at times, drops. I thought both quarterbacks, their receivers had some drops but we're trying to gain confidence. We are trying to get those guys to get through those drops, push through those. It was big for Jason Stanley to get some confidence catching the ball. He caught some and dropped some. Obviously Elijah had some. Several guys had a few of those. But that's good for our DBs, getting the ball thrown over them. It's really competitive out there and I enjoyed watching those guys compete.

I thought both quarterbacks managed the huddle, that's what I look or is what are they calling, are they calling the right signal, are they fixing guys that are broke, are they saying the right thing in the huddle and are they being positive when something bad happens.

Elijah drops the ball, I'm mad at him, frustrated with him, but Jake -- get the next one. It takes that to get a young player to go where you want him to go, I thought he and Justin did a good job of that.

Q. What can you say about the receivers going into their second year? What did you see from them?
KIRBY MART: What I saw most of spring ball. Every time I talk to y'all, I talk about the receivers being a little ahead and that showed really from the standpoint of those developing guys. I think Tyler Simmons this spring has managed a lot of strides and I think it comes from confidence in special teams. JJ has taken strides. It's like those two guys, Matt Landers is a little bit -- and I'll throw Jason in that. Jason is not youthful like them but he gained confidence through special teams.

So those wide outs gained confidence all spring and that was very typical of what happened in practice a lot of times. They are hungry. They want to play, so they go to get in front of me, Terry and Riley, what do I got to do. I got to go compete and catch the ball. I thought the guys did a good job of being competitive and doing that and they are probably a little bit ahead -- our DBs are a little more drained.

Q. It's one thing to replace production but also replacing leadership. Have you seen that already or is that something you just continue to look more through the season?
KIRBY MART: Yeah, you never stop with leadership. I mean, we lost a huge void, but it will never -- even if we didn't lose a huge void, we would be trying to replace leadership. Any time you have, you can lose leadership. These kids have embraced it. We are not where we need to be from a leadership standpoint. If you said, are we there? We are not even close. We have to develop that in May, summer, conditioning. We have to push the envelope with how are we going to get guys to confront and demand other guys.

We are not where we need to be and you know what, we have to learn from some examples that other guys set because those other guys are remarkable when it comes to leadership. It made our job as coaches easier.

Q. What about the three picks on the Red, two of them Jake -- specifically held, what did you see on those plays in particular?
KIRBY MART: I thought the one with Tobay (ph) we had a coverage on two-trap and he threw the ball and two rushers in his face and he threw it a little high and Bake was there. The other one, the receiver, they made a great decision. But one of them threw the ball -- I give him credit on the overthrow. The other one wasn't as much.

I do think our 2, our 1 defense is obviously ahead of the 2 defense. We had better players out there. Today was the first time I thought we had a little continuity on the 1 defense with some rhythm. We haven't been much like that all spring,.

But I will say this: Poole was playing both ways. Not many people know this but he's flipping back and forth jerseys because we were down guys and he did a nice job. He didn't have a lot of mental errors and for him to make that pick, that was a big confidence booster for him.

Q. What would you say your goals were for this team coming into the spring?
KIRBY MART: We are targeting special teams, and getting special teams to not be complacent. We thought we were really good last year. We developed some more receivers that can play on teams for us. Next thing, defense, we wanted to make more negative plays and give more tackles for loss and we put some things in that we worked on in other practices, not today.

Offensively we want to be more efficient with our RPOs. We want to have a little bit more package of plays than we showed today. We felt like we accomplished that, not necessarily today, but throughout spring, we were able to do that.

The biggest thing that we didn't do this spring is find out who we are and who are our leaders and I'm not sure we know exactly who those leaders are yet. We know who they are supposed to be, but are they willing to assume the role, because it's going to be forced on them.

Q. Pretty big deal made of Justin, some of the things he's had to do. What did you think about what he did and how much has he grown for you?
KIRBY MART: He's gotten better. He's more comfortable with the offense.

To be honest I never felt like he was like behind with the offense from day one. I mean, he's done such a good job coming in and learning. It's not like it's been a growth process. He's gotten more confident. He's able to move around the pocket and create some things when things break down.

I think that you all were sitting here last year; said a lot of same things we're saying right now, because the other guy was throwing against the 2 defense and he was throwing it pretty good. And Jake was in there throwing against the 1 defense, which at that time was really good.

So it's a lot of similarities between those two situations. I thought, like I said, both quarterbacks managed things really well and I learned a lot more about them being able to handle things on the field, with a crowd present and with a shot clock, coaching other players today, which I liked.

Q. You said some of the interceptions were gifts. How do you think your DBs did?
KIRBY MART: You know, I thought they probably would have hit some bigger plays. Riley has the one -- he probably should make that play. He makes that catch, make it later in similar situations. I think that's one of those, if you hit that one, the whole game may be different if you catch that ball. He got behind Tyrique but the guys competed hard.

The biggest difference is when the run threat is not there, the pass rush dominates and it protects your covers. When you start running the ball a lot in playaction, that's when you get in trouble.

That's the part that's not fair to the offense because you're sitting there throwing the ball a lot more and they are teeing off on you in pass rush.

Q. You mentioned you're still looking for leaders but who are some guys that have to assume that role?
KIRBY MART: I'll say that there are guys -- Ledbetter is really pushing, Terry is trying to be vocal when he gets an opportunity. We need more guys to step up and they are just not comfortable in that role and we have to manufacture. LaMont is trying to do some things. Andrew Thomas, a lot more guys on offense, that are close to what we want, than we do on defense.

Q. What have you learned about these running backs this spring and do you have a prognosis for Samir (ph)?
KIRBY MART: I didn't learn anything about the running backs I didn't already know this spring because the running backs that played this spring are the same that played last spring, a lot. I feel really comfortable with what they did last spring, their body of work, because they took the bulk of the work.

So coming into this spring, it wasn't like there was a question. The question was can they protect the ball and protect the quarterback and we tried to do drills to really work that because they are both good runners. They are both tough runners.

As far Samir (ph) goes yeah, he's on schedule, been really pleased with him, works very similar to Chubb in rehab. It's very important to him. He's there every day. He enjoys it and he wants the next challenge, every time he takes one step he's ready to take another step. He embraces the role.

Q. When you say the 1 defense has as much continuity as you've seen, have there been any signs in the last couple practices that maybe led to what you saw out there today?
KIRBY MART: I don't know that there has. It plays in our favor when it's a pass situation. We're more athletic in the pass rush than we are in stopping the run. We have to get bigger and more physical on the defensive line to be the team we were or be the team we want to be defensively.

We're not there yet but I was pleased with the way they competed. The script wasn't set -- they went out and completed. I thought JR went out there and played really hard. He leads. He's passionate. He's a very vocal leader that's been a great surprise for us, definitely, making some plays.

Q. Do you feel like the sacks were legitimate sacks today?
KIRBY MART: I think it's hard. A lot of times I watch the tape -- and the frustrating thing is the official didn't want to call it, unless they grab something and we tell our players, don't grab. If there's any grab, you get injuries, and we're not trying to do that.

But a lot of these pass rushers, when they come by, they grab -- cause fumbles, things like that. That part of the game is probably not accurate but we just try to make it balanced both ways.

Q. What did you think about the linebacker play inside?
KIRBY MART: I have to watch the tape. I thought the same thing you thought -- Monty showed up and his sideline to so I had line, of course he pulled his hamstring there late in the game. He's a great kid, man, he's one of those, when the lights come on and he gets a chance to play in front of somebody, he flashes more. He loves the game. He loves contact and he likes to hit. I would be remiss if I counted on some of those other guys because I didn't get to see them do it a whole lot.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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