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October 8, 2018

Kirby Smart

Athens, Georgia

COACH KIRBY SMART: Well, we move onto LSU, going to an extremely tough environment to play in, one that I've both experienced as a player and a lot of times as a coach. Got an incredible environment. Their fanbase is really second to none in their atmosphere they create from the time you pull in on the buses to play in the stadium, it's an awesome opportunity for our team to play on a national stage. It's an opportunity for a lot of our guys to play in a venue that a lot of Georgia players never got a chance to play in and some in the future won't get an opportunity to play in. So that part's good. They got a really good football team. I think Coach Orgeron has instilled a lot of toughness in their program. They play extremely physical. The game, you know, Saturday with Florida was extremely physical, a lot of big hits, a lot of contact. It's just the way the SEC is. And you don't get weeks off in the SEC, and it's extremely tough place to play. I think you saw that last week with the teams that played on the road in our conference, and we're going on the road this week. So good thing is we've been on the road twice in our conference, but we're playing a really, really good football team this week in LSU.

To update you on injuries, I'm sure everybody is wanting to know about Solomon, he has a mild MCL sprain. We think he's going to be able to practice today. So we're hopeful that he gets to play, but I won't really know until I see how he does today. He's been able to run on the treadmill and do some exercise stuff, but was not as significant as we thought in the beginning. That's really it. Devonte Wyatt will be hopefully able to practice today, but I don't know. We'll see. He was able to run over the weekend. With that I'll open it up.

Q. Kirby, before the season and even since the season started, coach o has said he wants more spread components to his offense. From what you've seen of them, do they have more spread look than they traditionally have?
COACH KIRBY SMART: Yeah. It's hard for me to say traditionally because I don't -- there was a brief, what, two, three years where we didn't play them, I didn't play them here. So I don't really know what they were much when they had Mac Canada. I didn't get to see a lot of that tape. We've seen some of it getting ready for them, but obviously they're a little bit different now. They have some signs of being the old, really physical LSU come downhill, hit you right in the mouth. They run power, counter, lead. They do all the traditional fullback offense. But they also have the spread elements, and I think their quarterback does a tremendous job with that. He's a really good athlete. He runs the ball well. They were able to run quarterback runs with him. You could tell that from his transition from Ohio State. He's been able to run the ball. So they have more spread elements, yes, but they still have the traditional hit-you-in-the-mouth offense.

Q. Coach, you referenced playing out there in 1998. You had a pretty good individual game. Are you the type guy do you remember a lot of your specific games? It was a good while ago, but what are your memories of playing there years ago?
COACH KIRBY SMART: Atmosphere. Quincy and Champ both playing well and great atmosphere, incredible atmosphere. Of course, I got to coach there a year, so I got to experience that atmosphere there at home. And they got a great fanbase.

Q. Kirby, how tested do you think your team is and do you think this game or this stretch of games coming up will show more about how good this team is?
COACH KIRBY SMART: Absolutely. I mean I think the tests are coming up. We've got some tough games. We got a bye week after this one, and that's probably coming at a good time because we got a football team that's beat up, dinged up, just like every team in the conference is. You don't get through this conference without being a little sore and a little beat up. But I think that our tests are upcoming. I think we play some good football teams starting this week with what's an extremely physical, well-coached football team, in a tough place to play.

Q. Burrow's ability to extend the play, run. I guess you guys haven't faced an SEC quarterback that necessarily runs like him. They've been more pocket quarterbacks. How do you feel about your ability to contain a running quarterback?
COACH KIRBY SMART: It depends on what calls you're calling, what plays you're calling defensively. We certainly have some ways to break the pocket and get guys out of the pocket and make them run. And other guys you want to keep them in the pocket and make them throw the ball from the pocket. But ultimately a lot of that's controlled by how well are they able to run the ball, how much are they throwing it, how are they protecting it. And they've got a lot of different protections; they've got a lot of different run game, probably the most run game we've seen. When you look at the volume on insides, on outsides, on counter power, they've got it all. They've got a lot of different runs, toss, perimeter runs. They do a good job of mixing up the run game. That affects how you're able to play the quarterback. So we'll have to see what all they come with for this game.

Q. Coach, following the stretch you all have had, starting with LSU this week, how hard is it to prepare for that week after week after week with maybe you're dealing with injuries, as you said, or things that just come in the way of playing with the SEC like this?
COACH KIRBY SMART: You're saying how is it to prepare for LSU with the --

Q. I'm saying in terms of how tough this next stretch of games is, how hard is it to prepare week after week knowing you don't have a week off against LSU?
COACH KIRBY SMART: I don't look at it like you guys do. Everybody is talking about this stretch, and I'm looking at it as we've played some good football teams, what I think are good football teams. I think anytime you go on the road in the SEC, it's an adventure, tough environment. We're going to play some good teams coming up, absolutely. It's tough everywhere in the SEC. Go talk to Tennessee and ask them the road they're dealing with. Go talk to LSU; they just played Florida. I mean, there's no time to cry about it. Nobody wants to hear that. You gotta get ready to go play. And that's why you come to the SEC is you want to run the gauntlet of challenging teams, unbelievable atmospheres on the road, and that's what the SEC football is all about. So our team's gotta prepare for that.

Q. As far as Devin White goes, the linebacker for LSU, just the challenges it's going to present to kind of keep an eye and know where this guy is at all times because he's one of those that plays obviously all over the field.
COACH KIRBY SMART: Yeah. He's an incredible player. I mean my first experience was recruiting him as a running back and as a linebacker when I was at University of Alabama. We knew how special he was then. And then he flashed several times. I can remember watching the Mississippi State tape last year as we prepared for them. You know, I told Roquan, I said this guy is probably 10 pounds heavier than you but just as fast. And he's an elite player, very good player, arguably one of the best in the conference at all positions. And I don't think people know how dynamic this guy really is, but I think people will find out on Sundays real soon.

Q. Kirby, in terms of running the ball, is LSU one of the most physical teams you've seen this season and how do you feel your front seven is prepared to take on that challenge Saturday?
COACH KIRBY SMART: They better knuckle up, because it's going to be physical, tough, hard-nosed football team. They have a big offensive line; they've got big fullbacks; they've got big tight ends. They've got big backs. They got big people, and that's the way LSU is built. They're a physical, tough -- I mean across the board, now, when you look at their wideouts, their wideouts are huge. They've got big, athletic wideouts; they've always been that way. That's the tradition of LSU is to have really good wideouts and be physical and tough, and that's really who they are. So as far as the questions that our defensive line and our defense had, they'll be answered this week for sure when we go out there to play these guys.

Q. Kirby, what are your memories of being an assistant coach at LSU in 2004? You came from being a grad assistant at Florida State, and the dynamics of that coach staff and your growth as a coach that year.
COACH KIRBY SMART: It was an incredible place to coach and recruit. I can remember going to my areas within the state and very well received. You're really the only major university there in the state within the SEC. So when you go out recruiting, it's not really recruiting as much as it is figuring out who the best players are and go get them.

The atmosphere, like I talked about, I think all their sports teams are incredible, and Baton Rouge is a great place. At the time when I was living there, it was a great place to be, enjoyed it a lot, got really good memories of a great staff. And being a young coach on that staff was very influential on me to get to be around guys like Jimbo and Will and obviously Coach Saban and Derrick, and there was a lot of good coaches on that staff. So it was a good experience for me.

Q. Kind of adding onto that, what are some of the extra emotions that come down on the sidelines when you're coaching against a team that you've previously coached for?
COACH KIRBY SMART: I wouldn't say that there's extra emotions about it. I mean the emotions come from you want your team to play as well as they can for us. It's a game, and regardless of who it's against, that never factors in. For me it doesn't. I'm personally trying to get our team ready to play. None of these kids care that I coached there. It has no effect on them, so I don't think that has a bearing on the game.

Q. Last year obviously the fanbase showed up at Notre Dame and everywhere. And when you play at someplace as wild as LSU, how important is that for them to show up and try to level out the atmosphere a little more?
COACH KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I don't know if level out is the right word. I mean they're not going to be giving away home tickets, I can promise you that. So our fanbase travels. They've been very passionate. I'm sure we'll have a lot of fans there that may not have tickets that are trying to go, and I think that shows the passion and energy we have within our fanbase, and that's incredible. But when you line up out there between the lines, at the end of the day, it's 11 on 11, and that's what we gotta keep it about. They've got tremendous fans. It's one of the loudest places in the country to play. But I don't think our fans will be able to help us when we get inside those lines.

Q. Coach, you've been I don't know if careful is the right word, but using Justin Fields on the road environments, he's been a little bit more limited in snaps. Is that just by circumstance or has that been mindful of the road environments, like you just mentioned, the noise at LSU?
COACH KIRBY SMART: No. I don't think that has anything to do with it. Justin handles the offense and the communication really well. I think that's been more the fact the last two weeks we've been at home. So it's more recent memory than anything else. And he's the right guy to play and he's the right guy to get in there in situations and do things and he continues to grow as a player, he gives us an element we don't have, and certainly has done a good job with the snaps he's gotten.

Q. Kirby, I know you addressed the tight ends after the game the other day, but when you have games where tight ends catch a whole bunch of balls and then games where they don't, yet you have a ton of total offense either way, is that strictly what the defense is giving you? I mean is that entirely what that's kind of based upon?
COACH KIRBY SMART: Sometimes it is. Sometimes it's based on protection, because when the tight ends are out in the passing game, they're not in the protection, and a lot of it has to do with our ability to protect the passer, our ability to run the ball in play action. A lot of the catches the tight ends get come off play action. There's a lot of factors that go into that that I don't think some people acknowledge. I think it's just about throwing the ball to the tight ends. There's a lot more to it than that.

Q. What have you guys seen on film from Greedy Williams that makes him such a talented player and are there any similarities between him and Deandre that can help your players going against him?
COACH KIRBY SMART: Well, he's a really talented player. He's long, he's athletic. He's able to twist and contort, play the ball in the air really well. I'd say there probably are some similarities between him and our guys and D. Bake. He's been a really good player already and done a great job for them. He kind of takes care of one side of the ball and shuts down a wideout each game, and he's a talented guy. They've traditionally had really good secondary players.

Q. Just real quick, coach, talking about Justin real quick, the last couple of games he's taken a couple of shots. Have you gotten with him on getting down, you know, just that young kind of thinks-he-can-do-it-all kind of mentality?
COACH KIRBY SMART: I think if you look closely, so has Jake. Jake took some shots in the last game. They both did. So number one, we gotta protect better, but they also both have to know when they're in vulnerable positions, meaning when they're getting pressured and they're not protected, they gotta be ready to get rid of the ball. So that goes on both kids to try and not take the shots, and then ultimately in this game sometimes you're protected and you still get shot, because the offensive line doesn't win for you in front of you, but as far as Justin, I thought he did a good job in the last game. That was something he really did on his own, made a decision to slide. He made a good run and it was a good decision, so it shows that he's learning and maturing when it comes to that and we still want him to be a weapon for us, and he can do that when he runs, but he's gotta protect himself as well, which he's done a good job with.

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