home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


December 2, 2019

Kirby Smart

Athens, Georgia

KIRBY SMART: Well, on to the big one. Got an exciting football opportunity to play what I think is one of the best teams in the country, as explosive as a team as I have probably ever watched on tape. I don't even know what the numbers say. Obviously, the numbers say they're really good. But I don't go by that. I go by what I see on tape and they do a tremendous job.

Defensively, we have had them on tape, I know we overlapped on Auburn and Florida. And I think Dave Aranda does a tremendous job. They have got a very experienced secondary, talented up front, play a lot of players, just a tremendous overall program. And what Coach Orgeron has been able to do with his program from the standpoint of winning big games, I mean, playing top-25, Top-10 opponents, I think he's been as good as anybody in the country. And I got a lot of respect for him, always have. I've known him for a long time. And his teams take on his personality, which is toughness, physical, and cut it loose.

So this will be as great a challenge as we have had, I know since I've been here as far as playing an opponent. And our players have earned this opportunity. We didn't back our way into this game. We earned our way into this game. And we're looking forward to the opportunity to play in what is probably one of the greatest stages, I said it over and over, in all of college football.

Q. Kind of building off the greatest challenge, obviously, tons at stake this week and I know you're not one to, like, rush home on Sundays and find out what the point spreads are. But being an underdog, you guys aren't underdogs much, do you use that this week as motivation in addition to everything else that's kind of on the table?
KIRBY SMART: No, we really don't bring that up. What we worry about is what do we got to do to execute well. And I don't get into who is favored by how many or underdogs. It's just not important because the people that make those decisions aren't in this room. They're not, like, in our meeting rooms, they're not in our meetings, they don't go there through our practices. So we try to control what we can control with how we practice and how we get ready. And as many of the games we're favored in, it doesn't matter, so if you're not favored in it probably doesn't matter either.

Q. You're a long-time defensive coach. Does part of you relish the challenge of this, like, trying to figure out a way to do something nobody else has done this year?
KIRBY SMART: I mean, I probably did until about yesterday afternoon. I started watching the tape and then you realize that there really aren't weaknesses. I mean, arguably one of the best backs in the country. I mean, just vicious attack, you spin, you hit, you -- in the biggest games Clyde Edwards has been one of the biggest player. Joe Burrow speaks for himself. I could go on and on. Wideouts, tight ends, they've got five, really, returning starters on their offensive line. They got defensive players. They got an outstanding all around team. It's a tremendous opportunity to measure where you are as a team when you get an opportunity to play a team like this that is firing on all cylinders. I mean, there's no such thing as a perfect game. Nobody will ever play it. But what they did last week on A&M was pretty incredible in all three phases.

Q. You were on Alabama's staff when that team made repeated trips to this game. What's the experience advantage, if any, and especially, what does it mean for your team to have a quarterback who is making his third straight trip to this game?
KIRBY SMART: I think experience is valuable. I think the experiences in the Mercedes Stadium, the routine, you go over there Friday, you walk through, we don't typically walk through where we play. Well, this is a different deal, so we go over there and walk through where we play and a lot of our kids have done that a couple times now, but we got 20 or so guys that have never done it because they're freshmen and it will be their first time. So I don't think that's a big advantage by any means, but our kids have played in it. Like I said yesterday on the teleconference, their kids have played in a ton of big games. It's not going to be any different for them or us when you play in the SEC and the stage you play on. Week-in and week-out you're playing on CBS in front of the largest crowds in the country.

Q. The old Bear Bryant quote was, "defense wins championships." People have latched on to that over the years. How true do you think that is in today's world of college football or are certain offenses kind of ahead of defenses and trying to catch up?
KIRBY SMART: You know, you got to play good football to win, period. I don't know that the adage defense wins championships stands as much as it used to. When you saw scores from the '60s and the '70s and the '80s and you saw scores of games it was indicative of defense, compared to now. Now, it's like I got to play pretty good defense and I got to score a lot of points. I can't play horrific defense. I can't play bad defense, but I might not have to be perfect, is the way a lot of teams have had success. They probably take more chances and risk and they just score tons of points. That's not, I'm not talking about LSU. I'm just talking about college football. I think LSU plays really good defense and they are explosive on offense. But an explosive offense allows you to play a certain way on defense, too, because you know that you're going to score a certain amount of points. Sometimes that changes things. But I can't say, because you could go over the history of the last 10 years, still there's been some really good defenses that have won national championships. The Alabama ones, the Clemson ones. A lot of them get overshadowed by really good offenses, but there's been some good defenses winning.

Q. In your experience as a head coach sometimes when a new quarterback coach or offensive coordinator comes in is there sometimes a transition period for a quarterback? And do you think Jake has experienced any of that at all this year?
KIRBY SMART: No, I don't think so. We really don't have a new quarterback coach because it's the same guy that did it last year. Different coordinator. But I don't think, if anything, they're probably on, better on the same page because they're in a second year of being in the room together. So I think that's a big part of growth and growing up, being able to do things. Biggest difference this year is who is healthy, who is out there playing. I mean, three guys are in the NFL that were out there playing last year and, really, five when you count Holyfield and Nada. So there's not been a level of consistency with the perimeter skill that there probably was last year. That's the biggest difference.

Q. Your defense led the SEC, I think, in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense. Have you ever had a defense that you coordinated at Alabama or here that's done that grand slam? And what would you say about this defense compared with other ones that you've coached?
KIRBY SMART: It's a hard comparison. I mean, first of all, our defensive staff, I give tremendous credit to the coaches on our staff. I don't take credit for that myself just because I'm a defensive guy. I think our coaching staff, Lanning, Schumann, Charlton and Tray Scott have done a tremendous job. Our players have done a tremendous job of working hard, buying in. Look, we don't have natural star power on our defense that a lot of the defenses I've been a part of that were successful had that. They had three or four first rounders. This group plays really hard and well together. They're well coached and they're fundamentally sound. But this, obviously, will be the ultimate test, best offensive unit we have played all the way around, really not even close.

Q. How much do you plan on picking or going through last year's Georgia-LSU game with regards to this week, just given it happened a year ago and the teams are obviously so different?
KIRBY SMART: You always watch it. You have it in your breakdowns. You look at things, you look at matchups, you look at guys, playing guys, covering guys, because a lot of the guys are the same and you look at those things. But schematically, they're different. They hurt us with some things last year. Some of the things they hurt us with last year they still do. Some of them they don't. They're just a really different team from an offensive perspective. From a defensive perspective, they're not exactly the same team, but they're more similar.

Q. Will you talk about the challenge that your safeties will have with Joe Burrow, who last night you touched on his ability to run, but also his great ability to keep his eyes up field? I mean, do those guys have the ability to cheat a little, but they still can't let the play behind them. It's got to be a challenging task with Burrow.
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, you can't cheat a little. There's no cheating with this guy. He's everything you want a quarterback to be. Athletic, keep his eyes down field, poised in the pocket, movement in the pocket, athleticism to run, scramble, make all the throws. The guy stands in there and takes hits left and right and he does it with confidence and poise. His wideouts, I don't ever see them drop a ball. There's just not drops. There's not, they get a lot of contested catches. So his accuracy is off the charts. The scheme he plays in is perfect for him. He's got really good players around him. I mean, there's just a lot there. And it's, they do a really good job. It basically tests your mettle in every phase. If you have one guy that's the weak link, they will find it and they will expose it and they do a really good job of that. So the challenge is there. Our players are super excited for that opportunity. But they do a really good job.

Q. What do you tell your safeties in particular?
KIRBY SMART: Safeties got to do what the call says. It's not about the safeties. If they're in empty, the safeties probably going to have to cover somebody. If they're not in empty the safeties are going to have to be run fitters, they're going to have to be box players, they're going to have to do the things we have done. The offense we're facing is not different than every offence we've faced. It's just really good. So the safeties got to do their job. And that's really what football is. They're going to be put in situations to you cover one-and-one. They're going to be put in situations to tackle one-on-one. They got to do their job and do it really well.

Q. It seems like Richard and JR are the only guys that aren't rotating in and out throughout the game. What do they bring to this defense in terms of being that consistent presence that's on the field almost every play?
KIRBY SMART: It's like the quarterback. The guy behind everybody has to make decisions on what goes on in front of them, and you want the guys making the best decisions possible and they get the most reps at that. We play the best players here. We put the guys out there that give us the best chance to win. And certainly, I think JR and Richard have earned that right and do a good job of putting us in the right defenses.

Q. You talked Saturday about how much you loved James Cook. With the wide receiver issues you guys have, can you move him around? What skill set does he have that maybe we could see him in the slot or somewhere like that?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, he's a talented football player that you're trying to find ways to get him the ball. He's elusive with the ball in his hands and does a good job with his route running. And he's a guy that we have talked about all year, he's a really good running back. And you can't lose site of the fact that he can line up back there and run the ball really well. And just finding ways to get him touches.

Q. Is there an update on D'Andre Swift's injury going into next game? I think it's pretty important.
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, we're hopeful that he's going to be able to play.

Q. In the film you've seen on LSU, what have they done so much differently defensively to where they're really on a roll now compared to how things looked for them in September when they were giving up a lot of yards and points?
KIRBY SMART: It's not so much what they have done defensively different. They're playing better. They're playing better as a unit. They're rushing the passer. They had a lot of sacks the other night and they got some packages on third down where they have got linebackers rushing who are really athletic. They're playing better. I think they're playing more with a purpose. And sometimes when you get called out or maybe you're playing a better team, they played well in some big games. And I don't know where all criticism comes about their defense, obviously, probably from the Ole Miss situation. But that was completely unique. That was unique to Ole Miss. It was very different what they do with the quarterback they have. So that's not something that you just say, well, they struggle against this. That's not what everybody does. That was very different style offense.

Q. In big games you haven't been shy about calling a fake punt or a fake field goal. I know you'll tell me if the look's there you do it, but you still have to make that final call. Where do you get the guts to call that? Where does that come from as a head coach?
KIRBY SMART: I think you just work on things. You are always looking for an advantage. No different than Jeff Collins and them last week with Georgia Tech. You're saying that if I get an opportunity to steal a possession because I think someone's unsound or not ready for something, then you try to give your kids a chance to win. I mean, you saw it last week in Auburn and Alabama. I mean, it was a not a trick play. It was a maneuver to get an extra possession and they gained an extra possession at the right time and that's big. So I think anytime you can find some advantage, some ability to do that, it's important to do it. Just got to be calculated. You got to understand why you're doing it and you hopefully are going to be successful at it. Otherwise it doesn't look real good.

Q. With Cager out and Pickens out for the first half, do you have to add any or give any extra motivation to the rest of the receivers? And what's your biggest challenge to that group for this week?
KIRBY SMART: No, it's very similar to last week. As far as, hey, guys, you're going to get an opportunity to play. Step up and make plays. We had some guys do that. We had some guys catch balls that haven't caught balls in a long time or very little all year. And they made some good plays. You're going to get one-on-one opportunities when you play in our offense because of the run game. So you got to win your 50/50 opportunities. You got to take advantage of it. And it will be very similar to last week in regards to not who we're playing but the guys on the field.

Q. Based on what you've seen so far, what makes Clyde Edwards-Helaire so difficult to play against?
KIRBY SMART: Baller. I mean, he is a football-playing machine. When they cut out a running back and say, this is going to be a running back, this guy is as explosive quickness -- he makes the best football tacklers in our conference miss. So when you got football players that are playing against him from Auburn, Florida, Alabama, and he's making them miss, you get immediate respect with the toughness that he runs with. And I mean, the kid is, he's got an incredible drive and ability and willingness to break tackles and toughness that I just respect. He plays the game the way it should be played, and they play him an awful lot because he's really good.

Q. You mentioned multiple times throughout the season you would like to get James Cook the ball more. What have been some reasons why he hasn't been utilized more?
KIRBY SMART: He has been utilized quite a bit. When he's been healthy, he's been out there a good bit. Some of them are what we call PRO's, which I talked about before. So they're controlled by what the defense gives us, not by touches necessarily for him. In the last couple weeks we have given him a few more carries. It boils down to us, really, saying, all right, who are the best football players to give us the best opportunity to win. And he's at a position where it's more shared. To be a wideout and go out there and play wideout, that's not a natural position for him. So the things he's able to do, the things he's really strong at, are best around the back field. We happen to have other strong guys in those areas. So we're trying to find ways to get him the ball.

Q. What goes into using Ben Cleveland, Solomon Kindley and Mays and Salyer, in terms of, is it a rhythm thing, is it a matchup thing, in terms of the rotation there?
KIRBY SMART: No, it's a practice thing. It's who practices the best, who gives us the best chance to win, who is playing the best within the game, who is prepared, who is doing the best job of communication based on fronts, and who is pass proing. So, basically, whoever is playing better, we try to play.

Q. What have you seen from their offensive line in terms of pass protection and run blocking?
KIRBY SMART: Great experience. Look across the board, they're, all five of them have played a ton of games, they communicate really well, they have got a great system to help those guys out, whether it's chipping in protection to protect them on one-on-ones. They got a really good complimentary run game, they do a tremendous job of making decisions at the line, they're in the right play very often because people can't play them in hard boxes because of their wideouts, so it allows them to be really, really successful at checking run, checking pass off of looks and making things look the same and being able to do different things off of them. And their offensive line is the key to that because they're the ones that protect the quarterback.

Q. Dom Blaylock hadn't had too many plays, but you think of big plays that he's had this year, have you seen him and Jake's kind of comfort level grow with each other as the year's gone on?
KIRBY SMART: I think that's been the case with each of the wideouts. He's had so many different guys in the lineup that he's familiar with them, he's comfortable with them, I think he likes Dom, because Dom is a guy that is constantly working, he's where he's supposed to be, he runs the right route, he runs it the right depth. Jake has a trust with all those guys but he and Dom have grown for sure.

Q. You've often talked about the importance of recruiting running back depth, in case D'Andre gets dinged up again or can't do go, how confident are you in the ability of Herrien and those other guys of doing all the things that D'Andre does?
KIRBY SMART: Very confident. Zamir's had some good games and gotten to play more and more, we're trying to find ways to use him. James the same way, and Kenny got to go in the game and did some good things the other day, so I feel very comfortable about the other guys. Obviously Swift has a different skill set probably as a total package than all of them, and we want him to be in there, but we have got some depth at that position that we can use guys.

Q. When you are up against such a challenge talk about what the fan support means to the team and do they all feed off of what they're seeing in opposing stadiums, the amount of Georgia fans that are showing up for every game?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I think it helps. Our guys love any environment. A lot of players will probably tell you they like a hostile environment more than they like a home environment because they like to go in and get in front of the other team's fans and play well and be motivated by that. I certainly like the fact that you can go on the road and in certain locales and take over a stadium. It says a lot about your fan base and the passion they have for the game. But we know in the SEC that's tough, because you're going to find very few places you can do that.

Q. After the game Brian Herrien was talking about how he felt it was going to be his responsibility to maybe reach out to George a little bit to kind of talk about some of the things that were happening with him. Why is it important for guys like that to kind of handle whatever's going on with George right now?
KIRBY SMART: Well it's important to have a big brother. I mean we all have mentors and you grow. A young player, I mean, young players across the country, you have to grow up. And when you have an older player, that's able to help you with that, I think it's always a benefit and we're always trying to get our guys to help out the younger players in every facet.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports

tech 129
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297