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January 6, 2018

Kirby Smart

Atlanta, Georgia

Q. The practice logistics, when did you make the decision to practice in Athens, and why did you make that decision and did it take special approval?
KIRBY SMART: To be honest with you, we planned this out long before the Rose Bowl Game. We had to have a lot of logistics in place. Our football operations staff does a tremendous job of planning things out. It's tough planning for two games when you haven't won the first one yet, but we had no way to do it without that. We thought it would be best to be in our normal setting, which is to be in our meeting rooms, in our training room, in our recovery rooms, and on our practice field. Some tough places to practice once you, say, go back to the Falcons Indoor or Georgia Tech, we felt like going back to the Falcons we could be back at our place in almost the same time and be in a little more familiar place. We asked permission of the CFP, and they granted that.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: It kept me up at night? I sleep at night. Yeah, most people sleep at night, right? Why would we be any different? There's some things you can't control. I don't control what Alabama does. Our focus is on us. Our focus and concentration is on being the best us we can be. We've got a good football team. We've earned the right to be here. Alabama has a tremendous program. Nick has done a tremendous job with their program, which I was very fortunate to be a part of. They've got a good team. We're excited for our opportunity.

Q. How do you feel about UCF declaring themselves national champs?
KIRBY SMART: I think that's UCF's opinion.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I really hadn't heard that much about it. To be honest with you, I expected it to be much more than it has been. I explained to our players that I have nothing but good things to say about the University of Alabama and Coach Saban and their staff. I'm close to a lot of those guys. But the game is not between Coach Saban and I. I like my chances playing against him in pickup basketball sometimes better than I would in a game possibly because I know who he is, I know what he does. He knows everything that I do and that we do. There's a lot of similarities between the two programs. We're trying to be Georgia, and they're trying to be Alabama. That's the bottom line. It's not really about he and I. I have tremendous respect for him and everything he stands for, and he's been a great asset to my career.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: You know, a little more up tempo. They do a good job of being a little more physical I feel like. Their offensive line is bigger. There's some similarities. A lot of the same coaches are back. They also brought in -- quality control, Dan Werner. They've got elements of Ole Miss in their offense. They've brought a lot of good parts I think that have helped Jalen expand his offensive system. I think Brian has done a great job bringing some NFL stuff with the tight ends, the tight end stuff they do. They've grown as an offense and Jalen has gotten better. They're really physical with some talented wide outs outside.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, that and attack today and chopping wood. You know them.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Very close to Scott. Scott is a tremendous strength coach. His family and I live close to each other, and we have kids the same age, kind of the same grades, and his wife and my wife are very close friends. I've got a lot of respect for Scott. I think he's one of the best in the country at what he does.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: To be honest with you, that never was a big issue for me. I think Scott does a great job. I think the Scott we got has been probably the biggest blessing and asset for our program. He's been kind of the unknown secret to the fact that we've been very fortunate. When you look at injuries and how well you've been able to survive injuries and not have injuries, we've been really, really, really fortunate that we haven't had many injuries, and I think that's a credit to your strength and conditioning staff, and Scott Sinclair is by far and away the best in the country to me at that.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: We're seeing what Charlie can do. He's still trying to apply some more pressure to that leg to see if he can get back, but it's doubtful right now.

Q. You guys basically know every player they have on their team. How unique is it to know so much about an opponent?
KIRBY SMART: Well, I don't know that that's exactly true. I would say we know most of the players. They've got really two recruiting classes, one that I wasn't a part of and one that I kind of was and left. It's the same way here. We've got seniors that are playing on defense that he didn't really have a hand in recruiting. He came behind Todd, so there's -- there's some freshmen playing for us that he had no hand in. When you look at it, there's probably the meat and potatoes that we both know, but there's a lot of alternative parts that neither one of us know. There's guys on their defense I have no idea about.

Q. Will Jayson play?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, Jayson will play.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Extremely talented young man. Ferocious competitor, not afraid of contact, smart. I mean, I've never seen a player that could play the number of positions he has within that defense, to play corner, nickel star, money, and safety, I don't know if that'll ever be done. People don't respect how smart you've got to be to do that, and I think that's a credit to, A, them coaching him, but B, his ability to learn it and retain information.

Q. What was your biggest takeaway from (indiscernible)?
KIRBY SMART: Just holding everybody in the organization to the fire and making sure that everybody understood defining what their job was and that they do it to a certain standard. I think that's important in any organization. I think Coach Saban was very fortunate to learn that from the likes of Don James and Bill Belichick, and those guys had a lot of the same traits where when you hold people accountable and you do it the right way, sometimes it's hard, sometimes it's uncomfortable, but everybody has got a job to do, and you make sure they do it to the best of their ability.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I'm just trying to be me. I'm not trying to be Nick Saban, I'll be honest with you. Our personalities for the people that know us are not the same. Nick is incredible at what he does. I'm a different person than Nick. I'm different than Nick in recruiting. But that's okay. I'm okay with who I am. I'm comfortable with that. I'm not trying to be him or emulate him. He's got his own mannerisms, and I've got mine.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: You know, I don't know. I think you'd have to ask somebody else that. I think we're both extremely competitive, both very organized, both passionate about our players, and that's why we do this profession.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: 14 games, right? It's pretty seasoned. I mean, that's a game beyond most people's season. I think he came in with a lot of that seasoning already. I've always given his high school coach a tremendous amount of credit because they prepared him that way. He played in probably the most competitive league, one of the most competitive leagues in all of high school football across the country, so he was more prepared for this than your average freshman. But he's done a tremendous job handling it, and he's a good leader.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Well, first off, he's a big man that's really talented. He's got soft hands, which we saw the last game. He's got an uncanny ability to strike and roll his hips, and we can all say that we coached that into him, but that came God given and came from his high school level. He's as talented a big guy that I've seen in a long time. He's the one guy that I will put in the Marcell Dareus category that when you run sprints, he can run with the DB's as well as he can the D-linemen. He's really talented.

Q. What's it like to coach that kind of athlete?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, it's a spread game and he's a guy that's going to make you three, four tackles on the sideline when most nose guards can't do that. They just eat space. In the college game he's a lot more valuable, I think, thank just the pro game, because less of them are doing that. You still need the space eaters up there.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: That's not my opinion. That must be your opinion, right, because that's not my opinion. I don't know what you're basing that on statistically other than the fact that we play each other, and a lot of us have parity. But I honestly believe that the league is more equal than it's ever been, and that's mainly because I think maybe Alabama is not as unbeatable as they have been, and they've had games that were closer. You look at their margin of victory on Texas A&M and Mississippi State, I think the league is closer to even. I don't see it as there's just three great teams and everybody else. Every team we played, I think South Carolina was much better this year than anybody gave them credit for, Kentucky, same way, Missouri had a great finish. I respect our league.

Q. Given what your team has gone through in the playoffs, do you think you could handle an expanded playoffs?
KIRBY SMART: I was having that conversation the other night just talking with my coaches and actually talking with my wife. It's been -- I'm not going to sit here and cry over it. The system is what it is. But 15-game season, and there was a big break in there between the last two, it's taxing. It's taxing on these players. I think you've got to be really smart, number one, how you practice them. But when you start talking about expanding it, I've always kind of been of the belief it would be great to expand it, give more people the opportunity, but when do you play the games? These kids we had, they went from an SEC Championship Game, one of the highest emotions, to final exams the next three days. Then they had Christmas break where we practiced them the whole time, and then as coaches, we had a signing day and then school started back for us this week. So when you start adding stuff to that, hmm, they are student-athletes. It's very taxing. I like the system we had. I'd love to see more teams. I just don't know how you would do it and facilitate the students.

Q. Would you almost have to get rid of the conference championship games?
KIRBY SMART: You know, I don't know. I think there's something to be said for that. There's a lot of value at least in our conference called the conference championship. That's a huge deal. You're talking about being the best conference and having a conference championship. I do think you've got situations that have occurred where the team doesn't play in that, but that's just kind of the luck of the draw. That's the way it goes at times. In my opinion Alabama earned the right to be in the playoff by what they did prior to the Auburn game.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I don't know that they're all vulnerable. I think everybody else has gotten better. I don't think it's like Alabama has come down to anybody's level. I think the league is trying to catch up with them. It's certainly been that way for how many years. I don't know, seven, eight years, everybody is trying to catch up to them. And when everybody is coming in and taking your coaches and taking your quality-control guys and taking every assistant you have, you think about there's almost somebody from Alabama on every single staff in our conference. So that gap, Coach Saban, and I'm learning that now, you've got to find people to replace the people, and you're always trying to get better when you lose somebody. Well, sometimes you lose good people, and it's hard to catch up that gap. I mean, you look at Auburn, they've got guys from Alabama on their staff, South Carolina has got guys, Tennessee has got guys, Georgia has got guys. Now Missouri has got a guy coming in that's been with Nick all over. So his effect is great. Look at Texas A&M now. That spread and that width is really broad, and I think that that gap closes because people are always trying to catch up with them. What they do a tremendous job of is trying to keep that gap there through recruiting, facilities, and the job that Nick does with the organization.

Q. Tell me how many close friends are part of that staff?
KIRBY SMART: Which staff are you talking about?

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Well, I think when you leave, I still have a great relationship with the Cochran family because my kids are best friends with theirs. Mary Beth has a great relationship with Terry Saban because of all the things that have happened since becoming a head coach. One of the most unique is my wife's relationship with Terry because she's like the head coach's wife, has done it before. My wife had never done that before, so she's been dealing with adjustments in being a head coach's wife, and Terry has been tremendous with her.

Q. Did she mentor her?
KIRBY SMART: She's definitely mentored her. A lot more than Nick has mentored be, I'll be honest with that. It's been good because we have good friends and family over there and we don't play them that often. The outlook was we thought we might play them in the SEC Championship, and it didn't happen, and we thought this was an opportunity that could come down the road.

Q. In the course of a year, how many times a year do you have a conversation with Nick Saban?
KIRBY SMART: I don't know. Is that really important? We talk. I mean, yeah, Nick is a great guy. We like to play golf together. We play golf up near my dad's house. I don't see how that's really important. But I respect your question.

Q. Four or five years ago, you said every coach's dream is to be a head coach. In this moment sitting here right now, (indiscernible) something you always dreamed of?
KIRBY SMART: I really don't. I never dreamed about this. I thought about being a head coach, yeah, and I thought about leading my team to victory, coaching kids to be champions, coaching kids to be better people. I want to have successful kids out there. I want to be here for a long time, and I want to have players come back and say, Coach, I'm better off because I played for you. You pushed me to be as good as I could be. You helped me become a better man. That's going to give me self-gratification that I'm doing what I want to do. But it's not going to be a win and loss column, it's not going to be a winning percentage. It's not going to be any of that.

Q. You thought about coming to Georgia when Nick Saban was (indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Not really. You just want to win.

Q. What about as a player, when you look at these kids do you wonder what it would be like to play in a game like this?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, been great. I think the stage is even bigger now. You think about where the BCS went and where this CFP has gone, it's unbelievable how far it's come. It's a great honor and reward for players that have worked their tail off all season. I just wish more teams could get to embrace this, be part of this, because it's really special when you roll up in a hotel and they've got the buses wrapped and they've got -- it's great for your kids. It's great exposure.

Q. What's the biggest game you played in in college?
KIRBY SMART: I don't know, probably Georgia-Tennessee when Tennessee was ranked in the top in the country. Georgia, Florida, they were always ranked at the top. Probably one of those. Maybe a bowl game.

Q. What's the best game you played?
KIRBY SMART: I don't know, maybe the Florida game with two interceptions when we finally beat them. But nobody knows about that one.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I don't know, I think you learn to expect the unexpected. I certainly didn't expect that in the Rose Bowl. A lot of people did. But I didn't expect it that way. I didn't think we played real good first half defensively, obviously. But I don't know really how this game will go. I think a lot of it depends. I think they've got an unbelievable -- they've got a really good defense, so I'll be shocked if it turns into that. But you never know. You really don't. You've got special teams plays that are a factor. You've got turnovers that can create points. Who knows, we'll find out. I know they've got a really good team.

Q. What's it like to have to prepare for two elite teams?
KIRBY SMART: Well, it's tough. It's really tough. I think it's tough on the other team, too. The hardest part is -- the first one wasn't as hard. You had too much time. Overthink it, do too much, whatever, anxiety, buildup. This one, it's a quick turnaround. I've never had to experience talking to the Clemson staff, they had nine days last year, and this seven-day turnaround is wicked when you're flying back after a game, three hours' time zone difference. It's been a tremendous management.

Q. Nick is 11-0 against former assistants. You were there for a lot of those match-ups. What do you think is the reason for that, familiarity?
KIRBY SMART: I think it's really good players. You think? Yeah, the 11-0 he's won, I would venture to say he's been favored in all 11. He's got really good players. So not in defense of myself, because this is my first opportunity, but in defense of all those other assistants who I know, they were at their jobs playing against him for a reason.

Q. (Indiscernible) they've said the night-before messaging might be (indiscernible)?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, you think about that all the time. I think about how I want to go to bed every night. We had some meetings last night before they go. I think the last thing that they think about is always important. I think that's a key ingredient, what is their self-talk, what are they telling themselves, where is the team at, and I think getting a pulse of your team. Are they overconfident? Are they nervous? Are they anxious? But it's hard, because when you've got 85 to 120 heartbeats, every one beats different, so you've got to do a good job mixing that message up, keeping everybody's attention on what it needs to be on, and yeah, I've thought long and hard about it, but it could change based on today's practice. Like I said, it's fluid.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: They've got good players. They've got a great staff. They've got a great organization. When you recruit really well and you coach really hard and you've got good facilities, you try to put everything you can in your favor. It doesn't matter if it's a dining hall, if it's a bus ride, if it's a quality control coach. You get as many things as you can to give you an advantage, and Nick does a tremendous job of that, and he's a really good coach. So that combination gives you a chance.

But to do it as many times as they have back to back, that's pretty unbelievable.

Q. You talked about the training table this whole weekend and how you're managing nutrition --
KIRBY SMART: We're eating, man. We're eating.

Q. How is the food at the hotel?
KIRBY SMART: We just got there, so we only had last night's kind of reception-type deal. It was great. It was awesome. And then this morning we had a great breakfast.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I always love Last Resort, Five. There's a lot of places. We like LRG. There's a lot of good places, Five and Ten. We like to eat a lot in Athens. I'm a healthy eater to say the least.

Q. What about when you were there? Give me the three or four places --
KIRBY SMART: They're all gone. Can't even name them. They burned them down after we left. Players aren't allowed to go there.

Q. Do you remember the bars you went to when you were there or restaurants?
KIRBY SMART: I didn't go to bars much. I would go to restaurants.

Q. What are the restaurants back in the day?
KIRBY SMART: To be honest with you, they're all gone.

Q. Great food town, though.
KIRBY SMART: Great food town. Great music town, great college town. Great college environment.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: A lot. It sells it sells. When those kids come in on visits, they absolutely love it.

Q. What is it that separates Athens from other cities?
KIRBY SMART: Well, I think the uniqueness of downtown, you've got a lot of social scene, you've got a lot of places to go there in town. You're close to Atlanta. You can fly in, fly out, so there's a lot of good stuff going on in Athens. A lot of opportunities for kids to be kids, and I think that's important in college.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I don't know. Check back later. Check with Claude.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Jayson Stanley will be ready to go. Charlie we still don't know yet. We're hoping, but it's doubtful is what I would say right now.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: It's great to have him back. It means we've got 22 miles per hour on our GPS back instead of trading out some other guy that might be 19 or 20. So we've got a faster guy out there, and Alabama has got a lot of fast ones, so we've got someone that will run with them.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I've always thought Georgia had a good program and good talent base. I mean, we played them that year, I think they were undefeated, and they had a really good team, had good backs, had quarterback -- they've always had a good base if that's what you're saying. At that time, I was a lot more concerned with us because we had just lost -- I think for the second year in a row to Ole Miss. So there was a lot of in-house concerns. I was not concerned with Georgia.

Q. How do you feel about the likelihood of president Trump (indiscernible)?
KIRBY SMART: You know, that's a political event, and to be honest with you, we're focused on Alabama and the championship game, and that's not really of my concern.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Just the proximity. You look at it, it's going to take us an hour and 10 to get over there. If we would have gone out to Flowery Branch it would have been the same. The weather is cold. We're going to play inside. You know, it gives Alabama an opportunity to use the Georgia Tech place, facilities, so we don't have to share that one with them. It just works better for us. We think it gives us what we need, which is our facility, our rehab facilities, our meeting facilities, being familiar.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I want to keep them focused wherever we're at, you know. The only negative is the bus ride. That's part of it, but I mean, out in LA we were busing 35 minutes to practice anyway.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Really to be honest with you, when I watch the tape, I see schemes. I don't look at it as I recruited this kid or I signed this kid. I watch those guys when I'm not playing them, from afar, watching a game. I'm cheering and rooting for every kid I signed. There's a lot of guys that are seniors and juniors on that defense, that team, that I know their families and they've sent me congratulatory texts. But I know where my focus and concentration is. It's on giving our team the best chance they've got. I can't be thinking about personal relationships to do that.

Q. With the great backs that have come through Georgia, what does it say about Sony and Nick to have two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season?
KIRBY SMART: Well, it says you'd better give some credit to the O-line, tight ends who give a lot of blocking, quarterback who gives them an opportunity to get good looks and the receivers blocking downfield have all been tremendous. I think Sony and Nick will be the first to tell you that, man, these guys do a tremendous job. But Sony and Nick are a unique combination of respect for each other. They compliment each other. They live with each other. I thought one of the greatest scenes from last week was seeing Sony Michel celebrate on the sideline when Nick hit one of the runs, the wildcat run to score. I thought Sony's response on the sideline was just indicative of their relationship.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Well, first off, we put that one behind us. We know that the 30 minutes that we played in the second half and overtime is what we're trying to emulate, focus on, and not the previous. And whatever we can do to play at our best this game is the key. But I thought we played a little harder with a little more enthusiasm, and we got some momentum, which helped.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I'll be honest with you, I sympathize with Jeremy because I think he was in a worse situation because I did not have to deal with the signing day, and the fact that he had to deal with the signing day while there, I wouldn't wish that -- it was probably outside of -- I don't know, it was probably the hardest month of my life trying to deal with the two jobs because you're trying to hire a staff, run an organization but be loyal to a group of players who helped you get this information. Now mix in a signing date while you're practicing at another place, that's unfathomable and I think he's done a tremendous job of that and he's done it the right way, which that's what we do as coaches. We do this because of the kids. He's not doing it because of a loyalty to Nick. He's doing it because he thinks it's the right thing to do for those players, and he's done a great job of managing it.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Recruit, call, talk to kids, get on the phone, hire a staff, interview coaches, fly, go see people. We flew all over looking for coaches and interviewing coaches to hire the staff because you can't practice every day. So the days you don't practice you're working on your program.

Q. The family of the coaching staff, how do you weigh that we have to play our game and play our strength to we have to do something different?
KIRBY SMART: Well, we look at the tape. We figure out what we think is the best thing to do to be successful. We know some things they know, they know some things we know. You've really just got to make decisions and weigh your options. The goal of a coach is to put your players in the best situation to be successful against the other team, and that's what we base every decision on. It's not like we play Alabama does this or Alabama does that. Sometimes you can talk yourself out of things that you should do because you know what the other team does, and I think you've got to be careful of that.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I thought the off-season conditioning program, it starts in January and February, was tremendous. Leadership began to speak. I thought Coach Sinclair and his strength staff, man, they put it on these players and they put them through trials and tribulations that would emulate adversity, because we know everybody in the country tells you they try to create adversity in the off-season because it's going to happen in season and you want to see how they are going to respond and our group really responded well. We did some team-building events I thought that helped. But to be honest with you, we had a great group of freshmen come in and we got a good nucleus of seniors that are great leaders, and that's been a biggest difference.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Well, I thought there were some changes in culture, changes in the way we practiced, and it wasn't that they didn't buy in, it was that we didn't have success, and when you don't have success, that compounds the lack of buy-in. If you win, they buy in, and this year we had some key early wins that allowed them to say, you know what, we're doing this the right way, let's get on board and let's go with this, and I thought that was much different this year.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I probably would do some things different in year one, but you're right, it's hard to argue with it. But I'm big on self-analysis and being critical of myself and quality control, and we look at things all the time as what we could have done better, and there was things I would have done different last week in retrospect. But part of that is adapting and getting used to changing on the flow.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, that's a unique story that a lot of people don't think about. He fell into our hands. I can remember last year before one of the home games, he double dipped. He went to Clemson and us the same game day, and he said the biggest difference was that at Georgia you came over and talked to me and spent time with me, and he goes, I felt important. You told me that I was going to get an opportunity, and he goes, that's all I wanted was an opportunity. I mean, he was a walk-on, so it wasn't costing us anything. I'm thinking, if this kid is as good as they say he is, he may be an asset for us. Well, we knew once he got here that he was pretty good. We just didn't know if he could do it under the lights in the big moment, and he's proven that the Ivy League fills the same field as ours, and no moment has been too big for him. He's been a big turnaround in our special teams, and I certainly credit him for that.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Oh, yeah, they're tremendously different. The quarterbacks are developed -- the advent of the high school passing leagues, the AAU, the travel-around play, these kids are throwing the ball at a higher level. The offenses are more sophisticated. In Georgia, I'll bet you 20 years ago, you had 50-percent Wing-T rate. Now you fast forward 20 years later you're at maybe a 5-percent, 10-percent Wing-T rate. So the quarterbacks that are getting developed are getting developed at a much faster rate. You've got the Elite 11, you've got these passing academies. You've got all these things that help quarterbacks grow and become better players. I also think that some of the high school game has gone up to college where a lot of the colleges coaches are going to visit high school coaches that have got great ideas and do things to bring them along in their offense so that fits these high school kids. But I think with that, you've also seen transfer rates grow, quarterbacks leave. It's immediate gratification or I'm gone because there's only one playing. It used to be you never didn't have four on your roster. Now a lot of the good schools, they're lucky to have three.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I have not thought about it one bit. I just don't think it's important. I'm not here to self-reflect. I recruited a lot of those kids, but so did Nick, so did Bo Davis, so did Lance Thompson. There's a player at every position that somebody had some hand in, but at the end of the day, they decided to go to University of Alabama, and it wasn't about the coach that recruited them. Same way the kids that decided to come here and play for us. A lot is made about who I recruited or who Jeremy recruited. It doesn't really matter. What matters is they chose to go to great universities that got great football programs.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Not really, not unless it happens that way because we stay on our side, they stay on theirs. That's not a big deal to me. I'd love to see them after the game. I'm very happy for a lot of those guys' careers, and I was able to see Minkah at the awards ceremonies with Roquan which was great because he's such a unique player and person. They understand they're out to win a ballgame and do something special with our program the same way our kids are, and I'm here to represent our kids.

Q. I'm curious on defense, what needs to be cleaned up the most from last week?
KIRBY SMART: Execution. Knock back. Tackling. We did not tackle well. We didn't execute well, we didn't play up tempo real well. So there's a lot. Hopefully we clean some of that up by the second half. But there's still more to be cleaned up.

Q. Did you gain a lot of trust in Jake Fromm last week if you didn't have it there already?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I was going to say, the trust factor went out the window the day he walked out there and played against App State. I think you've got to have confidence and trust in your quarterback all the time. People were like, well, Georgia's not throwing Jake Fromm. We didn't have to throw in some of those games so why are we going to do it just to do it? I've trusted Jake Fromm since the time he walked in against App State, and I think he's grown as a player. He's certainly gotten better since then but that's through experience, so trust has not been a concern.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I think every coach changes. I think I've changed from year one to year two. I think Nick has changed a lot as it's gone along. If you ask his original LSU staff they'll tell you that he's gone soft because at LSU, there's stories that were much tougher as far as work experiences than what we went through. I always enjoyed it. I think the media portrayed it to be more than it was. He's very competitive. He's very passionate. He's very driven. But he doesn't ask you to do anything that he doesn't do himself.

Over the years if anything changed it was probably the fact that he understood we couldn't do as much defensively as offenses expanded, and going to more open-style offenses and more athletic defenses. But that's not a Nick Saban change, that's a college football fundamental change.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I think that's probably the biggest changes I made is I've got to do it my way. What is your way? You don't know your way until you actually do it. From year one to year two I probably felt like I changed the most in decisions about practice, decisions the way to manage some players, decisions of how to handle recruiting, how to handle coaches. There's just so many things that go into it, it's constantly changing as you go along because that's the only way to do it right. And every year is not the same. We didn't have the same team we had last year. Last year I felt like that team needed to be driven, needed to be pushed a lot more. This year a lot of the driven and pushed came from them, and maybe they learned how to from some of the experiences I gave them the first year, but I didn't have to do as much as I did in year one.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I don't know that you ever envision it. We certainly hoped and looked for it. I don't think anybody went there thinking it was going to come out the way it did. But with hard work, good recruiting, good coaches, I mean you give yourself a chance at success when you eliminate roadblocks, and that's one of the things we try to do at Georgia is let's eliminate all roadblocks. Is it nutrition? Is it strength and conditioning? Is it recruiting? Is it quality control coaches? Is it everything you can get in your favor might be that one point, might be that one play in overtime, might be that one blocked field goal. Get it all in your favor because that's the only thing you can control.

Q. Can you talk for a second, does the average fan believe and understand the sacrifice that these guys actually year-round and how 98 percent of them are doing the right thing, that 2 percent might get the headlines, but is there an understanding of what it takes to compete at this level for 18-to-22-year-olds?
KIRBY SMART: You know, I don't know that there's a keen understanding of it. I think there's a lot of teams out there that do the same things we do, they just might not have as much talent. So there's a lot of hard work that goes into being a successful college football program, but I don't think the general public knows what our kids do year round. They don't know what some of the other sports do either. Swimming, diving. All these student-athletes across the board, especially the University of Georgia, they are student-athletes. I mean, it is a challenging university academically, and every student-athlete has got to be at the top of his game in the classroom as well on their sports arena, and I don't think student-athletes as a whole get enough credit.

Q. When you see a team like UCF declare the National Championship, what are your thoughts on that?
KIRBY SMART: To be honest with you, I don't think about it. I'm thinking about Alabama. If I was at UCF, I'd probably do the same thing.

Q. Can you talk about Terry Godwin? When you self-scout, who is he as a player?
KIRBY SMART: He's an elite competitor. He's not a huge frame guy but he plays with unbelievable toughness. I watched Terry when he was in eighth grade come over to high school practice, and the one thing that stuck out to me was that he was doing bull in the ring at Callaway High School and he was knocking the heck out of ninth, 10th, 11th graders and I thought that guy was going to be a special player. He has grown as a person, much more mature. I think his work ethic this year has been incredible. He's been a leader for their receiving staff. He's got unbelievable hands, hand-eye coordination and he's really good at coming in and out of breaks and I think that has helped our offense. He's a guy that's made us much better.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I don't think it changes much. I mean, I think you can get too much into that and let it become a distraction. We've tried to block that out. We know what they like to do. We know what we like to do. We know some of their players, they know some of our players. There's a lot of overlap just because the two states are contiguous. That's not a big deal.

Q. Talking about new ways --
KIRBY SMART: But what does it matter? If I know they've got three punt returns, what does it matter? I don't know which one they're calling. I know they've got 28 offensive plays. I don't know which one they're calling. I don't think it helps you strategically because there's no intimate knowledge that I just have that's going to help me, nor that they have on us. That's way overrated. At the end of the day, it's what No. 17 does against No. 65 or vice versa, who blocks and who tackles best. That's ultimately what it comes down to. There's no secrets that you have.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Well, I never studied Brian Daboll before, so I don't know his tendencies better, know what I mean? I mean, in Alabama's defense, I think it's tremendous year in and year out. That's Nick's identity in this program. They're really good this year like they've been every year. It's not a tendency factor. You can know what they're going to do on defense. You've got to block them. It's tough when somebody says I'm going line up right here and I'm going to do it every play of the game and you can know where they're at and still not get them, because that comes down to players, and I think this game comes down to players.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Oh, yeah, I mean, he escapes the pocket very similar to other guys. The difference is you've got to tackle him. This guy was like tackling a bona fide 220-pound power-lifting tailback. I mean, he's state power lifter of the year out of Texas. His lower body is tremendous. You watch teams and you watch even Clemson last year, when he breaks out of that run, he's running through tackles. He's a force to be reckoned with as a ball carrier.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: No, I've never had Rodrigo before, either, though. Not other than last year. Rodrigo has been a tremendous asset for us, and you could probably give him the most improved award because he's worked really hard to become the kicker he has.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Oh, it felt great. I mean, I've got the utmost confidence in Rod. He does it every day in practice. His percentages in practice are incredible. He's very accurate, very consistent. He's been a great asset. I think it makes you comfortable.

Q. Talking about Ledbetter's throw (indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, Led has come a long way. I recruited Led uniquely at Alabama and at one time he was committed to Alabama. And to meet him, meet his family, meet his brothers, extremely athletic kid from Tucker. He's grown as a player. He's gotten better. He's been through some trials and tribulations, which I think have allowed him to grow further as a player. Maybe if he doesn't go through those, he's still running a tough course. He's much more focused. He practices so much better. He's had a tremendous camp of bowl, getting ready for Oklahoma and getting ready for Alabama. He practices so hard. He realizes the importance of practice, and he's been able to impart some of his experiences and knowledge on the younger players. We have him talk to those guys about pitfalls and traps that are all over all colleges, and he uses his experience to maybe keep one of them from running into the same experience. Fired up about him.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: You know, I don't know. I think it's been great for our family. That's my brother, sister, mom, dad to experience it because he had a lot of big moments as a coach, and we weren't always there because in the coaching style you're kind of raised by your mom. You're not around a lot. I've been very pleased to have my dad a part of a lot of these moments, big moments, and it's an honor to him because he kind of grew me into the coach I am. So when I got an opportunity to thank him for all he did, I don't think I would be successful as a coach if it wasn't for him shaping me.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: I don't know. 10, 15, something like that. Immediate family will be there.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: These games, the special teams are huge, and you know, historically, Alabama has played really well on special teams in these games, and we've brought that to our attention, whether it's the SEC Championships or National Championships against Clemson with the Kenyan Drake return. So those games have weighed heavily, the surprise onside by Alabama against Clemson, there's big-time plays in special teams that can dictate the outcome of the game, and we've harped on special teams all year, and it will be no different on Monday night.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Absolutely. I don't believe in the day and age of first-time guy has a mistake that you give up on him. If kids are compliant, they go to class, they're on time, they do what they're supposed to do, and they make mistakes, we need to try to save them. We need to try to make them better. He's a great case in point. He's not done playing yet, and we've still got to support him, but there's kids on our team that will make mistakes, and to throw them out to the wind and just throw them out to society is not the way to go, and I think he's a case in point. For every one like him, there may be one that we can't help or can't fix, but we have to try to do that as a program because a lot of these kids need our guidance, they need us, and we want to be there to support them, and Led is a good story.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: That's the easiest question I've ever gotten, because my mom is my teacher, and my mom taught me English and she was a tremendous English teacher and I think every student she's ever had is still in contact with her, and she's formed great relationships with them. She impacted me a lot. I hope I speak well on her behalf. I know she writes me a letter every time I say ain't. But other than that, I do a great job of trying to represent her well.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: No, I never really referenced that. I think because they are different players, I have tremendous respect for what Jalen has done. In two years, I mean his record is impeccable, but that doesn't really relate to us. It don't think it really has anything to do with us, and we're a different team in regards to that.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I think what's that those messages allow you to do, to simplify things. We always want to do simple better at University of Georgia. How do you do simple better? You keep it simple stupid. You don't give guys a lot to think about and that's the whole mantra behind keep chopping, because the focus is on the chopping, not everything else going on around you. You just do the best you can with the hand you're dealt and keep doing it.

Q. Talk about Charlie.
KIRBY SMART: I talked about him earlier. He's doubtful. We're hopeful to get him. He's getting some treatment right now, but he's very doubtful. Jayson is going to play.

Q. How important is it to get off to a fast start?
KIRBY SMART: Well, I would have said that at Auburn when we went 7-0. I would've have said that at Oklahoma. When is it not important to get off to a fast start? So I love the question, but we've shown a propensity to start slow the last two big games. I certainly want to reverse that, but sometimes those things are out of your control, and a lot of times it's how you respond to what happens, good or bad. Maybe we didn't -- maybe other teams didn't respond well to having success early, and we responded well to not having success early. But I do think that's important in the confidence of your team.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Dom has gotten better with each year. Dom is a competitor. He's a kid that was way under-recruited and has played above and beyond, I think, what people ever thought when he was coming out of high school.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Not really. I like to be involved with all of them.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: Well, you know, I'm proud of these players. It's really not about me. I'm proud of the fact I'm from Bainbridge. I've got a lot of people back home that have reached out to me and are proud of what we're doing, but I'm proud of these players. They've given so much and given up so much to get us to this point, so I'm really excited for the opportunity and I want them to enjoy the moment.

Q. (Indiscernible).
KIRBY SMART: When I found out the seniors were coming back, I was elated. I knew we had a chance to be good, but with them staying, it gave us an opportunity to do something like this.

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