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January 8, 2022

Nakobe Dean

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Lucas Oil Stadium

Georgia Bulldogs

Press Conference

Q. If the playoff is expanded, you guys would be playing at least one and maybe two more games. Wonder how you feel about that, how your body would feel about that right now. If there was a 12-team playoff in place right now, you guys would be playing at least one more game perhaps two more games. Wonder how you feel about that, how your body would feel about that at this point.

NAKOBE DEAN: If that's what it takes, we come in, beginning of the season with one essential goal and that's to win a national championship. So if that's what it takes to get here to win it, then I'm all for it.

Q. Been trying to break down the difference between you guys in the last few games. There seems to be this narrative. There is a narrative that you guys were just in a different place mentally against Michigan than maybe against Alabama. How much of that do you think is true, and how much -- because physically it would seem like you guys are sort of the same teams, at equal levels at least -- how much is the mental approach going to make a difference this game?

NAKOBE DEAN: The mental approach makes a big difference, just from the whole thing of it being a national championship. I mean it's the national championship. You should be prepared mentally. You should be prepared to give your best on the field. You should expect your opponent to also be prepared to give their best on the field. So the mental and physical preparation for it I feel like should be second to none.

Q. For the first 12 games of the season, you guys were phenomenal defensively statistically, and then obviously it came unraveled against Alabama. How much do you guys have to prove to cement your place in history as one of the best defensive teams at Georgia against Alabama in the second shot against them?

NAKOBE DEAN: As far as proving, I don't feel like we're going in with that mindset that we've got to prove anything. We're just going in with the same mindset that we always go in. And that's to be elite and have complete dominance. And it's one main goal for this last game and that's to win. So no matter how it happens, how ugly or pretty it is, it's just one main goal, winning the game.

Q. Jamaree was on here earlier saying you guys can't run away from the truth about the history of the success Alabama has had against Georgia. You didn't have any history with Michigan. You do with Alabama. Is that in the back of your mind for this game? Is it motivation?

NAKOBE DEAN: A motivation factor, of course, as many times as I played them. It's as far back as I'm thinking, though. Just as many times as I've played them. I can't speak too much about the past. I don't like to dwell on the past at all. Just the present, being here. I didn't play them back in the day.

Right now I'm just focusing on winning the game. That's the only thing that's on my mind and on my teammates' mind also.

Q. On that note, Nakobe, you talked about how many times you guys have played Alabama. This is the third significant game against these guys in the last two years. Would you call Alabama like Georgia's biggest rival? Is it like the biggest rival for you?

NAKOBE DEAN: It's a rivalry, of course. Everybody hypes it up. Our coach once coached underneath the other coach. Everybody hypes it up. Of course it's a big rival. It's an SEC game.

But as far as this game, it's the national championship. This is the national championship. Feel like everybody should be prepared to play at their best level, at their highest clip. And like I said before, the only thing that we're focused on is winning. No matter how we get it done, we've just got to get it done.

Q. Why do you feel the first time you guys played, Bryce Young had so much success against your defense?

NAKOBE DEAN: They did a lot of things good, they were able to execute in places we weren't. He was able to extend plays. We had zero sets that game which was really uncharacteristic of us. They were able to execute at a higher level than we were that day.

Q. When Coach Smart refused the Gatorade bath, what tone did this set for the team in practice in preparation going into this week, this rematch against Alabama?

NAKOBE DEAN: I feel like Coach Smart's mindset is kind of reciprocated in a lot of the older guys as far as we won the game last week, but it means nothing if we don't get the job done. That's exactly how I feel also.

It was cool that that we were able to win the Orange Bowl, but it was still closer to playing in this big one. Last week and the week before that, we just emphasized it being a one-game season against Michigan, one game season. Because you lose you go home. You win you get more time together.

And now it's what it is. It's a one-game season. And we're all looking to win, basically our goal that we set back in January.

Q. Looking back at your recruiting class and guys like Nolan and Travon, what do you remember about the first time you talked to those guys about how good your group can be? Was it at a camp or an all-star game or just over DMs or whatever? What do you remember of that conversation and talking with those guys those days?

NAKOBE DEAN: As far as recruiting, I wasn't really involved pre-college with other recruits. Just kind of like, I knew guys. I didn't really speak to them much. But after we got on campus, actually the guys who know Nolan and Travon was our roommates. I do remember them talking in the living room, talking about how good we can be. We've just got to keep working to get better every day.

Coming in knowing that it's hard. Coming in and all getting back to the room at the same time and just being tired as all get out, but just knowing we've got to stay the course, continue to work and get better.

Q. What (inaudible) did you take away from the first meeting against Alabama that would be applicable to the game on Monday night?

NAKOBE DEAN: Everything, basically. We're looking at every little thing from the scheme that we use, the scheme that they used to how we can possibly take advantage of some things that we did -- how we can play better, finish better, and from the back end to the front seven.

So we looked at every little thing how we can get better. Not just from that game but from the games throughout the season where we feel like they might attack us and basically what other teams have had success in going throughout the season. We looked at every little thing. We're trying to leave every stone unturned.

Q. Did you have a Kirby Smart story? What's he like as a motivator? And how has he kind of mentored you all these years as a coach?

NAKOBE DEAN: He can get you going, if you ask me. At this point, a lot of guys, if you just kind of see them and you weren't around him all the time in practice, you would think when he's coaching he get all riled up, you'll think he's kind of, like, chipping a little bit.

But he comes from, I feel like, every time -- I don't feel like he's bad at all. I feel like he comes from a great place. He wants you to be great and he want to be great.

And the only thing he care about is winning, and I feel like that's the same for me. The only thing he cares about is winning the game. So whatever we've got to do win this game, Coach, I'm going to do it for you.

That's been my mindset, just trusting the coaches, trusting the game plan. And just going out there and playing like we know how we can play and just be elite.

Q. For all the film study that you guys have done, how much is there to be said for actually playing against Bryce Young in terms of his quickness, agility? Is it kind of the deal where now once you've seen it you have a better idea of how quick and elusive he is? And is he the most elusive guy in the pocket you've faced, would you say, at quarterback?

NAKOBE DEAN: We've faced pretty elusive guys. I feel that he's one of the best ones as far as sitting in that pocket and staying calm. I feel like he does that better than anybody.

He's busy, just sit there, be calm and being able to extend plays and make plays. Just his ability to do that also just makes it tougher for the front seven to get aggressive. We've been kind of working on that and basically trying to make it a different outcome than the last time where we had no sacks, very uncharacteristic of us.

Q. You mentioned preparation earlier in this. And I was wondering, how was preparing for a team you've already seen this year different than maybe in a normal week of game prep, like in a regular season for a team you're only going to see once? Is there anything different that goes into a rematch?

NAKOBE DEAN: It's not too much different, just we were able to watch the game that we played before. We're able to see what their game plan was against us, what our game plan was against us and how they made adjustments, and how we can adjust.

So that's probably the only biggest thing. The work is there. That's the only thing we've been focused on, working, getting better from a mental, physical and spiritual standpoint. I feel like this team has done nothing but work hard to get better day in, day out. And I feel like that will be reciprocated on the field.

Q. With the senior class, what's the DNA of them? What do they mean to you, and knowing that if they win this game not only do they walk out as champions but as the most decorated senior class in the history of Georgia football in terms of victories?

NAKOBE DEAN: Yeah, they mean a lot to me, those guys, the hard work they put in. Everything from the leadership ability. They've been here as long as I've been here, longer, of course. They just exemplify Georgia football and everything it stands on.

So, to be able to finish this one out with this group of guys, I wouldn't want it to be with any other group. I love them boys. And that's who we'll be playing for. But we'll be playing for our brothers alongside of everybody. But the seniors definitely.

Q. How do you balance being a 4.0 student and an All-American player at the same time?

NAKOBE DEAN: Well, it's hard. I am not going to try to shoot the (indiscernible). It's been a lot of long nights. A lot of times where I don't get that much sleep. But you have to try to find your balance.

There's a lot of things before you get to college they say that you can do in the recruiting thing because they want to get you, of course. And then it's, like, you get here, it's way harder than they probably made it appear. But that's college. That's life. That's growing up. That's maturing.

And I feel like the things that I tackled in college from a time-management standpoint and just a real-world standpoint, leaving home and everything has prepared me on and off the field greatly, has matured me into the young man I am today.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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