Tuesday June 25th, 2019 11:59PM

Kirby Smart, Bulldogs preview LSU game

By AccessWDUN

ATHENS — University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, met with media members on Monday to preview Saturday’s game at LSU. 

Smart and the Bulldogs offered the following comments. 

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening comments …

“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. They have 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 is good. They have a really good football team. I think Coach (Ed) 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 (Kindley), 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.”

On if LSU has more of a spread look now on offense than it did in years past … 

“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 Matt 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.”

On playing at LSU in 1998 and his experiences there … 

“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 have a great fanbase.”

On the upcoming tests … 

“Absolutely. I mean I think the tests are coming up. We've got some tough games. We have a bye week after this one, and that's probably coming at a good time because we have 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.”

On LSU QB Joe Burrow and his ability to run … 

“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.”

On how hard it is to prepare for the upcoming stretch of games … 

“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.”

On LSU LB Devin White … 

“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 (Smith), 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.”

On LSU being one of the most physical teams Georgia has seen this season, in terms of running the ball and the front seven is prepared to take on that challenge …

“They better knuckle up, because it's going to be a physical, tough, hard-nosed football game. They have a big offensive line. They have big fullbacks. They have big tight ends. They have big backs. They have 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 wide-outs, their wide-outs are huge. They have big, athletic wide-outs. They have always been that way. That's the tradition of LSU- to have really good wide-outs 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.”


On his memories of being an assistant coach at LSU in 2004 …

“It was an incredible place to coach and recruit. I can remember going to my areas within the state and being 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, and have really good memories of a great staff. Being a young coach on that staff was very influential on me to get to be around guys like Jimbo (Fisher) and Will (Muschamp) and obviously Coach Saban and Derek (Dooley). There were a lot of good coaches on that staff. So it was a good experience for me.”


On the emotions of coaching against a team you have previous coached for …

“I wouldn't say that there are 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.”

On the Georgia fan base showing up at LSU and leveling out the atmosphere…

"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 have to 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."

On limiting freshman quarterback Justin Fields’ snaps because of different road environments…

"No. I don't think that has anything to do with it. Justin handles the offense and the communication really well. I think that’ss 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. 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."

On how tight ends affect total offense…

"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 and our ability to run the ball in play action. A lot of the catches the tight ends get come off play action. There are 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."

On LSU sophomore cornerback Greedy Williams’ play and similarities to Georgia senior defensive back Deandre Baker …

“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. He’s a talented guy. They've traditionally had really good secondary players."

On freshman quarterback Justin Fields taking hits in recent games…

"I think if you look closely, so has Jake [Fromm]. Jake took some shots in the last game. They both did. So number one, we have to 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 have to 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. 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. We still want him to be a weapon for us, and he can do that when he runs, but he has to protect himself as well, which he's done a good job with."

Isaac Nauta, Jr., TE (former Buford High standout)

On playing in an environment like Tiger Stadium…

“From everything I’ve heard, it’s supposed to be an electric place to play in and they’ve really got the home field advantage. They’ve got a great fan base and I’ve heard it’s a crazy environment. I’m ready to see what it’s like.”


On preparing to play in that type of environment…

“[I tell myself] to stay composed. You can’t let the crowd get to you in those moments and you’ve got to stay on top of your assignments and know what you’ve got to do throughout the week in preparation to make sure when you can’t hear when you’re in there, you still know how to communicate. We work on it in practice throughout the week, making crowd noise on the speakers and try to get used to being in that environment.”


On preparing for a stretch ahead of four-straight ranked SEC opponents…

“Every week, the team gets better, they get more experience. Obviously, we’ve got a tough stretch up ahead with a lot of good opponents, but our preparation’s not going to change. If anything, we’re going to push harder because we know the competition’s going to get better. It’s exciting knowing you’re going to go into some of these big games and that’s what you want to be a part of being a football player.”


On being tested up to this point…

“I think we’ve been tested. We believe that some of the best competition we’re going to play is in practice. We’ve got some big games coming up, they’re teams we’ve played before. Being an older guy, I’ve played a lot of these guys so I know what to expect and I know a lot of these teams are ready to get another shot at us, especially. I think we’re going to prepare well and we’re excited to get after some of these teams.”

Terry Godwin, Sr., WR

On significance of this game… 

“To us it is a big game, because it is the next game. We don’t look at it like how it is going to help us or hurt us down the road. We look at it as we have to go out there and play Georgia football regardless.”


On how the crowd can help especially looking back at Notre Dame… 

“The game at Notre Dame was a great atmosphere. It was awesome that our fan base traveled all the way out there. It means a lot. It goes to show how much dedication they put in and how much they mean to us. It was an amazing atmosphere.”


On traveling to LSU… 

“Of the guys that have been there on our staff, they’ve said that it is just going to be a great environment. It will be a hard-nosed game and this is what you come to the SEC for. It is games like this. It will be a great game.”


On upcoming tough schedule… 

“We just know that from this point going forward we need to be on our ‘A’ game, because this is our meat of our schedule. We just have to be Georgia football and be who we are…We haven’t played our best yet.”


Jonathan Ledbetter, Sr., DE

On Coach Smart’s challenge to the defensive front for the upcoming game… 

“Personally, I like that. He essentially is putting the game in our hands. We just have to come out and be physical. It is going to be a tough game. It will definitely be a fourth quarter game. They have a great football team. We are excited to tackle the challenge like always…This is my kind of football game. It is tough, it is physical. That is what you love to see in SEC football and it will be like that on Saturday.”


On LSU’s downhill offense … 

“That is just what you are seeing anywhere in the SEC. The SEC is always about running the football, but they are trying to spread out the offense to have more abilities and more plays. It spreads defenses out and creates more running holes. However, it always gets back to running the ball though.”


On differences in preparation in tough stretch in schedule… 

“Honestly, it is just making sure everyone is healthy. We are getting into the point in the season when everyone is a little banged up, not necessarily hurt, but just bruised up. The bodies are just getting some wear and tear, so we just have to make sure that we are getting treatment, getting into the cold tub and getting your legs back. These are tough games and sometimes it means playing more snaps. We don’t know how the ball possession will be so you just have to stay ready. The practices are still physical, you aren’t changing anything there. Outside of that the preparation stays the same, because you want to continue playing the same way.”

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