Monday December 4th, 2023 3:39PM

Smart, Bulldogs preview Georgia Tech matchup

By Georgia Sports Communications

ATHENS, Ga. – Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with Oscar Delp and Javon Bullard, previewed the upcoming game at Georgia Tech with media on Monday. 

Head Coach Kirby Smart
Opening Statement

“We're onto Georgia Tech and excited for the prep and love rivalry week across the country. What makes college football really special to me is all the rivalries you get to watch on this week. A very unique week timing-wise, a lot of distractions with Thanksgiving going on. Those are good distractions, but they are different. How you manage that and how you deal with that is important. A lot of respect for Brent Key and his staff. I've known Brent a long time. He played at Tech when I played here. His staff does a great job. Obviously, there's several guys on his staff that we have worked with before, a lot of overlap. I think we're both very grateful for a state of high school football in Georgia that provides both of us with a lot of really good football players. He's done a tremendous job this year. Buster (Faulker’s) done a tremendous job for them, and Kevin (Sherrer) taking over the defense kind of midstream there, he's done a really good job.”

On Georgia Tech being a top rival…

“Geographically, they're close. They're in our state. You're playing for something every time you play for them because you're playing for a state championship, so it's important. They do a good job. It's the next opponent. I don't rank them any higher than anybody else because I look at all the games as rivalries. I let everybody else debate what's the highest. I don't get into those comparisons, but a lot of respect for Brent (Key) and the job they do.”

On Georgia Tech’s improvement this season…

“They're winning games because they're playing good football. Number one, they've done a good job upgrading talent. He understands what it takes to win at Tech, what kind of players to go and recruit. And I think, as he gets his recruiting classes in there, he's not going to do anything but get better. When you have an offensive line coach as the head coach, you're going to have a physical, tough team. That's number one. Haynes King is like that. He's fast. He's athletic. We've got several coaches that came from the Texas area that talked about his athleticism in high school, and you see it on tape. Buster's done an unbelievable job with him, and he utilizes his entire skill set. These guys know how to run the football now. They are really good at running the football. They find best runs available, scheme runs, quarterback runs, unbalanced runs, good backs, really tough O-line. It's a day's work when you go to play these guys with the way they play, in terms of toughness and all of those things. That's what's allowed them to win is they have an identity.”

On Ladd McConkey’s availability…

“(Ladd McConkey’s) got a tweaked ankle that he tweaked in the game here at home. He was able to go some at the end of the week but didn't practice much. It bothered him a little bit Saturday, but nothing any more severe than that. We've done MRIs since the game and doing even more testing, but feel good that he's going to be able to return. I guess somebody said right before I came in here, Claude said there's questions about tightrope surgery. That's not the case at all. I don't know where that's coming from.”

On playing Georgia Tech as a night game…

“Not a lot of change in preparation. It's different because of the timing of our kids coming back from Thanksgiving, getting here, going over there. The Saturday will be different, but that's really the extent of it. Cooler, night, but that's what we deal with all the time. We have a lot more night games this year than we've had in the past.”

On keeping team on edge during the week…

“I think there's mental and physical exhaustion. They're two different things. You've got to balance those two things and weigh them. You could have both. You could have one or the other. You're trying to have neither. As a coach, you're always trying to balance those two pendulums the best you can. I don't think you ever know for sure. I think you sense things and you talk to your players. If they're honest with you and tell you how they feel, you listen to them.”

On Warren Brinson and Rara Thomas’ statuses…

“Yeah, Rara (Thomas) has a foot sprain. We don't know the severity of it. It's really probably better listed as a bone bruise on his foot. I think he's going to be okay. We don't know yet. We'll see here during the week if he's ever to go. And Warren (Brinson) had the calf strain. Yeah, we wanted him to get rehab and stay here and get well, and hopefully he's able to go today.”

On Shelton Stevens and the Governors’ Cup presentation…

“Shelton (Stevens) is a great, great man. I have a lot of respect for Shelton and what he's done. The immediate image I get when I think of (Children's Healthcare of Atlanta) is Shelton Stevens. He embodies and embraces everything they stand for and did such great work for them for a long time. I've known Shelton for a long time. I didn't really know Shelton until I got to be a head coach. The one thing I'll say about him is he always did the duty that lies nearest. That's the kind of person he was.”

On Georgia Tech’s offense…

“I talked about it earlier, they have a quarterback that can run the ball, which gets you an extra hat in it. He's really fast and really athletic, who happens to throw the ball really well too. (Haynes King) has speed on the perimeter. They've gone out and gotten some really good, fast receivers, some through the portal, some through the high school ranks, that are playing at a high level. They know what they're doing in the run game. They know how to attack you, where to attack you, they understand it, and they have good backs. Same questions you have against our offense. When you've got people that know what they're doing and they have good players doing it, they become really hard to stop, and they are really good offensively.”

On not allowing a punt return this season…

“No, never had that in my career. I've never seen it. I've actually seen negative more than I've seen zero return yards because we've played a couple of teams that have held people to negative return yards, meaning the returner went backwards but he got a return. 

Ours has just been the fact they haven't given up a return is really credit to the staff, the punt coaching staff, the punt players, and the punter, who has to match distance with hang, and you have to have elite coverage and gunners. I don't think people give enough credit to Arian (Smith) and (Dominic Lovett). They've been our gunners on every single route of every single game that the game was not at hand. They've been out there, and they've done an incredible job. It comes back to your punter and your gunners to how you do things. It's pretty remarkable what they've been able to do. We've also had fewer punts than most teams have, which helps with that stat.”

On Bear Bryant and Gene Stallings’ tenures at Alabama…

“I was too young on the Bear Bryant teams. My parents would tell me about him. My dad coached during his tenure there. Gene Stallings, I was actually in Georgia. So I was starting to follow college football in and around the south during that time, but not a lot. I was too young.”

On any changes with weight training and nutrition with Thanksgiving meals…

“Just times. Our times are off a little bit. We move practice up a little bit Wednesday, up a little bit Thursday, do some extra things Friday to help activate, get going. Changing times, not changing the routine, which the change in time makes for a change in routine, but that's the biggest changes.”

On Carson Beck’s consistency…

“Protection, scheme, hard work on his part. That's probably it. Protection, scheme, hard work on his part, watching tape, and really good skill player play.”

On Buster Faulkner…

“Like I said earlier, (Buster Faulkner’s) done a phenomenal job. He would be the first to tell you that it's not he who gets all the credit. He has a great staff of offensive coaches with him. They do a great job. Their offensive line is dirty, nasty, physical, play hard -- Everything you want in your offensive line. You can tell they're a unit. Like I said, your head coach is an offensive guy, that's what you're going to get. Buster's done really well offensively everywhere he's been. Statistically, the reason he came here is he wanted to get an opportunity at a bigger Power Five school, and he got that opportunity. He came here and did good things. He helped us tremendously. He helped the coaches. He brought ideas to our staff. I think he and Mike (Bobo) both played a major support role for Todd (Monken) last year, and Todd would be the first to say they were both idea guys. They brought ideas to the table. They were great to bounce ideas off of. It's always great to have an extra set of eyes. The thing about Buster is he never cared really who got the credit or what the role was. He played a key part in helping Coach Monken with Stetson in terms of developing him.”

On Dominick Blaylock…

“Selflessness is probably the number one thing that stands out. Toughness. He's such a great competitor. Dom is one of those who never says anything. He doesn't complain. He doesn't moan. He goes to work every day. He made some really, really big, critical plays for us over the years, in terms of the stretch run. Going back to his freshman year, touchdown catches, all the way to last year, making plays. He's just very dependable. You've seen the same thing there. They've got him returning punts and doing things offensively. You can see his value as a football player.”

On any concerns of Faulkner knowing the offense…

“There's this thing called tape, and they watch it, and they see what you do. There's no secrets out there. They're not going to go out there and trick them and say, oh, man, Buster knows when that double reverse pass throw back to Brock Bowers is coming. He doesn't know when that's coming. I think you waste a lot of time and energy thinking about that. I think it's great for you guys to write about. Sorry I didn't give you more juice on it.”

On Micah Morris playing and Tate Ratledge’s status…

“Micah (Morris’s) been playing. Micah's been playing a good bit. I thought he did a good job, continues to work hard, get better, condition himself. Tate (Ratledge’s) good. Tate has a bone bruise. He banged knees like we thought. He was sore yesterday and is sore today, limping around, but no structural damage, which is good. Will be just a timetable of how long it takes to turn around.”

On the 2022 Georgia-Georgia Tech game…

“No, they had a good plan. They did a good job. They have good players. I thought they had a good plan. We didn't play exceptionally well early for whatever reason, but they did a good job. I think, when you've got good coaches and good players, that's what you have to defend. You've got to go out and play well. They certainly did a great job starting it off last year.”

On Georgia Tech’s defense…

“I think Kevin (Sherrer), having worked with him before, we all know that games turn on explosive plays and turnovers. You've got to find ways to get those. They've been really disruptive doing that. I know how hard Kevin and them work on it, just like we do, and they've been able to capitalize on those things. That's big. That turnover margin is one of the biggest stats out there.”

On Malaki Starks…

“(Malaki Starks is) really athletic. He could probably go out and play corner for us if he had to. I think, when you look at players, you have to say what can he do and what can't he do? He can do a lot of things, and there's very little that he can't do. He's gotten tougher and more physical with his tackling. He's much more knowledgeable and confident in his abilities. He understands the check system. He gives us the luxury of being able to do extra things that maybe people can't do. A lot of safeties can't really tackle well and play man. He gives us the ability to do both those things. He's done nothing but get better and lead since getting here.”

On Brock Bowers, Jamon Dumas-Johnson, and Julian Humphrey…

“Both those guys are fighting to get back. They're week to week and trying to get back as soon as they can. Brock is okay. He's a little sore. What's happening is he's on his ankle more during the game and getting live tackled, and the catches he got, there's more soreness after the game than there is during the week. So, the recovery takes a little longer with that process. We go lighter on him early in the week because, if you don't, he'll overwork himself. That's been the plan each week.”

On how the coaching staff spends its off-time…

“In the season every hour is accounted for, and the hours that aren't, we want to be with our families. So, it's not like, hey, man, we're going to go play basketball at lunch time today. We just don't have time. The off-season, there's a lot of things we do, and we get a lot more time. I enjoy being with my family during my off time, and most of the coaches do that too. Unless you're doing something within the work hours, it's harder to do things just as a staff. We do them with our team a lot.”

On fun activities with players…

“Off-season, we do that all the time. We have chipping contests, putting contests. We'll have a field goal contest. But in a work week, we're trying to use every minute we can towards work. So there's a time for fun and things like that, especially when you get a break in the action, but when you're on a week-to-week routine, it's harder to do some of those things.”


So. TE Oscar Delp

On growing up in Georgia and his thoughts on the Georgia Tech rivalry compared to others…

"It is a huge one. The best team in the state wins, huge trophy, huge game. They look at it every year, we look at it every year. We have a lot of guys that are over there, that were here previously. It will be a fun one."

On the depth of the offensive line…

"We have known all year long that we have so much depth in the offensive line, we have 10 starters on the offensive line, we can play whoever we want. There is not going to be a drop off, like you would see on other teams. I think Coach (Stacy) Searels and Coach (Mike) Bobo do a really great job at preparing all these guys. We push each other, I have leaders like Sedrick (Van Pran) and Tate (Ratledge), as well as all the older guys on the line. It gets the younger guys ready quicker."

On how they are making their own legacy…

"We are figuring out more of our own identity every day. We just want to be more physical, tough team that goes into every game that tries to make every team quit. We do it every day at practice. We do not compare ourselves to any of the previous teams here. We are just trying to create our own legacy here, our own team and our own identity."


Jr. DB Javon Bullard

On his earliest recollection of the Georgia vs Georgia Tech rivalry and its importance...

"It's an in-state rival, Georgia Tech. It's been that way for years, going to continue to be that way, and like I said, this is more of a pride game than anything. We want to pride ourselves on running this state, so we definitely want to come out on top."

On if having familiar faces (Dominick Blaylock, Brett Seither, and Buster Faulkner) on the other side adds to the rivalry this weekend...

"I don't know if it adds anything, but like I said, it really doesn't matter who's over there. We want to win. Those are our guys. Those will always be our brothers, but at the end of the day they're on a different team this year, so we're going to try to come out with the victory."

On his move to secure the PBU in the end zone against Tennessee and how much fun the team is having...

"That's a little DB thing, a little seat belt action, but that's something that we do all around the country, just DBs as a collective group. But I mean it's fun, man. This game is fun. I feel like people put a little too much pressure in a sense. It's still a game. We're athletes. We're students. We're just playing the game that we love, playing the game that we've been playing since we were five or six years old. I know for me personally, there's never any pressure of playing the game, of doing something that I love to do. I don't really get into the streaks and things like that, but any time I step onto the field it's a pleasure. I'm grateful. I show tremendous gratitude. I'm thankful for the man above who gave me the opportunity to play this game. Any time I step out there with my brothers – I shed tears and I bled with those guys – so any time I get to step out there with them it's always going to be fun."

  • Associated Categories: Sports, Georgia Bulldogs
  • Associated Tags: Georgia football
© Copyright 2023 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.