Georgia football coach Kirby Smart: 3 telling comments on Florida
ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart doesn’t often bother with small talk or gamesmanship.
The Bulldogs head coach was pretty direct once again on Monday in his weekly press conference, expressing his concerns along with the team’s areas of emphasis entering into Florida rivalry week.
Smart is 6-3 against Top 10-ranked teams as Georgia’s head coach. But many in his fanbase have recently called his coaching style into question and challenged the talents and usage of the players he has recruited.
This, despite the Bulldogs being ranked No. 8 in the nation with a 6-1 overall record that includes a 3-1 mark in SEC play.
Georgia is actually favored to beat No. 6-ranked Florida (7-1, 4-1) in the 3:30 p.m. game on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla. (TV: CBS).
But you wouldn’t know it the way some UGA fans are taking to social media with complains and concerns.
Smart is a victim of his own success, setting the bar high with a 13-2 season in 2017 that culminated with a near-miss in the national championship game.
The Bulldogs were 11-3 last season and narrowly missed making the College Football Playoffs, a loaded 13-member selection committee with sitting ADs from Georgia Tech, Florida and Oklahoma factoring into the outcome.
But this 2019 season, many believed — and some still do — was/is supposed to be the year Georgia breaks through and wins it all.
The Bulldogs’ defense ranks No. 1 in the league in total defense, scoring defense and run defense and comes in at No. 2 in pass efficiency defense.
Offensively, Georgia is on pace to lead the SEC in rushing for a third straight year. The offensive line, despite its rash of injuries, was recently named one of 10 finalists for the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the best O-Line in college football.
So what was on Kirby Smart’s mind on Monday?
Here are three key things the UGA head coach said:
Window to concern
Smart was asked about Florida blitzing, but his answer revealed the Gators’ defensive front is good enough that it doesn’t need to. Further, Smart made it clear Florida has several pressure packages and coverage looks that Jake Fromm will have to deal with.
“They do a great job of rushing with their four guys, and allows them to do more coverage wise,” Smart said. “They’ve got some alternative pressures and different looks, kind of like we do defensively, where it might look like pressure, but it’s not. It’s called simulated pressure.
“But they don’t have to do that as much because of the four guys they got rushing, especially the two guys on the edge are really elite when it comes to pass rush.”
Defensive front pivotal
It’s always interesting when a head coach is asked about one thing and starts talking about another, and in this case, insightful.
Smart was asked about the importance of the secondary, but his answer began with how important it is for the defensive front to get pressure and control the run.
It’s a good indication Smart has plenty of confidence in his secondary to do the job provided the front can get to Kyle Trask and maintain gap integrity.
“The secondary, I mean, everything is going to be important because you have to say the front is important to affect the quarterback,” Smart said. “The front’s got to control the run game. You have to be able to pressure the quarterback and affect him, but every time you do that you gotta be able to cover on the back. It never changes.
“You have to be able to cover people man to man to be able to play these teams. You got to. If you can’t do that, it makes it harder on you to even be able to think about pressuring.”
The elephant in the room
Everyone knows the key to Georgia winning the SEC Championship comes down to the receivers’ ability to beat one-on-one press coverage and make plays on the football.
Smart said it’s not about Jake Fromm, it’s solely on those perimeter players to earn their scholarships and make plays.
“It’s not about the relationship as much as it is the ability to win one-on-one, win in space,” Smart said. “We call them 50/50 balls or back shoulders, whatever it may be. We have to win more battles when it comes to that, because people in our league are going to play you a certain type of way.
“So you have to be able to win those. I don’t think it’s relationship driven or rep driven.”