WATCH: Everything Kirby Smart said as Georgia football begins spring practice
Georgia began spring practice on Tuesday, the first of its 15 this spring.
Before taking the practice field, Georgia coach Kirby Smart spoke with reporters on a number of topics. From the upcoming quarterback battle to when he knew he was going to promote Mike Bobo to become the team’s offensive coordinator, Smart covered a wide range of topics.
“We’ve got several guys that are out for spring. We always talk about this at the beginjing. Dan Jackson is still out. Marvin Jones had shoulder surgery. Josh Miller came in with a shoulder surery. Andrew Paul is still out with an ACL and Jalon Walker is out with a shoulder surgery. We’ve got four guys, five guys who are out for the spring. Probably less than we’ve had in recent years and I’m looking forward to a lot of competition and battles across the line in terms of positions. We’ve got a lot of positions up for grabs.
On recent arrests for racing, what have you done to try to send a message about racing and speeding to reinforce your message:
“To be honest with you, I’ve never been a part of a program where that was something that you had to repeatedly address and I’ve said in the past, we had a session this summer. We brought in Athens Clarke County police and UGA police to address a lot of these issues with our team in a team meeting setting and played some video of things that were going on in Atlanta drag racing and things. Things that just concern you. We do that with drugs and alcohol, we do that with domestic violence. We try to have education programs. Education is not enough. You have to do a great job of making sure your players understand the risks and dangers that are out there with vehicles, especially nowadays that go really fast. You’ve got to be extremely careful. We try to educate and make sure our players understand those risks, but the ongoing part of that is to continue to educate them and let them know. That’s a programming piece for us we do in the fall and we do in the spring. We spend a lot of time educating our players on the dangers they can get into. We’ll continue to do that and we treat it very seriously.”
On policy changes not being needed:
“The first thing I want to clarify, it’s no policy or lack-thereof policy that caused this accident. Policies are constantly under review and trying to find things we can do better. But no policy or lack thereof, and we found no reason to change anything we have. Our workers in our department have the ability to drive a vehicle or not drive a vehicle that is rented. Those student workers and the two young ladies had permission to drive those vehicles, and they were driving them when they should not have been driving them. That policy was broken. It’s understood that you cannot take a vehicle when you’re not doing your duties, and they were not participating in their duties at that time.”
On if Smart has exercised proper control, oversight and supervison of the program or has this situation gotten out of hand for you:
“No, absolutely. We’ve got complete control of our program and our kids in our program. Do kids make mistakes? Yes, young student-athletes make mistakes. They do. It happens all across the country and it happens here. Um, there’s no lack of control in our program. I think our kids across the board will tell you that we have an incredible culture here, we have connective tissue that brings our team together. Our guys do make mistakes. That’s historically probably going to happen when you’re 18 to 22-year-olds. Our job as coaches is to prevent that from happening and that starts with me. You do it by how you educate your players and how you discipline your players and we’ll continue to do that at a high standard.”
On education for street racing, what can be done outside of education and what penalties players will face:
“First, that’s a really big question and a really broad based question. Anytime we have a player disciplined with law enforcement we discipline them. That’s very commonplace. In the case of Jalen, he’s not on our team currently so that’s a hard question to answer when you talk about discipline for what just occurred. Really that’s an ongoing investigation for which he hasn’t been tried. Very similarly, with Jamon. He still has a day in court for those charges that are still charges right now. He has to handle that in court. Will he be disciplined? Pop, absolutely will be disciplined. Do I have to define what that discipline is right now? No I don’t have to define what that discipline is, but I can assure you that the education piece is there and that the discipline is there. Our team is a very disciplined team, they’ll do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it, and when they don’t, they’re going to face the repercussions of that. That’ll be the case in all these situations we’re talking about. I do think it’s a piece that needs to be educated and talked about further, and I’m very proud of the fact that we brought in speakers to educate our players about what’s going on across the country at a time in the summer when that was imminent. There were things going on across Atlanta, they see those things and a lot of times they want to mimic those. They see those drag racing, street racing and you always want to monitor that. As far as monitoring speeding, that’s a little more difficult because those don’t come directly to us when those kids get a speeding ticket. I don’t have any way of knowing. I know when our kids get arrested, but I don’t have a way of policing speeding unless I’m aware of it.”
On if there any changes to the structure of your organization that you’re going to make or policies that you think can help with off-field behavior:
“I don’t think, again, it’s following the protocols that we have in terms of discipline and structure. I don’t think we have any kind of problem with that. We’ve had players that have faced suspensions. We lost a player mid-year that was disciplined and kicked off the team. We’ve lost players in the past for behavioral issues. That will continue to stand up and stand tried and true. I think it’s important that if you’re going to play at the University of Georgia, you represent the University of Georgia the right way. But I also think that these are young men that are going to make mistakes. I’m a big believer in education, helping them become better. It’s not just, does the discipline fit the behavior? Can you change the behavior? That’s really what we’re charged with, right, growing young men into adults, making sure they graduate, making sure they become better people. We’ve got to find better ways within our organization to continue to do that to help them. That’s what we want to do. We want to help these young men become better people. I got a text from Jonathan Ledbetter and he talked to me a long time about what it did for his life and how much it changed his life. Malik Herring, another guy. When you see the positive effect of guys growing from mistakes they made, that’s the things you want to try to help them with.”
On how Smart anticipates managing the quarterbacks Will they be live? How will you break down reps:
“Well we think we have three really good quarterbacks. I’m really excited about all three of those guys to grow and get better. We will never, well, I won’t say never, that’s not right. We will not be live. We have not been live with our quarterbacks in the seven years I’ve been here. We will not be live with them unless we decide we need to. I do look forward to seeing Carson and Brock getting a lot of that action. They’ll both rep with the ones. As far as how much, that’ll play itself out over the course of spring. Gunner’s come a long way. I’m excited to see what those guys can do. They’ve been excited about meeting and doing things with Coach Bobo and the offensive staff. I’m excited to see those guys practice and compete.”
On what gave you the confidence to promote Mike Bobo and what kind of changes will there be with verbiage:
“There won’t be much change in verbiage. If anything, there will be some additions, maybe some slight wrinkles. We feel like the verbiage for the kids works great. He’s comfortable with the verbiage. He was in it last year with Coach Monken. Really, our entire offensive staff, you’ve got to remember when Coach Monken got here, some of that verbiage remained the same too. So it wasn’t like it was a total transformation of language. You’ve got to think about a guy like Dell McGee or Hartley who’s been here pre-Monken and now they’re here post-Monken. There’s a lot of carryover because B-Mac, Stacy, and Todd have all been in a room with Mike. Dell’s known Mike for a long time. The decision was the continuity we have on offense, we want to keep that going. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Mike and the job he’s done with offenses in the past.”
On Carson Beck vs. Brock Vandagriff:
“I think it’s hard to say who has the stronger arm. I think those two guys would argue about who has the stronger arm. I don’t honestly know who has the stronger arm from what I’ve seen in the past. I think they both have to play in game action. I thnk they both have a really good pocket presence. Brock is a really good athlete. I think Brock has added about 14 or 15 pounds of muscle. He wanted to get back to 215 out of his 203, 204 playing range. And Carson has lost a little weight from 220, so they’re right at the same size. It’s hard to say the differences between those two.
“I don’t think people give Carson enough credit for being a good athlete. He was a really good baseball player. He has great movement skills. He’s not going to run as fast as Stetson. I think Brock is a good athlete who can see the field. Carson has probably played a little more but both those guys are good. And look, I wouldn’t count Gunner Stockton out of this thing because this kid is talented, smart. I got to see him on the scout team the entire year. We really saw him grow. When Monken left, I asked him where he thought our quarterback room was. He was very adamant that we have three talented young quarterbacks and Mike inheriting that room certainly feels that way too. Excited about those guys.
On Earnest Greene’s health and the offensive tackles:
“Earnest is in a good spot. Thank goodness Ron (Courson) had the foresight to have the surgery, I think it was October 10 maybe, sometime in October he had the surgery in the thought that we would get him back for spring. His conditioning level may not be exactly where we need it to be but he’s been working out with the team. He’s been doing offseason workouts with the team. He’s been able to do all the stuff he’s required to do. He’ll go out there and compete. Amarius Mims will go out there. (Austin) Blaske will be out there. Monroe Freeling will be out there, Chad Lindberg. We’ll have a lot of guys competing at tackle.
“We have a pretty high bar for what the standard is at offensive tackle at Georgia and those two guys last year played really well. We’ll have good competition this year.”
On when Kirby knew he would promote Bobo when Monken got NFL job, ways Bobo has adapted:
“When did I know? I didn’t think about during the season. It never crossed my mind. You always know you can lose a coach but I was focused on the season. I never thought, well, if Monken leaves. That never crossed my mind until probably around the National Championship game because you’re thinking, well, we’re the only team playing. We’re playing for the National Championship. All my attention and focus is there. Immediately after the game you’re thinking, well, if I lose this guy, who am I hiring? I was very comfortable at that point that if we lost Todd and he decided to go back to the NFL, because that’s the only thing I felt like he would leave for, that I would go with Mike. Because I felt very comfortable with his leadership in the room. I asked Monken his opinion, leaving, what he thought, and I thought it was important to keep that dynamic in the room set. We weren’t losing multiple coaches.
“I think Mike has grown a lot since he went out to Colorado State and the time he has spent here. I went against him at South Carolina. I went against him at Auburn, which gave me ultimate confidence that he would get this job done. We played them with probably the most talented defense I’ve been a part of and they went on a 16-play drive there at Auburn against us on the opening drive of the game. I just have a lot of confidence in his leadership skills and what he’ll be able to do offensively.”
On Jalon Walker and Marvin Jones being out and impact on the OLB position:
“It’s probably the youngest position on the roster. I think we have five players in their first spring or their first year. So the three mid-years, CJ (Madden), and Darris Smith. I’m counting those five guys. That doesn’t even count Marvin (Jones Jr.). So there’s six guys within that one-year span. That’s a really young position. Chaz (Chambliss) is kind of the old vet there now so we’ll see how it goes. Those young guys have looked good in workouts. When you talk about how our guys run around and how they move, there’s a really good group of guys. But there’ll be a lot of reps and work there to replace the Nolans and Beals who were there forever.”
On if Smart would hope to see enough from the three quarterbacks to have an idea of a pecking order by the end of spring practice:
“That’s definitely a hypothetical, Anthony. What would I like? I’d like having a guy that started for a year or two years being your quarterback. We don’t have that, so we have a competition. So we have to figure out who is going to perform the best in that competition, and that comes from scrimmages. You know, we’ve got I think three Saturday scrimmages including G-Day that’ll go a long way to telling where they are, but that’s never the total story, right? We’ve got two spring practices before we play our first game [and] 26 or 28 practices in fall camp that’ll tell a lot more.”
On what transfers Rara Thomas, Dominic Lovett and Smoke Bouie bring to Georgia:
“I think their experience. When you talk about Dom and RaRa, they’re guys that have competed in our league, they’ve caught a lot of passes in our league, they’ve been very productive in our league and it was a position that we were losing several players at. We needed to be able to help our quarterbacks. Quarterbacks need some weapons to throw to, and those guys do that.
And then with Deyon, he’s a guy that I’ve known a long time. Since ninth grade he’s been coming up here to camp. We’ve known a lot about him, and we’re looking forward to seeing him go compete in a secondary with a lot of open spots.”
On if Rara Thomas will be with the team this spring:
“Yeah, so RaRa’s been cleared with the recent changes in his deal to participate with the team. He still has some ongoing things with campus that has to be cleared, but he’s going to be free to be able to practice with us right now.”
On Austin Blaske and Monroe Freeling as possible tackles:
“Yeah, Monroe, I don’t know if I can tell you a lot more about him. We’ve only had him for, I guess, maybe eight weeks, six weeks, whatever it is. He didn’t come in early during bowl practices and practice with us, but he’s really done well in workouts. He’s extremely flexible, he’s tough, he can run, he’s got great length, he’s added some weight, but I haven’t seen the guy play football, OK? So I can’t go and say what he can and can’t do.
Now, Austin Blaske has played a lot of football. He’s worked at tackle. He worked while Warren McClendon was out there for a while, he got a lot of reps at tackle. He competes at tackle. He’s really athletic. He can flip over and play at center, so I’ve seen him and know he’s a very vital candidate to compete for one of the starting jobs.”
On Georgia’s Pro Day, which takes place on Wednesday:
“You know, I don’t know that I can answer the exact question of who we have that’s working out that didn’t go to the combine. That list will be pretty long. We’ve actually got a couple guys that left in the portal that are going to come back and work out and compete. Ameer Speed’s coming back, a couple other guys are going to come back. I think Kolby Wyatt’s coming back. I think Matt Landers may be back to help Stetson with the throwing and doing the throwing session because we don’t have enough receivers. But I’ll be able to probably answer those questions better tomorrow when we move to Pro Day.”
On the health of running back Andrew Paul:
“In [Ron Courson’s] words, he would compare it to probably where [Nick] Chubb was that first spring we got here. If you remember, Chubb got hurt in that Tennessee game. Andrew’s [injury] was a little bit earlier than that — I think August, the last scrimmage maybe or second-to-last scrimmage he got injured. So he is not cleared, but he’s on track. He is going to do individual drills. He’s going to be able to go out and do all the competition outside of the 11-on-11. He won’t be able to do the 11-on-11 tackling drills, but we feel good about where he’s going to be for fall camp and what he’s going to be able to do.
And I’ll say this for Ron and his staff: This is the least number of guys we have out for medical reasons going into a spring that we’ve had in a while. We also have 21 either mid-years or the three portal guys that’ll be out there — not all of them are practicing, but available to practice. So it definitely increases our depth.”
Georgia players Kendall Milton, Zion Logue and Ladd McConkey also spoke on Tuesday. You can see their full comments in the videos below.
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