Kirby Smart delivers some pearls to TD Club

Kirby Smart is interviewed by 960 The Ref's David Johnston shortly before addressing the Touchdown Club of Athens Monday night at Athens Country Club.

ATHENS — Kirby Smart spoke for a good, long time at Athens Country Club Monday night. Georgia’s first-year coach was the featured speaker for the first meeting of the Touchdown Club of Athens, which is a long-standing tradition for the Bulldogs’ head honcho.

Smart appeared relaxed and fairly jovial for the standing-room only crowd. But he also was guarded as usual. He tap-danced as much as he could with regard to Georgia’s quarterback competition and injuries to Elijah Holyfield and Sony Michel. But when it came to the Bulldogs’ coaches and players and the general processes and procedures they employ every day, Smart was fairly forthcoming.

Here’s some of the things we learned:

On showing the team the movies — Friday The 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street — before the last two scrimmages …

“That’s who we want them to be. We want them to be scary.  Just like the guy in  the mask, you can’t kill him. He keeps coming back. As soon as you do kill them, well, here comes the sequel.”

On  how he talks to the team all the time about being the thermostat and not the thermometer. …

“The thermometer merely reacts to the temperature. The thermostat controls the temperature. That’s what we want to do.”

On 16 of the first 19 preseason practices being disrupted by rain or lightning and being anxious to get into the indoor practice facility. …

“My frustration level is through the roof because I can’t control it.”

On tailback Sony Michel’s availability for the first game …

“Sony’s doing all he can. There’s only so much he can do. That bone’s got to heal. The doctors have got to feel comfortable that he’s safe to put himself out there and be able to play with that injury. His conditioning, all his GPS numbers are great. But that doesn’t matter. … It’s more about putting pressure on that arm and that’s just a matter of time. We certainly want to have him back, but we don’t know if we will or not.”

On special teams …

“I actually feel better about the punter and kicker situation. But I don’t feel good about the coverage aspect, the part I thought we’d be fine on. I think what’s happening is our depth issue. There’s a lot of guys who are starting and playing on special teams. I believe your starters should be on special teams. But I also don’t think your starters should be on more than one or two of them, and we’ve got an abundance of guys on a lot of those. That can’t play a part in a hot game or a high-anxiety game like the first one. Guys tend to cramps more. So we’ve got to watch that. But I do feel better about the punter situation and the field-goal situation than I did. It’s the coverage units right now. And North Carolina has an unbelievable returner, a guy who might break every record for punt returns in the country, and the kickoff returns are the same way. So the coverage units are a concern.”

On Alabama graduate transfer DB Maurice Smith …

“He’s done really well. The system is so similar, the first day he’s able to sit there and go out there and make calls. He knows it a lot better than a lot of our other guys because he’s had three years in it. … He’s been able to transition and get into it good. Now as far as getting to know the players, a lot of those guys have taken him in, taken him out to eat, they’re getting to now him. He’s a very likable young man and very hard-working. The best thing is he’s a really good leader. That’s why I wish we could’ve gotten him in here earlier in camp because he can show a lot of guys how to work and push them. He’s been able to do that but it’s just hard in a short time. He’s helping on special teams because he knows a lot of the special teams stuff.”

On tailback Elijah Holyfield’s play …

“He’s picking up things. He’s learned. He’s very attentive. He’s very prideful. … He really does care a lot about how he plays. so when you tell him something, you better be right, because he’s going to do it exactly how you say. He’s a joy to coach. He runs hard.”

On graduate transfer offensive tackle Tyler Catalina …

“Catalina’s adjusting very well. He’s played better every practice. I was very concerned the first practice. … I remember in 1994 when I played here we had a guy come in here from Walla Walla, Washington. Y’all remember who that was? Matt Storm. He fell out in two-a-days. I’m talking about pads off, everything. They were pumping him with IVs.

“We had a moment like that with Catalina. I was holding my breath early on because it’s hot and he’s not used to it. But since that moment and since we’ve put on pads, he’s gotten better and better with each practice. He’s really a bright kid. Strong. So I think he’s going to help us, give us depth. That’s not to say he’s your prototype 6-foot-6 left tackle. I’m not ready to say that. But he’s improved the depth of our offensive line. We’ve got probably six to seven guys there, and I’ve never gone through a season where we haven’t had at least one or two guys out for a game. So we’ve got six our seven guys we feel comfortable with and that’s one of the units I think has really improved and gotten more cohesive.”

On Nick Saban saying Georgia is one of the best coaching jobs in America …

“Oh, he’s just trying to set the expectations for me [laughter]. There’s no doubt about that. Have you ever heard a coach say they have the best job in the country and they should win every game? Heck no! You’re always going to point to somebody else.

“I think he’s just pointing out the fact that (Georgia) is a really fertile recruiting ground. He’s always said that for 11 years. … That’s always been his pointed comment. It certainly is an awesome job. I think it’s a great job. There’s a lot of talent around this place. You’ve got to harness that talent and get them all to play for the University of Georgia. … They’ve got to play for the University of Georgia and want to make it great. That will make things easier.”

 

NextGeorgia practice update: Quarterbacks and Holyfield
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