Georgia head coach Kirby Smart met with the media on Monday for his weekly press conference. During his presser, he talked a lot about the Bulldogs’ upcoming opponent, the Tennessee Volunteers.
Here’s everything Smart had to say about the Vols prior to Saturday’s match-up.
Opening statement discussing the Vols:
“We’ll start off with Tennessee. We worked on Tennessee a little bit last week, as well as some of our future opponents, but primarily on Tennessee on Thursday. I think Jeremy (Pruitt) is doing a great job with the situation he’s in. I certainly know this: They play hard. They play physical. You can turn the tape on in the third and fourth quarter and watch how their kids compete, and they play the game the right way. You look at last year’s game with us, they fought extremely hard, made it a game there in the second half, and the games they’ve been in this year they’ve just had a lot of turnovers and their defense has actually forced a lot of turnovers. They’ve just turned the ball over quite a bit, and it’s hurt them some in some games. But they have a good football team, have a lot of players that we recruited, and have a lot of respect for the coaching staff. I think they do a great job, and they’re kicking butt in special teams, which will be an extra challenge for us, because we didn’t fare as well last time out in special teams. So this will be a tough ball game, at night, their place, and our guys have to get ready to play.”
On if he’s more motivated against Tennessee because he’s a former Georgia player:
“Not really. I don’t think about the games that I played. These kids don’t think about that, it has no impact whatsoever on this game. Most of them weren’t born when that was going on. So, I don’t think it has much of an impact on it. I think it’s a rivalry game, and I think that when you’re going to play a team that’s a rivalry game for you and also somebody you recruit against and they come into our state and recruit a lot, we recruit a lot in their state, it’s an important ball game, but that’s more to do with the here and now than the past.”
On if he’ll talk to Cade Mays about playing Tennessee:
“Well, he had that last year. I know it wasn’t there, but it was the same emotions, I think, that he played with. Obviously when your father plays for that school and you grow up in that town, there’s a lot of emotions there. But Cade has played in a lot of big games. He’s played a lot of snaps, a lot of positions. I think he understands that he cannot let the emotion get the best of him. He knows a lot of the guys on their team and kind of was around a lot of them, but Cade has good control, he has good self-control, and he understands what he can and can’t do, and he’ll play hard just like they’ll play hard against him.”
On facing Jim Chaney’s offense:
“I think there’s a lot more to it in your guys’ stories than there is in real life. It’s going to boil down to which guy blocks properly, which guy covers properly. There’s no, like, secrets. I mean we know what they do, they know what we do. But that’s the case every week. That’s what the tape’s for. So, there’s a lot of familiarity there. And at the end of the day, the players have to go out and execute. They have to play with a passion and energy and enthusiasm to beat the guy across from him and not make it about what our defensive coordinator calls or what their offensive coordinator calls. I just don’t think that matters a whole lot. At the end of the day, it’s blocking, tackling, turnovers, explosive plays, executing, and doing it with a lot of passion.”
On if he’s seen enough of Brian Maurer to know what’s different about him compared to Jarrett Guarantano:
“No, I don’t know that I’ve seen enough. Obviously he’s a really good athlete, but so is Jarrett. I mean, they both can run the ball and both do things with that package. I thought he came in and did a good job. First series he was in there he did a nice job moving the ball down the field, and he is a good athlete. We know him from high school and have seen him play.”
“Eric Stokes, [Georgia cornerback] we think is going to be able to practice today. Again, he did not practice on Thursday. He conditioned and ran and moved around, but he wasn’t able to practice. He’s supposed to be able to go full-go in practice. Tyson (Campbell) [Georgia corner] is still limited a little bit, hoping to get him back before the end of the week. He’s recovering quickly. Don’t really know any on the defensive line. Solomon (Kindley) we expect to be able to go out today and do some work. We think he’s going to be cleared to play, but we just don’t know if he’s going to be able to or not. It’s going to depend on how many reps he can get today and tomorrow. Kearis (Jackson) is cleared to play. He’s going to be able to play. We think he’s going to be able to go out and do a good job for us. He practiced last week. Like I said, he’s been practicing all long. It’s never gone away with his situation. He’s just going to have a different brace on, a different splint on, but we think he’s going to be good to go.”
On what the shutout win over Tennessee in 2017 meant for the rise of the program:
“I think they were in such a different state at that time, you know. Their program was in a different direction than it really is now, and I don’t look at that game as any kind of indication of where we’ve gone. Jake (Fromm) played well in a tough environment, but we had a different football team. You know, we had an extremely — very experienced defensive football team, and we had some really good players on offense at the skill positions. I think that game obviously has nothing to do with this game. They’re playing with a high motor and a chip on their shoulder, and they’re playing extremely hard, and we know we’re going to get their best shot and our job is to make sure they get our best shot.”
On Eli Wolf transitioning to Georgia:
“Seems to be smooth. I mean there’s a lot of similarities into the way we do things here and the way they do things there, at least from his perspective. So, it’s not like something brand new for him. There’s a lot of carryover.
“Offensively, different words and some different things. He’s in his — I don’t know what number offense in the last four years, but he’s in a different offense again, which he went through there and he went through coming here. So, the transition has been smooth for him because he’s bright, he picks things up, he’s smart. But he works hard at it, and he’s got a lot of pride in knowing what to do, and that part he spent extra time on so that he could have an effective senior year.”
On the challenge of defending Jauan Jennings:
“Well, he’s one of the most physical players, competitive players that I’ve ever seen. I mean he repeatedly blocks people. He plays physical at the point of attack. He goes up and attacks the ball. He’s always had really good ball skills, and after he catches it is when he sometimes becomes the most dangerous because he’s really hard to get on the ground. He’s physical. So, he does a good job. They do a really good job of moving him around and using his skill set, and he’s one of the better receivers we’ll face this year. When you get in the SEC, it’s week-in, week-out. There’s going to be a really good wideout on the other team, and he’s one of them.”
On Tennessee’s team compared to last year:
“Their depth, their physicality. They were thinner at some positions last year. They’ve got more guys. They’re rolling and playing more guys. They’re playing really hard, and they play really physical. You look at the games they’ve played this year, they’ve had some self-inflicted wounds. Otherwise, they’re winning or in those games. And you know the way they’re coaching and the way they’re demanding, they’ve got a good staff. They’re going to push these kids, and they’re getting them better. They’ve had a whole week to get better and improve, and I think it shows on tape when you watch them how hard they play, that they’re on the brink of something special, and you can tell these guys are playing hard, and they’re playing with a lot of young guys. There’s a lot of guys out there that were recruited last year in a lot of situations.”
BONUS: Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari on his brother being committed to Tennessee:
“It’s going to be a good one. I know he’s going to be there, but I’m still trying to change his mind. I know he’ll be rooting for me and the Vols for sure, so we’ll see how that plays out.”