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What Kirby Smart Said About Tennessee Ahead Of Top Five Tilt

Tennessee Postgame
Tennessee DB Jaylen McCollough and Georgia HC Kirby Smart. Photo by RTI.

Tennessee heads to Athens Saturday for the game of the year in the college football regular season. The winner will claim the No. 1 spot in the nation and all but clinch the SEC east title.

Georgia is the reigning National Champion and has won 11 straight games dating back to last year’s SEC Championship loss to Alabama. Tennessee is unbeaten on the season with five ranked wins.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart has discussed Tennessee’s high powered offense, fast tempo and much more about the Vols this week.

Here’s everything Smart’s said previewing Tennessee.

On what allows Tennessee to start fast

“They go really fast. They get a lot of at-bats in terms of possessions, and they do start fast. I think our team has done a really good job of growing and getting better throughout this year. And each week, including the off-week, it’s, like, I see marked improvement. I really want to continue to do that. We’re trending in the right direction in terms of getting better both offensively and defensively.”

On if you have to prepare for Tennessee’s offense during the offseason

“Yeah, we worked on them in the offseason, but we work on a lot of opponents in the offseason. We worked on them in the bye week, but we worked on two or three opponents in the bye week. It is a challenge to get ready for because — they’ll be the first to tell you, they don’t watch all of your tape because they — some of it they use, some of it they don’t. They have some traditional formations and traditional plays. But a lot of theirs is very different. It’s very unique and they have a plan of attack based on how you’re going to play them. It’s not like they haven’t seen — you’re not going to trick them. You’re not going to show them something they haven’t seen. You got to do what you do better than they do. And they’re really good at what they do.”

On if there’s similarities between Tennessee’s offense and Alabama’s offense last season

“No. No comparison in terms of the offenses. They’re just completely different.”

On the characteristics of a Rodney Garner defensive line

“Toughness. You know, he’s old school when it comes to striking people and playing with physical toughness. You know when you’re playing against one of his defensive lines, they’re not going to run from contact. They’re not going to shy from contact. They’re not going to back down from a challenge. And it’s not because of what they’re going to do this week, it’s because of the way he’s molded them and the way he’s coached them. You know, he coaches tough, he coaches hard. And he hadn’t changed that with the change in generations of players. He’s always done that. Even when I was a GA here, he was coaching them hard.”

On if there’s an extra emphasis on conditioning when playing Tennessee

“If they’re not in shape, then you did something wrong long before. So we’ve been building towards this week in terms of — since week one, the conditioning level of our players has been a concern every week for me. It’s one of the major concerns, Are you in good enough shape? Because if you’re not, you can’t make it up in one week. So it’s one of those things we work really hard on. I don’t know how much other teams condition in the country, but we do a lot because I think it’s really important. Unfortunately, we haven’t had a lot of games where we’ve played a lot of snaps. So that goes back to, If you’re not playing them in the game, you better get it done during the week. And, you know, we’ve worked hard at it. We’re going to find out on Saturday if we’re in shape or not. I can promise you that because they’re going to try and get a lot of snaps in.”

On what makes Tennessee receivers so explosive

“Speed, space, scheme, talented arm. You know, you can have the best receivers in the world, and they get open all the time, if you don’t have somebody that can get it to them — they have somebody that can protect them and get it to him. They do a good job of that. Again, that’s the challenge for us this week.”

More From RTI: Georgia Beat Writer Palmer Thombs Previews Tennessee-Georgia

On what stands out about Hendon Hooker

“Just another year experienced in the offense. You know, he’s one step ahead of where he was. To think of the reps and the games he’s played since the games last year, he’s just as elusive, he’s got probably the same arm talent. Those two don’t improve. It’s his decision-making and his processing. And the guys around him are playing better, too. I mean, they’re playing much better across the offensive line, they’re running the ball, they got explosive playmakers that are playing better. So they’ve improved around him and he’s improved.”

On the expectations for his outside linebackers against Tennessee

“Tennessee is not necessarily a pass-happy offense. I don’t know if y’all have watched them, but they run the ball really well. I think you could say that statistically they have explosive passes. They are a running team that chunks it deep. They do a really good job with explosive pass plays. They commit to the run. There is a toughness there. Their backs run really tough. That is the next man up. Those guys have to play. They practice every day just like Nolan (Smith) does. They have to have an opportunity to go play. This is the next man up. The twos practice every day. Our threes practice every day. Our scouts practice every day. Those are the guys that will have to go play.”

On if he learned anything from how Alabama’s defense played Tennessee

“Not really. We have got Bama’s game from last year and our game from last year. We have all the games. We look at all the games. You evaluate how people have played them and what has been successful. They are looking at every game on us and trying to see where the explosive plays are coming from. They have certain plays they are going to run regardless of that. It is probably more different for us to play them because everybody they play plays them differently because of their offense. We don’t put more stock in one game over the others.”

On Tennessee’s tempo

“All I know is that they were number one in the country last year in pace of play and pace of play in a minute. They are number one this year. I would say that is it faster because everybody is back. Their offensive line has four or five guys back. Their quarterback is back. The backs are back. The receivers are back. When you get everybody back, it is like Stetson (Bennett) being back. You know how to do it faster. You know how to do it quicker and get it in and out of plays, which they do a great job of doing.”

On the challenges Tennessee’s wide splits create

“It pulls you away from the box. There’s no half in, half out. You’re either all in or you’re all out. It doesn’t allow you to hide or disguise things. It makes you play. It’s been that way for a long time now. He (Josh Heupel) did some of the same things while at Missouri when he was there.”

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One Response

  1. We had been on the downside for so long. But now we have a coach again that believes and supports his players. And he has given the players an ego to believe in themselves and their team mates. They know they can accomplish the tasks required and more. It is what great player have internal to themselves, and it’s contagious. Love my Tn. Team

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