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What Kirby Smart Said About Tennessee Football Ahead Of Saturday’s Matchup

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

Georgia coach Kirby Smart met with the Athens local media earlier this week ahead of Saturday’s top 25 matchup at Neyland Stadium.

The Bulldogs are looking for their 27th straight victory but are battling a look ahead syndrome with Tennessee coming off a blowout loss and Georgia having already clinched the SEC East title.

Smart discussed avoiding a let down, Tennessee’s roster personnel and much more. Here’s everything Smart said about the Vols.

More From RTI: Tennessee Bowl Projections Post Missouri Loss

Opening statement

“We’re on to Tennessee. It’s an incredibly hard prep week. Probably the hardest one of the year in terms of trying to replicate what they do. They do a tremendous job of stressing you in all phases. They’ve always been good with Josh in terms of offensively but I think what they’ve been able to do defensively this year is really impressive. They play really good defense, really good offense. The tempo is hard to match and then their special teams— that’s the phase no one talks about— these guys are really elite on special teams. You can tell they put a lot of time and effort into it. It’s a huge challenge. When you go on the road in the SEC, I say it all the time, it doesn’t matter who, where, when. It doesn’t matter anything about anybody’s record, the only thing that matters is if you’re playing on the road in the SEC in a really tough environment and the prep for that is kind of the challenge that our team has to embrace. Our team has to embrace, it’s different when you go on the road in our league. Especially when you go to play a team as talented as Tennessee is.”

On the key to stopping Tennessee’s rushing attack

“You can’t stop it with light boxes. They make it where you can’t. You have to be able to strike a man, get off a block and football is so simple when it comes down to your ability to play block protection or block people. You either get blocked or don’t get blocked and you have to win a whole bunch of one-on-ones if you don’t have enough people in there because they expose you quickly and they’re very physically tough. Their o-line plays that way. Their backs are easily the best stable of backs we’ve seen this year in terms of the package of backs they have and that’s including the quarterback. It’s a really tough prep. They do a really great job. The box count is what it is. They know what you got. They know what you don’t got so it boils down to who can strike a block and get off a block.”

On Tennessee’s defensive line taking the next step this season

“They’ve got good players. They play really hard. They strike at the point of attack. They’re aggressive. They’re hard to move because they’re big and then they have elite pass rushers. When you have an elite pass rusher, people who can push the pocket, it creates sacks and things. They are very good defensively and a really big challenge when you talk about the front. There’s the rush and then there’s controlling the line of scrimmage for your ability to control the ball. They’re good at both.”

On Dolly Parton being at the game, if he knows who she is and tuning out extra curricular 

“Do know who Dolly Parton is. I have parents who watch the Grand Ole Opry. Was not aware that she was going to attend the game. We focus on us every week. It has nothing to do with last year’s game. Every time we play Tennessee it’ll probably be 3:30 CBS or 7 ESPN. It’s a big game every year we play Tennessee because it’s a big game. They’re a good program. We’re a good program and we’re going to match up. As far as our focus on it, our players respect the hell out of Tennessee. They know how hard it is to play them. We had to play them up there two years ago and it’s tough. It’s a tough prep. We’ll be focused.”

On Squirrel White

“It takes great prep to prep for all their wide outs. The thing that makes it hard about their wide outs is their run game. The run game is incredible what they’re able to do and off of that comes the pass game. He’s a great player. We recruited him. He’s really fast. He’s dynamic. He’s gotten better with his age and he’s played a major role for them in terms of run after catch and vertical speed.”

On Joe Milton III

“Elite arm talent. Really, really good athlete. Sometimes at DB you’re looking for recovery and I can close and get a ball out because the ball’s not there. But the ball gets there .5 seconds faster and in the game of football .5 seconds is an eternity. It’s two or three steps. He’s elite at doing that. They create run game with him so they get an extra hat in the run game which we’ll see. And they’re good at doing it.”

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