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November 27, 2017

Kirby Smart

Athens, Georgia

Q. Given that Jake was under duress in the last game and the run game wasn't what you wanted, how did he perform and what do you need to get him out of this game?
KIRBY SMART: Just need to play the quarterback position, make good decisions, put us in the right plays. It's really important he plays with poise. He's under duress in every game that I've seen. The quarterback position in this league, you're going to be under duress. It's one of those that he has to execute the plan, not try to be superhuman, allow his play makers around him to help make plays and play within the system.

Big part of this game is not making turnovers, and we've got to try to force some on them and not turn it over ourselves.

Q. D'Andre Walker is a guy that's been getting a little bit more playing time lately. The, what kind of effect could he have on the game on Saturday?
KIRBY SMART: He's done a good job. A very athletic, hard-to-block guy, plays with great toughness, great effort. He played really well, looking back at the Tech game, he was able to help us. It was a situation where it fit what he does well too. So he's improving, and he's very conscientious about his special teams work and his defensive end work.

Q. In the last game against Auburn, Nick and Sony had combined for 48 yards, which kind of serves as an outlier to the rest of their performances this year. Have you noticed any motivations from them entering this game? And what is the key to preparation in terms of gaining some traction in the run game with those guys this week?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, run game is all about movement. You've got to get movement. When they run the ball well at Auburn, they get movement. When we run the ball well at Georgia we usually get movement. When you don't get movement up front, it's tough. It's tough sledding, especially in our league. So.

I think Sony and Nick, they understood going into that game it was going to be tough. Certainly didn't expect it to be that tough. But it's one of the things that we've moved on past that. We're focused on this opportunity, and those two guys will be at their best, I know that, because they're competitors and they'll give us everything they've got.

Q. When you took the job and went off to do your National Championship duties still at Alabama, you were asked when Georgia would be in position to play for championships, and you pretty much ducked the question. Now that Georgia is about to play for a championship, has it happened as fast as you thought? Is it slower than you thought? Are you on schedule?
KIRBY SMART: I've repeatedly said the same thing, there is no schedule for winning championships. Our job at University of Georgia is to educate, get degrees, make sure we make the student-athlete a better person, and to win championships. So the objective is to get the most out of every team that we can, and that's what we tell our coaching staff every week. Our job is to prepare them to be the best they can in the game to get the most out of them. At the end of the season, we look back and say did we get the most out of this unit, this team, that we possibly could withstanding injuries, withstanding circumstances that you can't control. That's what we'll do at the end of this year and we'll do the same thing the following year.

But I think everybody wants to say that this is the schedule. There is no schedule. The only thing there is is what you have and what you do with what you have. So I'm going to leave it to you guys to decide what the schedule is or what the term is, because that's what you guys do. That's not really for us internally -- we want to do the best we can with what we've got, and that's what we're trying to do this year.

Q. When you're charged with defending an offense like Auburn that has so many different fakes and whatnot, talk about the difficulty for the linebackers and the corners to not end up taking on blocks and getting them around them?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I don't know exactly what you're asking about there. The fakes, I mean, they're very good at perimeter runs, and they also are very good exposing your edges. A lot of that is based on the guys with the ball in their hands. Stove, he's an unbelievable, great athlete that runs rocket sweeps really well. When you say every time Stove comes in motion, they run a rocket sweep, no, they compliment that really well with the power run game inside. So with those two combinations, you're having to defend two things all the time. They've got a really good power run game. People think they don't. I've played them for a long time, they do.

They have physical players. They can run gap plays, they can run zone plays and they can run on the perimeter. Then when you add the dimension of a quarterback who can throw the ball and be elusive enough to create with his feet, you hit the perfect storm. Right now they're playing at a high level because they've got all those factors.

So it's important for us to keep our edges, but we can't give up movement at the same time. When you start giving up movement on these guys, they'll crease you and gas you and do a good job. And Kerryon's incredible at being here one second and the next second he's out there on the perimeter and can bounce out on you.

Q. Since their loss to LSU, Jarrett Stidham's been 68% in each game -- 68% or better in each game. How do you disrupt him in the passing game to keep him from being as accurate as he's been these last five games?
KIRBY SMART: Well, I think you've got to do things. You've got to mix coverages. You've got to be able to get pressure. A lot of their passes sometimes are seven-man protections. So everybody's screaming and yelling about not getting pressure. When they're protecting with seven, unless you bring eight, you're going to have trouble getting there.

So they do a good job with mixing up their protections. They do a good job of putting him in situations to be successful and to be honest, he's a really good quarterback who, I think, has gotten the greatest amount of improvement during the year of any player that I've seen from early in the year, which we've got games we played early in the year until now.

I think he's got confidence in the system. He's gotten used to the SEC. I think he's playing at a high level.

Q. If you could update us on injuries with Trenton and Christian Payne? If you've seen any change in them. The second question, just the noise factor, how many of your problems might have something to do with the environment and how the environment here might clean that up?
KIRBY SMART: On Trenton and Christian, we expect both of them to be fine. We haven't practiced yesterday, so we don't really know. Trenton actually played in the game. He came back in and played. He should be fine. Christian I'll know more on today.

As far as the environment, I actually thought that we handled that part pretty well from an offensive standpoint of functioning, snap count, timing, that kind of thing. The atmosphere in this weekend is going to be probably just as loud in a lot of ways, because you could make a case that we'll have more fans there. But from what we've been told, it's an extremely loud place.

So crowd noise will always be a factor when you play indoors. We'll prepare for that. I don't think that the crowd noise there had an impact on the timing or any plays. Jake did a good job handling that. I think their defense had a lot to do with the struggles that we have because they've got a really good defensive front.

Q. I know you've talked so much about the seniors this year, and trying to figure out another way to ask it. And you've said a few times you just kind of know this team knows how to handle moments. How much of that has to do with these seniors? Did you kind of find them this way when you got here two years ago, or were there some moments where you think they developed that culture?
KIRBY SMART: I think you're always developing. I mean, I think culture is created, and culture is taught. The one thing we tried to do as an organization since they got here is put them in situations -- whether it's meeting with certain people that we bring in from outside organizations, meeting with speakers, we try to put them in leadership positions. Throughout the summer, we try to put them in leadership positions.

So the culture is created by what situations you put them in and they grow in those situations. They learn. They learn how to handle situations, and over the course of two years, they've gotten better.

Now, were they good kids and good players when we got here? Absolutely. This senior class is a good class. It's got some good players in it. So I think that's important to have that foundation of talent, but you develop the leaders. They develop their leadership qualities throughout their course of being here.

So each one of them has experienced things throughout their time here that's made a better leader. I'm a firm believer that Sony and Nick are the leaders they are because of the hard times they've been through. I mean, each one of them has been out with significant injuries during their career. That's helped them be a stronger leader. Same way with Lorenzo and Davin, they've become leaders because George Jenkins was a good leader. Leonard Floyd was a good leader. We've had people come in and meet with them and talk to them about the ways we want to lead. I meet with them.

We try to teach that and coach that so that they can be the right person in the clutch, and it's not always perfect. But we certainly aspire for them to be better men because they have played here.

Q. A lot was made of the dominance the SEC West teams had in this game recently. Coming from that at this vision, were there some characteristics that you wanted your team to have in terms of physical play that might be different from what you noticed in the East?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I mean, the most physical team usually wins whatever the game is. Doesn't matter if it's SEC East, West, crossover, championship, physicality is the part of the game. Who controls the line of scrimmage? It just so happens the teams from the West have controlled the line of scrimmage more often than the teams from the east. So that's an objective in every game. That probably won't ever change in the game of football.

So, I mean, that's an objective for this game, but it's not about East or West. It's about the game of football.

Q. If Kerryon Johnson can't play, does that change your game plan at all?
KIRBY SMART: Well, I think you've got to be smart. You've got to understand where a team's strengths and weaknesses are. They've got a lot of strengths. They've got other backs that are good, probably not near as good as Kerryon. But they've got quality backs and they're SEC backs. They've also got ways of creating a running game that Gus has done outside of Kerryon. He does a good job of sharing those carries.

They've got a quarterback who don't mistake him for a runner, because he can run the ball when you least expect it. They have several designed runs for him against Alabama. When you start running the quarterback, it creates a really tough dynamic.

So they've got other ways to get carries. I fully expect him to play, and we'll have to deal with it either way.

Q. What are the recruiting advantages and disadvantages of playing in this game?
KIRBY SMART: I always believe there are a lot more advantages than disadvantages because you can show what's on paper. The publicity you get and just the amount of exposure you get from playing in this game, CBS, and everybody in the country will be tuned in. There is no price tag you can put on that.

The only disadvantage is somebody sitting in your kid's home this week and they're doing an in-home visit, and they're getting to sell their program while you're preparing for a game.

But most of the people that we're recruiting, they understand that we can't be there right now, and they recognize that we'll be there as soon as we can. That begins after this game.

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