Kirby Smart Q&A
Head coach Kirby Smart held a Zoom session Tuesday looking ahead to the start of spring practice, which for Georgia, gets underway on March 16.
Smart spoke for 30 minutes, touching on a wide variety of subjects, including many that readers on UGASports have been asking about for weeks.
Below, check out Smart in his own words.
On the offensive line, specifically the roles for Jamaree Salyer and Warren McClendon
Smart: “Those are all things that will come up in the spring. We are really focused on what is between our ears right now—not what our bench press is or what position we are going to play. Those things will play out based on what other guys can do or cannot do. Warren McClendon’s development has to be at tackle, because he plays tackle, right? But he played guard, 10-15 percent of his extra snaps, because you have to be able to play two positions. We've always asked him to be able to snap the ball and play center. Where they start probably will not matter as much as how they perform from a standpoint of leadership, toughness, composure, how the other guys play, what gives us the best vibe. We're not really concerned about where they're starting. Jamaree obviously worked at guard. He has the ability to play guard, he's proven he can play tackle in the SEC at a high level. If we need him to do that, he can do it. If we need him to play inside, he'll be able to do that. Our focus has really not been on what position each guy is going to play, but more about how we get the best out of each person. A couple of those guys are leaders on the team, so it's not just getting the best out of them, it's them getting the best out of everybody else. Can they hold guys accountable? Can they set the standard and demand the standard? That’s kind of our approach to the offseason.”
On his approach to the transfer portal as players develop during the offseason
“I think the transfer portal hasn’t changed for us. It's not the primary source of finding football players. We want to recruit, develop, and work to get the best football players we possibly can in here. I don't think the guys that come out of the portal have issues or problems; that's just not our normal protocol. It's not what we want to build our program around. It's a need-based deal. We have needs: defensive back is a spot we're really thin at. We think we have very capable, good young players in the position, but we do not have a lot of experience. If you get an opportunity to gain experience, which you know we did the first year we were here—we got Maurice Smith and all of the sudden you have a player that makes your team better almost immediately. We wouldn't decline the ability to look at the option there. I want to coach the players we have, because that's the one thing I know I can impact. I don't control the portal. I have no control of who goes in and who’s in. So, I'm focused on the players we have and getting them better.
On an update on Dominick Blaylock and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint
Smart: “Both of those young men are running straight lines and beginning to increase their workload. They're not working with us in our offseason conditioning program, meaning they're not in the actual drill. They have to work separate, but they're increasing speeds. Ron Courson and his staff do a tremendous job with those guys, and they're right on schedule for where they need to be. I think everything to you guys is all about ability and what this guy or that guy is going to do, and I realize that you are doing that for the fan base; I'm here to talk about, what's between the ears matters way more than how fast they're running, what they're doing, or any of those things. That mental side of things is the emphasis we have for this offseason, because it’s so much more important, so much more important—the culture that’s created, the programming in your organization to get the most out of your players—than who is playing left corner or right corner.”
On if winning a championship is preached or if the focus is on what is here and now in the process
Smart: “You have to be careful when you make things just about that. I realize the standard of excellence that has been created here and the expectation. We never shy away from those expectations, but that's not going to get the end goal. The end goal is to have a net sum gain of positives, and you're trying constantly to move people from over here, who might be on the negative side, and then on the positive side bring more guys along. As you do that, the end goal is that you get more results—that you're able to win championships. We never shy away from that being our goal, but it's not something we have to talk about every day. Why would you talk about that every day, because you're focusing on the wrong thing if that's the case. You need to focus on how you're going to do that. How do we get that net sum to positive over negative, and that's by pulling everybody in the right direction. That’s our goal.”
On improving trends of COVID and if there’s encouragement of protocols that might change this summer
Smart: “There’s not a lot of talk from the SEC. I know Ron Courson and his staff constantly get updates from the medical group that he is in charge of. They do a tremendous job of staying up to date on whether its variance, the different variances that come into the country, or testing methods, going from swab in nose to saliva. There are all kinds of updates for us but not necessarily enlightening. Only time will tell. The indicators and the numbers have been positive lately that things are on the decline and it’s certainly been that way for us as well.”
On having philanthropy like 'Dawgs for Pups' being a part of his culture he is created within the football program.
Smart: "I give a lot of credit to our athletic department staff. Darrice (Griffin) and Josh (Brooks) both have been tremendous assets for me; dating back to when Greg (McGarity) was here. Now they have gone out and gotten outside council form Kevin Carr, from Pro2CEO, he is the CEO there. He does a great job. He has come in and has helped build a culture, education, and programming. Like I said earlier Dr. Courtney Gray, she was on medical council for us, but she has moved over into an AD role. She has done a tremendous job bringing back former players. You know our players enjoy hearing from former players so if it is Jonathan Ledbetter or D'Andre Walker comes in and it immediately grabs our guys' attention. And making sure the conversation stays relevant. It has been brought to my attention that a great word is 'incrementalism.' We are trying to get incrementally better this off-season in everything we do. That includes diversity, equity, and inclusion in that topic. I mentioned our mindset which is the skill sessions we have been doing; we are trying to improve every way we can off the field. I think the more the players buy into that and the more they know it is important to you the harder and better results you will get on the field from those guys."
On balancing the line of wanting his players in the NFL and knowing their skill level
Smart: "There is no line, I really don't think there is a line. I tell our players all the time, that we are going to be honest with the NFL. They are going to find out, they are going to go talk to the academic people, the trainers, they are going to talk to the strength staff. We are not in the business of lying for anyone. We be as honest as we can and be as transparent as we can when it comes to our players. I think our players have a lot of strengths and I think any person, any NFL evaluator, anyone who comes into evaluate our players understands that there are no perfect players. There are no perfect players, they have flaws. We as coaches, we have flaws. They are trying to get the information so they can rank one guy against the other guy, and they will peruse that information regardless of where they go to school. If a guy is not accurate and forward with hem that discredits their voice almost immediately. But I am excited to see those guys work out. It will be a very different format it seems like in terms of Pro-Day and being able to work out and getting a chance to perform in front of these scouts. I know it is coming rapidly. I am just happy that the players are going to get an opportunity to do that. Last year that group never really got that chance."
On if he has heard any information about this year's NFL Combine
Smart: "Surprisingly no, I would have thought it would have been that way. But I do not think they are really to that point yet. I think those conversations start coming- because right now they are doing their evaluations. Every day I get a text, 'Hey I'm looking at a couple of your guys.' But it is not like they are doing more of them, that just has not been the case yet. But I have a feeling it is going to ramp up here in the next couple of weeks."
On what he does personally from the end of one season to the beginning of the next
"Yeah, I do not want to say that we are changing our DNA, I think we are defining our DNA a little better. Every team has its own DNA, right? You are not going to have the same exact team as you did the year before; the personalities are different. It does not matter if you are talking about running or throwing the ball, but the makeup of what is between the ears of your players, that dynamic changes. I think defining that every year is really critical. Know who you are. Know your strengths and weaknesses and be intentional about that with your players where they can set the standard of demands of what it is. But yeah, me personally I go through that every off-season. Going into a season you cannot get comfortable and say, 'I am just kind of comfortable with this.' No, sometimes being unformattable is good. Guys we have brought in on our staff have brought new ideas and different things we can do to get our players attention and not just be comfortable. We have a lot of new players too; they do not know how we do things. Trying to create the standard of what they know as excellence is really important for our older players. So, we are always in search of define your DNA that season."
On the development of the young cornerbacks on the team
Smart: "Yeah, the cornerback position is completely open. To name to guys is probably not smart of me. We have a lot of guys that could be working at cornerback. Every guy on the team is a potential cornerback right now. We are in search of finding guys that can play that position at a high-level in a really tough conference. You look across the SEC throwing the ball has gotten better and better, and we want those guys to get exposed. We are one of the conferences' that plays more man-to-man than anyone else; so, you need have guys out there that can function. That position is up for grabs. There are no guys that are proven returning starters. And every guy is working hard to learn the techniques and details that it takes to play winning football at that position."
On the receiver position and if having enough for practice reps is a concern
Smart: "No, the receivers are not my concern with practice reps. We have got- we are over our number of guys that you would call 'quota' that you need to have the practices we have. DBs are the concern there. The guys we had leave, the guys we had come out early, and guys coming in; we had two different receivers come in midyear, that has really helped our numbers there. We also got some guys that signed last year that we think are good football players, we got a good group there. So, the defensive back will be the limiting of the two spots, if anything from a standpoint of numbers. Especially if you consider dime, which is six DBs and to go two spot you must go more than two to have backups. At wideout, you are going to have three or four on the field at the most. So, we feel comfortable with the wideout depth we have."