Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tuesday Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs held their fourth practice of the spring campaign on Tuesday afternoon, working out in full pads. The following are quotes from head coach Kirby Smart and senior defensive lineman David Marshall in media sessions after the workout.

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement:

“I’ll open up with a comment first about Tyrique Stevenson and Tyler Simmons and then talk about practice a little bit. Obviously very disappointed. There’s a standard of behavior that’s expected of athletes at the University of Georgia and that’s not indicative of the behavior we want at the University of Georgia. It’s very obvious that those guys made poor choices and decisions and they will be disciplined. They will be disciplined internally and to be honest with you, both of them were cited with disorderly conduct which I think you guys know. They’ve got to find a way to make better decisions especially as young men representing this university. Those things will be handled, and they’ll be handled the right way."

“As far as practice today, I thought guys did a tremendous job practicing, really pushed hard, spirited practice. They competed really hard. We’ve got a lot of good competitions going on out there. I thought Saturday’s practice was really good, too, so we’ve had two really good competition days. Hope we can continue to stay injury free, we’ve got some bumps and bruises. We’re starting to get some guys back, David Marshall was able to do a little more today than he’s been doing coming off the Lisfranc injury, hope we can continue to do that. With that I’ll open it up for questions.”

On if there is a frustration with team leadership after the arrests of a freshman with a senior…

“Yeah, there’s always frustration when you have this. I don’t think it’s about a senior or a freshman. Those two guys weren’t even together. They didn’t go there together. That wasn’t the case. They ended up there, but that’s not my concern. My concern is I’ve got is the decisions that were made to put yourself in that situation. Look, our kids go downtown. We know our kids go downtown. When you go downtown, you’ve got to behave. You’ve got to act the right way. You’ve got to follow rules and be law-abiding citizens. That’s the expectation we’ve got for our players and, to be honest with you, for the most part our guys do that. But when they don’t they’re going to be punished and we’re going to try to correct it and we’re going to do it through educational ways. We’re certainly going to do that with both Tyrique and Tyler.”

On Simmons’ injuries from the incident…

“Yeah, he’s fine. He practiced today. It was something to do with his ear, but I’m not sure what it was.”

On if there were any other players involved…

“Not as far as I know. I do not think so. I think it’s over and done with. They finished it up, but I’m not 100 percent sure on that. Our communication with them is that those were the two guys involved. There were other guys there, but as far as the involvement it was those two.”

On filling the tight end position without Isaac Nauta…

“Thin. There’s not a lot of guys there. You know we moved Colby White, who we thought was a really good outside backer in fall camp, and he did a good job. He’s developed. He’s gotten a little bigger. We moved him over there to give us a little more depth. He’s done some really competitive things. He’s fighting his tail off. There’s a young man that decided to be a walk-on here, Peyton Mercer, who’s done an incredible job competing over there. Several guys. Charlie WoernerJohn Fitzpatrick are ahead of the other guys. Obviously we’ve got help on the way and we want more help. But if you ask me right now it’s thin.”

On who stands out of the wide receivers…

“Well, ironically Tyler Simmons has played well. He’s really competitive, he’s fast, he gets on top of us. He’s done some good things. I think ‘D-Rob’ (Demetrius Robertson) stepped up. He’s got to continue to play more physical, but he’s made some catches. He’s made some vertical threats. Jeremiah Holloman is playing well. Kearis Jackson is coming along, probably not as fast as I’d like. Matt Landers has done some things and Tommy Bush has done some things. You know Matt’s got some bruises. Tommy’s dealing with some groin injuries. The volume we have for the number of receivers we have has been tough, and we normally balance that with tight ends but we don’t have volume there. So we’re thin. We know help’s on the way, but we’ve just got to do a good job developing enough depth that we’re comfortable with. They’ve made some plays, I definitely think that, where last year it was like big-play-bonanza out there with the wideouts while we had the young DBs. That’s balanced out more. Our DBs have gotten better, at least I hope they have, or the receivers are not as good a group right now. Actually, it was this time last year. That’s only going to happen through getting the kids here we signed and continuing to develop them.”

On CB Tyson Campbell’s development…

“Tyson’s doing a good job. He’s in a really good competition. What’s good about the corner position, we’ve got some guys coming along. DJ Daniel was, which we knew in bowl practice, he’s going to be a good player. He was covering the guys in the likes that were at the combine so we knew we had a pretty good player in DJ. Tyson’s improved. He understands the defense better. He’s bright, he’s doing some good things out there. Eric Stokes is doing some good things. Even Tyrique Stevenson has picked some things up. So we’ve got some good competition at that corner position.”

On David Marshall’s injury…

“We got him fixed immediately, we just didn’t know when he was coming back. David in my mind was probably not going to be able to come back most of the year last year. So I don’t really know what you’re asking. His injury is not the same injury as James Cook, though, no. It didn’t so much linger as it did. He was injured and then out for a while. We got him fixed. He’s taking the screws out now; he’s taking the next step to coming back now. He’s got to progress back because he gets sore each time he uses it because he hasn’t used it for so long.”

On the impact of losing Marshall last season…

“I don’t know. That’s in the year’s past. He’s a good player, I’m not going to cry over that. We need him this year. I want him to stay healthy.”

On if they work on schematic or individual defensive plays...

“There’s definitely some schematic stuff. We have a base defense that we feel good about. Within that, we have pressures and we have a lot of things we didn’t use last year for whatever reason. We may not have thought they fit the opponent. We may not have thought the fit who we had on the back end to protect it. I think we’re going to be deeper and older and wiser on the back end, which allows for a little more complexity. Last year was s tough year. It was nothing to do with Coach Tucker. It was tough. We had some young guys in the secondary, a lot of young guys. Where now, I feel like we have a group back there that is emerging with some personality. Divaad Wilson has grown a little confident. That bowl game worked wonders for him. He’s playing good. Mark Webb is where he understands things. J.R. Reed…there’s good competition at safety with Otis Reese. We just have more competition, which I think allows us to create more havoc. Some of that is scheme where you go meet with five times that are in the top 20 creating tackles for loss and you say ‘How do you do it?’ You start learning that and you try to put some things in that they do. We’re trying to that, but to be honest with you, you’re running against a big ole wall of grown men up that, and that’s tough. That’s a good offensive line.”

On what he’s seen from early enrollees DE Nolan Smith and LB Jermaine Johnson…

“I’ve seen hunger out of both of those guys. They don’t know exactly what to do yet, but man they do it hard. There’s something to be said for that. We’re going to play kids at the University of Georgia who give effort and play hard and do the right things. Those two guys, they play hard. They don’t know what they’re doing yet, and that’s our job. I’m very thankful they’re here for these 15 practices. I mean Nolan has flashed some plays. He made a helluva hit today and a really good play. He’s also flashed some What are you doing?’ Jermaine has been the same play. We call them ‘Super Man plays,’ where you look out there and say ‘Who is that guy? Who is that jersey number?’ But then they’re lost some too. I’m fired up to coach those two guys because I’m excited about what they’re going to do to the guys in front of them from a pushing standpoint.

On if DL Jordan Davis and other defensive linemen are stepping up with an injured line…

“What other guys? We don’t have any. Defensive line is super thin. I guess I’m whining to the masses because every coach would tell you they don’t have enough defensive linemen. Jordan is pushing hard. He’s working hard to control his weight. He’s not playing to the level he was playing mid-season to the end of the season. He’s not there right now, but he’s working hard. Jordan comes in and works cardio more than anybody we’ve got. I mean if I ran as much as Jordan my wife would be happy because I’d be skinny. Jordan’s got to fight that battle, and he knows it. We don’t have enough depth there. I thought Devonte Wyatt is a guy who’s really been competitive and done some good things. He was starting to grow up during the season, and there’s something about these guys in that second spring when they start to click and get it. Our help is on the way there. It’s just not here.”

On OL Jamaree Salyer’s performance…

“I’d say he’s three or four practices, he’s our most improved offensive lineman. It’s not center because he’s working at center as a candidate, but he’s working at right tackle and right guard. Let me tell you something, he’s played quick. The biggest jump has been that guy. We kept waiting on it because you knew you were getting a really talented player. I didn’t see the Jamaree I’ve seen this spring, I didn’t see any of that in the fall. He’s challenging some guys. He’s making guys work hard. I didn’t know if the guy could be a right tackle, but he’s gone out and played well. He’s gone to right guard and played well. He’s gone to center and blocks Jordan Davis. You start going ‘Who is that?’ ‘That’s Jamaree.’ ‘Who’s that at right guard?’ ‘That’s Jamaree.’ Jamaree has done some good things. We gave him some looks today with the ones, and we’ll continue to do that if he continues to play well.”

On DT Michael Barnett putting on weight…

“We want some quickness and twitch. When we study all these ‘havoc rates,’ a lot of it is twitchy players…quick guys. It’s a catch 22 for us because if you have quick twitchy guys and you’re playing against our guys every day in practice, our offensive line, when you move and they move you, some times the displacement is huge because when you’ve got Salyer and Andrew Thomas and really good offensive linemen and you start moving sideways, they just whack you and move you. We’re not built to be an extremely violent quick, twitchy defense. Mike has put on a little weight. I can’t tell you if it’s good or bad weight because he’s playing good football. He’s not playing great; he’s playing good and I’m pleased. Mike is a leader. Mike is a lunch-pail guy. He’s gotten better every year. He works really hard Jordan is pushing him, though.

On David Marshall and the inside linebacker position…

“Well, Marshall’s not able to do much. I see him a lot during walk through and I see a lost kid. Rian Davis, the only time I see those kids are during walk through. I’m just licking my chops to go coach them and they don’t get to practice. That’s unfortunate. They can’t put pressure on themselves to go learn it in walk through. You can only learn it through repping it. One guy who’s done some good things has been Nakobe Dean. He’s very intelligent, he’s very instinctive and he’s going to challenge some guys. He’s got to continue to grow and learn. Channing Tindall, Monty Rice, Quay Walker, Tae Crowder, even Jaden Hunter. They’re all doing a good job. They’re competing. But, as you know we just had two guys leave the program. I thought they were both team players and competitors but they were not elite speed-wise. We’re not going to be able to play until we get an elite speed guy in there that can run and chase things down. We’re still looking for that.”

On J.R Reed’s decision to return…

“It’s really important for us. We’ve got some continuity in secondary, he’s a great leader, he’s very communicative, he is the alpha in that secondary. He says, ‘this is what we’re doing’ and he takes over. He demands guys take notes in meetings. He is what you want. Him staying doesn’t have to do with me. He talked to his dad who is an NFL vet, played a long time. He talked to his mom. I don’t get involved in that decision. I provide information and I get feedback from people I talk to but he made that decision. I’m certainly glad he did. I think he’ll go down as one of the best leaders to come through here because he’s got a chance to be a three-year starter.

On running back Brian Herrein…

“Brian’s a fire plug out there. Brian’s hard to cover, explosive. I think you’re just seeing more of Brian because before it was sharing, sharing, sharing. He gets a chance to do a lot more and he’s worked really hard and we need him to be a good leader on the team.”

Senior David Marshall

On how Coach Kirby Smart's emphasis on 'havoc play' has impacted the defensive strategy this season...

“It really makes us go out there knowing that we need more tackles for loss, more sacks, more fumbles and more interceptions. We go out there and work every day getting better, trying to get more sacks and interceptions."

On what he's seen from the two-deep group of offensive linemen...

“They're working against each other and competing against each other, getting back right. They're just making each other is what I've seen out there."

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Dawgs Hold Second Practice

(Photo by Steven Colquitt)
UGA Sports Communications

The Georgia football team held its second practice of spring drills on Thursday on the Woodruff Practice Fields.

The Dawgs practiced for approximately two hours in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. The practice was No. 2 of what is expected to be 15 during the spring, which will culminate with the annual G-Day Game. The Dawgs will return to the practice fields on Saturday.

Senior Charlie Woerner was asked how the transition is going for the tight ends with him as the elder statesman following the departures of Isaac Nauta and Jackson Harris and with the addition of new tight ends coach Todd Hartley.

“Things have started well,” Woerner said. “Day 2 is done, and we’re looking as good as we can two days in. I think we’re pretty far ahead on our installs. It’s a lot different (in the tight ends room), but it’s fine. We have a really good group, a lot of good guys in the room. It feels like it’s my time and I’m ready to have a big year, but I don’t feel any pressure. All I can do is my best for this team.”

(Photo by Steven Colquitt)
Junior Jeremiah Holloman also finds himself in a potential leadership role on and off the field among the receivers since the Dawgs said goodbye to the likes of Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, and Ahkil Crumpton.

“I feel like our whole room can step in and contribute,” Holloman said. “We have guys just waiting for a chance. I stepped in last year and made an impact (with 24 catches for 418 yards and five touchdowns), and we have plenty of guys like that. We have a load of guys capable of going out there and competing and making plays.”

On Wednesday, all 32 NFL teams were in attendance as the Dawgs eligible for next month’s draft participated in Pro Day drills.

The G-Day Game is slated for Saturday, April 20, at 2 p.m. at Sanford Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Spring Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several student-athletes, previewed the upcoming spring practice slate with media on Tuesday.

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening comments …

“What a great time to be a Dawg. The spring season is in full effect, and I think all of you guys know what a great record a lot of our spring sports are having. I want to bring a lot of attention to the women’s tennis team — ranked No. 2 in the country, just coming off an indoor national championship. What an incredible job they have done. Baseball is killing it. Gymnastics Top 10. Golf men's team just actually won a tournament, top 15 in the country. Track is doing well as they always do, and equestrian the same way and softball as well. So I think it's pretty incredible what all of our spring sports are doing and continue to do. And momentum is created when you build strong organizations, and that's what we've got here at the University of Georgia. So when you look across the athletic department, including the football program, we want to be a team that has momentum.

I'm excited about the future of our program. We've kind of had a motto we've been saying around here for the last couple of months that if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you, and we've done that because we need to be challenged. We need to be focused on challenging good players, challenging players that are young, challenging players that just got here, because we've got a lot of all those categories.

I'm really proud of the off-season conditioning program. Coach Sinclair has done a tremendous job, and I think anytime you talk to strength coaches, they'll always tell you how much gains they made. You're like, well, if you're always making gains, when do you ever have a down off season? But it was nice for us. I think for the first time we went from 32 guys that could bench press over 300 pounds to 34. So we're two higher than we were this time last year. Power cleans the same way, from 30 guys to 32 guys that could power clean over a certain amount. And then also the same thing with squats.

We've had a lot of increases in our spring program. We've got 14 mid-year enrollees, which is extremely unique for me. I don't know that I've ever been part of a program that had 14 mid-year enrollees. Unfortunately, a couple of those guys are unable to go through spring ball, with injuries. But the off-season conditioning program was great. We had really good energy, and now we're kind of moving to that phase of spring practice. And I know the players are so excited to get out there and go practice, because there's only so much you can do in the weight room and in conditioning and walk-throughs before you're ready to go play with the football. And that's what these guys love to do.

We've got a few guys with injuries that are going to be out this spring. I'd like to go through those, but I'm sure if I don't hit one or there's somebody you want to ask about, feel free to ask. But we've got several guys that will be out. Michail Carter had shoulder surgery, he had a labral repair. So he'll be out. Everybody knows about Rian Davis coming in, one of our mid-year enrollees. He had the knee injury, and he's had surgical repair. Ryland Goede will be out. Prather Hudson had shoulder labral repair. He'll be out. Trezman Marshall, another mid-year enrollee that's out with the shoulder repair. Julian Rochester had a knee that he's had repaired. He'll be out for spring practice. Zamir White is coming back, doing really well, but he won't be doing spring practice other than doing some stuff on the side, doing some running. And he's done a lot of off-season conditioning, but he won't be out there or cleared to go practice.

I think that hits the guys that are like out out, like aren't able to practice. We've got a few hamstring injuries; guys are nursing those, but they should be able to go in practice and should be fine for the most part with those guys. But the early enrollees have been a very impressive group from a standpoint of work ethic, and some of them can't work. The guys that I just mentioned there's some things they can do and can't do, but the ones that can have really worked hard, and I think they created a lot of competition.

A couple of things we want to establish this spring. We want to increase our havoc rate on defense. That's one of the main target areas. We want to be more disruptive, and the only way you're going to be more disruptive is practice being disruptive. So we've gotta do that. We've gotta create more lost yardage plays, more negative situations, and that's something we've really worked on. And we've done studies on the Top 10 teams last year in havoc, and we're trying to do some of the things they do and we're trying to put guys in position to do that.

Offensively, we've got some holes to fill, especially at the receiver spot and some at the running back spot and tight end spot. So we're excited about the challenges. I'm really excited about seeing the new wideouts go out and compete and play, and unfortunately, there are no early guys in at that position so we'll get to see a lot of them at fall camp, but there's a lot of guys who've been here that haven't had an opportunity to really go out and play in the forefront and being thrust in the forefront. So that's a big position of need for us, and we're going to get though watch those guys compete. With that, I'll open it up for questions.”

On the grad-transfer market …

“Yeah, I'm not really allowed to comment on the grad transfer market because nothing is done. They're not signed. They're not physically here yet. So we can't comment on those guys. But the two guys we picked up late in the signing process with Brett Seither and George Pickens we certainly think are high-caliber players. We know a lot about both of them. We know George is going to fit what we did. He really was intrigued by the fact that we had the guys come out early, and he knew that he fit in our style system. And we think he's a talented player that we're looking forward to working with.

And Brett is a guy that really came on the radar late, was kind of a late bloomer, had a really good senior year, really good athlete. I liked the fact that he played both ways on his tape; extremely competitive. Was able to watch him work out during the recruiting process in January, and he's just an impressive physically competitor. And they're both at positions of need. You wish they were here now, but the way college football works with guys getting here in early June, they'll have two months of really good work to build up. So whether or not they'll be able to contribute this year, I don't know that we know that. I think we're going to try to find that out with the guys we've got here on our roster right now in the spring.”

On new coordinators …

“I don't think you ever know exactly what you want to do. You're always prepared as a coach. You know guys get opportunities. I've known for quite a while that Mel Tucker was going to do a tremendous job as a head coach. I mean he was a guy that I was able to lean on, especially early in this process. First, I'd say congratulations to Mel and Jim, but also thank them for what they helped us build thus far. They were both tremendous assets, they were really great guys, great team players and bought into the whole organization.

When it comes to Dan, Glenn sharing that responsibility with Dan being the coordinator, and Coley, who's been a coordinator, and I've known James Coley for a long time and got a lot of respect for him. He worked with Jimbo for a long time, had an opportunity to go with Jimbo the year before.

And really, at the end of the day when you have coordinators on offense and you have two guys that are doing it like Jim and James did, they share a lot of that responsibility; and a lot of that responsibility will be passed down now with Dell and Cortez being involved. And I had a lot of confidence in Dan and Glenn even last year. Not everybody knows what goes on behind the scenes, and I think that's okay that not everybody knows that. But as the head coach you're in all these meetings, you're in all these decisions. You know how much involved Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann are in the game planning process. Mel will tell you he leans on those guys heavily, so I have a lot of confidence in those two guys, which is why they got hired.”

On the personality difference James Coley brings to the offensive side of the ball …

“Yeah. Look, we've been really successful at running the ball. That's who we are at Georgia. We're not going to go recreate the wheel and say, okay, now we're going to open and be an empty spread team every down and go high tempo. You do what makes you successful, and he had a meeting with the offense yesterday, which I sat in, and he talked about balance. What is balance? People think balance means 50/50. Balance is not 50/50. Balance is being able to run the ball when you have to run the ball and being able to throw the ball when you have to throw the ball. So can you do both? Yes, you can be successful at both. That might be 70/30 one game and then 30/70 the other way the next game. So I think we're going to be successful at that because I think that's going to be based on having good players. But I don't think that we're going to say, okay, we're throwing out everything we've done; we're starting over. We've really had one coaching change on the offensive side of the ball, and every year when you go reinvent yourself, you say, okay, who are my best players, how are we going to get them the ball what are our strengths, what are our weaknesses, what are the things we've gotta really work on? And we've done that for almost two months now, because our signing class was pretty much done in January. We've been working on us and saying, okay, what can we do better, and I think James brings a lot of that to the table. They've gone and visited with a lot of people to get new ideas.”

On the center position …

Trey Hill played better against Kentucky. I mean that's the first thing that comes to mind is here's a guy who played in a go-win-the-SEC-East type game, against a really tough defense, and he was thrown and thrust right into the limelight. So we'll have a group. We'll be working three guys there a lot of times. Clay will get some reps there. Jamaree will get reps there. Trey will get reps there. We'll have a lot of guys working through there, but Trey is the guy that's kind of been walking through and taking the most reps, and he's got some experience already, which is valuable.”

On coach Scott Sinclair …

“Well, I don't know that I have a story to indicate that, but I think anytime you hire a strength coach and you give them the freedom to choose their workout plan -- we talked daily during the off season of what do we need. Well, I'm taking the input from a guy who's a master strength coach, and there's only so many of those guys in the country, and we're fortunate to have two here that are master strength coaches, and I think when you rely on experience and value -- and you're fortunate at the University of Georgia that you can hire people like that with great experience, that you compete with the best in the market to keep your coaches and keep your strength guys. But he does a tremendous job. He provides energy. He provides discipline. He spends more time one on one with players than probably anybody in our program with he and his staff, and I think they've done a tremendous job getting our guys ready, and it's a big part of it.

I've always worried this practice because we're coming off spring break, so it's always like, well, we do all that buildup to get ready, and then you've got a week off and then you've gotta come back and get ready to go practice. So we'll have to kind of push these guys to get them back into the playing shape they need to be in, but his staff has done a great job.”

On potential of Kearis Jackson and the confidence Smart has in Jake Fromm …

“Yeah, I think this is going to be a common thing you guys are going to ask me a thousand times about the receivers over the next whatever number of days this is. I think Kearis is a guy that's going to have to come out and compete, and he's going to get plenty of opportunities, because when you look at the production gone, who's going to replace that production? Well, the first in line are the guys that are here right now, not necessarily the three or four guys that are coming in. So I'm extremely excited about Kearis's work ethic. He was a guy that was really in the rotation last year and then all of a sudden had a hamstring at camp and it kind of held him back. But I'm excited to see what he does and there's a lot of other wideouts I could say these guys are going to go out there and have -- we're going to find out what they're about. We're going to see if they can go out and compete and go against the best and make plays. But excited about Jake, the growth he's been able to give us. He's really been a tremendous help for the other two quarterbacks that are here, and obviously we've got a lot of confidence in Jake and our offensive system and his understanding of running the thing.”

On leadership …

“Yeah, I've never felt great about leadership at this point in time. I didn't feel great two years ago, I didn't feel great last year. I think you can't find true leadership, and you can't manipulate it. You can't make it happen. It happens through adversity, and you have to create the adversity. So in the off season we try to create adversity, hey, something happened. We had a turnover, we gotta go back out here and do this on some kind of conditioning drill. But you never really get to do that until adversity strikes, which adversity, the first time it really happens is in spring ball, when you're out there scrimmaging and something goes wrong, and they hit a play, how are you going to respond? You get tired of practicing, day practice eight or nine or ten, who's going to respond and who's going to lead? I think we've worked really hard on that, but I think that has to reveal itself. I don't think you can appoint leadership. Now, we've got guys who've played a lot of games around here. That doesn't make them a good leader. We've gotta have guys that are willing to step up and do the things they have to do to demand to others, and usually when you have that, you have a pretty good team.”

On who is leading the field as a leader at this point ... 

“Yeah, we've got several guys, I think, that are good leaders that aren't afraid to speak up, but I'm not interested in naming them. I want them to earn it. I want them to go out there and continue to do it. I don't think you appoint that. I don't think that's something that's given. It's something that's earned.”

On who gets the reps behind Jake Fromm …

“Yeah, the two quarterbacks are going to get the reps behind him. Dwan Mathis and Stetson Bennett are both going to get a ton of reps. To say most, I don't know that we could say most. They'll get the same amount behind him. But those two guys will be working, as well as John Seter, who is one of our walk-ons. He'll get reps as well.”

On if he was surprised that four players declared for the NFL Draft…

“I don't know if surprised would be the right word. Certainly very thrilled for the future of their careers. We're looking forward to see how they do. They have a huge day tomorrow, so they'll be doing their Pro Days here. I've followed each one of them, communicated with each one of them, and we as a coaching staff and really organization are pulling really hard for those guys. The best thing that could happen for us is for each one of those guys to be drafted as high as possible, and for our program, and we're looking forward to having a hell of a draft because we have the potential to have a lot of guys drafted. So the better those guys do tomorrow, the better the chance is of that.”

On the injury update of James Cook and David Marshall…
“Yeah, James will be fine. He's cleared. He's good to go. He got injured early in the bowl practice, was unable to play in the bowl game. He had an ankle injury similar to the one Tua Tagovailoa had. It was a little bit worse than Tua's, but they did a great job over in Birmingham, the special surgery they put together to help him. It's really a bad version of a high ankle sprain. But the new surgery they're doing has worked great on him. He's been able to run in the off-season conditioning program. He's been cleared. He's done 7-on-7’s. He's going to be out there, ready to go today. So we're pleased with where he is.

David Marshall coming off the Lisfranc injury he had last year. He will be cleared, but not completely cleared. You won't see him out there today. He just had his screws taken out. He'll be back before the end of spring, just not sure exactly which day.”

On who will emerge from the tight-end room… 

“Well, we had a chance to replace a really good player in Isaac Nauta. I think Charlie Woerner is ready to step up. He's been a great leader. Charlie does an unbelievable job on our special teams, really athletic, and I think John Fitzpatrick had a good off-season. So we're going to find out what he can do. We have some guys working at that position we're going to look at, and we have guys coming in that we think are going to help us at that position as well.

The same thing is always there for the tight ends. Jake Fromm has a comfortable relationship with Charlie. He feels good with him. We have to find the best 11 players to put on the field, whether that's two tight ends, one tight end or no tight ends. That's going to be dictated off the help of other players as well as the growth of the tight ends on offense.”

On the recovery of Zamir White…

“I don't know that I can answer how much. That's going to come into fall camp. I think anytime you have a noncontact ACL and then you have a second one, you have to be careful because we're talking about two different knees and really completely noncontact injury. So when that happens, makes you wonder, hey, is the kid going to be able to progress this time as fast as he did last time. So for us he's going to be able to do some -- he's running. He's running really well. He's doing a lot of straight-line stuff. He's just not going to be involved in the scrimmaging and contact part. So ultimately how do I know he's going to contribute to the team? I don't know that. I'm not going to know that until probably early fall camp. I'm very pleased with his work ethic. He knows that's his future. If he takes care of his knee, he rehabs hard, he does everything we ask him to do -- I think Ron Courson is one of the best in the country at dealing with this, when you look at the significant injuries he's dealt with with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb, especially at that position, so he has somebody really good to rely on in regards to that. Zamir has managed that really well.

On if on-the-field fights and recruiting fights with Alabama have damaged his relationship with Nick Saban…

“(Laughs). Absolutely not. I don't have any issue or any problem with any relationship with Nick. As a matter of fact, I don't think it's done anything but grown for more respect since we've played them twice. Every time I see Coach Saban, we have a great relationship. We're not texting and calling each other buddy, buddy, but I'm not doing that with anybody. So that's not to be of mention. I have a lot of respect for him. I wouldn't be where I am today without him, and there's no problem with our relationship.”

On his history and any previous relationship with Defensive Backs Coach Charlton Warren…

“I did not know Charlton. We played against him when he was at North Carolina, and we were here in our first game. I didn't personally know him; had heard a lot of good things about him. I know there were some coaches there at Tennessee that were going to try to retain him at one time, but Butch Jones got let go. I'd just heard things in the profession, talked to a lot of different people about him, and once you do the research, he really stood out as a guy that we thought would bring a lot of discipline and great demeanor to our secondary. He was the guy that I wanted to pick and think a lot of him.”

On opening the 2019 schedule with an SEC opponent and Notre Dame coming to town and then the possibility of moving the Auburn game in 2020….

“Well, I'll start with that one, only because I don't think you can realistically judge any schedule until you see it in its totality. So we haven't seen the SEC schedule for 2020, and to be honest with you, I am a lot more worried about 2019 than I am 2020. So that's our focus here, and that's the main thing we're concerned with.

As far as opening with a really good Vanderbilt team, I think it gives you that ability to have the first game of the year mean something, to be excited about it. To say, okay, we're going to go out there and get to play an SEC opponent, it gives your off season, especially your last two or three weeks of camp, a lot more excitement. And then obviously the two home games we're excited about. We love home-and-homes. That's something we want to be able to do is bring great programs to Athens and have games played here in Athens, which are important to me and the schedule. Thank you.”

J.R. Reed, Sr., DB

On if this year feels different for you being a third year starter…

“I definitely feel old. I feel old because all the kids now are born in 2000 or 2001, which is younger than my sister so I definitely feel old. I also feel old because my baby cousin is in college now, she is a freshman.”

On your role on this team as a third year starter…

“I have to take my role more seriously. It is just a different role than I have had in the past. You know, when I first got here I was old but still young because I hadn’t seen much playing time on the field. Then last year, I was an older guy so this year it is really just me and Tyrique McGhee for the older guys that are back there.”

On what went into your decision to return and how lengthy of a process was that…

“It was 100 percent talking to my family throughout the entire process. It took me a minute to figure out what I wanted to do. I looked and weighed at the pros and cons and then I talked to Coach Smart and I told him I wanted to come back and win a national championship.”

Michael Barnett, Sr., DT

On difference with some new defensive coaching staff…

“I think the personality is not going to change. Coach Mel [Tucker] was a good coach, but I think Coach Schumann and Coach Lanning is going to do a great job. They bring energy. They are young, so they are very energetic, which excites us. We have a lot of young players, so the young players love that excitement and what not, so I think they [players] are just going to go out there and ball.”

On if there will be confusion on how responsibilities of the coaching staff will get divided out…

“I don’t think there will be any type of confusion, because each of them bring something different to the table. We look at both of them as leaders, so I don’t think there will be any confusion at all.”

On Jordan Davis’ development and growth…
“I think Jordan has developed well. He is learning the playbook, and is developing more confidence. I think the weight is always going to be there, but that is also what makes Jordan, Jordan – his size. You don’t see anybody that size. He is a freak of nature, so I think everything is going to be fine with Jordan and it will pan out.”

On going easy rep-wise on defensive line in practice since it is a shallow rotation…

“We aren’t going to dial back at all. I think it will just be more of a load on us. It just happens, it is the game of football. If someone gets hurt in a game, you can’t just stop the game and lower the time of the game. This is Georgia and we have to practice.”

Jake Fromm, Jr., QB

On how this year feels different personally…

“I’m definitely a lot more comfortable. You definitely know exactly what’s going on, even more than I did last year. Things have slowed down. I feel like the weight room, the whole offseason program, is just getting easier. I was talking to a lot of guys in my class and the senior class and was like, ‘am I the only one who thinks this is getting easier or is this a thing?’ I feel great. We’re not just surviving through the workouts; we’re thriving through them. We’re getting a lot better through them and just knowing what’s going on. The whole offense being able to input stuff during meetings, not just ask what or how, but ask why and really get into big detail what’s going on with football.”

On the familiarity with James Coley as Offensive Coordinator…

“A lot of similar things are going on. It’s good for both of us with learning. It’s good for me to learn some different stuff too; it keeps me on my toes. I love learning and anything about football really intrigues me so I’m excited about what’s going on in that room and I can’t wait to get better during Spring.”

On his teammates from last season declaring for the NFL Draft…

“That’s a decision they made. It was kind of tough to see the teammates we leaned on leave; but we’re excited for those guys, we’re pumped for those guys making their dreams come true. I can’t wait to see them do well at their pro day and hopefully on draft night. We’re pumped, can’t wait to see those guys, it’s going to be awesome.”

On his trip to the NFL Combine Preview in Indianapolis…
“It was awesome. The NCAA brought us in, about 20-25 of us guys. It was a lot of meeting time. Really learning about agents, the process of the transition to the NFL, how to stay eligible these last two years. It was a lot of information, a lot of financial literacy, figuring out what to do with your money when you get it, where your money goes, just a lot of information. Me and Andrew learned a lot and we’re super thankful for that experience to really understand how it happens. We got to go over to the Combine for a couple hours to see what that’s like. It’s a completely different perception about what you think is happening when you watch it on TV. You think it’s one thing and you get there and it’s super quiet, it’s cold in there, and everybody gets their rep and keep going from there. It was a great learning experience, I’m super thankful for that, and hopefully take as much information as I can and learn from it.”

Andrew Thomas, Jr., OT

On excitement of spring practice…

“It’s a lot of excitement. We have been working out and doing a lot of running, it’s a pleasure to get back out there and do some pass-offense."

On standards set for himself and going into this season being an All-American last season…

“It’s the same approach to every season, just trying to be better than I was the previous year.”

On visiting the NFL Combine and his experience and takeaways…
“I learned a lot about the process that goes into becoming a professional athlete. I learned about the financial courtesy and stuff like that.”

On the vibe of the offense after the coordinator change…

“I would say, I think we will do the same a little bit. We have had a couple meetings, and we’re changing a couple things up with the playbook. We’ll see in practice today and see how it goes.”

On how he sees the center position changing with Trey Hill…

"I think having us around and a lot of the older guys will help him adjust, and he’s starting to get a lot more confidence. He played in some games last year as center. As long as he continues to build confidence, I think he’s going to be a good player."

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Accolades Pour In for ITA Indoor National Champion Dawgs

UGA Sports Communications

A day after the Georgia women’s tennis team grabbed the program’s sixth national championship by winning the 2019 ITA National Team Indoor Championship, recognition's came streaming in with SEC weekly honors, and new top-team rankings.

The Southeastern Conference weekly honors was a Dawg sweep with sophomore Katarina Jokic taking Player of the Week and Meg Kowalski earning Freshman of the Week. Both student athletes went 4-0 in singles and played together in doubles, going 2-0. It marks the first such SEC award for each student-athlete. Jokic earned two SEC Freshman of the Week honors last season.

Kowalski, of Chicago, clinched Georgia’s first round 4-2 win over then-No. 14 N.C. State, while Jokic, of Novi Grad, Bosnia, clinched the semifinal 4-3 victory versus the then No. 1-ranked and defending NCAA Champion Stanford team, and then clinched the 4-3 championship against then No. 3 North Carolina, the reigning ITA Indoors Champions.

Diving deeper, Kowalski, ranked No. 84 in ITA rankings, also grabbed the best singles and doubles ranked wins of her young career, beating Stanford’s No. 44 Emma Higuchi, a two-time All-Pac 12 junior, and teaming up with Jokic to down the Cardinal No. 21 duo of Lord/Madurawe. She is a perfect 11-0 including two of her three total ranked wins coming this past week.

Jokic, playing No. 1 singles and ranked No. 2 nationally, improved to 16-2 overall with all four three-set singles wins over top-25 ranked opponents this past week. Like Kowalski, she also notched the highest-ranked singles win of her career when she defeated Vanderbilt’s No. 3-ranked Fernanda Contreras, a three-time All-SEC senior.

Both national team rankings, ITA and Tennis Channel/USTA, boosted Georgia to the top of poll. In the ITA team rankings, the Dawgs rose from No. 5 to the top spot with the rest of the top-5 consisting of UNC, Stanford, Duke, and Vanderbilt. The last time Georgia was ranked No. 1 in ITA was May 1, 2014 – that year the Dawgs lost in the NCAA quarterfinals and finished No. 4 in the final rankings. The last time Georgia finished the season No. 1 was in 2000 after the Dawgs won their second NCAA title. The ITA will release the next additional of individual singles and doubles rankings on Feb. 19.

The Tennis Channel/USTA College Tennis Top 25 Rankings announced its new rankings in the morning with the Dawgs moving up three spots to the No. 1 position – the highest the Dawgs have been in the rankings’ three-year existence. The Tennis Channel and USTA became partners in mid-December of 2018 with an emphasis on enhancing collegiate tennis.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Trailblazing Hoops Team Celebrates 50th Reunion

UGA Sports Communications

Perhaps it’s only fitting that, as the University of Georgia celebrates its first century of coeducation this year, another group of female pioneers on campus gets a measure of recognition, as well.

The UGA women’s basketball team from 1968-69 will celebrate its 50th anniversary in events revolving around the current Lady Dawgs’ SEC clash with Florida on Sunday. Twelve members of the team, including head coach Jean Dowell, are gathering this weekend, some seeing each other for the first time since they played together.

The 1969 women’s team is significant for multiple reasons. Primarily, these ladies organized a team where before there was none. They weren’t the first women to play basketball at UGA; a team was thought to have existed on campus as early as the 1920s. But not before 1968 had a program operated with any tangible support from the University. Additionally, the team organized before the enactment of the Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which brought sweeping change to the landscape of collegiate athletics.

Dowell, a native North Carolinian and a graduate of Western Carolina University, came to Athens to pursue her Master’s degree. She had carved a similar path in Cullowhee, where she helped organized the first women’s team and excelled as a high-scoring guard for the Catamounts.

‘’In terms of starting the program at Georgia, I don’t know who I thought I was, going down there,’’ Dowell said. ‘’I was intent on that school starting a basketball program. So I talked to department chairs, the deans, and the vice presidents. It was a long process, but the gist of my argument was, ‘how could this great university, whose entire existence is based upon social justice and opportunity for all, exclude an entire gender from one of its programs that it spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on?’ One day I got a call to go to the Physical Education office. The department head told me, ‘Jean, we wanted you to be one of the first to know that the University has decided to sponsor women’s basketball, and we’d be very pleased if you would be the coach.’ It was a ‘Wow’ moment for me, but I will say that they interpreted the word ‘sponsor’ very loosely.’’

Indeed, the women that comprised that first team played their games in the Women’s P.E. gym, not the 5-year-old Georgia Coliseum. They paid for much of their own equipment and transportation to and from games. Still, the team played four games in that inaugural season. It dropped a pair of games to Tennessee and Appalachian State in a tournament at Winthrop College before ending the season on a winning note, defeating North Georgia and Lander College at home.

Dowell eventually became the head coach and athletic director at Mount St. Joseph University in Ohio. She has now gained induction into the Ohio Basketball, Mount St. Joseph and Western Carolina athletic Halls of Fame. Dowell will reunite this weekend with 11 of her players from the 1969 squad. They include Teresa Allen; Rachel Benator; Gwyned Bius; Margeret Bostick; Nancy Brewster; Sally Chastain; Connie Ellsworth; Pam Haynes; Gail Johnson; Neena Knight; Ginger Wilson.

These ladies will be recognized on court Sunday during Georgia’s contest against Florida. Tipoff time is set for 12 Noon.