Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Press Conference - End Of Week One

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs worked out for a little over two hours on Tuesday afternoon on the eighth day of pre-season camp.

Following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart's post-practice press briefing on Tuesday:

Opening Statements

‘’We finished up Day 8.  Had a little bit of weather out there at times.  It drizzled on us some, off and on.  It was good to get to practice in that because obviously playing at night in the first three games, we may have to play in some of that.  We had some loose balls, couple of balls on the ground, struggled to catch it a little bit, but that’s good for us.  The adversity was good for us.  A little better practice today than yesterday.  We’re continuing on with our install, we’re almost through with our installations.  Isaiah Wynn and Michail Carter both have a little bit of an illness, so we held them out the past two days.  Kinda took their helmets away so they couldn’t go.  Other than that, Tyler Simmons is good.  He’s back out there running routes.  He’s ‘no contact’ for a couple of days as far as catching balls and blocking, but he can run and should be good…little bit of a wrist injury there.  I think that’s it on the injuries.  Jeremiah Holloman just had a little hamstring twinge and we’re holding him out.  Walter Grant should be fine. He got dinged up while you guys were out there, but I expect him to be right back.  He actually finished up practice today.’’

 How does not having Isaiah Wynn out there affect what you’re trying to do on the offensive line?

‘’It’s great because the one guy who we know what he can do is him, of everybody.  I think with him out, it allows us to move guys around and we did that throughout practice.  We’ve had those guys moving around.  Andrew (Thomas) has played left tackle, right tackle, left guard.  He’s played a little bit of everything. Isaiah Wilson has mainly been on the right side.  Ben (Cleveland) has been on the right side.  We’ve been able to flip-flop some guards, Kendall Baker and Solomon (Kindley) have continued to play both sides.  Justin Shaffer has played inside, Netori (Johnson) has played inside.  We’ve really moved guys a lot, more than we probably wanted to in the past two days, with Isaiah’s situation.’’

With Ben Cleveland getting reps on the right side, what does that say about his development from last year to this year?

‘’It says that he’s the right tackle as of today, Practice 8.  That’s all it says.  He’s got to continue to get better.  We expect more from him.  We’re searching for a right tackle.  You know, Dyshon (Sims) was probably playing better than him, but Ben has a lot of potential.  He’s got great size.  So does Isaiah Wilson. But neither one is playing up to the standards of what we expect right now, so we’ve got to keep growing in all those areas.’’

What is Jacob Eason like as a student of the game?

‘’I think Jacob is a great quarterback.  I think he’s somebody that understands our system.  He works really hard at it.  Jacob comes in and meets extra every chance he gets.  So, a lot of the things that you have heard about Jacob may not be true.  I think he does a tremendous job of trying to lead the team, of being ‘The Guy,’ just like Jake Fromm tries to do.  He also studies really hard and has grown a lot as a player, and he still has a long way to go.  And I think he’s the first to acknowledge that.’’

When the coaches are making personnel decisions on the offensive line, how much do you weigh experience vs. the option of giving someone the experience of playing time?

‘’I think it’s a critical decision.  We’ve always said that we want to play the guys that give us the best opportunity to win.  In Game 1, that may not the be the same as Game 2, 3, 4 or 5.  So when we make those decisions, we make them based on who’s going to be the best guy down the road.  It doesn’t mean that that guy might start, very similar to Jacob (Eason) and Greyson (Lambert) last year.  We’re trying to decide who’s going to be the best guy down the road, but it doesn’t mean that guy is going to start right away.  It just means that guy is going to be ready to play and he’s going to be developed.  Let’s say we keep up 12 linemen working with the Ones and the Twos.  Once we start really rolling, getting ready on our game prep, those guys have got to be interchangeable parts, and those reps they get in practice are really valuable, so that we’re giving the most reps to the guys we think have the best future to help us.  But they may or may not play in the first part of a drive.  We’re just going to have to wait and see.  It’s so early right now.  It’s too early to tell on the offensive line.  We haven’t even scrimmaged yet.  After the first scrimmage we’ll know a lot more.’’

Where does Andrew Thomas stand in terms of his readiness to contribute?

‘’He’s not ready to help out right now.  He’s an extremely mature kid.  He studies hard.  He’s very serious.  He’s very business-like.  He’s got a great approach to the game.  But we don’t have a guy ready right now.  We’re at Practice 8.  It’s hard to say that we have the older linemen exactly ready. I mean, the five guys that started out out there because they had 15 practices in the spring, they’re still ahead of those other guys.  But some of those other guys are catching up quick.  I would definitely say that Andrew is a guy that’s catching up quick because he has the athletic ability to play multiple positions in the inside and outside.  We think he’s a future left tackle, but we have to play our best players and if that means he’s there, and he’s got a little bit more size than Isaiah Wynn.  Isaiah played some guard last year and we didn’t get a whole lot of movement, so Isaiah did a really good job at tackle.  I feel like Andrew can help us out at guard, but Andrew has got to be a left tackle as well.  He may even have to be the right tackle, so he’s a guy that’s going to be a moving part, as well as (Justin) Shaffer, as well as Pat (Allen), as well as a couple of other guys…(Aulden) Bynum and Ben (Cleveland).  We’ve just got to get better all across the board.  And hey, they’re going against a good defensive front, too, so those guys are playing hard.’’

What have you seen from Mecole Hardman so far this camp?

‘’He’s made some plays.  It’s not that he’s faster than he was in the spring.  He’s just more confident, which makes him faster.  He hears the call and he knows what to do.  He’s had some pretty spectacular plays, but I still think he’s got to work on his hands and his natural catching the ball.  He’s a good athlete and I think he’s found a good home.  He’s tough.  He plays the game very similarly to Isaiah McKenzie when it comes to the toughness and competitiveness that you want.  But he’s gotten more comfortable in our system, so he’s able to do more.

‘’I think we’ll do anything we can to get him to ball. The problem is, and it’s a good problem to have, is that there are other guys whom we’ve got to get the ball to as well.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to find ways to get Mecole the ball.  Hopefully, the better he goes up and catches it and makes plays vertically down the field, it’ll take the top off some of these defenses where we’ve struggled to do that in the past.  But we’ve got a lot of guys that need the ball in their hands.  You guys got to see (D’Andre) Swift the other day.  He’s done a good job.  He’s a very serious, competitive young man.  Mark Webb, very serious, competitive young man.  Those guys are starting to hit that Day 8 wall.  Some of them haven’t had to compete at this level for this long, but we’re going to keep pushing them through because we think those guys can help us this year.’’

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