Saturday, March 31, 2018

Post Practice Press Conference

UGA Sports Communication

The Dawgs held a two and a half hour practice on Saturday afternoon as the three-day UGA Coaches Clinic concluded in Athens. Georgia returns to practice on Tuesday.

The following are excerpts from head coach Kirby Smart’s post-practice press briefing:

Opening Statement:

“We’ve had a really good five practices but I didn’t think there was as much juice today as we needed to have. The guys didn’t come out with the right attitude. At times during certain periods we got after it. But we didn’t start the way we needed to and we need some leaders to step up. I think that’s when the wear and tear starts to happen in spring ball because guys are looking forward to G-Day and I’m just trying to get them through practice six. We continue to install and we have some freshmen hitting the wall, getting confused and hopefully we will be able to slow down after this practice and go back through the beginning of the install again and see what sticks. Guys are showing improvement, just not at the pace we need. The offense is definitely ahead of the defense and we are struggling on the defensive line a little because of lack of depth.

I didn’t notice Michael Barnett out there. Is he dealing with anything?

Yeah, he had a minor knee injury and that’s part of the issue (with the lack of depth on the defensive line). We think he will be fine and back possibly by the end of the spring. He had a slight dislocation during Tuesday’s practice but we think he’s going to be OK.”

What can you do to rectify the lack of depth at that position?

“It’s tough to play true freshmen there. We are excited about the guys we have coming in. We had that crowd of Tyler Clark, Julian Rochester, Michail Carter and David Marshall who really helped us that one year. We are certainly going to need some help this year and the key is staying healthy.

How is Justin Fields looking at quarterback?

“He’s hitting a little bit of a wall. I think with all of the installation, he’s coming in and meeting extra and doing all of the things we want him to but it’s a lot and we don’t taper it for him. I think he’s getting accustomed to our practices. We are doing some different drills that he’s not used to, moving in the pocket and stepping up from the rush and I think a lot of that stuff is new to him and he’s growing in that role. He has good mobility when he gets out of the pocket and he’s done a good job picking things up. What I like most of all about him is that he has good demeanor. He doesn’t let the high plays or the really low plays affect him.

What does Divaad Wilson’s knee injury meant to the team?

“It’s a tough injury because he was a kid who was really coming along for us and we still think he will be able to play for us this year. He’s a bright kid, a really hard working kid and we are hoping he will heal fast. If he’s at Zamir White’s pace then we should be able to get him back. But it’s made us look at the Star position and what outside linebackers we could use out there, just like how we used Lorenzo Carter last year. We are working Jaden Hunter, Walter Grant and Mark Webb at Star, among others. With Divaad out, it’s put a little more burden on everyone.

How is Tray Bishop coming along in the secondary?

“It’s a learning process for him. He and Latavious Brini both, those two guys I challenge every day. If you go ask them, they probably don’t like me right now because I am riding them. Our depth at safety is a very serious concern and they are part of that depth. They aren’t ready to play yet and I don’t necessarily think they should be ready to play, but I think they should be on their way. They were unique last year because you didn’t see them play, but they took a ton of reps in practice. I challenge them every day to get where we can trust you to put you in the game because you are one play away.

Isaiah Wilson has said the redshirt year was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Are you seeing progress in him?

“He’s learning to compete. When you have to come over and block Lorenzo, Davin Bellamy and Trenton Thompson all day, it certainly makes you come to work. He went over there, competed and got better during that time and he’s continued to improve during the spring. He still has a ways to go and we still have a ways to go with the offensive line.

Does it excite you to have a pair of guys like Isaiah Wilson and Ben Cleveland on the line to help in the run game and the offense in general?

“Size doesn’t excite me, what’s in that helmet does. The first time I saw Isaiah Wynn, I didn’t exactly get excited. But I was pretty disappointed when he left. It’s not a matter of how they look all the time, it’s a matter of how they play. If you asked every defensive lineman that Isaiah Wynn faced last year, they would say he was one of the fiercest competitors and one of the most physical players that they faced all year.

Does size at center just matter less with a “smaller” guy like Lamont Gaillard lining up there?

“I think it depends on the kid. Lamont, to me, is not really undersized, we just have a couple big guys to his left and right. It also matters what type of front you play against. He certainly can improve but he does a good job. I look at David Andrews and see what he’s been able to do. He’s not exactly an overpowering guy, but he’s intelligent, knows leverage. The good centers who I have been around have a lot better feet than they do size.

With Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee and Dan Mullen at Florida, how do you look at the SEC East now?

“I look at it just like I did last year. We’ve got to beat them. The names and faces may change but the places are all the same. I’m not concerned with what they’re doing and they’re not probably concerned with what we’re doing. We are trying to develop a team that believes in its self-confidence but I don’t concern myself with what those other guys are doing.

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