Monday, September 30, 2019

Monday Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed Saturday's game at Tennessee. The Dawgs and Volunteers kick off at 7 p.m. ET at Neyland Stadium on ESPN.

On Monday, Coach Smart and student-athletes offered the following comments.

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement…

“We'll start off with Tennessee. We worked on Tennessee a little bit last week, as well as some of our future opponents. But primarily on Tennessee on Thursday. I think Jeremy Pruitt is doing a great job with the situation he's in. I certainly know this. They play hard. They play physical. You can turn the tape on in the third and fourth quarter and watch how their kids compete, and they play the game the right way. You look at last year's game with us, they fought extremely hard, made it a game there in the second half, and the games they've been in this year they've just had a lot of turnovers and their defense has actually forced a lot of turnovers. They've just turned the ball over quite a bit and it's hurt them some in some games. But they have a good football team, have a lot of players that we recruited, and have a lot of respect for the coaching staff. I think they do a great job, and they're kicking butt in special teams, which will be an extra challenge for us, because we didn't fare as well last time out in special teams. So this will be a tough ballgame, at night, their place, and our guys have to get ready to play.

On if he’s motivated by his time here as a player here against Tennessee…

“Not really. I don't think the games that I play. These kids don't think about that, it has no impact whatsoever on this game. Most of them weren't born when that was going on. So I don't think it has much impact on it. I think it's a rivalry game, and I think that when you're going to play a team that's a rivalry game for you and also somebody you recruit against and they come into our state and recruit a lot we recruit a lot in their state, it's an important ballgame, but that's more to do with the here and now than the past.

On if he’s going to talk to Cade May about the added emotions for him playing against Tennessee…

“Well, he had that last year. I know it wasn't there, but it was the same emotions, I think, that he played with. Obviously when your father plays for that school and you grow up in that town, there's a lot of emotions there. But Cade has played in a lot of big games. He's played in a lot of snaps, a lot of positions. I think he understands that he cannot let the emotion get the best of him. He knows a lot of the guys on their team and kind of was around a lot of them, but Cade as good control, he has good self-control, and he understands what he can and can't do, and he'll play hard just like they'll play hard against him.”

On the dynamic of going up against Jim Chaney’s offense…

“I think there's a lot more to it in your guys' stories than there is in real life. It's going to boil down to which guy blocks properly, which guy covers properly. There's no, like, secrets. I mean we know what they do, they know what we do. But that's the case every week. That's what the tape's for. So there's a lot of familiarity there. And at the end of the day the players have to go out and execute. They have to play with a passion and energy and enthusiasm to beat the guy across from him and not make it about what our defensive coordinator calls or what their offensive coordinator calls. I just don't think that matters a whole lot. At the end of the day it's blocking, tackling, turnovers, explosive plays, executing and doing it with a lot of passion.”

On if he’s seen enough of Brian Maurer at quarterback in the Florida game to know what's different about him compared to Jarrett Guarantano…

“No. I don't know that I've seen enough. Obviously he's a really good athlete, but so is Jarrett. I mean, they both can run the ball and both do things with that package. I thought he came in and did a good job. First series he was in there he did a nice job moving the ball down the field, and he is a good athlete. We know him from high school and have seen him play.”

On the injury updates of players in the secondary and on the offensive and defensive lines…

“Eric Stokes we think is going to be able to practice today. Again, he did not practice on Thursday. He conditioned and ran and moved around, but he wasn't able to practice today. He's supposed to be able to go full go in practice. Tyson Campbell is still limited a little bit, hoping to get him back before the end of the week. He's recovering quickly. Don't really know any on the defensive line. Solomon Kindley we expect to be able to go out today and do some work. We think he's going to be cleared to play but we just don't know if he's going to be able to or not. It's going to depend on how many reps he can get today and tomorrow. Kearis Jackson is cleared to play. He's going to be able to play. We think he's going to be able to go out and do a good job for us. He practiced last week. Like I said, he's been practicing all long. It's never gone away with his situation. He's just going to have a different brace on, a different splint on, but we think he's going to be good to go.

On quarterback Jake Fromm completing almost 76 percent and ranking pretty high in the nation in passing efficiency…

“Jake does a great job leading our team, our offense. He understands the game of football really well. He handles protections. He handles a lot of what the defense does and gives to us and takes from us, and he does a nice job of managing that. We put a lot on his shoulders. And especially when he goes on the road, he has to do a good job understanding there's more to it than just the right play. Sometimes it's the tempo or it's the shot clock that he has to deal with, getting the call and getting us lined up. But he's picked up where he's left off. He's very highly efficient. He makes good decisions with the ball. He protects the ball and puts us in the right play a lot.

On improvements of Jake Fromm from the off season and through the first four games of the season…

“His leadership is the biggest difference. I mean he's kind of always been a leader, but he's taken that more -- I guess it's more tangible to me. I see him affecting other people. I can see him going and talking and communicating to young wideouts, to helping get guys lined up, challenging guys to play with more energy and effort and toughness, and he's not afraid to confront and demand. Not that he ever was, but he's doing it more often now.

On if he puts the shut-out win in Knoxville in 2017 on the path of the program's rise…

“I think they were in such a different state in time at that time, you know. Their program was in a different direction than it really is now, and I don't look at that game as any kind of indication of where we've gone. Jake Fromm played well in a tough environment, but we had a different football team. You know, we had an extremely -- very experienced defensive football team, and we had some really good players on offense at the skill positions. I think that game obviously has nothing to do with this game. They're playing with a high motor and a chip on their shoulder and they're playing extremely hard, and we know we're going to get their best shot and our job is to make sure they get our best shot.”

On if the College Football Playoff committee prefers more offensive teams…

“The other games don't affect us at all. I mean I don't think they affect us at all. I think that it's not my job to rate what other teams do or how many points they score or how many points they give up. Our job is to go play the best football game that our kids can play, and that's what we try to do each week with the ultimate goal of winning the game in mind, and we go play at the highest level we can, and if we're not doing that, we try to figure out which ways we can do to do it better. But that's all we do.”

On the depth of the offensive line following injuries…

“We're thankful that we have depth, because like last year, the depth played a major role in our season, because we missed some guys last year. With similar injuries this year; we've had several guys go in and out of the lineup. I think that's one of the defensive and offensive lines are those spots that you had the highest risk of losing a guy because of what goes on in there in the trenches, and it's tougher in there. So we've been fortunate that none of the injuries have been significant, but I think everybody's got the same problem, so you're always shuffling O-linemen to put them in the right spot. Same thing with defensive linemen to find the spot to get some depth to be able to play guys, and we've been fortunate to play a lot of guys up front. But we're getting ready to go on a stretch now where it's going to have to be for a long time.”

On Eli Wolf’s transition from Tennessee to Georgia…
“Seems to be smooth. I mean there's a lot of similarities into the way we do things here and the way they do things there, at least from his perspective. So it's not like something brand new for him. There's a lot of carryover. Offensively, different words and some different things. He's in his -- I don't know what number offense in the last four years, but he's in a different offense again, which he went through there and he went through coming here. So the transition has been smooth for him because he's bright, he picks things up, he's smart. But he works hard at it, and he's got a lot of pride in knowing what to do, and that part he spent extra time on so that he could have an effective senior year.”

On Jordan Davis’ role in controlling opponents’ run game…

“I think he's always working on his stamina. It's important that he understands that he has to be able to sustain and play for long periods of time. We're not going to ask him to play every play on defense. We ask him to play for his kind of stretch. He does a good job of that. He has to continue to improve on it. He has to monitor his weight at all times because it can get out of sorts on him in a hurry and he has to stay on top of that. But he plays with good pad level, and he plays with good strike, and strain. He's really hard to block. But he has to be able to do that, and, you know, ultimately our ability to stop the run is factored by a lot of other things outside of him, because he's one guy that's in one gap compared to the 11, 12 gaps out there. There's a lot of space that people can run the ball outside of him. But when he plays hard and he plays low pad level, he's hard to block.”

On the challenge Tennessee’s Juaun Jennings poses against the secondary…

“Well, he's one of the most physical players, competitive players, competitive toughness that I've ever seen. I mean he repeatedly blocks people. He plays physical at the point of attack. He goes up and attacks the ball. He's always had really good ball skills, and after he catches it is when he sometimes becomes the most dangerous because he's really hard to get on the ground. He's physical. So he does a good job. They do a really good job of moving him around and using his skill set, and he's one of the better receivers we'll face this year. When you get in the SEC, it's week in, week out, there's going to be a really good wideout on the other team, and he's one of them.”

On Tennessee’s team compared to a season ago… 

“Their depth, their physicality. They were thinner at some positions last year. They've got more guys. They're rolling and playing more guys. They're playing really hard and they play really physical. You look at the games they've played this year, they've had some self-inflicted wounds. Otherwise, they're winning or in those games. And you know the way they're coaching and the way they're demanding, they've got a good staff, they're going to push these kids, and they're getting them better. They've had a whole week to get better and improve, and I think it shows on tape when you watch them how hard they play, that they're on the brink of something special, and you can tell these guys are playing hard, and they're playing with a lot of young guys. There's a lot of guys out there that were recruited last year in a lot of situations.”

On Azeez Ojulari and what he brings to the outside linebacker position… 

“He's on the field a lot because we feel like he's our best either-or player. He can stand up. He can rush. He communicates well. He plays really physical. He strains, rushes the passer. So when you start talking about the attributes of an outside backer, first down is very different than third down. And you want somebody that can do it all. But there's guys that have roles on our team that are specialized to be better on this situation and other guys that are specialized to be better at run situation. But, yeah, he does both pretty well. It allows him to play a significant amount. He still rolls, but he plays more than those other guys because he knows what to do. He practices really hard. He's very productive. And, you know, we need those other guys to step up and play to the same level he is. Nolan Smith does that, providing kind of a spark. Jermaine Johnson is starting to do that a little more. Walter Grant has done that and even Robert Beal is starting to do it more and more. So the more guys we can get that can play that winning football, it really helps us.”

On Dominick Blaylock and the spark he’s provided the last few games…
“Well, Dom's a really hard worker. First of all, he's put himself in a situation to be successful because of how hard he works. He goes out to practice every day, and his level of practice standard is the same as his game standard. I mean he plays so hard in practice. He does everything you ask. He's a very assignment-oriented guy. He has a knack for getting open. He understands coverages and route structure. He understands our offense. So he can play multiple positions. He can go outside and play. He can play inside. And he does a really nice job of doing that. And he's even become better as a blocker and more physical as he's in the weight room and continuing to lift. So I love the way he works. He never complains. He just goes out there and puts his best forward each and every day, and we need him to continue doing that because it's a position that we've been light at, and he's a position guy that can help us at the wide receiver spot.”

On Dominick Blaylock’s mental approach and how it shows in all aspects of his game…

“We knew it in recruiting because we had him in camp. He came in and competed and worked really hard in camp. And he had done it on Friday nights. He went on some of the biggest stages there were on Friday night and played against the best teams in the state and he performed well. He was usually the best player on the field. And they used him very well. They put him at Wildcat quarterback. He returned kicks. He got the ball in the slot. You knew he was a playmaker by the way his coaches used him. And he took on all those roles in high school, so you felt like he would be able to do the same thing in college. He went to an All-Star Game, scored two touchdowns. Anywhere he's gone he's been one of the most competitive people on the field, and he's continued that trend at our place by outworking people and just busting his tail.”

On players that stood out during the bye week that might see more playing time…

“There's so many guys out there working I'd hate to single anybody out. There's nobody that just like leaped up the depth chart, if that's what you're asking. There were some guys that were dinged up and banged up that didn't get as many reps, and there were a lot of guys in the two’s and three’s categories that got a lot more reps because we wanted them to get some quality work or try to develop and play. There are some positions that we're not as deep as that sometimes the one’s are the guys that need the reps because they don't have a lot. And then sometimes the ones that played and started for three years and we're trying to develop another guy to be a backup so we put him in there with the one’s. But there's nobody that just jumps off at me that I thought is going to be out there starting this week that wasn't last week.”

On if Nakobe Dean is playing at 100 percent following the early-season injury…

“Yeah, he's playing at 100 percent. I feel like he is. He's out there playing situational football. He plays in the first, second down rotation. He's done a good job. I do think that the setback held him back some from being able to play every snap and also from getting the reps. There was a brief time in there that he couldn't get as many reps, and it probably hurt him there from a mental standpoint. But he's picked that back up, and he's working really hard and pleased with what he's doing. Just continue to get better.”

On the possibility of Tae Crowder being All-SEC or NFL prospect material as a senior… 

“I can't compare him to other guys because I'm not watching all the other guys in the league. Tae has taken ownership in his job, and he's become much better at being able to adapt and change to what happens within a game, within a play. Something checks, something changes, so many formations you get from offenses nowadays and so much complicated scheme stuff that he's able to help get us right besides Monty (Rice) being the only guy that can do that. So he has grown at that. I think the fact that he's gotten better at that allows him to make some plays. But to all those questions about, I don't know, I don't think he would be concerned with all those things right now. He's trying to play his best football for his teammates so that we can be successful on defense.”

Trey Hill, Sophomore, Center

On Jim Chaney being on the other sideline…

“It’s a very unique feeling. Our coaching staff used to be over there, theirs used to be over here. It’ll be a pretty good battle.”

On what you remember about going into the game against Kentucky last year and how Coach Pittman had you prepared for that…

“It was really just an adrenaline rush. I just had to focus on remembering everything, all the calls with being a freshman at the time. I just remember going out there and being me.”

On being banged up and having to shuffle guys in and out of positions while still performing at the highest level…

“I think this week was good for us. I think whatever guy goes in whatever position is going to be good for us.”

On success against SEC teams and what has attributed to that success…

“I think our preparation and the way we practice. Our Tuesday and Wednesday practices play a huge role. Just going out and practicing hard everyday.”

Azeez Ojulari, Redshirt Freshman, Outside Linebacker

On his Tennessee-commit brother and the possible dynamics at this weekend’s game...

"It’s going to be a good one. I know he’s going to be there, but I’m still trying to change his mind. I know he’ll be rooting for me and the Vols for sure, so we’ll see how that plays out."

On his progress this season...

"I feel like I’m getting better every week, actually. I come in and work hard every day to try and impact the rest of the outside linebackers to progress every day and week to get better."

Tae Crowder, Senior, Inside Linebacker

On how he used the bye week…

“For me, I saw it as a work week. We really didn’t want to get complacent this week and wanted to focus on us for a little. I worked on small, fundamental things like feet work, staying disciplined and sticking to the keys.”

On how he used the bye week…

It would be great. That’s the plan, and it’d be something really special for us.

On how much a factor he thinks Jim Cheney will be in terms of play calling on defense…

"It will depend, but we’re just focusing on preparation this week. I’m sure Coach Cheney will probably try to mess with our defense a little, try to scheme a little. We’re just going to stick with what we know."

South Carolina Kickoff Set

UGA Sports Communications

The Saturday, October 12th, SEC football game between Georgia and South Carolina in Athens will kick off at 12:00 noon ET and be televised by ESPN.

This will be Georgia’s third appearance on ESPN this season.

Friday, September 27, 2019

More Notre Dame Game Pictures

More pictures from the Notre Dame game.....

Dawg's D focused on high snap.

Notre Dame touchdown was intended for number 6.

Cager goes up and makes the play.

Wilson had the pic all the way.

Kindley has his man stonewalled.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wednesday Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

The third-ranked Dawgs conducted a two-hour practice Wednesday as they look forward to their first open date of the 2019 season this weekend.
Georgia is off to a 4-0 start including 1-0 in the SEC, and its next game will be October 5th at Tennessee (1-3, 0-1 SEC). Before practice, Georgia coach Kirby Smart participated in the SEC Football Weekly Media Teleconference and provided an update on the Dawgs. Selected comments from Smart are below:

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement

“We opened up practice yesterday after doing some film review and conditioning on Monday. On Tuesday, we had a good physical practice. We’ll get after it the next few days and start working on our next opponent which will be Tennessee off the bye week.”

On attendance in college football and scheduling to help the sport…

“I certainly think games like that (Georgia versus Notre Dame) are needed, especially right now. It’s really important. I think having a balance…to me it’s as much about fan experience as it is matchups. I think it’s really important that your fans enjoy coming to your games. They have a good atmosphere. You’re able to put a good product out on the field that they can enjoy. You can make the case that a lot of fans don’t like the lower level matchups, but a lot of those teams survive with what they’re able to get in guarantees for those games. It also gives at least us a chance to expand our fan base because a lot of fans get to come to that game that might not get to come to a Notre Dame game. They get to come enjoy Sanford Stadium and bring their kids and family members who might not otherwise get an opportunity. All that is good for college football. The matchup we had (with Notre Dame), the amount of electricity in the game and the stadium was awesome. You acknowledge that maybe every game can’t be that way but at the same time you want more of them.”

On the impact of having a rushing attack and the running game versus Notre Dame…

“Every body blow you give a team has a wear, has an effect, and we certainly felt like over really the last three years, the total effect of being able to give body blows does have an effect on teams. I think when you talk to teams after they play us, they definitely feel that’s the case. Never would I say if you can’t run the ball, you have to continue to run the ball, you got to be able to mix it up. You can’t be one dimensional in anything you do especially when you play a top 10 team. I got an incredible respect for Notre Dame or really any SEC team. They have to find ways to stop the run during the week, and most teams that’s the first thing they try to do is stop the run versus us. We got to have some things to lighten the box and allow our playmakers outside to make some plays. We did run the ball a little better in the second half at times (versus Notre Dame). There were some times when we had some breakdowns, and things they did to hurt us. I think a lot of that comes from the wear and tear and totality of the physical nature of running the ball.”

Michael Barnett, Senior, Defensive Lineman

On what the defense is working to improve on during the bye week…

“I feel like we just need to improve on our technique. Play calling, executing better, that’s just what we try and work on. We’ve got to block better, really just tune up our craft.”

On Justin Young stepping up and his impression of his performance…

“I know what Justin can do; we came in at the same time. It’s like with both of us, we just have to remain consistent and execute the plays that are called, not just trying to get off blocks really quickly so it’s really about execution, both me and him.”

On if the defense has an identity yet…

“We put our identity out there that we want to be relentless, attack the ball, and wreak havoc; but I feel like we can always improve. There’re some areas we need to improve on. … Last year was a different team, this is a new team. You’ve got new faces on the field, you’ve for freshman coming in and making an impact, I feel like we’re just trying to make a new identity. We’re going to leave the past in the past and the future, we’re going to leave that to greatness. We’re only looking at one game at a time.”

Charlie Woerner, Senior, Tight End 

On what the offense is working on during the bye week...

"Some people call it bye week; we call it work week. Offense is trying to work on a lot of communication things. Really hone in and execute on the passing game."

On what he wants to work on personally...

"I am trying to work on my route running ability a little bit. Get more clean and crisp on it. Just communicating with receivers and tackles, just run game stuff. Just to be perfect every time."

On how different it is not preparing for an opponent but working on himself...

"Especially with a week like this week you don't have a team to look forward to at the end of the week you are more playing yourself and playing each other. Just have to work on those few things your coach gave you to be better. It makes it simple this week for what you need to do."

On the tight ends making tackles...

"Perimeter blocks are a big thing for us. Especially when it comes to perimeter game or out zone stuff. Usually we are the ones who spring that play or if we miss it it's not a good play at all. Especially out in the space in the perimeter they can be really hard. That DB has a two-way go. They are usually a little smaller a little quicker than us. It is usually a little tough to block but we work on it all the time in practice.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tuesday Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

The third-ranked University of Georgia football team practiced for two hours in shoulder pads and shorts on Tuesday during the first of two bye weeks this season.
After the bye, the Dawgs head to Knoxville, Tennessee to face the Volunteers on Saturday, October 5. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN. 

Coach Kirby Smart met the media following Tuesday’s practice.

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Comments

“We had good energy, good juice. The guys competed really hard. We got some more reps with our ones, twos, and threes together. Some our twos got a little extra work today. We are trying to develop some more depth to get some good-on-good. We picked out some things we need to work on, some areas of concern, and some areas we need to improve and tried to work on those with specific situation football. Then we did a lot of fundamental work. We will go back tomorrow and Thursday with a little more physical work.”

On taking this bye week to introduce some things they’ll see down the road with other teams...

“Yeah we did that today. We had three periods of what we call ‘teach work’. We did three or four periods against each other and then we did three or four periods separate. It’s where we pick out something that not one team does, we don’t go work on team X, we just go work on things that teams do that we don’t do so that we get exposure to it. We just pick out things we’re going to see in the future and work on them.”

On what the team has to work on the most right now…

“Blocking, tackling, the ability to not give up explosive plays, effect the quarterback. There are a lot of things, but that is what practice is for. We are trying to help our guys. There are a lot of things that we need to work on and you can’t do them all every day. We try to target a few things that we need to improve on.”

On being quicker in the passing game against Notre Dame…

“I don’t think we ran any screens. The only screen we ran was a tackle for a two-yard loss, so that was not a good deal. There were a couple of run-pass options (RPOs) early on that were nice and effective. There were a couple things they showed us that spooked us away from those later and a couple of those were really tight throws. The RPO game is something that we’ve had. Jake Fromm does a good job with it. You always have it. It’s nice, but it’s not always there. When the RPOs get taken away with leverage and press- it’s not really who we are. We can do it, but it’s not who we are. The ability to do that helps us and it helped us in those early plays in the game, but they can do things coverage-wise that spook you.”

On the injury update of Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell, Solomon Kindley, and David Marshall…

“Eric was not able to go today. It’s looking like he’s going to be fine, but he was a little sore. He jogged yesterday and ran today. Tyson is working out, training, but not able to practice. Solomon didn’t practice today and he’ll be day-to-day. He’ll be fine but he wasn’t able to practice today. David’s foot injury has been bothering him all year. He’s strong, he’s playing. He played in a lot of snaps against Notre Dame. It continuously bothers him so we’re trying to help him out with that.”

On the playing time of Tyrique Stevenson and Tyrique McGhee…

“McGhee practiced all week and did a really good job. McGhee has played corner is several games. He understands our overall system, probably a little better right now. Stevenson is extremely talented and he’s a really big, physical match up guy. As he develops and works and learns the defense he’s going to be a really good player. He’s close. He’s one of the guys that’s competing for the job.”

On previous comments of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” and what they’re looking to fix now…

“We have to effect the passer more. Our HAVOC rate is right on the line of where we want to be. We’re really close- one game we’re under, the other two or three we were over. We spent the last days studying teams that are leading- what are they doing? What in the SEC is working? Who has the highest HAVOC rate in the SEC defense? Offensively, what can we do to get the ball to our play makers in space? How can we do it better? How can we find plays to get guys on the perimeter to loosen some teams up and throw the ball down field. It’s limitless, what we’re trying to do.”

On his thoughts of the overall blocking from the receiver group this season…

“It’s been good. If you’re talking about perimeter blocking I’m going to include tight ends and wide outs. We probably tied the other night because we didn’t win that battle. They ripped us in some spots, where we had won the other three. Give them (Notre Dame) a lot of credit- when it came to perimeter blocking I thought their No. 6 (Jeremiah Owusu- Koramoah) did an awesome job. He’s a good football player. We didn’t kick their butt. George Pickens did have some good blocks, I’ll agree with you there. But as a whole on the perimeter, it wasn’t a total dominate like we’ve been and like we take pride in.”

On Zamir White not playing against Notre Dame…

“With the flow of the game we didn’t get many opportunities to get him in. If No. 7 is running the ball like he’s running the ball it’s hard to get the ball to anybody else. The guy was making people miss, running possessed. Brian Herrien was running hard. We want to get Zamir involved and we need to do that. He’s growing and he’s getting better. He had two of the best blitz pick ups I’ve seen out there today. He stoned them. He’s getting better and he’s getting more confidence. I want to be able to show confidence in him and get him out there to play. It wasn’t just Zamir, it was other guys. There are a lot of guys I would have loved to play in that game but the opportunity never presented itself and we still played a lot of people.” 

On having specific things for each player to improve on during the bye week…

“We give every player on the team three or four notes of what they have to get better at. Every coach is assigned their players to say ‘here are your target areas, you have to improve on’. It might be special teams for one guy. It might be routes, it might be blocking, but it’s very specific. We want them to have a purpose in practice this week. If you’re not careful they’ll just tread water. We don’t want to do that. We want to get better and we want to have target areas to get better. Offense had three goals, defense had three goals, and special teams had three goals today. We have to improve.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Rodrigo Blankenship Named SEC Special Teams Player Of The Week Again

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has been named the Southeastern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this year after his performance in the 23-17 win over No. 7 Notre Dame, according to a league announcement.

For Blankenship, this marks the fourth time in his career that he has earned SEC weekly honors. He received Special Teams Player of the Week recognition earlier this year after Georgia’s win over Vanderbilt and following the Dawgs' victories last season at South Carolina and at Kentucky in 2016.

Blankenship connected on both of his PATs and drilled a trio of field goals, including a 40 and a 43 yarder, to help Georgia down the Irish. With his 11 points in the game, he moved to fourth on UGA's all-time career scoring list with 358 points, passing Hall of Famer Kevin Butler. Blankenship has connected on a school record 175 consecutive PATs and is 8-for-8 on his FG attempts this year.

Tennessee Game Time Announced

UGA Sports Communications

The Saturday, October 5th, SEC football game between Georgia and Tennessee in Knoxville will kick off at 7:00 p.m. ET and be televised by ESPN.

This will be Georgia’s second appearance on ESPN this season. The Dawgs’ all-time record on ESPN is 47-33-1.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Stadium Shots

More pictures......

Beautiful sunset and what an atmosphere for a game.

Who let the Dawgs out???

Dawgs take the field.

Halftime Red Out

May have been the loudest moment in the stadium.

Pictures From Notre Dame Game

Took over 1100 pictures Saturday night, I'll post some over the next couple of weeks.

Cager got a hand down in bounds as well as a foot.

Swift not only can run.....he can fly.

No doubt Swift crossed the goal line.

J. R. Reed interception killed a Notre Dame drive.

Woerner scoops up his own fumble.

Post Game Quotes

UGA Sports Communications

Coach Kirby Smart

On the win …

“That was a hard-fought game. I have a lot of respect for Notre Dame and their program and how they battled. But man, our kids played hard. … That was a huge win for them. They play so hard and work so hard and play with toughness. I was happy to see them pull that out.”

On the attitude at the half … 

“We were confident we could do some things because we were moving the ball. Our defense was playing pretty well and made some stops, so I was pleased with the effort. We made some adjustments and felt like we could come out and score some points.”

On the crowd … 

“They impacted those guys. They had 5-6-7 penalties and had to use their timeouts. Our fans caused their quarterback to have some issues. … We need that out of our fans all the time. That is a real homefield advantage. You need that in college football.”

On D’Andre Swift … 

“That was the heart of a warrior. He ran so hard and did a great job. He played with passion, energy, and toughness, and he had a good offensive line in front of him.”

On players replacing injured players … 

“It’s a tough deal when guys go down and you have to step up at the spur of the moment. We kept battling through. … We’ve got some guys who are out and some who are banged up, so we’ll use the off week to try to get healthy.”

On winning the turnover battle … 

“Winning the turnover battle against these guys is huge. Rarely do they lose that battle.”

Divaad Wilson, Redshirt Freshman, Defensive Back

On his first career interception... 

“I was a little beat on the route. Chris Finke is a great receiver for them. I mean, I just lucked up, basically, but I had to snatch the ball and just play ball.”

On the defense closing out the win… 

“Stepping in with the defense, I mean defense wins games, but I’m not new to big crowds. I’ve been playing in big crowds all my life. It wasn’t really a big difference for me.”

Rodrigo Blankenship, Senior, Place Kicker

On playing in two close games against Notre Dame in 2017 and 2019... 

“It’s crazy. It’s awesome. It’s a blessing, it’s really just a blessing to be here and be a part of this team, part of this program and part of the University of Georgia. It’s just an incredible blessing. When you come to the University of Georgia, you can find yourself playing in some pretty big games. It’s just really special and really just a blessing to be a part of this team and be in these kinds of games.”

On whether he is happy to survive this game… 

“I definitely think that there was a sigh of relief there at the end. I think we’re going to really try and enjoy this moment, enjoy the next 24 hours so that we get to enjoy it. Then, after that we’re just going to see how we can get better as a football team.”

J.R. Reed, Senior, Defensive Back

On the fan support and crowd forcing Notre Dame penalties... 

“Any time Georgia can show up like that… we’ve got to do that every game. Not just this one, but every time we’ve got a home game, it matters. If it’s at 12 or it’s at 9 in the morning, we need them to show out.”

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly 

Opening statement… 

“It was a disappointed locker room. We certainly don’t come down here to play these games, and feel good after a physical game like that, and come up short. Congratulations to Georgia. They are a good football team, obviously. It was a good, physical game on both sides of the ball. You could hear it out there; the physicality was real. It was probably one of the most physical games that I have coached, against any team that I have competed against, and I have coached a lot of games. Georgia made a couple more plays than we did. I know these all sound cliche, but when you break it down, our guys fought to the very end. Georgia just made a couple more plays. We have to coach a little bit better. We have to make a couple more plays. That was really the difference.”

On whether he feels better about his team leaving UGA than when they arrived... 

“I certainly know a lot more about our team. It’s hard to measure your team early in the season. We’re a physical, fast team that’s persistent and will play for four quarters…We were a little sloppy today— uncharacteristically— and that goes to coaching., We’ve got to coach better and clean up the mistakes that hurt us today, because they’re correctable. The core of this football team is one that’s gritty, hard-nose and physical. We were short a number of playmakers [tonight] that we’re going to get back in the next few weeks. So, yes; we feel pretty good about our football team, even though we’re disappointed with what happened today.”

Ian Book, Senior, Quarterback 

On what different looks Georgia had in the second half… 

“I think they stayed true to what they were running. It was just on us, they had a great game and a great game plan. I respect that team a lot. It was on us to focus on the small details of what we were running and the game plan that the coaches made for us. It was ultimately up to us to keep doing what we were doing. It is tough to not come out on top of this game but I am proud of how this team played.”

On the 12 penalties, most of which created by the atmosphere, and how difficult it was to play in an atmosphere like the one tonight… 

“It was a great atmosphere. This is why you come to Notre Dame, to play in big games like these. Again, it goes back to really focusing on the small details, whatever the cadence may be. We just need to focus on ourselves and the small details. It comes down to the attention to detail and maybe the atmosphere did play a role a little bit but I thought the guys this week did a really good job this week preparing for the atmosphere with crowd noise. Also, coming to an environment like this you just want to have fun as well. And our guys were having fun out there.”

Alohi Gilman, Senior, Safety 

On how difficult D’Andre Swift is to deal with and the pressures he puts on defenses… 

“He is a great running back and a great player. He is an explosive, big back and a guy that is just competitive as well. He is tough for anyone to match up against.”

On the ability to dig deep at the end of the game … 

“As a team, we are never going to back down. We are a team that is going to step up to any challenge and is going to fight till the end. It is nice to see that in a team, what we can do. The sky is the limit for us. We are going to take it one week at a time and see where it goes.”

Post Game Notes

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia Wins Defensive Battle 23-17: The Dawg defense, which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in scoring defense (7.7 ppg) held Notre Dame scoreless in the third quarter and to just seven points in the second half after the Fighting Irish came in averaging 50.5 points a game. Georgia was trailing the Irish 10-7 at the half. Georgia forced the Irish to punt on their first three possessions before Notre Dame scored on an 8-yard drive following a turnover with 10:39 left in the second period. This was the first time the Dawgs had trailed this year. Notre Dame won the coin toss and chose to take the ball. The first drive saw the Irish go 40 yards on seven plays before having to punt. On Notre Dame’s second possession, the Irish got the ball at the UGA 40 yard line and forced a 4th-and-2 situation. The ball got away from QB Ian Book and the Dawgs forced an incompletion to get the ball back. Notre Dame punted at the end of its third possession. However, senior Tyler Simmons fumbled the return and the Irish got the ball at the UGA 8 yard line. Notre Dame went 8 yards in five plays, including its scoring play on a 4th-and-1 situation to make the score 7-0. On the year, opponents are now 2-for-7 on fourth downs against Georgia while Notre Dame is 6-for-9 in 2019. 

Top 10 Showdown: Third-ranked Georgia improved to 4-0 with a 23-17 win over seventh-ranked Notre Dame (2-1). The Dawgs are now 7-4 all time in top-10 matchups here, and this was the first involving a non-conference team since 1966 (No. 7 Georgia beat No. 5 Ga. Tech 23-14). Georgia is 6-3 against top 10 teams in the Kirby Smart era and 2-0 in Athens. Also, tonight marked Georgia’s 16th straight win at home dating back to 2017 which ranks third in school history. The Dawgs are now 3-0 against Notre Dame. ESPN GameDay was in town, and Georgia is 7-14 when they visit the Classic City.

Offense Comes Alive In the 2nd Half: The Dawgs scored their first touchdown of the game on a 3-yard rush from junior TB D’Andre Swift at the 2:27 mark in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-all. UGA scored on a 13-play, 8:12 drive (both season longs) as Swift scored his third rushing touchdown this year and 16th in his career. The TD-drive of 8:12 was the third longest by time in school history and longest since a record 8:45 TD-drive against Tennessee in 1998 (19-plays, 87 yards). The Dawgs came into the game averaging 49.7 points/game. Following a pair of field goals, junior QB Jake Fromm connected with graduate WR Lawrence Cager for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Dawgs a 20-10 edge. This was Cager’s first career touchdown as a Dawg (he had 10 scores at Miami from 2016-18). This broke a streak of three straight games that the Dawgs had scored a touchdown on their first possession. In fact, the game was scoreless in the opening period, which is the first time UGA and its opponent did not score in the first quarter since the 2018 National Championship Game versus Alabama. Tonight was the first time Georgia won a game after trailing at halftime since the 2018 Rose Bowl Game victory over Oklahoma 54-48 in overtime.

The Dawgs took their first lead at the 4:21 mark in the third quarter. Georgia drove 53 yards on seven plays in 2:36 before graduate PK Rodrigo Blankenship drilled a 31-yard field goal. Junior QB Jake Fromm was 20-for-26 with 187 yards and 1 TD. Swift had a career high 18 carries for 98 yards and a score. Junior WR Demetris Robertson had UGA career highs with four catches for 48 yards.

The Kicking Game: Rodrigo Blankenship connected on two PATs and hit a 40-yard, a 31-yard and a 43-yard field goal for 11 points. Blankenship moved past Kevin Butler to fourth on the career scoring list with 358 points. He has connected on a school record 175 consecutive PATs. Blankenship is now 61-for-72 in field goals, including 22-for-30 from 40 or longer in his career and 8-for-8 overall this season.

Points Off Turnovers: The Dawgs are +2 in turnover margin after giving up a fumble in the first quarter and notching an interception in the third and fourth quarters. After Tyler Simmons fumbled a punt deep in Dawg territory, the Irish scored the game’s first touchdown on 4th-and-1 on the next possession. Redshirt freshman DB Divaad Wilson collected his first career pick. Senior PK Rodrigo Blankenship then drilled a 40-yard field goal. J.R. Reed had a sliding interception (first this year, fifth as a Dawg) at the 11:11 mark in the fourth quarter. Then, Georgia turned it into another field goal, a 43-yarder by Blankenship for a 23-10 lead. Opponents have scored 14 points off four Dawg miscues while Georgia has tallied 16 points on six turnovers this season.

For Starters: Junior DJ Daniel (DB) started his first game with sophomore Tyson Campbell on the sideline with a right foot injury from last week’s game. Junior Demetris Robertson (WR) started his first game in red and black after starting a total of 15 games between the 2016-17 seasons for California before transferring. Jake Fromm started his 32nd straight to lead the offense while J.R. Reed now leads the defense with 33 in a row.
Injury Report: Junior LG Solomon Kindley left the game in the second quarter with a left ankle injury. Tyson Campbell, who had started four games in a row bridging the 2018 season, did not dress out after his game three injury. Also of note, junior RT Isaiah Wilson returned in the second half after not playing in the first two periods. Wilson left last week’s game with an ankle injury.

Record Attendance: The attendance for Saturday’s night top 10 showdown at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium was a record 93,246 after UGA added 500 additional seats for its showdown with seventh-ranked Notre Dame.

Dawgs Win A Thriller

UGA Sports Communications

The No. 3-ranked Dawgs scored 16 unanswered points to start the second half and held off a late push from seventh-ranked Notre Dame in a 23-17 victory on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium Saturday night.

A record crowd of 93,246 and a national television audience on CBS watched as the Dawgs fell behind 10-7 at the half. Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) then stormed out in the final 30 minutes to preserve the win late in the game.

Junior tailback D’Andre Swift led all rushers with 98 total yards on the ground, including a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Junior quarterback Jake Fromm completed 20-of-26 passes for 187 total yards and one score.

Defensively, Georgia was led by senior linebacker Tae Crowder’s nine total tackles. Dawg defensive backs Divaad Wilson — a redshirt-freshman — and senior J. R. Reed each recorded second-half interceptions in the win.

“That was a hard-fought game,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I have a lot of respect for Notre Dame and their program and how they battled. But man, our kids played hard. … That was a huge win for them. They play so hard and work so hard and play with toughness. I was happy to see them pull that out.”

Neither team could get much going in the first quarter as the game stayed scoreless through the first 15 minutes. Notre Dame was able to move the ball into Georgia territory, but a fumbled snap by quarterback Ian Book on 4th-and-2 stalled the Irish drive.

A muffed punt by Tyler Simmons set Notre Dame up at the Georgia 8-yard line, eventually leading to a 4th-and-goal at the one. The Dawgs were able to press Book out of the pocket, but he found tight end Cole Kmet in the end zone for the first score of the night, giving the Irish a 7-0 lead at the 10:39 mark of the second quarter. 

The Dawgs countered with an 8-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 3-yard touchdown plunge by Swift.

Notre Dame kicker Jonathan Doerer ended the half with a 27-yard field goal to put the halftime score at 10-7.

On the Irish’s first offensive possession of the second half, Wilson intercepted a Book pass and set the Dawgs up at the Notre Dame 22-yard line. Georgia’s drive came to a halt and Rodgrigo Blankenship knotted the score at 10-10 with a 40-yard field goal.
Blankenship added another — this time from 31 yards out — to give Georgia its first lead at 13-10.

Georgia’s onslaught continued into the fourth quarter. Senior wide receiver Lawrence Cager capped off an 8-play, 82 yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone.

Following another Blankenship field goal, Book marched the fighting Irish down the field on a 10-play, 75-yard drive, which ended with Chase Claypool’s 4-yard TD reception. Notre Dame forced a 3-and-out and the Fighting Irish got the ball back with two minutes on the clock. On a 4th-and-8 play, Book’s heave fell just short and the Dawgs held on for the 23-17 win.

Georgia now has a week off before traveling to Tennessee on October 5th.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Game Day Reminders

UGA Sports Communications

7:00 a.m. – Tailgate locations open on campus

5:45 p.m. – Dawg Walk

8:11 p.m. – Kickoff

Television: CBS

SEC Network announcers: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Jamie Erdahl

South Metro Radio:  WTGA 101.0 FM

National Radio: None

Satellite Radio: Sirius 84; XM 84; Internet 84

Georgia Radio Network announcers: Scott Howard Eric Zeier, Chuck Dowdle

Bulldogs Game Day: 10:00 a.m. ET on WSB TV Atlanta

Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall: Closed

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wednesday Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

The third-ranked Dawgs held a two-hour workout Wednesday as they finalize preparations for their upcoming game versus seventh-ranked Notre Dame.

Georgia (3-0) plays host to the Fighting Irish (2-0) at 8:15 pm Saturday on CBS at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.

Before practice, Georgia coach Kirby Smart participated in the SEC Football Weekly Media Teleconference and provided an update on the Dawgs. Selected comments from Smart are below:

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement

“Our guys are excited to get to play on a national stage in a home game atmosphere that probably will be unrivaled in Georgia history from a non-conference standpoint. I know they’re excited with a team like Notre Dame coming to town. It is really a special event.”

On Defensive Front facing Notre Dame…

“It’s a big challenge for our guys up front. We’ve got a good group, some very workman-like players that play really hard. We’ve challenged them this week that this is their opportunity to step up and play on a big stage, and that’s what most of these guys choose to come to Georgia for. They do it by committee and hopefully will be no different in this game.”

On Georgia’s backfield development…

“A lot of those guys we had seen. We had seen James Cook last year, we had seen Brian Herrien but just not to the extent that they’ve gotten work. Zamir White coming back has been a pleasant surprise for us, and he continues to do good things and get better. Kenny McIntosh has been a good asset for us; he’s going to be a good football player. I’m pleased with how far they’ve come, really feel like I’m talking about the two guys that didn’t play last year. Again, the important thing is finding roles for those guys.” 

On the impact of freshman wide receiver Dominick Blaylock…

“Dom has been a great addition. He came in this summer and picked things up quickly. He’s a competitor. He has a low center of gravity, he’s kind of sneaky hard to tackle. He’s not overly elusive, but he just runs tough. He does a good job of breaking tackles. He’s very sharp and understands leverages, a very savvy route runner. He’s starting to develop a comfort level with Jake Fromm and that’s important to us.”

On the play of backup quarterback redshirt sophomore Stetson Bennett…

“Stetson did a good job last week when he came in. He understood his role in the game plan. I felt like he executed at a higher level. We’ve challenged him to do that in practice because he gets so many more reps in practice than he does in the game to prepare himself. We always talk about play to your strengths, and he’s got to do that.”

On the play of sophomore punter Jake Camarda…

He’s hit some boomers. The thing he’s got to continue to work on is his directional kicking. He’s done a good job with that. They (Notre Dame) have a really good returner who has been doing it for a long time. They are one of the best teams in the country at holding you up and attacking you. They do a really good job in their punt return game. It will be important for Jake in his ball placement and his hang time.”

Trey Hill, Sophomore, Center

On the biggest challenge for the offensive line…

“Just basically being off the ball fast, staying agile and basically moving people.”

On being one of the quicker guys on the offensive line…

“Off the ball, quickness, yes, but everybody’s quick on the line; you have to be, it’s the SEC.”

On personal preference of playing at a neutral site or a home-and-home series…

“It really doesn’t matter. Wherever we’ve got to play, we just have to play fast and physical. Neutral site, away site, at home, we just have to do the same thing everywhere we go.”

John FitzPatrick, Redshirt Freshman, Tight End 

On his thoughts on neutral site games vs. home-and-home series...

"Honestly, I do not think it affects me that much. Georgia fans are always going to travel no matter what. They're the best fans in the nation. Whether it's a neutral site, an away game, they're going to come. So basically, it's a home game every time we play. That is the best thing about being a Dawg."

On his excitement for Saturday...

"It is going to be so much fun. But, at the same time we take each game with the same approach, the same mindset. Whether it's Notre Dame, whether it's Murray State we are going to have the same mindset. It is just another game."

On when he gets in the zone for the game...

"Hearing the crowd outside when you're in the locker room. And then, what I try to do is envision myself making the play before the play happens. So that way when I go out, I can do that myself."

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Tuesday Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

The third-ranked Dawgs continued their preparations for their non-conference matchup at home this Saturday vs. No. 7 Notre Dame with a two-hour workout here Tuesday afternoon.

Head Coach Kirby Smart, along with redshirt freshman linebacker Azeez Ojulari, fielded questions from the media after practice. Excerpts from their sessions follow:

Coach Kirby Smart 

Opening Statement

‘’Well, it was warm out there. That’s for sure. Still 97 degrees. I thought the kids pushed through it well and had a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We did kind of a split practice inside and out, like we typically do on Tuesday.’’

You’ve seen them for a couple of days. How do you feel about the way they’ve gone about things?

‘’We’ve got a long way to go. We don’t have but 50 percent of the game plan in, when it comes to what we’re doing. I like the enthusiasm, but that’s to be expected. They’ve had a couple of weeks where they’ve been pushing through practice, and this one they’re obviously more excited for. I’m sure that’s going both ways.’’

When you look at their first two games, what’s happened in Notre Dame’s run defense?

‘’Stats are overrated. I thought, especially the first game, there were some very different type runs. I don’t know if they hadn’t seen those before, or if they’d been exposed to those. You’re talking about a guy in (Louisville RB) Jawon Pass, who I recruited, as an elite athlete and a really good runner. We’re different than that, so it’s a different kind of run-game type stuff. I think people just look at rushing stats and they don’t look behind it. There’s a lot more to the story sometimes than what meets the eye.’’

Any update on (DB) Tyson Campbell and how he’s doing right now?

‘’He’s pushing through. He was out there today, trying to work and help us out. He’s mentally getting prepared and he’s not able to take a lot of reps.’’

What sorts of challenges does the Notre Dame offense pose?

‘’They’ve got multiple formations, they’ve got tempo, they’ve got the ability to do a lot of things. They have a lot of offense. When you start looking at all the things they do, it’s hard to prepare for all of it in a week’s time. And then you throw on the fact that they have a quarterback who can make you right every play. A coach can make a bad call, and the kid will bail him out and go scramble for it. He can make a perfect call, and he takes care of that, too. It’s nice when you’ve got a guy that can make somebody miss, you know, whether it’s pressure or a 3-man rush or a 4-man rush. He can make you right. That’s the thing. You’ve got to be patient because they accumulate yards, they’ve got a vertical passing game that’s explosive. They’ve got good runners and they use their personnel very well.’’

Will Tyler Simmons’ injury affect your punt return game?

‘’It shouldn’t. Tyler’s been practicing, so we expect him to be able to go. If he can’t, then Dom Blaylock will be back there.’’

Did you have any involvement in the new lighting that was installed at the stadium, and what are your thoughts on the fourth-quarter tradition (of using cell phone flashlights)?

‘’No, I didn’t have any involvement in the new lights. I think we’ve used them in recruiting, but I didn’t know they were put in for this game. We hope to have a lot of night games. As far as the phones and all, I think that’s awesome. Our fans have carried it on wherever they’ve been.’’

Do you have a preference of what time of day you’d rather play?

‘’It really doesn’t matter. I like an early game that allows you an afternoon off to enjoy other games. And I like to not play in the super-duper heat because I think it makes it less desirable for the players. The night games, they certainly get better temperatures and it seems they are cooler longer, and they can play at a high speed for longer. So I enjoy that part, too. You take what you get, and you don’t fuss a bit. That’s what they used to say.’’

How much of an impact would you think the crowd would have on Notre Dame’s offense and their ability to execute?

‘’I don’t know that. I mean, I don’t know how much they’ve prepared for that. I know this, when you have an experienced quarterback, which they do, it’s less of an impact than for an inexperienced quarterback. But I do know that our crowd will have an impact, whether it’s on a lineman, whether it’s on a communication or a receiver or a tight end. Who knows? They’ll have an impact on the game, and we need them to. That’s the advantage of playing at home.’’

You talk about limiting the outside noise in a week like this. With the increased attention on this game, how do you manage that aspect of preparing for the game?

‘’We have interviews with our players every week. Yeah, it’s a bigger game. Yeah, there are more people here. But the amount of time we commit to those people and those groups really is the same. There’s more of them, and we try to manage it for them. Claude does a nice job of trying to bundle it together, so that it’s 20 minutes at this one time instead of four times five minutes. That is what it is. We’ve talked to the kids about that. We’re kind of used to that. I mean, in the SEC you have that almost every week you play an SEC game, you have that kind of coverage.’’

Did the 2017 game at Notre Dame factor in the desire to get more ‘marquee’ games on the schedule?

‘’I really don’t know that it factored into it. We wanted those games anyway. We were wanting that for a long time and wanted it since I got here. We got the opportunity to start scheduling, so we started scheduling them. It seemed like a lot of them came really more recently to me, not since the Notre Dame win, but more recently, in the last year. What factors in it to me is, you need to play on a national stage, you need to play good opponents, you need to have strength of schedule, and you don’t need to be afraid of having one loss or two losses because I think that’s the way it’s going. I’ve said repeatedly that eventually some team with two losses is probably going to get in because they have a better strength of schedule than a team that has one loss. I think it’s better to go out and play the best games, and if you’re good enough, then you should be in there.’’

What have you seen from the outside linebackers this year, in terms of rushing the passer, and are you looking forward to their getting the chance to compete against an offensive line such as Notre Dame’s?

‘’I think they’ve been technically sound. They play with great motor. I think that room has changed so much in the last, I don’t know, six or seven months because Azeez Ojulari has taken over the room. He’s had such a positive impact. He’s a great leader. Nolan Smith is a positive impact. Jermaine Johnson has been a positive impact. It’s just the dynamic in that room. They get along so well. They compete really hard, and they’re playing at a really high level. They’re producing more sacks than we’ve gotten in a long time. So Dan Lanning is doing a great job with them.’’

Azeez Ojulari, Redshirt Freshman, Outside Linebacker

On whether the team has seen anything on film that’s indicated some challenges Georgia may face against Notre Dame...

“They’re really good. Like I’ve said, they can sack. They can block, and they’re very versatile. It’s going to be a good challenge for us."

On how Georgia is dealing with the build-up heading into this weekend’s matchup...

“Every day, it’s getting closer and closer. We’re just trying to stay locked in at practice. We’re directing our focus to the game plan and just trying to eliminate any distractions and focus on Notre Dame.”

On what he remembers about the last time Georgia played Notre Dame in South Bend...

"It was a heck of a game. It came down to the wire, with Davin Bellamy finishing the game with a strip sack— the game-winning sack— at the end. It was just a great game."

Monday Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed Saturday’s game against Notre Dame. The Dawgs and Fighting Irish kick off at 8 p.m. ET on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.

On Monday, Coach Smart and student-athletes offered the following comments.

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement …

“We're on to Notre Dame. I'm excited for this opportunity. I think it's a great game to have, non-conference game. You play at home and a school with such a tradition as Notre Dame. Looking forward to the opportunity. I know a lot of Georgia fans have had this one marked on the schedule for a long time. So have a lot of Notre Dame fans. We're excited to get the opportunity. They've got a really good football team. Got a lot of respect for Coach Brian Kelly and the job he's done and what he's built there, and their staff actually is one of the best staffs in the country. So good football players, and it should be a great opportunity for both teams.”

On the 2017 game being a launching point to current status...

“Yeah. I think that helps the trajectory of things. I mean it was a big win for us. It was a big win for Jake Fromm, you know, to go on the road and play in a place like that and play well enough to win certainly helped things. There have been a lot of games since then, too.”

On Rodrigo Blankenship...

“Really not doing anything different with Rod. I think Coach Scott Fountain and his staff do a tremendous job of keeping Rod fresh. He kicks certain days of the week. He's got a really good routine that he feels comfortable with. And he's been pretty consistent kicking them out of the end zone. And he's been consistent making the field goals and I think that's a big part of what Rod's game is, it's just consistency and performance. He gives you a great effort day in and day out, and he's kind of the leader of that specialist group.”

On non-conference games...

“It's exciting for the fans. The fans enjoy these games. They want you to play high-caliber opponents. They want to see these kind of games and this kind of atmosphere. So it's a Catch 22 between playing the lower division teams and giving an opportunity to fund their program versus giving fans what they want and playing a big-time non-conference matchup. I like the idea of both. I like having a mixture there, and I'm excited about this game because it's the next game.”

On reflection of improvement after the 2017 Notre Dame game...

“I think it's a little bit of both. I mean it was giving our kids an opportunity to perform at a high level, and that was a really good football team. We didn't play perfect. They didn't play perfect. It was a hard-fought game. Both teams got better by playing that game, and that was two good football teams. We were a good football team last year. They were a good football team last year. And we both have good football programs. We recruit at a high level. We both have really good academics, and I think both programs are here to stay.”

On Isaiah Wilson's availability...

“Jamaree and Cade have done a good job. Cade repped there all camp. Jamaree repped there all camp. As far as Isaiah's availability, I won't know much until today. I'll be able to watch him a little bit today. I think he's come along well and we'll find out more today.”

On playing in other big games...

“Well, the same way it helped them. They played in big games. They play a lot of big games annually. They had a playoff game last year against Clemson. They've got a lot of players who have played a lot of big games. So have ours.

The guys who haven't for them and us that'll be the biggest new experience for each one of them. And most of these kids nowadays are coming out of high school programs where they get to play in a lot of big games. But we have, especially at some positions, some guys who have played in a lot of big-time football games. You hope that helps them. But you look across their roster, there's guys that have played there for quite a while as well.”

On running into Notre Dame players from Atlanta...

“Yeah. We cross paths with Notre Dame probably on two or three kids a year. But they do a great job recruiting. They've got a great opportunity and product to sell just like we do. And both those two kids we recruited really hard, and got a lot of respect for both of them. They come from great academic backgrounds, great families. Tremble's dad played here right before I got here, was a great player; and he's a really good player. So both those guys I have a lot of respect for them.”

On Notre Dame's speed...

“They are getting a lot of turnovers and they're not turning it over much. That's one of the key critical factors of winning football games. And they're beating everybody in the country at that. That probably tops out very low -- not very penalized team. They've got a lot of discipline. They get turnovers, and they got good players and they execute at a high level. Their system on offense is very tough to defend because they're very multiple in what they do, and they're aggressive on defense, and their special teams is one of the best we've faced.”

On Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes working well as a pair on stopping Ian Book...

“I’m excited about what Eric and Tyson are both doing, but I'm also excited about Tyrique Stevenson and D.J. Daniel, who continue to get better each day with their execution.

As far as Ian Book, he's very talented. The guy is fast, explosive. He's a dual-threat guy that doesn't have to be a dual-threat guy. He is exactly what is hard to prepare for because when a play breaks down, a lot of times you think as a coach or defensive coach you got it right, you finally got it right, and then all of a sudden he gets a ten-yard gain on a play that you got it right on. You had him for a sack or you had him for a no gain, he turns it into a ten-yard game. He has a lot of explosive plays where he scrambles to throw and scrambles to run. He's not a guy that just does one. He does both. And it's frustrating. You have to be really patient because you want to get him as a rusher and then when you don't get him, you get frustrated, and it goes from being a lost yardage play to being second and five. He's really talented. Very impressed with him as a kind of commander and also as a scramble.”

On receivers' injuries and Tyson Campbell's injury...

“I don't know much on any of those guys because, again, I haven't been able to see them. So we'll see how they go today. I think Tyler Simmons is going to be fine, like I talked about. I think D. Rob (Demetris Robertson) is going to be fine. We'll find out today. Kearis Jackson is still injured and don't know if we'll be able to use him or not. And then Tyson Campbell we hope will be okay as well, but we'll know a lot after today.”

On Tyson Campbell being more confident at cornerback position...

“Yeah. I'd say he's more confident. You can't help but be more confident when you go through a rookie season, you're playing in the SEC and you're playing opposite of D. Baker (Deandre Baker). So he got a lot of throws last year. He and Stokes both did. He's a year older, a year stronger and a year more mature. He understands the system better and it allows him to play with a little more confidence.”

Thoughts on Notre Dame's defensive line...

“Well, I don't know anybody we've played recently that is like them on the defensive line. They have superior size and speed combination. They've got really good edge players. Their guys can get off the edge and rush really well. They do a tremendous job. Their guys can move around, just athletic. They're very multiple in what they do and they're disruptive. So I can't really compare them to anybody that we've played thus far up front. Maybe some individuals that we've played up front, but not as a whole as a group. They do a great job, and they create a lot of issues for you with their movement and their pressure package. They're really aggressive. We know they're going to score points offensively.”

On J. R. Reed's development...

“Since he's been here since day one he's been high character, working. You get the best of J. R. every day at practice. J. R. doesn't take a day off. And that was when he was not even eligible to play. I mean he was a really hard worker, and that jumped out at you. He performed well, played well, I don't even know what year he was at the time, I guess a sophomore when he had to play in this game and some other games that year. So he's grown into a very confident, good leader. He helps the other guys on secondary and the other guys on defense know how to prepare for a game. I think in games like this he gives them some comfort in a guy that's played in a lot of football games for us.”

On recruiting based on the Notre Dame game and having a strong schedule...

“I think having a strong schedule is a huge selling point, but in the SEC I think we all got that, because I really believe that the SEC schedule gives you the opportunity to play in the greatest venues in all of college football. You play in front of the largest fan bases, the largest attendance records. You're going to get that in the SEC. This is just in addition to. This is a way to differentiate yourself from maybe the other SEC schools you're recruiting against, because you've got the opportunity to play at Notre Dame and Notre Dame at home, so those things help.”

On his memory of big-game atmospheres...

“I don't know. There's been a lot of them. Since I've been here as a coach. When I was an assistant here as a coach and as a player, I mean there's been a lot of big games and I think that's what is great for the kids. You don't have a ton of Top 10 matchups maybe the caliber of this one, but there's a lot of Top 25 matches we've played in this stadium. So a great opportunity for our program to be on the national stage. It's a great opportunity.”

On the Rodrigo scholarship and his popularity...

“I think they love him because he's a Dawg through and through. He's got a great personality. He loves Georgia. He sells Georgia. He's a tremendous asset for us, but I love the kid as a person because of everything he's persevered and been through. But the scholarship, we told him he was getting a scholarship, or I told him he was getting a scholarship before the game ever happened. Because he had earned it, and I thought it would be a tight ballgame and thought it might help his confidence knowing that he wasn't having the pressure of a scholarship out there kicking. He already had it, and he had won the job and ended up coming out and making big field goals in the game. And we let everybody know afterwards, but he knew before.

On the impact of the magnitude of the Notre Dame game...

“We don't really get into the exterior forces. I mean what's going on outside, I mean you can think it's going to affect our guys, but it's really not supposed to. I mean we're really playing the opponent that lines up across from us, and we even talk about playing ourselves more than anything. So I know our guys will be excited to play. I know it will be an awesome atmosphere. Our fans never fail when it comes to support and being there. It'll be a record crowd with the additional seats. But after that it's going to come down to football, and that's what it always boils down to, who can block and tackle, and we're going to go out there today and practice blocking and tackling.”

On the Notre Dame offense...

“There's some similarities in what they've got. The quarterback's got more experience and he's really playing well, at a high level. Their system has some similarities. But they have different players at different spots. They're a very talented offense and got a lot of weapons they can use. He does the best job of using the best players regardless of what personnel grouping that is.”

On the touchdown drive before the half in the Arkansas State game...

“Well, it's something we work hard on. We want to take every opportunity that we can to score and be aggressive and try to do that with the quarterback we have and the offense system we have. He functions well when he gets an opportunity to do that. So any opportunity we get, whether it's a defensive opportunity before the half to stop it and get it back to the offense or offense to go out and execute, it's big, and I thought they handled that well Saturday.”

On the players playing the standard, not the opponent...

“You know, that team was very mature. I mean that was a new team to me starting the second year, but you look across that tape, offense and defensively, there are a lot of players who had played a lot of football. So I feel like that team understood how to play to the standard, and they kind of created the standard that is the standard. And this team is following in those footsteps from the standpoint of we've gotta have a standard of excellence every day at practice, and we gotta do that today, tomorrow and the next day to have the best opportunity Saturday.”

On his impressions of Notre Dame starters...

“A lot of returning starters. You look across the board, they've got 27-game starter, 27-game starter, 14-game starter, 19-game starter. I mean that's very similar to us when it comes to guys that have played in big games. You look at their film last year, they've got basically the same offensive line with the exception of maybe one guy playing now. I know I'm comfortable with guys with experience. They've got really good experience on the front line. They have a good offensive line, and they're really big and they'll be the best group we've played because they have size. They got athleticism and they do a good job.”

J.R. Reed, Senior, Defensive Back

On how much impact Georgia’s 2017 win in South Bend had in establishing where Georgia is today…

"It just showed that everyone started buying into the program. We saw what we can do if we buy in and all work together, and all work for a common goal. It showed everybody a new era, and that’s Kirby Smart’s era.”

On what he remembers about Jake Fromm playing at Notre Dame…

“I don’t really remember much leading up to Jake. I was myself for that game. I remember he was very calm and very poised even then, like he always is.”

On what it was like in the locker room after the Notre Dame victory when Rodrigo Blankenship announced his scholarship...

“Man, with the win and then Rod announcing his scholarship— the locker room was nothing but joy. We were all just so excited. It was one of the happiest moments of my life."

Cade Mays, Sophomore, Offensive Lineman

On the anticipation for this Saturday’s game…

“Yea this is definitely a huge game on Saturday. There’s going to be a huge crowd, huge venue; it’s going to be awesome. … I came here to play in a huge game in a huge atmosphere, to be put on the big stage and preform.”

On his dad playing for Tennessee in 1991 against Notre Dame…

“He did play on that team. I think he was a freshman or sophomore. He told me he played four snaps in that game. … It was definitely something he told me about growing up.”

On what stands out about Notre Dame’s defense…

“Speed. They have an older defense, too. They’ve got a bunch of older guys on the defense with a lot of experience and they’re fast. … The defensive line has a really good edge rusher, he’s really fast and uses his hands well and does a really good job of getting off blocks; the interior guys as well.”

Eli Wolf, Senior, Tightend

On controlling the emotions around a game like this…

“I just stay laser focused in my preparation. You won’t get nervous if you’re prepared for a game, and I think that’s the biggest point of the week going into it is preparation. If you’re prepared, you won’t be as nervous.”

On the atmosphere in his first night game at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium…

“It’s going to be a wild one. I think everyone knows that and Coach Smart’s made it very clear that there’s going to be a lot of hype around this game but don’t get caught up in it. We’re here to do one thing.”

On the role he can play as an older teammate…

“Have maturity and remain constant. Don’t let [the younger guys] get caught up in the moment. I’ve played in games like this and I know a lot of guys here have played in games like this so remaining constant for those guys and keeping a level head.”

David Marshall, Senior, Defensive End

On his memory of the 2017 Notre Dame game…

“It was just a great experience. It was my first time ever playing Notre Dame my sophomore year. Seeing all the friends traveling with us was really great to see. It just made the whole experience great.”

On reflecting back on how Georgia has developed from that game and beyond…

“I just see a lot of improvement. We just started to buy in to the type of program Coach Smart wanted, and once we did that we started becoming a great team. We’ve all become pretty close, so now our team is a brotherhood.”