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Kirby Smart Highlights UGA Defense During Monday’s Media Session

Will Morrison

Kirby Smart met with the media today and gave his thoughts on Auburn's team and UGA's injury report. Smart's quotes are italicized 

Opening Remarks: A road SEC test are always difficult, and there's no way around it. Any conference when you go on the road in it it's always a test. It's a test of focus, patience, endurance, and composure, which are all qualities you need to be a good team. We get our first one in going to Auburn. I have a lot of respect for Hugh and the job he's done everywhere he's been. He's really been successful. They're playing really really hard right now. They got a lot of guys in. Lots of transfers in that have added to their depth. I know the environment that we're going into will be really tough. 

On Carson Beck's First Road Start: I think that's something that we are going to find out. I don't think you know. He's been through some ups and downs. He's certainly been against some good defenses like Auburn has. He's gone against our guys, but it's different when it's live. You gotta find out how he responds to that. I'm very confident in Carson's ability to communicate and understand things. You know you only get good at these situational football things by playing football. This is his first chance to do it on the road. 

On Auburn's Dual QB System: You know they're both really good athletes. I don't think people give Peyton Thorne enough credit for his athleticism and quickness. Now, obviously, when you talk about Robby, you're talking about a different kind of athlete. This guy is as fast as anybody we've played against, with size and a strong arm. They do a really good job. Number one, their backs run extremely hard and extremely physical. They're tough and hard to tackle. You combine that with a quarterback run, and it creates a lot of eye candy and misdirection. Hugh has always done a good job of that. 

On Hugh Freeze's Style of Play Now vs. Before: I think people evolve. They evolved in protection and route structure. It's not the same staff he had. Hugh doesn't do everything. He's got a staff that he puts in charge of doing things, and they've gone out and added some wrinkles. There are qualities and traits of his DNA from his offense years ago that are still this, but there are things he's added. 

On Juman Dumas-Johnson: He's a good leader. He's been a little more vocal this year, which I think is important. He has the pulse of the team of when to push somebody or when to back off a young player and pat them on the back. He's done a good job in terms of that. 

On This Team's Complacency: Hard to say. I think the focus level each week has been good, but the results always haven't. The preparation is more important to me. I actually put a lot of value in Monday to Friday with mental makeup, disposition, practice habits, and improvement. We've repeatedly said we want to be elite at getting better. I've really been pleased with the progress we've made, so that makes me feel comfortable with no complacency there. 

On Ladd McConkey's Health Status For Saturday: You've got to be able to practice. That's the big part of it. He's going to be able to come back to practice this week, and we'll be able to do more things with him. How he does in those things will determine whether or not he's able to play. We had a two-week advised shutdown, and he's done that. We're expecting him to go out there today and do some things, but no contact early in the week. 

On the Effectiveness of Robby Ashford in the Redzone: Extending plays. It's an extra element. In the red zone, every defense has an extra hat because nobody has to back up and play deep anymore. It becomes really tough to get the ball in the red area in our league, and Robby gives you that dimension. He is elite at the plays they do down there with him. They're really hard to defend because there are so many options to it. They got good runners, and that got good people to block. Then you add him to it, and the fact he can throw it makes for difficult situations. They do a good job with his package. 

On Javon Bullard and the Impact on Communication When He's Hurt: We think he's going to be able to do more. Hoping to get him back. If he's able to practice any, we'll obviously know more. I don't think any communication issues are on Javon. Dan is really bright, and Daniel is really bright. They know our system, and they've been it. I don't foresee any communication issues there with Bullard out. 

Smart on the Difference in SEC Road Environments: I think they're more similar than unique. I would have a hard time pinpointing differences other than they're all loud as hell in our conference. We went to Missouri last year, and I thought it was as loud as anything at night. The environment was really really loud. It's not even an enclosed stadium. This stadium is enclosed. It's similar to ours. People have always said there's a similarity in the looks between theirs and ours. It's going to be loud. I don't know how to differentiate one school to another. They're just loud. Their fans are compassionate, similar to ours. 

On the Use of Crowd Noise During Practice: We use crowd noise year-round. It's a great change-up. The coaches can't coach the players. They don't necessarily like it because people get a headache, but we've done it since the first day of practice during camp. We do it all the time. It doesn't matter, though, because the crowd noise doesn't always create the anxiety. You can't simulate that. You can certainly simulate the communication it requires. We play at home in one of the loudest stadiums in the country, and our defense has to communicate during it. I like doing it both ways. You find out what the players know when no one's out there yelling and screaming. 

On the Challenges of the Auburn Pass Rush: You don't necessarily know where it's coming from. That's what good defenses do. When you don't know you have assignments. There's only so many you can bring, and lots of them you can drop. We like to think we do a lot to our quarterback in the offseason and things like that year round here with our defense. It's a lot tougher when you go against someone you don't traditionally play against. It's important to know your rules and know where your strengths and weaknesses are. 

On Gabe Harris' Performance: I don't know if he played a whole lot more, but he did get an earlier opportunity. I feel like he's coming along really well. He's developing and getting better each week. He's getting more and more opportunities due to the injuries. I'm hopeful Gabe continues to grow. He's a guy we're repping a lot in practice. We're giving him a lot of extra work trying to speed up that process because of the injuries we've had. 

On Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins: Ty is coming into his fourth week. Again, we don't know how long it's going to take. I don't expect him to be back this week. 

On Mykel Williams: We're hopeful to get him back this week. He's over the sickness. 

On Dylan Fairchild and Xavier Truss: They did a good job. They've played really consistent throughout the year. Dylan obviously has played the same spot most of the time. Truss has played multiple spots. There are some things they can do better and clean up confidence-wise. I think they're getting better. They understand where their help is and what we're trying to do on certain plays.

On the UGA Defense: I think it's been really good in spurts, and it's been really poor in spurts. It's a common theme. It's not game by game but rather series by series. We have had the fortune of being able to play lots of players. So that's good. You gain depth in that. We've played really dominate at times, sometimes against inferior opponents. Our standard of defense here is so high that what we consider good play versus other people it may be viewed different. When you play against good throwers and pass catchers, you're going to give up some plays. You gotta accept that. It's how you respond to those is more important. Our swarm to the ball, I think, has been good. I like how our guys fly around. I love how they play. I love the passion they play with. Controlling the line of scrimmage is something we have to do. It's the bare minimum. 

On the WR Room: I think all the younger players have made great progress. I think the inconsistency of the availability has been the bigger problem with the older players, whether it's Rosemay, Ladd, or just being dinged up. The use of Dillon at running back. Last week was the first week it was pretty consistent. Consistent without Ladd, but it was consistent. You hope you have that same consistency again this week. We've had some young guys grow up and make some plays. CJ Smith has stepped up and improved. We have to keep getting guys to do that. 

On Andrew Paul: He's basically a freshman. A lot of our freshman running backs do it by committee. They get their opportunity. They get their turns. He's really improved tremendously at pass pro and picking people up. We feel like Andrew's done a good job and continues to improve. 

On the Progress of This Team: It's hard to say one area. I feel like we've improved as a whole across the board. We obviously has a really good test there against South Carolina. We responded to that. As far as pinpointing the area each day in practice, the perimeter blocking and the ability to execute more calls on defense. Our quarterback is getting experience and playing. We did improve in the red area, but that was one game. For every game, you can make a case for what you improved and what you went backward in. It's hard to pinpoint one thing. 

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