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Kirby Smart Previews Alabama in Monday Press Conference

Will Morrison

Coach Smart met with the media today to talk about the game against Alabama in the SEC Championship this Saturday. His quotes are italicized. 

Opening Remarks: We got to get started yesterday on Alabama and putting the last game out of the way and get a little bit of a head start on these guys today. 

On Jalen Milroe: He is a tremendous football player. I didn't really know until I got further into the games and watching him last night how good he really is at what he does. I think anytime you can scramble and extend plays, it makes it harder to defend. When you have the component of designed runs mixed in with that, it complicates it even more because he becomes an extra guy to tackle- a physical guy to tackle. He is a physical guy who has running back characteristics, but he has the ability to throw the ball, and he throws the ball well, especially in their play-action game. He does a really good job of taking shots and throwing the ball downfield. He sees it well, and they've got a massive offensive line to protect him. When you have the ability to run the ball as a designed run and can also run the ball on your scrambles, it just makes it harder to defend. 

On What Stands Out About This Alabama Defense: I mean size, speed, toughness, aggressiveness, multiple coverages, and players that can play multiple positions. The depth across the defensive line is one of the things that pops out at you. They roll guys and constantly have fresh guys in there striking. They're really good at the star position; they're very experienced. Two good corners that are going to be drafted that are good players. They've got an all-around really good defense, but that's what you would expect. I mean, you expect nothing less from this group. 

On What Beating Alabama Meant to Georgia the Last Time They Played: It meant the University of Georgia got a National Championship. That's the significance of that. 
On What He Attributes to Kendall Milton's Success Lately: Good run schemes. Being in the right runs at the right time. A really good run plan and good perimeter blocking. He certainly is healthier than he's been. He's running with confidence. I feel like he's hitting the hole a lot harder because he's more confident. And being explosive is getting to the secondary. You're not going to be an explosive run offense if you don't get your backs to the secondary. That's one thing we've been able to do is get him past that first level. He's running through a lot of arm tackles too, which is really important to be an explosive run team. 
Injury Status of Julian Humphrey and JDJ: Still week to week with their injuries. Trying to get both of those guys back. 

On What He's Seen From Caleb Downs and Dallas Turner: Both tremendous athletes and very instinctive. You know, we recruited both of those guys. They're passionate about the game of football. They love to play the game of football, and those kind of kids are your favorite kids to coach. They're in there every day with a bright eye, and they're taking notes. They love to play the game, and you see that on tape out of both those guys.

On the SEC Championship Game: I have a great appreciation for this game because I grew up an SEC footprint kid, an SEC player, and coached most of my career in the SEC. I have an appreciation for this game and how hard it is to win. It was no different from my experience at Alabama. You know, we had a year that we won a national championship that we didn't win an SEC championship. That's happened a couple of times in our conference, and it's hard to find that in most conferences. I think it speaks to the depth of our conference. It speaks to how hard it is just to get to the game. In some ways, I think Alabama and us, we've been spoiled, and I don't think some kids appreciate it. They think it's a right of passage, and it's not; it's earned. It's one of the greatest environments that I've been a part of to play in that game. 

On the Alabama WR Core: They're athletic and fast. They've got speed all over the place. They've got some guys that really do well on the vertical balls. Obviously, Milroe throws that deep ball really well. They've got intermediate routes. They have teams that play off of them, and they hit timing routes. They do a really good job. Their run after catch has been good. You know, one of the key contributing factors to explosive plays for them has been if a play breaks down and the timing is not right some quarterbacks have to throw it away; they turn plays into massive explosive plays. Part of their plan is they know their quarterback's going to be able to extend plays. He has the longest time to throw in the whole NCAA. They make plays out of those plays, and I think that's really a contribution they've made as a receiving core to him. It is the ability to get open on plays that may not have been by design. 

Initial Reaction to Bama's Game Winner Versus Auburn: I didn't see it till yesterday when I watched that game and went through the tape. It was crazy how it got to that point. Like to be down there and be close, then be all the way back up, and then come out on top with that play. It shows his arm talent. Most teams have a play-by-design that they play from certain yardage intervals. 15 to 25 is this play, and 25 to 35 is this play. You know, it's not just a hail mary play. It's a play to try and find a one-on-one. They were able to find one which gives you the best percentages you could have. 

On The UGA Defense After Watching Tape: Like with most things, it's never as bad as you think and never as good as you think. There are some mistakes in there, and maybe some guys are not keying what they're supposed to key. I actually thought that we struck the blocks and played the blocks really well up front than I thought coming out. It was not a matter of, oh, we just got whipped; it was a matter of some things we didn't fit well, and we didn't knock back tackle. So instead of 2nd and 7, it's 2nd and 4...it's a big difference. The effort to finish and get more bodies on contact is really important because that manages what your down and distances are. 

On CJ Allen and Raylen Wilson: They've grown up. They had to grow up fast. I mean, you talk about getting thrown into the fire at Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech. They've had to play in three games that were really tough physical games. In prep, each game was different in terms of styles. They went from Ole Miss, to Tennessee, and then Georgia Tech, and all three are completely different offenses to prepare for. They're young guys. They make mistakes, but they also have a quite confidence about them. They're good athletes, and they're well coached. So, I'm really proud of what they've been able to do, and we need them to play well to get defensive stops. When you're playing with freshmen at that position, I think anybody in the country will tell you it's a little like playing with a quarterback there. You just don't want to play with freshmen there, but they're the guys that are up, and they've done a good job. 

On What He's Seen From the Alabama OC: I think he's adapting to what he has. You know, people always talk about this team and where they are now. They're playing as good of football as anybody in the country. Don't talk to me about playing in Auburn because I know. They have played really, really good football, and they've evolved from the start of the year to now. They're not the same team they were in the beginning of the year; not many are. I mean, we had to figure out who we were and who we were identity-wise. You evolve, and they're a very talented and really well-coached good football team that's playing their best ball at the end of the year. 

Photo Courtesy of Charles Jordan 

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