College Football Championship Prevew: Kirby Smart Press Conference

January 3, 2023 by

Georgia and TCU prepare to do battle in the College Football Playoff Championship on Monday night. Here's what Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had to say at the playoff press conference on Tuesday.

COACH SMART: First of all, I'd like to thank the CFP for taking the time to put this together and having a great original semifinal game there at the Peach Bowl and now headed to the National Championship.

Our kids are really excited ready to head out to Cali we'll be doing later this week. Looking forward to the opportunity. I've got a lot of respect for TCU and their program and Coach Dykes, what a tremendous job he's done there.

Had the great fortune of seeing him and Max out at the Heisman Trophy ceremony and have so much respect for their program, them as people. And what a great opportunity it is to play in a large setting, in a great setting for a CFP National Championship.

Q. Kirby, you probably know there's a record number of points scored in those semifinals. With the playoff bracket being expanded, do you see any evidence of guys even at this point just being tired, what's your reaction to that?

COACH SMART: I don't know how to pinpoint it. I don't know. Traditionally the teams that are in these games, they're pretty good offensively. But you'd like to say they're also pretty good defensively, but I think the studies and numbers indicate that as the season goes on and especially the semifinal and final games, scoring has to be going up. What that is, I can't really pinpoint it. I don't know that I would say it was just being tired because you could say that's relative to offense as well that you can get tired on offense. You can get tired on defense.

But I certainly think it's hard to play quality defense any more because I know we try really hard here and I know they do at TCU as well. Joe Gillespie does an unbelievable job, their defensive coordinator. And it seems that tackling becomes worse as the season goes on. And there's more scoring. But I don't know why that is.

I've been a part of some unique national championships with the LSU/Alabama ones and the rematch that was lower scoring but outside of that I've been part of a lot of shootouts.

Q. You've been through a 15-game season. In the back of your mind have you thought what it's going to look like with 12 or they could play 16 or 17?

COACH SMART: I haven't really thought about it because I know that's coming down the road. But at the end of the day, the gap, the space between the last game being the conference championships and the semifinals probably bothers me more than anything else because I think you lose rhythm there. So I don't know that it's the total number of games as much as it is the layoff in between. If it was continuous, I'm not saying you wouldn't tend to see higher scoring, you probably would see higher scoring, but I don't think it would be as bad of some of the performances.

Q. I know you've taken a look at TCU. Can you kind of give us a crib notes version of what makes TCU unique offensively and defensively? And I know it always comes back to players, but they do play a 3-3-5 we don't always see. And obviously Coach Dykes is revered for some of his offensive strategies.

COACH SMART: Yeah, tremendous team. Tremendous program. He's won wherever he's been. He's done a great job. Their kids believe. They have, I feel like just reading and listening about them, a lot of similarities to our kids in terms of the culture created there, the way they play, the way they believe.

I think I saw a stat, they have the most comebacks in college football in the fourth quarter. And that shows what your mental makeup is. Their conference has been in a lot of tight ball games and they've won those tight ball games. And done an incredible job with what they do. And they create really tough situations defensively, do an incredible job on special teams. Have one of the best returners I've ever faced in the return game and score a lot of points on offense with the Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback. So it's a recipe to be playing for the national championship.

Q. One element of TCU's offense is they throw a lot of passes at or behind the line of scrimmage and use those to move the chains and also get some explosive -- what challenges does that present with your defense with that element of the offense?

COACH SMART: I think all of college football is that way more of the game played on the perimeter not just unique to TCU they throw the ball vertical down the field. They have a lot of size outside so they can cover you up on the perimeter game and they can launch shots and they had a ton of good plays throughout the year.

Q. With Duggan, he completed a lot of passes when they're behind schedule. He gets a lot of notoriety with his running ability. What have you seen from him that allows him to make those plays when the down and distance isn't favorable?

COACH SMART: He's got great players to do it with. He understands defenses. I think he's very smart. There's no defense he's going to see that he hasn't seen before. You're not tricking an experienced quarterback, very similar with Stetson.

You've got to do it better than they do it. You've got to out-executed them. There's no tricking them. And he does a tremendous job of that. They have a system to allow him to manage that and to get back to third downs where you've got a shot to convert them.

Q. I know you made a "Cool Hand Luke" reference to Stetson over the weekend. In the fourth quarter he's been on point, a huge rating, no interceptions. What have you seen in his evolution that's made him so good in crunch time in the fourth quarter?

COACH SMART: I think it's his mental disposition. I think he doesn't think of the moment any different than the first quarter from the fourth quarter. He doesn't feel that. He is a processor. He's a deep thinker. He just goes through the process of what he's going to do and doesn't let it affect him.

He's never real real high or real real low, which I think is a great trait for a quarterback. And I think that helps him in the fourth quarter to be able to go execute. He has a lot of confidence. I think his coaching staff does a great job preparing him to be in those moments.

Q. As you look at the rosters of the two teams, they've been built a lot differently. You've got blue chip after blue chip recruiting classes. TCU has some kids who maybe had very limited offers. I guess as you look at their talent and their roster, what stands out to you about that? And are there different ways, I guess, to build a better mousetrap in terms of recruiting?

COACH SMART: I never look at it through the perspective of, a lot of people look at it as it's all about what your kids were rated when they came in. Coach Dykes inherited a lot of those players and got some through the portal and things.

But you got what you got. And what you do with what you have is what makes you a coach. And he's done a tremendous job with the players that he has and has inherited. I feel like we've done the same with the ones we've gone out and recruited.

So I never get too caught up in how it was built. It's kind of like, okay, you gave me my mold and now I've got to go try to make something out of it. And you do the best job you can with what you've got. And that's what you focus on.

At the end of the day, everybody gets into all those ratings and all those things. Over and over again it's about the chemistry of a team and I would venture to say that these two teams probably have some of the best chemistry across the country.

Q. Educate me if you need to on this but Arian Smith, obviously he had a big game. I know he's played in the slot a good bit. But it seemed like he was much more involved in all the motions and things that you guys run. Did you guys redevelop a role for him during the break? And specifically obviously Ladd's still banged up, so I'll also use this opportunity to ask you to update us on his status and those other guys that were banged up in the game?

COACH SMART: Yeah, I don't know if I know exactly what you're asking. Arian has developed through not being injured. His role has increased probably with every week this season. It may not have always shown that way in the stat line or in the number of snaps played. I don't think you guys can evaluate it that way because you don't see what goes on in practice for five days.

So he has grown and developed and gotten better and better and better. And he really just got more opportunity to do what he's been doing. I wouldn't call it a redefined role. It would be an opportunity because of Ladd's injury and we didn't know how long or how hard Ladd would be able to go.

Ladd looked good, looked good in warmups, and was able to go and play. We're hoping he's even better this week. But we had to have somebody ready. And you can imagine over 28 days of preparation there's a lot of days that Arian was repping and doing things because Ladd wasn't able to. As we got closer and closer to the game, Ladd was doing more and more. It was a balance between the two.

And we've had a musical chairs, and most people do because people have injuries at wide receiver positions but between AD, Marcus, there's been a lot there. And I think B-Mac and Coach Monken have done a tremendous job of slicing and dicing those roles.

Q. How about Darnell and Warren and Chaz, can you update us on their injury status?

COACH SMART: Yeah, we're hopeful to get all those guys back.

Q. The 3-3-5 of TCU, how instructive does that make the Mississippi State for you all?

COACH SMART: Say again?

Q. TCU's defense, the 3-3-5, how instructive is the Mississippi State game thus for you all?

COACH SMART: Not really at all. I mean, they're not, Mississippi State is very different. They're not really 3-3-5 compared to these guys.

Q. In what sense?

COACH SMART: Just not the same structure. It's not the same looks that they provide. There's different coverage structures. There's different elements to it. There's different personnel groupings, different techniques with inside, different styles of plays than those guys.

Q. Logistical question, just making sure that everyone you're expecting to go in the 2-deep, that no one is going to miss the trip for injuries or other reasons?

COACH SMART: We'll be taking the whole team out there.

Q. With that last drive on defense, you guys had a lot of freshmen on the field, Marvin, Jalon Walker, Malaki, Mykel, just how big were those freshmen, those contributions especially toward the end of that game?

COACH SMART: Well, they didn't actually do what they were supposed to do every play. So the contribution can be either positive or negative. I wouldn't say it was negative. But I wouldn't say it was positive. I would say it was a lot more neutral.

So they're out there because they give us the best chance to win but some of them are out there due to unforeseen circumstances and injuries, and we don't make excuses around here and talk about injuries and these problems, but we've had our fair share. And nobody feels sorry for us and don't want anybody to. But we have to get those guys ready to play at a higher level.

And you can make a case that's a great thing, there's four or five freshmen out there. You can make a case that's not a good thing. It's all about how they perform and how they execute.