Kirby Smart Talks Coming Back, Effect on Recruiting and More

Brooks Austin

Athletes are set to return to the University of Georgia, Kirby Smart held a teleconference call through zoom today with the local media where he addressed several of the key questions leading up to the season. 

Here are some of the key talking points. 

Smart on how his players feel about coming back to campus and how to make them comfortable: 

The first thing we talk about is knowledge is power are there are no dumb questions. So, obviously, leading up to the announcement on Friday we have been in communication with our players. We had Zoom meetings with them positionally and, football wise, with the eight hours we get each week. A lot of that time is spent not necessarily on X's and O's and teaching, it is spent on information and just communication. We have a leadership group we have stayed in contact with and are able to visit with. We provide those guys with information and each position coach provides his position group with information. We are anticipating everybody coming back under the voluntary basis — we do not have anything telling us that is not the case just yet, but that is certainly up to each individual player. We have a lot of work to do before we get them back. I do not know if you guys know or not, but we have to do a complete medical workup — a physical — on every kid before they are able to workout and comeback. There's a lot of steps that have to happen prior to June 8 that we are all going through now, but our guys are excited. There's obviously some apprehension and questions, but they have those same questions whether they are in Huntsville or in Macon or in Columbus of going out to work out. They know that our facility is one of the safest and we certainly have the ability to care for that facility better than a lot of places they can go back home 

On how the experience plays a roll in a season with altered preparation like this: 

I think experience is probably magnified in this season, this setting, more so than ever before because experience is so valuable when you don't get practice. We have obviously been shortened in terms of spring practice, in terms of meetings, in terms of summer conditioning we are already being shortened, so a lot of those things have shortened us and we will have to be wise in the decisions we make. We have to be smart, and that is no different than any other year. You can have too much offense and too much defense and too much special teams and then you can have not enough. Our jobs as coaches is to try to determine what that volume is. So to try to say have we said 'ok, are we only going to put 50 percent in, we are only going to put 70 percent in, we are only going to put 90 percent in." I can't say that. That's not where we are because we don't even know the threshold or the capacity of some of our players. We did not get to go through spring ball with necessarily some of the positions, especially on offense, of guys to see what they can handle. We will find out what the NCAA and the SEC are going to allow us to do leading up to the season, because right now we do not know that. The more they give us time wise the more we will be able to do. The less they give us the less we will probably be able to do, but that is not something we have decided right now. I am excited about the experience coming back on defense because I do think we have a lot of experience there where we probably do not have as much offensively.

On fans in the stands for the games: 

I'm not going to voice an opinion one way or the other because it really boils down to one thing: what the experts, infectious disease people, scientists, what they come up with that is safe because ultimately, that decision is going to boil down to what makes a person feel safe and a lot of it has to do with the choice and decision of each and every fan and the wellbeing of our fans, as well as our players and our staff. That's one of those decisions that I'm referring to the experts on. What I found is everything we think is going to happen can change based on what goes on from now until then. With our players coming back, are there going to be any spikes? Is anything going to happen in July? We'll know a lot about the season, people in the stands, which is what you're asking about, in September when that comes. I think you've got to look at it as that's still three months away, and with it being three months away, it's hard to make a decision. Because three months ago from right now, we were just finding out what was going on. So we've got three months and I'm very optimistic we'll have fans in the stands, but to what extent, I have no clue and I don't really want to speculate.

Effect of the pandemic on recruiting: 

First off, it's extremely different. The recruiting world has changed as much as anything because you're just not capable of going to high schools. You mentioned May was a very active month for all of college football coaches, not just us. We would be going out watching spring practices, going school-to-school. I wouldn't be able to because I don't get to go out in May, so that didn't really change for me, but it changed for a lot of our coaches. We've done what you guys know to be the case. There's no magic potion. There's nobody doing something magically that everybody else isn't doing. We're jumping on Zoom. We're communicating with parents, coaches, recruits---we're doing everything virtually, and that's really the best we can do. They keep extending the period that you can't come on campus…the ability to come on campus, they just extended that, so it's looking like that's not going to happen through the end of July. So, it's going to be a very different May-June-July period and that's unique. Who manages that the best will be important—a lot of this is who had the best relationships leading into this because, at the end of the day, you can only develop so much of a relationship through a phone, through a text, through a virtual activity. We've tried to be creative in the way we use that. I'm certainly not going to divulge everything we've done because I don't think that's open for everybody to do, and I think we're all competing in the SEC, trying to make ourselves different. I can tell you this: it's probably created a bigger burden on our recruits, and if I was a recruit or a recruit's parent, I would be more concerned with that volume of virtual usage and phone usage, and it's probably led to more kids committing because you can make the case that they're committing because they can't go anywhere. I would make the case that they're sick and tired of being barraged by phone calls and virtual activities. Will we see more kids come November or December de-commit, or go back and start visiting? I don't know because I don't know when we'll be able to bring kids to campus. All that will probably come out at the end of July when we know more about what kids are going to be able to do in recruiting.

For the full transcription of the teleconference as well as a video head on over to GeorgiaDogs.com

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