Georgia head coach Kirby Smart answered questions at the 2022 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl media day, but kept things in an all-business demeanor.
This isn’t surprising, as Kirby Smart is savvy and experienced enough to know that the 11th hour is not the time to provide your opponent with any bulletin board material, especially for a College Football Playoff Semifinal.
Many of the questions focused on Jalen Carter and the Georgia defense going up against a very high-powered Ohio State offense, as well as injury update inquires on wide receiver Ladd McConkey and offensive lineman Warren McClendon.
To the latter, Kirby Smart gave the same answer he’s been rattling off most of the week, saying, “Hopeful to get both of them out there and hopeful both of them can play.” Typical of Smart keeping key injury info close to the vest.
Smart wasn’t taking the bait when asked about comparing the two playoff teams
"“I’m not a big comparison guy. I think Ohio State stands out on their own. They’ve got a lot of talent across the board, probably the most talented roster that we will have played against, but it’s hard to do comparisons.”"
When specifically asked about matching up with the Buckeyes offense and how his defense would hold up, the Georgia head coach kept the cool approach, not throwing too much praise one way or the other.
"It’s a great matchup. You look across the board, there’s a lot of great matchups in this game. That’s one of the interesting ones because they’re certainly very talented on the offensive line. Got a great group, a lot of experience, and our defensive line will be challenged. Nolan being down. We kind of do it by committee now outside of Jalen, and it’ll be a great competitive match up for both groups."
A lot has been made during this bowl game prep week as to the intensity of Kirby Smart, his practices, and his expectations. He was asked how he felt about the reputation of being very demanding and gave the most Kirby Smart answer ever
"“Yeah, I don’t worry about that. I do what I tell them I’m going to do when I’m in their home, and I tell their parents what I’m going to do. I’m going to push them and be demanding. And if you’re right with them off the field and you connect, they gotta know you care about them before they care what you tell them. So we spend a lot of time investing in our players. I spend a lot of time investing in those relationships.And I expect them to enjoy the demanding part because the guys who have left have flourished because of the demanding parts we put into our program. And I really don’t think it’s different anywhere else. I don’t know how other people do it, but I do know that’s how we’re going to do it here. And I hope one day they appreciate it because the guys that have left have told me they appreciate it.”"
And on contact in practices (probably referring to the infamous “Bloody Tuesdays”):
"“It’s important for anybody. Like when you play the sport of football, if you don’t like contact, you will probably not be a good football player. You might go and get away with it at some positions, but very rare that you get away with not liking contact. So we do look for that in players, how tough they are, and it’s different. Some guys can — you can train that and they’ll embrace it, and some guys may never actually embrace it.”"
Georgia star defensive lineman Jalen Carter wasn’t made available for media day, and Kirby Smart was quick to rush to the defense of his next future first-round draft pick and his reluctance to speak to the media.
"“He’s a kid that’s a bit shy. He’s been injured some throughout his career. That position is not one that lends itself to the limelight. Jordan had a lot bigger personality when it comes to that. That wasn’t something that Jalen was intrigued by. And to be honest with you, we cater to our kids and make sure they represent our program in the right limelight, and he’s done nothing but that, so I’m proud of everything he’s done.”"
And what of the assertion by certain “draft experts” that Jalen Carter has character issues that will cause him to fall in the upcoming draft, and possibly be exploited by opponents during the postseason?
"“I think it gets started through the channels of whether it’s the NFL teams or you’d have to ask whoever it was that said it. I don’t give it much credibility to it because I go off real-life circumstances, my interactions with people. Sometimes people say it comes from disgruntled agents that didn’t get him or won’t sign with them. I don’t know. I don’t really care.”"
All in all, it was a rather uneventful interview session which is probably exactly what Kirby Smart wanted. He faced the press with a stone face like he always does, and didn’t tip his cap as to any plans for facing the Buckeyes.