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Smart talks LSU, Georgia on Teleconference

Thoughts on LSU, Pickens missing first half among items touched on

Georgia v Georgia Tech Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Georgia head coach visited with media on Sunday night during the SEC Championship coach’s teleconference. A few highlights are below...

“We’re excited for the opportunity. I feel like our kids have earned the right to play in this game. Certainly excited for a third straight year to be playing in it.

I have a lot of respect for this venue and this event. I think it’s one of the best sporting events there is. The atmosphere that’s created in Atlanta is just incredible, and I know our kids have really cherished the memories from those games in the past two years, and also looking forward to this year, which -- with the team we have to play, and LSU’s got a very strong team. That’s the way it should be in the SEC, and it always has been.”

Biggest challenges against LSU?

“Where do you want me to start? I’ve only got 30 minutes. So it’s all over. I mean, the running back is the best -- I mean, he’s one of the most powerful, explosive. I mean, he does an unbelievable job. He was really good against us last year, but he has been a really good player.

It all starts with the quarterback. Their offensive line protects really well, and they’ve got probably the best group of wideouts, size, speed-wise, that you could ever imagine. When you start with the offense, you can start with any location you want.”

What’s been seen so far from LSU on film?

“We’ve had overlap tape with the Auburn and Florida games. They’ve got a very complete team. They obviously had some guys injured and banged up on defense, but they’ve got a tremendous defense. They’ve got great athletes. We saw that last year when we played them. So it’s not like there’s a lot of weaknesses when you start talking about the caliber of program and the caliber of team that Ed’s put together.”

On Joe Burrow’s running ability

“Yeah, he’s a tremendous athlete. He’s got balance, body control, pocket awareness. Probably when you wrap all those things together, it makes the combination of probably one of the best quarterbacks that I’ve seen, because I’ve seen guys that can run, tons of them. Very few that keep their eyes downfield like he does.

He’s calm in the pocket. He extends plays. When you think you’ve got everything done right, he breaks tackles. I mean, they have a free run of the quarterback. He breaks a tackle and throws a completion.

He doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses when it comes to what -- the decisions he makes and the weapons he has around him.”

“ Joe is an incredible athlete. He’s got extreme toughness. You’ve seen him take shot after shot and stand in the pocket and make throws. He’s everything you want in a quarterback.

And you talk about athleticism, decision-making, awareness. He doesn’t make many mistakes. Even -- there’s times he’s taken sacks, but they’re good decisions. He doesn’t make bad decisions with the ball. He very rarely turns the ball over, and he’s got just a stable of resources around him to distribute the ball to.”

On Joe Brady’s impact

“He’s done a tremendous job, as well as Coach Ensminger has, who’s a really good quarterbacks coach and has been around him for a long time, and they make a really good tandem.”

The matchup of Georgia against LSU

“Well, I think an opportunity in the SEC Championship excites you. I mean, it really doesn’t matter to me where we’re ranked defensively, offensively, special teams. That part, I know that everybody will make a big deal about those two things, and they’ve got a tremendous offensive explosions this year and tremendous offensive unit, a lot of respect for them, but that doesn’t make the game any bigger. It’s as big as it can be anyway.”

How does George Pickens being out for the first half impact things?

“We had the same thing this week, so it was not a lot different.”

Is there a difference in Joe Burrow from last year to this year?

“I mean, he has the same athleticism. He had the same arm strengths, a lot of the same talents. I think the biggest difference is the offensive system and what they’re allowing him to do with full progression reads and pre-release, five out. They’ve got a lot of different things than what they had just last year.”

I mean, he’s certainly playing better. I think the people around him are playing better. They’ve been much more explosive. He’s got more confidence. But they’re doing a lot more things offensively as well.

LSU’s linebacker corps, specifically Patrick Queen, and the development seen along that linebacker corps this season at LSU

“Yeah, they’ve always had tremendous defensive players. I think with the loss of a kid last year, I mean, unbelievable player, they’ve had a lot of guys step up. When you watch what they’ve done this year, they’ve gotten better and better with each game. I think Dave Aranda obviously does a tremendous job, always has.

Their team has played better and better throughout the year defensively.”

More on George Pickens...

“I’m not really concerned with it. It’s not a lot that you can control. So, I mean, you put the players out there that can play for us, and it’s “next man up” mentality. That’s kind of the way we’ve been at receiver all year. A guy’s been out, it seems like, at some time throughout the entire year. That will continue into this game.”

Is there another offense that can compare to LSU?

“No, not that I can remember. It’s very unique, very different. And I think the players in it -- we’ve played a lot of teams that have strengths and weaknesses, and you try to exploit those, but when you look across the board at this group, there’s not a lot there weakness-wise. I mean, they really play physical, and people don’t give them credit for that. They play really physical, and their back, their offensive line, their receivers are extremely physical, but they have a really great ability to throw the ball quickly and get it out and throw the ball vertically down the field.”

Is experience in the SEC title game helpful?

“I don’t think so. I mean, I think it’s the next game. So regardless of where it’s played or who you’re playing or what you’re playing for -- I mean, those guys have played in big games. They’ve played in big-time Bowl games.

In the SEC, it’s that way every week. We play a conference schedule that you’re going to play teams in the top 25 three or four times. So we’ve all been faced with that.”

Has this team had a turning point?

“ I think there’s been several. I mean, there’s been a lot of turning points. That certainly probably cranked the heat up and the pressure up to perform, but there’s been a lot of good work and improvement throughout the year and some hard-fought battles that I thought helped some young players turn the corner outside of the South Carolina game.”

On the job Ed Orgeron has done at LSU

“He’s done an unbelievable job. He’s created confidence and a toughness in their program. Their kids play really hard, really physical, and they play with no fear, and they do a tremendous job of being aggressive.

You know, you look at the big games he’s coached in and played in, his teams have been successful. I think Ed is one of those people that’s smart enough to put a lot of good coaches around him and let them work, and he does a great job of managing that.

I think his players really play hard for him and buy into their organization. You see that on tape. Any coach that does that, I’ve got a lot of respect for.”

More to come this week.

Go Dawgs!