Kirby Smart met with the media on Monday ahead of Georgia’s game on Saturday at Auburn. He discussed the Tigers, defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and injuries following the win over Missouri.
Taming the Tigers
Auburn is 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the SEC this year, and both of its losses have come to top-25 programs in LSU and Florida. Smart praised Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s ability to craft an offense and the challenge it will pose.
Smart also acknowledged the defensive dominance Auburn has shown. The Tigers have a veteran defensive front led by senior defensive tackle Derrick Brown. Brown is a three-time SEC player of the week recipient in 2019 and has four sacks along with 22 tackles.
“[Brown] is an extremely good athlete,” Smart said. “I mean, first of all, when you put athleticism in a person's body that is that size, I mean, he was a great basketball player. He's a great athlete. … He's been a very disruptive player in this league for a long time.”
Smart added that Jordan-Hare Stadium is a raucous atmosphere but that those types of environments are standard in the SEC. The Bulldogs will pipe in extra noise during practice this week to prepare.
Dan Lanning’s Defense
Georgia’s defense still hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown. Compared to the 2017 defense, which was full of NFL stars, this crew is different. There isn’t one singular standout player who sucks away all the attention. Smart credits the cohesion to defensive coordinator Dan Lanning.
“[Lanning] was somebody that we had on our radar for a long time, and he went and was successful at Memphis, did a great job coaching there,” Smart said. “So he was an easy hire to come here as our outside backers' coach. And since he's been here, he's done nothing but lead and do a good job and continues to demand and command the respect of the players.”
Auburn averages 32.7 points per game and features a true freshman quarterback in Bo Nix. But Smart knows his defense is ready based on how hard they work during team meetings and their attention to detail as a unit.
“The number one thing that stands out is their work ethic,” Smart said. “I mean they work really hard every day. The meetings, the game planning meetings are a joy to be in, because they're very interactive, meaning they communicate with you. They don't just sit there and listen. They answer questions. They ask questions. They take on the personality of their defensive staff, which is energetic, and play hard.”
Georgia’s depth chart was emptied on Nov. 9 against Missouri. The offensive line suffered multiple injuries, and the Bulldogs were forced to employ their third-string center.
Leading receiver Lawrence Cager went down with a shoulder injury right before halftime and did not return to action. Smart, however, was optimistic about his comeback this week. Cager is expected to practice on Monday, and Smart expects him to be fine for Saturday.
Center Trey Hill suffered an ankle injury early on Nov. 9 and did not return, but Smart also expects him to return to practice on Monday. Both Hill and Cager have been medically cleared.