The Dawgs were in the house for day 2 of SEC Media Days in Hoover, AL. Head Coach Kirby Smart brought along a trio of seniors with him, including standout running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and their 2016 leading tackler Roquan Smith. Check out the highlights from UGA's trip to Hoover below.
On veteran leadership taking the workload off of QB Jacob Eason: "Yeah, I think when you play quarterback in the SEC, there's no security blankets for that. I think you can ask any quarterback who's competed in play that you'll go up to some of the most formidable defenses in the country. Certainly happy to have those rushers back, but we have to create space for those guys and run the ball better, be more productive so we can open up the passing game. He needs that help, and Jacob has been a guy that has openly admitted he's super happy to have Nick Chubb and Sony Michel coming back. We have other backs. And I hope Jacob can open up that part of the offense and be able to expand it and open some things for Nick and Sony. That's one of the big things for them coming back, was to be able to open that offense up and let those guys have more space. We're excited to have him back, and I know Jacob is."
On his reaction upon Nick Chubb and Sony Michel's decision to return for their senior seasons: "Total elation. I think Nick was the first guy to inform me, and I think maybe his decision weighed a little bit on the other guys that were deciding. I think he made it okay to do. He showed the confidence, not only in our coaching staff, in our total program, that he knows he's going to have an opportunity to get better and grow. And he's going to have that opportunity. I don't think -- I think Nick will tell you that he wasn't 100 percent last year, and he certainly has improved that. So with his ability to move up in the draft and create value for himself, he wanted to come back. I think that made it easier for Sony. Those two guys have a mutual respect. They are very different personality-wise, but they are both very talented. I think when Nick came back, it made it easier for Sony to make that decision as well."
On Jake Fromm potentially challenging Jacob Eason at quarterback: "Just like every position on our team, kicker, punter, right corner, left corner, it does not matter what position, every coach will tell you there's great competition. If you have a returning starter, he certainly has a head start. With Jake Fromm coming in, he did a good job this spring picking up the offense, he will continue to grow developing the offense. He's a really good leader, and we expect him to come in and compete hard... I'm really excited about Jacob Eason's growth, to watch him over the spring, the confidence he played in the system with, his ability to throw the ball and understand where pressure's coming from. He's grown tremendously. I think Coach Chaney has done a great job with him in this offseason making him realize his weaknesses and continue to work on those."
On Alabama's dominance over the rest of the SEC: "You know, that's a common question at this event. And I think the biggest thing is recruiting and development. A lot of people say it's one or the other, do you recruit great players or do you develop great players. When you do both, that's when you got something special. And I think every team in this conference is trying to play catch-up in regards to that. I think each one's getting closer, and we'd like to see that gap closed through recruiting. But you can only do that through hard work and grinding, and that's what we continue to do in Athens."
On how Chubb and Michel motivate each other: "Yeah. They challenge each other more so -- not necessarily in game, but they challenge each other every day in practice. So in the weight room, when one is lifting beside the other. Nick is not a guy you want to be competing against when it comes to lifting weight because he's really strong. I have seen them race at workouts. When you got a guy that's the same caliber as you, I think it drives your energy level each day to beat that guy. I know they came in not really knowing each other, but now having lived together, been around each other, both of them have been through pretty horrific injuries, and they've both come back from that, so they have a lot of similarities, even though they come from two different backgrounds and they have really different personalities. I think throughout the day as you talk to them, you'll get to see that. Sony impacts our team vocally more. Nick impacts or team with an example more, and I think it's really cool that you got both of them doing that."
On how things will shake out in the SEC East: "You know, we talked about it, and I talked about it last year, and it becomes a trite expression. When you talk about parity, I think parity is really good competition. I think last year, going into the last two weeks of the SEC's race, Kentucky is in the race. And when you have that, you've got almost an NFC East or AFC East effect of these NFL conferences where one loss doesn't put you out. You know the team that won the East last couple years, you can have two, maybe three losses because there's an even race there across the board. I think that's good and healthy for the conference. I think the way the playoff system is built now, ultimately you have to win your conference. Getting through your conference and the rigors of your conference becomes the most important goal of each SEC team. Because without that, you don't have much of a chance."
On his relationship with Nick Chubb: "The attitude is the standard is held high. Nick and I are seniors so we have been down this road before. This is not our first rodeo so we just have to take what comes with it, embrace it, and take it to the team and lead. This is our chance to try to lead our team and lead them to something great."
On differences in Coach Kirby Smart from year one to two: "The expectations he brought and the standard, just got higher and higher and bigger and bigger. We just have to live up to it. I’m excited, the challenges he brings to the team. It shows that coach has faith in us that we can possibly accomplish those goals."
On quarterback Jacob Eason: "He got his freshman season under his belt. He got a great opportunity to learn from that season. He also became a great leader. During the offseason training in 7-on-7’s, he is leading by example and is even being more vocal. He also has other quarterbacks like Jake Fromm pushing him and competing. It is great to see young guys come in and knowing their place and knowing how to work."
On relationship with Sony Michel: "He got his freshman season under his belt. He got a great opportunity to learn from that season. He also became a great leader. During the offseason training in 7-on-7’s, he is leading by example and is even being more vocal. He also has other quarterbacks like Jake Fromm pushing him and competing. It is great to see young guys come in and knowing their place and knowing how to work."
On he and Sony's decision to come back: "Sony is the guy that can do it all. He can catch the ball, run the ball, block. I can do that as well. He does some things better than I do and I do some things better than he does. We just really balance each other out and it’s a great way to play. We had both been talking and it made it so much easier to decide to come back when we found out we both wanted to come back and play our last year together."
On Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm: "I see these two guys competing and working hard. They push each other. I think Jacob needs to be pushed and Jake is hungry. They’re both great quarterbacks and both could finish the job.