Okay, so maybe I’m not used to hearing this kind of talk in the spring.
The new UGA coach was asked by a reporter on Tuesday to give an assessment of how the offseason conditioning work has gone through the winter. This would’ve been the perfect opportunity for a coach to throw a bouquet to his new team if he wished — to talk about how hard everyone has been working, and how proud UGA fans were going to be come fall. Instead, Smart lobbed a grenade. He said the winter workouts had been “off and on” and that there “were some bumps and bruises in there.”
If you believe Jeff Schulz, that edge has been noticed by the players.
Some players are walking on eggshells.
Some fans will smile at this.
Smart isn’t merely bringing in new schemes, coaches and players. A new college coach often walks onto a campus and desires to change everything, particularly when he comes from a program (Alabama) that wins national championships and goes at a program (Georgia) that has been known for losing too many big games and falling short of expectations.
It will be “a challenge,” Smart said, to balance his message with expectations.
“I told them, ‘Don’t come out here thinking it’s your time to win the SEC East or the SEC tomorrow,’” he said. “The goal is to get better each day.”
Smart wants players to “treat each day as if it has a history and a life of its own. Meaning whatever happened yesterday, whether we won or lost, so what? Now what?”
When somebody hasn’t coached a game yet, every soundbite sounds perfect, every decision seems right. Smart has everybody’s attention, particularly his players.
“Some players are nervous,” center Brandon Kublanow said
“We know there’s no depth chart,” safety Quincy Mauger said.
“Nobody can say a job is theirs,” Michel said.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable, Smart is telling his players.
Some of that is inevitable, you’d think, any time there’s an overhaul of a coaching staff. (Although, interestingly enough, it sounds like Richt has gotten his new team past that.)
But some of that is reacting to the message. I can see how that message worked well at Alabama, where if you’re Jimmy Five-Star and you start to rest on your laurels, you face the risk of Johnny Five-Star coming in next season and putting you on the roster management road. Georgia is obviously not at that point in recruiting yet, but you know that’s one of Smart’s goals. In the meantime, it’s about making those there now realize with the change there are new demands.
It’s not asking these players how bad they want it that matters ultimately, though. It’s how these players answer the question that does. I suspect it’ll take more than a season to flesh that out completely.
UPDATE: More about Smart’s expectations here. This, in particular, sounds straight out of Tuscaloosa:
“It doesn’t matter if it’s running on the field, off the field, all the things you might take for granted. Have your helmet in your hand. Your helmet’s not sitting on the side. Every detail you can have covered, we cover it with these guys to make them understand,” Smart said. “These things are part of discipline. They’re part of doing things right. They’re part of accountability. If we don’t have accountability and discipline, then we don’t have a very good program. It starts with that.”