The hunger games

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.”


Filed under Georgia Football

13 responses to “The hunger games

  1. Russ

    Let me be the first to say that the country club has closed!

    Seriously, I’ll take this “happy” talk. At least it’s something new. It’s spring and I’m optimistic.


  2. sUGArdaddy

    With the excitement surrounding Nick rehab and Kirby’s arrival and new attitude, it’s hard not to be elated at what’s to come.

    I said since Kirby got hired that the fundamental difference I see was that Richt’s philosophy was to be good, hang around the top and one year you’ll get all the breaks and you win one. Admittedly, that was kind of FSU’s philosophy when Bobby finally won his first in ’93. After that, they became the popular place to go to school and Bobby was the best in the living room with mommas and daddies. So they built on that championship, eventually getting one more.

    Kirby didn’t come to Athens to win a title — he came to win a bunch. He came to build an elite program that has the best everything (players, facilities, staff, fans) year in and year out. He plans on going on a Bama-like run, and that’s an entirely different thing. I think in about 3-5 years, we’re going to be very, very happy.


  3. Austin

    But what about our long snapper?


  4. 69Dawg

    I think Kirby is on the right track. While depth has been an issue the real problem with UGA has been focus. The advances made by the DB’s last year was a result of CJP’s nobodies job is safe coaching style. Nothing makes you focus on your job more than knowing you can lose it at any moment. Look at pro athletes and how they perform in a contract year, then look at how they do the next season after signing a big contract that more or less means the coach has to play them because to not play them would get the coach fired. I know we don’t have Alabama’s depth but sometimes the 4 stars have to give way to the focused 3 stars that don’t have the brain farts we have become too familiar with at UGA.


    • Bazooka Joe

      Dont count out those 3 stars… I know its the exception rather than the rule, but David Pollack was a 3 star…..


  5. Bulldog Joe

    “Some players are nervous”

    “We know there’s no depth chart”

    “Nobody can say a job is theirs”

    “They’re treating us like pros, You’ve got to do your own thing”

    One of these quotes is not like the others.


    • Derek

      I thought the same thing Joe. Treating these kids like pros is probably not the best approach. You’ve got to have the Parris Island phase first. To borrow a phrase: you’re gonna learn how the run, throw, tackle, dress, warm-up, stretch, lift like Georgia Bulldogs!

      Then you can treat them like pros. Until then they are “grabasstic, useless piles of disorganized shit!”

      Maybe AJ had a jelly donut in his foot locker.


      • Dog in Fla

        Let’s dispel this notion that Kirby Smart doesn’t know what he’s doing.
        He knows exactly what he’s doing


  6. “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?'”

    That’s right out of the Process. Who cares about yesterday? Who cares about the last play? It’s over. Who cares about tomorrow? Who cares about the next play? It’s not here yet. You learn from the past and apply that learning to the present and future.

    Do your job and stay in the moment. That’s the Process in 8 words. Some pretty good life lessons in there as well. The question is whether Kirby has the personality and the mental edge of Saban to get guys to buy into it.


    • Uglydawg

      I’d say Saban is a guy who has often “cared about the last play”, if you’ve noticed on the sideline….
      Now, Muschamp? There’s a guy who doesn’t let shit bother him..:)


      • Good one, Ugly. Saban’s perspective is that you can’t change the outcome, but you can learn from the last play and do something different next time. That’s what he drills into the heads of his guys. It’s all from that weird looking dude who’s on the psychology faculty at Michigan State (the Wizard).

        Now, Boom? That’s a completely different situation.


  7. Scorpio Jones, III

    Golly, just think what we could read if the beat writers had better access.