Four months later, the place feels different.

There is a temptation to look at what went on yesterday and oversell it, so I think I’ll lay off the ALL CAPS and the dawn of a new era dramatics to be on the safe side.

But I don’t think it’s overstating things to recognize that a page has been turned in the story of the Georgia football program.  And that’s to Kirby Smart’s credit.

There were so many things happening, both big and small.  Taken together, the day definitely had a different feel to it than G-Days past.

Take the emphasis on reaching out to former players.

I saw it walking up to the stadium, where I passed a huge tent in the area where former lettermen tailgate.  And there’s no question it all led to plenty of good vibes.

Some will say that feeling was noticeable on Saturday given the record-breaking crowd of 93,000 that was on hand for G-Day. But to former UGA quarterback Cory Phillips, the good feelings were actually evident the night before.

“We got here (to Athens) last night, and there seemed to be a lot of people here,” Phillips said “The enthusiasm is high — which makes it fun.”

Phillips believes Smart’s energy and the way fans are responding to it sends a valuable message to recruits, and Phillips has been impressed with the first-year coach’s aggressive approach to gaining the attention of the next generation of college stars.

“I don’t think those guys sleep,” he said.

It isn’t just recruits who are being won over. Ex-players like Phillips are being courted too. Phillips said he couldn’t even count the number of messages and correspondences that have gone on between the former lettermen and the football program since Smart took over.

That level of communication is a welcome addition to the UGA program by Smart, according to Gilbert, who likes everything he’s heard from the coach so far.

“When we found out he was going to be hired it just changed the whole attitude,” Gilbert said.

Kirby gambled on the size and enthusiasm of yesterday’s crowd, a gamble that paid off handsomely.  First, orchestrating a spring game Dawg Walk that ended bringing the team through a gauntlet down one of the stadium sidelines was both a new experience and a success.

Just as unprecedented and brilliant a call was the move to honor the 2016 class at halftime.

Both served as a reminder that things were changing in Athens – a reminder to the fan base and to the recruits who were in attendance.  Add to that a well timed announcement of a 2017 commitment, and the momentum on the recruiting front felt palpable.

If you recall Smart’s Q&A with Stewart Mandel, he spoke about his value as a former player returning as head coach.  That was in the context of recruiting, but it was on display for the fan base yesterday, too, as mention was made in the pregame video of his returning home. It wasn’t oversold and that’s what made it effective.

There were other little things, too, that served as a reminder that changes have been afoot.

All told, it was a day to savor.  Kirby’s efficiency and management may have even rubbed off a little, as the pregame concert went off without a hitch and served to pump the crowd up nicely.  I got to the stadium two hours early and stayed until the end, so I can’t say I’m a particularly good judge of how the crowd was handled, but things appeared to run smoothly in that department.  Traffic control postgame, though, was its usual train wreck.  (Not that that’s on the school, of course.)

I don’t know how you couldn’t have been there yesterday and not come away impressed and optimistic about the direction things appear to be headed, even if just a little.  I know I was.  What time is the North Carolina game?



Filed under Georgia Football

27 responses to “Four months later, the place feels different.

  1. Tim In Sav

    Wonderful Senator, I’m drunk on the Kool- Aid already


  2. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    It’s going to be hard to wait ALLLLL summer. 😦


  3. Go Dawgs!

    I don’t think Kirby and the rest of the coaches should name a starter yet. And heck, I don’t know if they’re going to pull the trigger on it and actually start Eason in the North Carolina game. But while keeping in mind that it was only one practice and Jacob Eason was running a small package of plays and wasn’t even under center much (or at all as far as I can remember), but there’s no doubt in my mind that Jacob Eason is our quarterback. Watching the other two players and then watching Eason, I see more potential in #10 than in either of the other two guys. The offense seemed to have flow and continuity when he was out there. And his throws are just so much better. He’s going to make mistakes. But our fifth year senior panicked under pressure yesterday and threw off of his back foot into triple coverage and gave up a pick 6 deep in the red zone. I am told that one of the freshmen receivers ran the wrong route on the play. It doesn’t make me feel any better about the lack of poise that Lambert showed on the play. If Eason makes a mistake, the only though in my head will be, “well, the other two guys would have made a mistake, too.”

    Jacob Eason’s our quarterback. It’s just a matter of when they hand him the keys. But after watching him play yesterday, there’s just no doubt in my mind.


    • Eason is good but really has to learn fast to read defense in the SEC.


      • Derek

        Blitz pickup is really the final piece for eason to take over. He got the ball where it needed to be. Had a super quick release when needed. He held the ball too long a couple of times and didn’t deal with unblocked rushers a couple of times. That’s what opposing DC’s do to new qb’s. Pressure, pressure, pressure until you can show that you can make them pay. I hate to say it but 11 had a very nice play vs. pressure yesterday.

        Eason is going to be the best we’ve had at that position, it’s just a question of when. It’s not if.


  4. SouthGaDawg

    I wasn’t there yesterday, but I did watch some on TV. I’ve watched the changing of the guard very carefully, but after yesterday, I’m completely sold on the new Georgia Way. Go Dawgs!



    What impressed me was that Smart was on the field the whole game COACHING. Something the previous guy would never do.


  6. Sanford222view

    Two words. Two simple words…that sum yesterday for me. Tight Ends!


  7. Scorpio Jones, III

    I went to the funeral of the granddaughter of a prominent Georgia alumnus, whose name all of you would recognize, four or five years ago. Ray Goff was there, knew everybody, even me.

    Mark Richt was there, but not, really there, sorta, being his normal cool, reserved public self. Most of the crowd got nods, a few handshakes. He did not know me, or the punter on the Herschel teams.

    I don’t know if Kirby was there, he might well have been, but at that point he would have been just another former player, paying his respects.

    If that funeral happened now, Kirby would have had a hand in the organization and would have known at least two thirds of the folks in the church and probably could have called them by name.

    It is not hyperbole to say Kirby has come home, or that Kirby wants Athens to be home.

    It is also not necessarily a snark to ask when Nick Saban graduated from Alabama?


  8. Senator, those are not staffers, they are just innocent non-involved observers, LOL.


  9. Argondawg

    Yesterday was a turning point for us. We were called on and we showed up in droves. It was incredible to watch the stadium overflow. Kirby gets it. He is involved in all aspects of the program. He kept saying “why not us?” And I agree with him. The fan based told him yesterday that we are hungry for a winner and that we will support one with our presence. It also tells the administration that if you build us a football monster we will feed it with our donations. Bulldawg nation is ready for a dominant program. I truly believe with our passion, our coaching and our geographic recruiting advantages…..why the hell shouldn’t it be us?


  10. CMR may have been able to get 93K to come to the Spring game, but he would never have thought to do it.


    • @gatriguy

      Exactly. This all the way. If it wasn’t how they did it at FSU in 1994, then Richt was painfully slow to adapt.


  11. Comin' Down The Track

    There were some outright chilling moments yesterday for a glorified practice. We’re definitely through the looking glass.


  12. Bright Idea

    I told friends at church the “love ya'” days are over with UGA football, its now all about the business of winning. They seemed shocked that I was OK with that. So far Kirby is winning the honeymoon phase hands down but when the games start there’s still a lot of adjusting left for everybody, coaches, players and fans. The biggest one is showing up expecting to win rather than hoping not to lose.


  13. DawgPhan

    great day yesterday. Sure was nice to have a win after the last couple months of taking it on the chin.


  14. RG

    A few have said this already, and many of us older fans can remember, but I believe a sleeping giant has been awakened. This Unicersity has been waiting for this for quite a while now and it showed on Saturday. To Smart’s credit, he tapped into that sentiment and motivated a fan base eager to flex its muscle for support of this program. Like he said, with a fan base behind you like this, and the resources available to this university, the sky is the limit!

    Damn it looked good seeing all those people in Sanford for a dog gone spring game! Now let’s GATA and Hunker down you Hairy Dawgs!!!


  15. The kool aid stand ran out early. Get back to me this time next year.