So, where do we go from here?

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Photo by David Alexander Barnes/Chattanooga Times Free Press

It’s all downhill from 93,000 at G-Day. (I keed, I keed.)

Seriously, watching the stadium steadily fill up for a G-Day game was one of the more amazing experiences of my life.  And it’s largely a tribute to Georgia’s new head coach.

I can’t say I know what I expected for sure coming in with the new hire.  Just like most of us, I hoped that a certain amount of Nick Saban had rubbed off on Kirby Smart, but I had to counter that with my misgivings over how shabbily Greg McGarity handled the transition process.  At the time of the hire, I was left with the realization that much would come down to whether Smart could give as good as he got.

Four months in, I’d have to say my expectations have at least been met.  Really, perhaps even exceeded.  It’s clear from the get-go Smart’s been given a cleaner rein than any head coach Georgia’s had since Dooley’s salad days.  To date, he’s used it shrewdly to get the fan base on the same page, as well as to marshal the program’s resources in a more Tidely direction.  No, it’s much too early to know how that will pay off, but judging from what we’ve seen so far in recruiting and G-Day, it’s reasonable to be optimistic.

Smart was careful in Saturday’s press conference not to promise much, or even speculate about where the program was, but I couldn’t help but pick up on his hope that the players improve their standing as much over the summer as they have during the spring.  It’s not hard to infer from that he’s at least satisfied with the direction in which he has things headed.

And really, that’s all I can ask for at this point.  I’ll say it again, more than anything, what eventually killed Mark Richt’s career at Georgia was his inability to attend to detail in a consistent and overarching way.  Georgia football needs something stronger than that.  That Richt answered to people who were unable to provide him with any consistent and overarching direction or support to do a better job with that only exacerbated the problem.

Those folks may still be here, but now they’re dealing with a different type of cat… er, Dawg.  And while I’m a big believer in the “if it ain’t broke” school of thought, there’s certainly something to be said for “I know what I’m doing, just get out of my way so I can do my job”.  If Kirby is indeed that guy and whether through hope, fear or inertia is able to get the level of support he needs from Butts-Mehre to run the program, we could indeed be in for a good run.  Lord knows we certainly deserve one.

Obviously, there’s a giant “if” there.  And Smart’s had a stumble or two already.  But he’s done enough on the plus side that I’ve got no problem keeping an open mind about the program’s future. Trust, but verify.  It’s only fair to judge him the way he’s judging his own players.

Man, it’s gonna be a long summer.

43 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

43 responses to “So, where do we go from here?

  1. 3rdandGrantham

    Outstanding thoughts, and I share your sentiments and overall outlook. The constant issues during CMR’s tenure have been beaten to death, so I won’t comment on that but instead will only look forward — especially now that Smart has been on board for several months with the spring game now behind us.

    Speaking of the spring game, when the broadcast started, and they panned the stadium while boasting that a packed Sanford was awaiting the G-day game, my mouth dropped. After all, I predicted 65K or so and would have been very pleased with that alone. But to see a packed stadium with overflow fans handing out on the concourses, that told me that things were totally different with this program, with the fans craving a new energy that Smart undoubtedly has provided. Time will tell whether that translates to a better product and more success on the field, but I’m firmly in the camp of believers that really good days are ahead of us.

    Oh, the comments from rival fans have been quite telling too, from surprising complements from the most hated of rivals to blatant jealousy from those who just witnessed their school draw less than half the fan interest for their spring game. Overall, however, the general tenor of the comments elsewhere was basically, “holy s***, look what UGA just drew to their spring game….that’s impressive and obviously Smart is doing something right.”

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    • Hopefully not 2012 Derek

      I’m more interested in CKS and what kind of HC he becomes than I am with what fans of other programs think of us. But whatever floats your affirmation boat.

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  2. HVL Dawg

    Congratulations to UGA fans and Kirby for a great G Day game. I watched several spring games Saturday and I have to admit UGA looked much more polished than others.

    I’m sure it was inspiring to be playing in a full Sanford Stadium.

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  3. Go Dawgs!

    We’re obviously in the honeymoon phase. But there was an energy on campus and in Sanford Stadium that I haven’t felt before. Even in the brightest days of Mark Richt’s tenure, the energy was a little different than it was on Saturday for G-Day. I’m excited to see what happens this fall and in the next few falls to come.

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  4. Walt

    My wife and I walked over out of curiosity and got the the bridge just as Ludacris was wrapping up his show. We walked in the stadium, and there was not a seat available. We hung out in the upper southwest corner of the stadium where we had a view of the field and the scoreboard, but were able to get a seat just before the half. The cheer that went up when Eason entered the game was pretty impressive.

    I think there were definitely more than 93,000 people there. But it will be all downhill form here, I think. Saban has had consistently fewer fans attend the A game each spring. It just hard to keep up that kind of momentum.

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    • Otto

      I don’t expect 93k again and I thought 75k was very optimistic. It was amazing to see. Smart has certainly changed the program and even if attendance declines some the G-day Game can turn into a better tool to recruit players.

      I expect some struggles/growing pains next year which maybe a problem with some fans. Smart needs some time to develop the depth he wants and needs. I hope the fans stick with him.

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  5. Debby Balcer

    I hope the fans who have tickets come and stay during the games. The fanbase shows up for games but leaves early. I hope we never hear our players booed again. That means even if he starts Lambert.

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    • If the team quits…or the coaches quit on a drive–they deserve to be booed.

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    • JCDAWG83

      Noon kickoffs against terrible opponents, poor play against quality opponents and blowouts over cupcakes are the reason for fans leaving early or not showing up. If the team plays poorly or the coaches do stupid things, the boos are deserved.

      If the team delivers quality play against quality opponents, the place will be full from before kickoff until the end of the game and Sanford will be loud.

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      • Debby Balcer

        Those are reasons for spectators to not show up or leave early not fans. Booing is classless. These are student athletes playing fo their team not pro athletes. I don’t even boo pros.

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        • Debby…they are not putting on a free exhibition. To even buy season tickets you have to contribute to the Hartman Fund to certain level depending on the season. At that point, you go from a fan to a stakeholder. You are buying in to support the school or for your own entertainment. Either way you have bought in. Hell even if you buy tickets on the secondary market, it is still not an inexpensive weekend to travel, get 2 nights of rooms when you really only need 1, and food. So when you go to all that trouble…and the team quits–I believe you have every right to boo. Even if you are watching at home in GA, some of your tax dollars are going towards the scholarships that pay the players’ way.

          If the only way fans hold the players/coaches accountable is by booing–what is the big deal? They are old enough for that. Did you get a pass on being accountable from 18-22? I sure as hell didn’t. I wish all that happened was people booing me when I screwed up then.

          I hope we see a more resilient team going forward. For years–if they were on they were way on. But if things started to go badly they would snowball and get worse and worse. I’m hoping to see a better product–because that is what people are paying to see.

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          • Debby Balcer

            I was raised by a military father to be a good sport off an off the field. If I ever booed I would have been taken to the woodshed. It is too bad that good sportsmanship is lost these days. All booing does is show low class. It does not motivate anyone. I hope you sit nowhere near me in Sanford Stadium. I did not get a pass on accountability but if you think booing is accountability then you don’t understand what it truly is.

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    • Olddawg55

      I can’t fathom the constant “get Easson as starter” comments. Yes, I think he’s going to be a helluva QB and probably sooner than expected. And, yes, I expect Lambert to start the UNC game. Why? Because he has the game experience that only comes with time. Folks, Lambert carried us to a 10-3 season and that includes the Florida debacle that sealed Richt’s fate. He is a competent QB…and Ramsey didn’t look bad at all. I’m sure Eason will be watched and inserted as soon as the coaches think he’s ready. Let’s be patient and leave that up to Smart. In the interim, let’s do the same if the coaching staff opens with Lambert. It’s going to be a great season, Dawg fans, so be patient and enjoy it!!

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  6. 81Dog

    Senator, I agree that what we have seen from Kirby so far gives reason for optimism. On the other hand, there’s no substitute for what happens when the season actually starts. I suspect nobody is going to care much about how many people showed up for G Day if we get boat raced by UNC, or if we lose to South Carolina, etc etc etc.

    Cautious optimism seems the most prudent approach. Me, I prefer to concentrate on what Kirby is doing that seems likely to help him succeed, rather than constantly whining, or crowing, about “all the stuff Richt didn’t do.” Not saying that’s what you are doing, but some people can’t let go of that. It is clear he’s getting a freer, if not completely free, hand than was the case previously, which is great. He seems smart, organized and motivated, which is great. The team seems to be responding well to him so far, which is great.

    the acid test is how many games does he win, do we win the East, do we win an SEC, do we make the playoff, do we win a NC? It’s clear winning 9-10 games isn’t enough. It’s clear not winning impressively enough is unsatisfactory. It’s clear losing games to highly ranked opponents is unsatisfactory. Kirby may be inheriting a program that has failed to achieve what everyone would like, but he isn’t inheriting a dumpster fire. There is plenty of talent to build on, though perhaps he can bring in more talent. There is plenty of winning tradition to build on (we own AU the last 10 years, ditto Tech, ditto Tennessee, we’re about even with Florida). I’m willing to give him a chance to prove he’s what his most fervent supporters say he will be, but I’m not assuming it. I have hope, which for the moment is all that anyone can ask. But, in the end, I expect results. Let’s wait and see what the season brings before we judge him either way.

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  7. MLB2

    If nothing else, CKS has been working his tail off. It’s nice to see that hard work pay off and an early goal accomplished. Nice job on Saturday, Dawg Nation.

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  8. UGA85

    Being a head coach at this level is such a challenge. You need to have an edge about you firstly, and I think CKS definitely has this. You secondly need to be able to attract great assistant coaches, and I think CKS has done this. And thirdly you need to be an indefatigable, relentless recruiter and cheerleader for the program, and Kirby is this in spades. I agree that UGA is due; I hope we can look back at this G day as the beginning of our next dominant run.

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  9. There’s no other place to go from here but to the National Championship.

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  10. My sentiments exactly, Senator. With a couple of exceptions, Kirby has done a lot right. Most importantly, he has united the fan base behind the program and him as Saturday showed emphatically. Let’s see if he can knock the lid back off the program. GATA, Kirby!

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  11. CannonDawg

    I agree with you, Senator, that by all appearances the program is being managed to a level of detail that has been lacking for some time. While that alone isn’t necessarily a guarantee of great success, the lack of it almost always comes at a price, and typically a big price. We’ll know soon enough about Kirby’s abilities to prepare his team and manage a game, along with the ups and downs of a challenging SEC season, but everything I’m seeing thus far has me drinking the Kool Aid.

    Man, did I really see 93K in Sanford Stadium for G-Day?

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  12. TimberRidgeDawg

    Watching the collision between The Georgia Way and Kirby’s Alabamafication of UGA is as worthy of attention as much of what is going with the players on the field.

    Under the heading of “Why can’t we have nice things?”, we’ve always known that we must be doing something wrong from an organizational point of view which is the overarching inertia that is the the Georgia Way but now we are seeing many specific actions, both large and small, which in total represent a potential sea change for the program.

    Kirby knows UGA, clearly has a plan and the will to push it. Is it going to work? That remains to be seen but there is such a palpable shift in the energy, focus and direction of the program that 93K+ showed up last Saturday to acknowledge and give support for what is happening. Sure folks wanted to see what Kirby was doing with the team and get a look at Eason and there would have been a good crowd regardless but Kirby said we need 93K because it’s a visible statement of support that he can use to sell the program and that number was delivered because the fans are buying in. 93K wasn’t just a number it was an affirmation.

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  13. Normaltown Mike

    I dunno, I heard the cotton candy was grainy on Saturday.

    AND, they ran out of mustard at one of the snack stations.

    SSDD.

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  14. W Cobb Dawg

    The next job for the fans is to make sure we get about 90+% of the tickets for the opener in the dome. If nike is designing the uniforms again, I shudder to think what we’re going to look like.

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    • I hope Kirby puts his foot down and says no crazy uniforms except possibly a black jersey when the time is right. Alabama never lets Nike do anything weird with their uniform and we shouldn’t either.

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      • Hopefully not 2012 Derek

        Would it be possible during our CKS lovefest, to not mention Alaf***inBama? If my fellow dawg brethren can’t anticipate 2016 without hoping to replicate the pachyderm program, then please give away your red & black and purchase some houndstooth & maroon. Walmart is stocked.

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        • What does my comment have to do with being Alabama? They have a great uniform and don’t let Nike mess with it. We have a great uniform and shouldn’t let Nike mess with it.

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  15. Athens Dog

    So far so good. Exceeded expectations. Now to deliver W’s

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    • Athens Dog

      And this from someone who was going to drop from four to two season tickets and give up my parking pass. When they hired Kirby i kept them all

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  16. Steve

    I may be misinformed, but I understand that Tennessee replaced their spring game with a Spring Shame Game. The only problem was that when they divided the teams between felons and non felons there were only 5 non felons. They filled out the defense with the local attorneys ‘who do things the right way’. As in 13 men on the field. Instead of a football they used a woman’s purse since they had much more practice evading tacklers while carrying a ‘lost’ purse through the mall.

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  17. Snoop Dawgy Dawg

    as someone who has missed only a single spring game in 15 years, I’d say I am allowed to consider myself a fanatic and expert on the G-Day experience. Through that stretch, obviously my habits have changed, from being a student drunkenly stumbling into the stadium after a day long tailgate at my house in 5 points, to this year’s debacle, where I attempted to bring my 2 year old to her first visit to the hallowed ground of Sanford stadium.

    My tradition ended Saturday. Trying to bring a family with a young kid, another on the way, coordinating with the tailgate crew that was attempting to do the same, simply was a disaster for all parties.

    Perhaps in a few years when my progeny are able to handle a few extra hours in the sun and able to sit in the stadium for a little longer, we’ll try again. The old way of easy parking, stress-free entrance and easy access to a shady seat simply are gone, it appears.

    I’m sure if you arrived in Athens early, and entered the stadium early, then things weren’t markedly different, except just more people, but those days are long gone for me until hopefully the pendulum swings back my way sometime down the line.

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  18. Dog in Fla

    “So, where do we go from here?”

    Paradise City?

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  19. TMC DAWG

    I do not know what our record will be this year. But we will be competitive! That’s all on CKS!

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  20. Tony Jackson

    A most excellent take. And like you, August is a long time.

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  21. aladawg

    Just win baby. I drink koolaid after the proof; not prior to the first game. I like the looks and would use the word “cautiously optimistic” but it’s about winning championships NOW, more than ever.

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    • Hopefully not 2012 Derek

      Absolutely. I don’t envy CKS. He’s got a hard to please fanbase. I hope he delivers. May be tough for a rookie HC.

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