Smart Smart

Two Kirby quotes from this piece about the culture change at Georgia that I appreciate:

Smart was asked Monday if he knew enough about how things were at Georgia to think if something major needed to change.

“I wasn’t concerned with the way it was before, I was only concerned with how I saw it being,” Smart said. “I thought that was important. It’s nothing about before, because I wasn’t here. It was more about the way I felt good practices should be done.”

This is the kind of thinking that’s always made me feel more optimistic about Smart than about Smart’s bosses.  I’ll take “do it the way I believe works” over “I think the program plateaued” every day of the week and twice on Sundays because the former is an indication of a mind that has a clue about how to achieve while the latter is just taking a shot in the dark without any real plan of how to get better.

Smart indicated that it may have been harder to implement harder practices last year because of the roster. The team wasn’t fully at the NCAA scholarship limit of 85, as it is this year, and the overall depth is better. Many highly-rated members of the 2017 recruiting class, for instance, can’t crack the two-deep. Five-star tackle Isaiah Wilson appears headed for a redshirt.

“From a depth standpoint, you have to have good numbers to be able to practice things that you want to practice,” Smart said. “We had to work to get toward that and we’re still striving to get what we need from a scout-team standpoint, a rep standpoint, a physicality standpoint. We’re trying to improve that everyday.”

I’ve made no secret about my feeling that Richt’s roster management was his Achilles heel, but maybe I didn’t think all the way through the levels of impact that had on program building.  Necessary depth for tough practices and the luxury of redshirting five-star offensive linemen are things we’ve never been able to take for granted with this Georgia program; indeed, so ingrained has my perception been about how things were done that I almost have trouble believing that this kind of stuff is real now, even as I’m starting to see results on the field.

Here we are, though.  Maybe what it takes to turn a battleship around in the right direction is having all hands on deck.

55 Comments

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55 responses to “Smart Smart

  1. Yep, I admired Richt for doing things “the right way”, but he let himself get way too caught up in the oversigning hype back when that first became an issue. Even when the SEC moved to limit all schools to 25 a year, he was asked about it and said something to the effect of “it’s a step in the right direction, but if you only have 20 spots available, and you can still sign 25, then you’re still oversigning”.

    It seemed to take him forever to realize that you can never end up anywhere close to 85 WITHOUT oversigning by at least 3 or 4 a year. Because you’re always gonna have at least that much attrition between signing day and the next season. So there was never anything unethical about oversigning in reasonable numbers. But Richt would try to manage the numbers to land exactly on 85 at signing day, inevitably we would miss on 2-4 big names we were hoping for/holding a spot for, so we’re already starting at like 82, then when the inevitable offseason attrition hit, we’d end up well below 80. He could have easily signed an extra 5 players a year without having to do anything shady – and just a pure numbers game, that’s 20 more players over a 4 year period, you gotta figure at least 5-8 more significant contributors on any given team than we had all that time. And I really believe those extra 5-8 contributors any given year would have made a huge difference.

    Richt was so adamantly opposed to oversigning though, it ultimately was his biggest downfall, for sure. He eventually figured it out, but it was too late.

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    • 3rdandGrantham

      It wasn’t just oversigning, it as also his philosophy that, when you offer someone a scholarship, it was guaranteed for 4 years unless he ran seriously afoul of the program or the law. Thus, while other SEC coaches were cutting dead weight yearly and using those freed up scholarships for new recruits, CMR would let players with little work ethic or motivation hang around for years and taking up valuable space on the roster.

      While some might say this philosophy is commendable, the problem was such players knew their free ride would never be taken away as long as they stayed mostly out of trouble, so they basically went through the motions, partied, and muddled through as a 3rd stringer until their 4 years were up. I certainly would never name any names, but close followers of the program back then can discern who such types were.

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      • Just a question, but was the grandstanding about oversigning and roster management the result of the Georgia Way as espoused by Michael Adams or CMR? I can’t imagine a coach would hamstring himself when he knew he was being evaluated on Ws and Ls versus any other measure. I’m just curious and don’t know the answer.

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        • 3rdandGrantham

          Definitely CMR espoused it, and I’m sure it was music to Adam’s ears as well given his flippant attitude towards football (other than the revenue it brought in). I honestly think that CMR didn’t believe that such efforts would hamstring his program at all. Just as CMR never put much emphasis into OL recruiting, he felt that bringing in talented athletes in other areas and coaching them up would put the program in great shape.

          Also, in the latter years CMR got comfortable and thought he had great job security. Only after the ’15 UF game did he finally hear the whispers and realized he was in trouble, hence his immediate flight to Seattle to visit with Eason the following day, complete with that breakfast pic together, as a way of saying, ‘hey, if you fire me, you’ll lose our highest rated recruit since Stafford.’

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      • ChiliDawg

        I went to class with one of those dead weight guys. I couldn’t believe how he let himself go. Got seriously out of shape. This was in 2009.

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  2. “Maybe what it takes to turn a battleship around in the right direction is having all hands on deck.”

    That sentence speaks volumes about the transition. Kirby has gotten everyone from the President to the scout team to row in the same direction. I admit I was skeptical of the choice. I wondered if Smart would be Ray Goff 2.0 (Georgia man from South Georgia who was a great recruiter but couldn’t get over the hump as a head coach) or Boom 2.0 (a micro-managing pain in the @$$ who would alienate everyone and not generate results). I’m pleased at the moment to being proven wrong … he’s Kirby 1.0 … and that’s a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Russ

      Sums up my feelings as well.

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    • Cojones

      Yeah, gotta get in line with that. Kirby’s Coaches have ended my curmudgeonly ways here as I look at them and their results with different eyes. Glad that they are proving that the players entering into new systems were the center of last year’s problem. It forms a foundation for forgiveness that wasn’t there on Sept. 1.

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    • Reinmart

      Same here!

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  3. Got Cowdog

    Kool-aid tastes pretty good this morning.

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  4. 3rdandGrantham

    “It was more about the way I felt good practices should be done.” “From a depth standpoint, you have to have good numbers to be able to practice things that you want to practice…”

    This is precisely what some of us have been harping on going all the way back to 2009 or 10. When you’re afforded an opportunity to watch a UGA practice or two and weight lifting sessions, then able to compare it to our rivals practices/sessions, the stark differences between almost make you more sad than angry. And when you throw horrid roster management on top of it, you realize that, long term, UGA has little to no shot in being a truly successful major program.

    Speaking of roster management, it absolutely was his Achilles heel, but also was his general lack of structure within running of the program and, in his last 4-5 years, his increased outsourcing of recruiting to his assistants.

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    • Cojones

      Yeah and it looks like he has learned his lesson parked down there among the palm trees and coconuts. 🙂

      Think that a number of our fans know more about coaching than 30-yr coaches in Div-I. We can just get a common denominator like not having a full roster and show how wise the GOBs and our AD have been. Not.

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  5. HiAltDawg

    “Maybe what it takes to turn a battleship around in the right direction is having all hands on deck.” Outstanding perspective, Sir

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  6. Mg4life0331

    This is pretty much why I don’t care about last year’s results. I’m still giving him 4 years to beat bama.

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  7. truck

    The biggest change I see this year has nothing to do with the number of warm bodies on the roster. For the first time in YEARS, I see a Georgia team with genuine mental toughness. That attitude can get you through a lot of tight situations.

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    • I’d argue the two go hand in hand to an extent. It’s easier to maintain mental toughness through 4 quarters when you have the numbers and depth to rotate people in and give you a breather throughout the game. Just one example, look at how we are rolling DL guys in and out all game long, and compare that to the SECCG when Jenkins, Geathers, and crew played almost every snap and just physically gave out in the 4th quarter.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. kfoge

    What Kirby says is so obvious. That’s why it bothered me when under Richt, before Pruitt, the 1s would practice against the 2s. How does that make you better? Especially when you didn’t have the depth to the point that your 2s were as good or close to your 1s.

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    • Cojones

      It probably kept the injuries down that surface in some practices. Best that people should review the injury bug and how it plagued us for years; it(injury bug) also had an affect on roster management that no one has given a look towards. At one time I thought that we had more injured linemen from practice than occurred in games. The D secondary had rashes of upper ankle injuries at one time, many due to practice. This is where the conditioning program came in for deserved shots and when things began to change in that sphere. Kirby has taken it another step on the upward path it already was embarked on by Richt.

      You can look at other programs in the SEC and see the injury bug playing the same role as it did with CMR. FU and Tenn come to mind first and FU looks to be managing despite that disadvantage, much like CMR did. If just their injured players heal before we play them, they will be able to give us fits.

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      • Athens Townie

        Did injuries prevent Richt from correcting special teams play for years on end?

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        • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

          If depth is affected by injured players, then yes. yes it did. that’s a really dumb follow up to his comment about injuries affecting team depth.

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          • Macallanlover

            Unquestionably, look at the level of talent covering kicks this year. We don’t use many non-scholarship players in ST roles, some may be backups but they are high quality athletes trying to work their way onto the field. Big difference, and the improved legs kicking the ball is also night and day.

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          • Athens Townie

            For years and years on end? LOL, so much certainty and clarity on this position. And all this time we were wondering — and, just … injuries. Shucks. I guess, well, nevermind. Injuries. Just injuries.

            For such a brilliant analyst, Snoop tosses around the “really dumb” stone rather freely.

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  9. W Cobb Dawg

    Thomas Carlyle: “A man with a half volition goes backwards and forwards, and makes no way on the smoothest road. A man with a whole volition advances on the roughest, and will reach his purpose, if there be even a little worthiness in it…”

    Truth is, Kirby won’t be outworked.

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  10. Scorpio Jones, III

    “Maybe what it takes to turn a battleship around in the right direction is having all hands on deck.”

    The battleship in this particular case being the institutional will of the University of Georgia, because Mark Richt faced problems far beyond the practice field or the recruiting table or roster management.

    When the Big Dawgs made the decision to fire Mark Richt, the strong criticism from important people made it much more likely the BDs would have all THEIR hands on deck.

    Kirby’s gonna Kirby, and apparently that’s a very good thing.

    If ALL hands ARE on deck, that is a remarkable thing.

    Maybe it is ok to give up hope for expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cojones

      You bet. Right on the button and what I had been alluding to in my earlier posts.

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      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Man, I can’t deal with expectations…its just too much.

        Deep in my Munsonion soul I know, absolutely know that hubris is a dangerous thing.

        I feel the Kharmic Bitchez staring at me, pointing bony fingers.

        Hats.

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  11. Remember years ago we had to stop tackling in a few practices because we were worried about additional injuries? Yea…lets not do that again k? Thanks!

    The real hope is that Kirby can keep recruiting at a high level even though it may be tougher to get playing time as a frosh. IF he can do that, then the sky is the limit–practices remain intense and the scout team gets better and better, leading better results on the field. I’m sure Kirby is not the only coach from Bama who had this same plan. Lets hope all those years under Vader has rubbed off more on him than on others.

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  12. Nevermind what I said in the Vandy thread. The weekly Richt thread will give the those who only bring negativity ample opportunity. Things are never too good for a little dead horse kicking.

    Muck like Kirby, you definitely have your finger on the pulse of the fan base.

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  13. steve

    All hands on deck……I still think Chaney should be rowing not steering. I also think the success of the offense has more to do with the 45 consultants we pay and to Jake Fromm rather than Chaney. I just pray that Chaney doesn’t ruin Fromm and give him selectile dysfunction when choosing throwing targets. Fromm is a jet ski not a house boat. Let him torque the gear to his design.

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    • willypmd

      Chaney’s 2016 offensive production: “These numbers are terrible, conclusion: Cheney sucks”

      Chaney’s 2017 offensive production: “These numbers are much better, Conclusion: Chaney sucks.”

      🙄

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  14. Otto

    I love how Kirby, keeps UGA on the scholarship limit and complained for years that it would be good to see Richt make an effort to keep UGA near the limit. Richt was often 5-10 below by the time the season started.

    Smart also addresses weaknesses look at Special Teams play. How many years did we groan at angled to Kick Offs, then blown coverage teams?

    I have family that played and were around other programs, having your eyes opened on how other teams handled aspects of the program made not just B-M maddening but Richt frustrating with things that he could handle with little or no interaction with B-M. All of which were why I argued to have Richt fired and risk sending the program into wilderness.

    Smart may not have been my 1st choice but I will admit Smart being an alum and disciple of the process might be the only prospect that could take on B-M for meaningful change. It is great to see UGA get a stadium facility to host recruits that has a view of the field.

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  15. PTC DAWG

    We were soft, anyone not wearing blinders saw it.

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    • Athens Townie

      Soft, unfocused, unaccountable.

      Products of depth and culture? Yea, I bet so. There are lots of variables in play — it’s hard to be certain and precise. But, I agree. We were definitely soft.

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  16. mdcgtp

    With all due respect Senator, I don’t recall you voicing consistent confidence in Kirby over 2016 and this off season. I seem to remember a ton of references to the ends of the Vandy, Tech, and Tennessee games. Of course, if your point is that you always had confidence in his roster management, then perhaps my above response is misplaced.

    More broadly, I think you have mixed metaphors. The use of metaphor “turning a battleship” is typically used in reference to the time it takes rather to turn a battleship relative to other boats, which is not usually a function of the number of “hands on deck.” Given that you were merciless in your displeasure with the term throwaway season, which implied a lack of patience to get where we want to go as a program, I assume you are mixing metaphors. Turning around programs can be like turning a battleships, which often require transitional, rebuilding, or throwaway seasons where results suffer because of the transition.

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    • 2016 was the Year of OJT for Smart. He had a lot to learn on game day, at least in my opinion.

      That being said, I’ve never been critical of his roster management. It’s been a vast improvement over his predecessor’s.

      As far as mixed metaphors go, I don’t define throwaway season as you do. Interesting argument, though.

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      • Seems to me that after the Jeff Dantler tweet about “throwaway season” you concluded that the coaches not only were prepared for 2016 to be thrownaway but 2017 could be as well.

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        • I can’t predict the future, but I won’t deny that the way this season’s gone has been a pleasant surprise for me. Maybe you knew it was coming all along, in which case I congratulate you on your foresight.

          Anyway, I understood Dantzler’s use of the term to mean that the staff was willing to sacrifice wins in the short term in order to build the program for the longer term.

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        • By the way, does this really come across as me expecting a throwaway season for 2017?

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          • There were several posts after the Tech game about/referencing throwaway season and you said you were pissed (your exact words) about the prospect of 2017 being one.

            I remember because we went back and forth on it. Anyone can go back and read that. That’s all I’m going to say on this.

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            • Okay, so what’s your point? Several months after a disappointing loss, did I take the same tack?

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              • Macallanlover

                True, I think your assessment then mirrored most of us here. And I think no one can question the reality of what we are seeing on this team in 2017. No pointing of fingers are deserved, imo. The majority seemed to feel 9-3 or 10-2 was the most likely season record for this team. As one in that camp, I now feel one above both of those win expectations is more likely than not. Improvement on the field, and on the sidelines, is what I have seen. Doesn’t mean we cannot get some crap breaks/calls, or sustain some key injuries, to turn a couple of games south but we are seeing how to get where we want to go.

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      • mdcgtp

        I think we all define throwaway pretty similarly. 2016 was not going to be a championship season if we built a staff of Hall of Fame coaches. While I am certain that Kirby fought hard to put us in the best position to win as many games as possible, I don’t think he was particularly focused on the outcome of games as particularly meaningful to the long term trajectory of the program.

        That is what many of us said, and because of your myopic focus on issues that were largely irrelevant to that trajectory, you vastly underestimated what he was building and questioned his qualifications for the job.

        To be clear, I also said on many occasions that no one could know for sure whether Kirby will take us where we all want to go. Outcomes are uncertain. That said, I had high confidence that 2017 would be better than 2016. I had that confidence based on the way we progressed through the year. Further, the group of seniors that returned for the final year was a huge tell about their confidence in the direction of the program. Some saw Carter as a failed pass rusher, but if you watched him play and listened to Kirby’s comments, you saw a guy who learned to defend the run and played hard every down.

        You chose to outsource your analysis to Bill Connelly’s flawed metrics, which at one point erroneously listed out performance against Auburn as 40th percentile. You chose to conclude that somehow winning a bunch of close games would have signaled a better program, when in fact it would have meant little to the long term. Does Mcelwain’s 9-1 record in close games make him a great coach? Think Florida is clearly headed in the right direction because of that record? I don’t.

        Instead of saying, “who could have seen it coming?” It would be more intellectually honest to say that your criticisms were probably misplaced at this point.

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        • That is what many of us said, and because of your myopic focus on issues that were largely irrelevant to that trajectory, you vastly underestimated what he was building and questioned his qualifications for the job.

          To be clear, I also said on many occasions that no one could know for sure whether Kirby will take us where we all want to go. Outcomes are uncertain. That said, I had high confidence that 2017 would be better than 2016.

          I’m not seeing a lot of separation here.

          If you’ve got a problem with my intellectual honesty, I hope you can find another blog that lives up to your lofty standards.

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          • mdcgtp

            I am not sure what you mean by “not a lot of seperation.” You basically blogged for 6 months from the end of the Tech game until summer practice with snarky comments about Kirby that revealed you had significant doubts about his prospects for success. The basis of your criticisms included at varying times the results of 2016 season, the process by which he was hired, his communication style, and Bill Connelly’s flawed statistical analysis. (the same individual who declared 4 star Michael Barnett as potentially a solution on our OL coming into 2017).

            Rather than acknowledge that you might have been focused on the wrong variables or accept the debate and offer a challenging response that defends your intellectual process, your response is that one of your readers should just take a hike if they can’t reconcile your opinions with sound logic.

            That’s rich coming from a guy who is generally snarky about coaches, conference commissioners, and ADs in the college football world who are generally simplistic and self promoting in their actions. Your comments appropriately reveal that hypocrisy in numerous ways. Does that mean you should quit watching college football because you disagree with how it is run?

            The reality is that I think you do a great job of compiling mostly interesting articles that I might otherwise missed. Further, I enjoy talking about college football with other fans, and your blog elicits interesting debate. I just wish you would OWN the stance you took on Kirby.

            It’s not hard to say, “hey I was dead wrong, but the great thing is that we all get to enjoy the ride that SEEMS to be starting.”

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            • I’m not telling you to take a hike, brother. I’m telling you that if you aren’t satisfied with my level of honesty, I hope you can find someone else who satisfies you.

              Feel free to respond by repeating your points for a third time.

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  17. southernlawyer11

    I agree with all of the above on roster management. But it’s the overall attention to detail that has me gushing. Just like a team eventually “IS what their record says” (or some catchy phrase like that), maybe we are a team that has such extremely high situational awareness that we are unlikely to put a young quarterback in down/distance/field position/score situations where he needs to do much better than 7-15.

    Yes, I am a realist. 7-15 vs the 2 teams in Alabama may not cut it. But it’s nice to be in a position where we don’t have to have Aaron Murray throwing 20 yard gems into tight coverage…..and that increasingly appears to be the result of having a mountain of support staff ensuring attention to every detail from the top down along with depth that breeds competition. Football Darwinism. Kirby’s system may not be flashy, but we seem to be starting on 2nd base instead of hoping to hit tricky curve balls.

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    • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

      we have played 4 garbage teams and 1 pretty good team. To say we don’t need Aaron Murray throwing darts to win is more an example of the terrible lack of quality teams on our schedule thus far than it is that our team has reached a pinnacle of attention to detail never seen in the SEC East before.

      Hopefully Fromm or Eason step up to be the guy who can singlehandedly torch a defense, which, with our running game makes us a deadly team to prepare for.

      i.e. 2012 team with more depth on defense.

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  18. 69Dawg

    I hope all of you superior seers of the future don’t get rotator cuff problems patting yourselves on the back. We are 5-0 and that is impressive but we were just 1 point away from losing to a good but not great ND. The MSU game was unexpectedly one sided but if we had known that a large amount of our worry about MSU was how they handle LSU but that was unwarranted given that LSU sucks. Then there was UT and what I consider a lot of unforced errors. We forced a lot of them but the punt was not forced, the butt fumble on the snap was not forced. I can only hope that the team is not as big a consumer of Kool-Aid as some on this blog or we are in for a letdown. I’m with Kirby nobody cares whose ahead 40 meters into a 100 meter race.

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