Um… not sure I know where this is going.
Leaders will once again decide how Georgia plays football, but Smart said the Bulldogs are “not even close” to finding new sources of leadership. Jonathan Ledbetter, one of the people who Smart said is trying to step up as a leader, believes adversity will be the only way for this year’s team to find itself.
“You can try to recreate things and do a bunch of different things to create chemistry, but the only way to create a real team is to go through adversity,” said Ledbetter, a senior defensive end.
No, he doesn’t mean adversity in the sense of going to Columbia and losing to an inferior South Carolina team — been there, done that — but in the sense that this is a team that hasn’t pushed itself enough mentally and emotionally this spring.
That adversity will first come in the form of practice and training while the Bulldogs incorporate the rest of a recruiting class ranked No. 1 in the country into the fabric of the team over the summer. The adversity will increase as the players pant and push the limits of their bodies during preseason practice. In those spaces, the Bulldogs will try to re-establish the speed and physicality that defined last year’s team.
“It will only happen if you make it happen and you earn it,” Smart said. “Right now, we’re not where we need to be. The good news is we don’t have to be. We just got to be making progress.”
I like how Ledbetter puts things in terms of creating a mindset. If you’re that overly conscious of searching for an identity, it almost smacks of fake juice. Anything that comes of it is bound to be artificial at best and unlikely to lead to sustained excellence.
Fortunately, I do believe Smart knows the best way to bring adversity in the sense of forging a real team mentality that will serve to carry through to another great season, and that’s competition. There’s going to be a real temptation for some of this team to rest on the laurels of a remarkable 2017-8 season, or to reach for some unnatural re-creation of the mindset that took them to a national title game. Kirby’s challenge is to get them all beyond that.