Something Kirby Smart said during last night’s presser:
On playing a lot of players…
“It’s so unfortunate that you don’t get a chance to do that but that’s the world we live in. The Conference schedule has made it tough, and our inability to get a big lead has made it tough. But, I was proud of those guys. I wish that we could play them more. That’s what kid’s do, they come to Georgia to play in the games. The games we’ve been in, we haven’t been able to do that. But I was proud of Arian Smith, I was proud of Daijun Edwards, what a warrior he was to continue to run the ball with toughness.”
We were able to get Broderick (Jones) in the game, Darnell (Washington) played a lot; we played a lot of guys on the defensive line that didn’t have a real good series there. We subbed out, put some threes in and didn’t play real well that last drive they scored on. But that’s the way you learn. I’ve been around it for years where I’ve been at places when you get a lead, put them in and you find out a lot about a kid. You find out, hey, he might still be a year away, but getting that experience under his belt is invaluable.” [Emphasis added.]
To which my smart ass response is: okay, so why isn’t Georgia one of those places? At least more often? (Last night was good in that regard, as all but nine players who travelled managed to play.)
I don’t mean to be pointing a finger just at Smart, either. He is following in Mark Richt’s footsteps. (Indeed, the second half of last season reminded me more than anything of how Richt coached the 2015 season after the embarrassing loss to Florida.)
On one level, sure, I get it. A win’s a win and that’s what coaches are paid to do. But a steady grind ’em out approach has its costs, and player development/analysis is one of them. If your team stays healthy, the downside is minimal, but 2020 hasn’t been that kind of season.
And before you go down the “that’s why you need cupcakes on the schedule” road, there are plenty of mediocre to bad teams in the SEC this season. Georgia played two of them, Kentucky and Mississippi State, in its last four games and took its sweet time putting them away.
It’s as much a mindset as the quality of opponents, in other words. And it’s one that has been embraced in Athens for some time — weirdly enough, by coaches who have been at those kind of places before arriving in Athens. Maybe it’s something in the water.