Here’s a question Smart was asked at yesterday’s early signing day presser:
On whether Florida securing the East signals a shift in or balance of power in the SEC and if something like that can play into recruiting…
“I think everybody will have their own opinion on it, but I think it has to do with not playing well in a game. I don’t think it has to do with a balance of power. I will say that a lot of football boils down to the line of scrimmage and I still think that we have really good line of scrimmages. Obviously that game, we didn’t play well enough and they out competed us and out played us. I’m very comfortable with where we are in terms of the team and program. So much of a game falls, and I hate to say it, falls on the quarterback position. At the quarterback position, they make a decision every play and they’ve got a really good quarterback. They have a guy who has played for a long time. We caught him on a younger year the year before that, we caught Felipe [Franks] one of his younger years before that and we’ve had Jake Fromm prior to that. So, we had a lot of experience at that position but I’m not pointing or blaming anything, I’m just comfortable where we are. I think the SEC East will always be competitive and it’s one of those things that we know we have to win that to get to the big show.”
Most of that answer isn’t about the defense or the running game. It’s about the quarterback. I can’t help but think that, between last year’s SECCG and this year’s Cocktail Party, reality doesn’t keep smacking Kirby Smart in the face. In his defense, and even if you want to say better late than never, he does appear to be getting it. Read what he said about Vandagriff in particular.
“… When you look at a quarterback nowadays, that’s one of the things you have to say and that’s the new deal when you look across the NFL. The arm angle, the ability to have mobility to escape—the game has changed. The athletes upfront are explosive, fast, pass-rushers. They come in attack mode. They play pass first, not run first. When you look at the success maybe Kyler Murray has had, or guys in the NFL, you right away say, ‘The athleticism is the overriding factor.’ You want to have someone that can do those things, but they have to have the ability to process all of the information, to put you in the right situation to make plays, to change plays, to do a lot of things. We think he is a good athlete, and he’s shown that over his career. He’s a little dinged up right now. He’s dealing with some injuries, but you get those things when you run and you get out of the pocket a lot. That’s one of those things that you have to be able to protect him, but he’s got to be able to make good decisions on where to slide.” [Emphasis added.]
This was the first year in a long while when the team that gained the most yards on the ground didn’t win the Cocktail Party. My guess is it won’t be the last.