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Georgia coach Kirby Smart is thinking big heading into Year 2.

Own the East: Georgia coach Kirby Smart needs to learn how to win in 2017

Chip Towers

Editor’s Note: It may be time for the Georgia Bulldogs to take back the SEC East in 2017. We’ve featured the most important UGA players, coaches, fans and staff for the upcoming season in a 20-part video series, which you can binge-watch right here.

ATHENS – Kirby Smart has a whole lot of good things going on at Georgia.

The Bulldogs have fully integrated their new $30.2 million indoor facility into a practice complex and training facility that stands second to none. Construction will begin on a $63 million addition at Sanford Stadium that will include a new locker room and recruiting lounge built into the West End grandstands. Given a full year to recruit for the first time, Smart and his staff brought in a class that garnered a No. 3 national composite ranking.

Heck, even Smart and his wife Mary Beth finally have seen construction completed on their renovated home. So a lot of things have gotten settled and are on solid ground in Smart’s life.

Now he just needs to win. More to the point, he needs to learn how to win.

Smart got a lot of experience at winning while apprenticing under Nick Saban at Alabama. But that was different. At the end of the day, when the heat got turned up and the games were tight and decisions had to be made to affect the eventual outcome, that was all Saban.

That was all Smart at Georgia last year. Frankly, the returns weren’t great in that regard. The Bulldogs squandered a 10-point lead late against Tennessee. They made questionable decisions late in an inexcusable home loss to Vanderbilt. Georgia Tech scored 14 points in the final 6:28 to score a 28-27 upset.

Yes, there were tight outcomes that went Georgia’s way, too. But it was winning the games the Bulldogs are supposed to win when they were in position to win them that hurt Smart most in 2016. Hence, an 8-5 record.

There are several reasons to think they will be better at closing out such games in 2017. First, Smart’s a year more experienced. That whirlwind first year, with him trying to work two jobs through the College Football Playoff while building a staff and a roster and a new home, is behind him. His methods are understood by players and coaches. All new coaches must undergo this transition, and now Smart has.

The talent base has improved and so have the facilities. Natural progression should dictate that the young coach has, too. The key now is to see it translated into victories on the field.

Click here to see more of “Own the East,” our 2017 season preview of the Georgia Bulldogs in video form.