ATHENS — The best leaders and the most intelligent people are the ones who know what they don’t know.
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart — a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll during his playing career — served up a reminder of that when he deferred on speculating about college football’s future.
“I can’t speculate on what I don’t know, and we don’t have a large amount of information right now,” Smart said. “It’s no fault of anybody. I’m not trying to point any blame, but we don’t know a lot about the future and what that holds.
“I’m not going to sit back and say well this is what I think should be done, or this is what I think is going to happen, because I don’t think that does anybody any good.”
Smart did, however, feel comfortable enough to talk about his team.
The 2020 Bulldogs are set up for an SEC Championship and College Football Playoff run on the strength of what on paper is the best returning defense in the nation.
Georgia returns nine of 11 starters from its Sugar Bowl team, and Smart said there are rising sophomores and juniors that appear on the verge of breaking through even more.
Here are three takeaways from Smart’s teleconference with Georgia football beat writers earlier this week:
1. Priority on players
Smart, like the CEOs of many of the nation’s top organizations, has placed a priority on his personnel and ensuring their well-being ahead of any of the football business.
Smart was quarantined himself after returning with his family from Central America at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic’s severe effects on the U.S. society. It’s clear he demands his players take the social distancing directives seriously.
“The No. 1 thing is the well-being of our players, their families, our student-athletes, our students at the University of Georgia,” Smart said. “We’re trying every way we can to make sure that they have everything they need because so many of them have parents in harm’s way.
“They’re in harm’s way taking care of themselves if they don’t respect what they’re being told.”
2. Kirby’s going to Kirby
Thoroughness and efficiency are two of the traits that make Smart one of the best coaches in the nation, and he didn’t take long to shift into that mode.
Smart was among the first to push for videoconferencing, and that helped lead to the SEC approaching two hours of online “chalk talk” between players and their coaches per week last Friday. The new measure took effect last Monday.
“In anticipation of doing it we were trying to get ready, we were practicing ourselves,” Smart said. “A lot of these kids are better at these technological things than the coaches are, so we had to practice …. to get ready so that we hit the ground running.”
3. Confident in quarterbacks
Smart didn’t exactly use the word “comfortable” when asked about Jamie Newman. But he revealed the Georgia graduate transfer quarterback had found some “rhythm” while throwing with receivers in limited work.
Quarterbacks will be the position players most affected by the football stoppage, Smart said.
But then he also revealed that Newman and the other UGA signal callers were able to at least get some familiarity with the offense.
“As far as the QB and the offense for our guys, I mean, we were able to meet leading up to spring practice,” Smart said.
“ …. we were able to have walkthroughs leading up to spring time, which we maximized that time. Not anticipating that we wouldn’t have spring, but just knowing that we had new quarterbacks and due to the offensive systems, we had to make sure we spent time with that. So we spent a lot of time on that.”