Georgia head coach Kirby Smart celebrates winning the College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., on Monday Jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

CFP Championship coach Kirby Smart turns to Georgia football future, ‘it’s right now’

INDIANAPOLIS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart celebrated hard into the morning hours, but by Tuesday morning, he was already working on the Bulldogs’ next championship run.

“It’s right now, we’ll have multiple kids go into the portal that we’ve had discussions with, that held off out of respect for the team,” Smart said at the CFP Championship press conference, hours after the Bulldogs beat Alabama by a 33-18 count in Lucas Oil Stadium.

“We’ll have that and everyone will think that’s a terrible thing …. Then we have 16 or 17 kids that have early enrolled.”

The wheels were no doubt spinning in Smart’s mind, as the Bulldogs will be active securing key players in the portal, too.

Georgia football will have heavy attrition, and as the 2021 season proved, having quality depth is key to a 15-game championship run, along with some good fortune.

“I think we’ve had the best team in the country two or three times,” Smart said. “But the best team in the country doesn’t always win ... one of our most talented teams, outside of this one, was probably the one that lost in the SEC Championship Game in 2018.”

That Bulldogs’ team, which fell 35-28 to Alabama, was left out of the CFP after a controversial selection process that Smart said at the time changed its criteria, and according to Kirk Herbstreit, allowed politics to enter the process.

Georgia has three projected 2022 first-round NFL draft picks in defensive linemen Jordan Davis and Travon Walker, and linebacker Nakobe Dean.

Eight more Bulldogs players have been invited to the Senior Bowl, a strong indication an NFL combine invite is forthcoming. That’s good news for Jake Camarda, James Cook, Justin Shaffer, Jamaree Salyer, Devonte Wyatt, Quay Walker, Derion Kendrick and Channing Tindall.

Neither seniors Stetson Bennett nor Zamir White have Senior Bowl invites at this time, but it’s likely White has played his last game at UGA, while Bennett remains uncertain amid a crowded Georgia QB room.

RELATED: Georgia QB Stetson Bennett, ‘we weren’t going to be stopped’

But for Smart, there’s more roster management to sort through than that to ensure his team has the talent to secure what would be a sixth-straight Top 10 finish, at the very least.

“We don’t know how many spots we have, because we don’t know what some guys are doing,” Smart said, “like Lewis (Cine) and other guys.”

Outside linebacker Nolan Smith and quarterback JT Daniels are notable players who may or may not return to the Bulldogs.

Smart pointed out on Sunday that while Georgia has been preparing for the CFP Championship Game, other teams have been acquiring notable talent through the transfer portal.

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