Kirby Smart first year as Georgia’s coach — his first-ever year as a head coach — can be summed up as a learning experience.
As he tried to implement a culture change in the program, the Bulldogs had an up-and-down 2016 season, highlighted by last-minute wins and inexplicable losses. Georgia finished the season with an 8-5 record, which probably was a realistic expectation.
But as the page turns to Year 2, the pressure and expectations on Smart and his team will rise. Fans and the administration likely need to see a jump in on-field performance and overall team culture, as Smart integrates his second recruiting class into the mix.
And as one anonymous SEC East coach told Jimmy Hyams of Gridiron Now, there could be consequences if Georgia doesn’t improve.
“They lost to Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt,” Smart’s fellow SEC East coach said. “That has got to get corrected. If Georgia goes 7-5, he’s Derek Dooley at Georgia. Derek was a 6-6 guy.”
“If Kirby doesn’t get it done by his third year, they’ll fire his ass.”
However, that same coach indicated that Georgia has the players to improve significantly in 2017.
“I think Georgia is as talented as anybody in the league other than Alabama,” he said.
Which translates to, as it did even during Mark Rich’s tenure, that Georgia always has had the talent. Now, Smart has had two nationally elite recruiting classes, bringing more even more skill to Athens. So it comes down to what the coach can do with it and how well the players execute on the field for themselves and for him.