ATHENS — Kirby Smart has spent the last couple of media appearances stressing his current team is more hungry than complacent. It’s become a bit at this point.

The Bulldogs are coming off a championship season, the school’s first since 1980. One could understand the thought that this team might be a little hungover from last year’s success. With Alabama being the overwhelming title favorite to start the season, there isn’t the same pressure on Georgia to win the national championship this season.

At least, that is the outside thinking. Those inside the Georgia football facility are just as eager to win it again this year.

“I knew the work that it took for us last year, we are going to have to put the same amount of work in this year to get back to where we want to be,” senior safety Chris Smith said. “It’s not going to be handed to us. Coach Smart does a great job of preaching not staying complacent, not being complacent.”

Smith is one of the few defensive starters to return from last season. Senior Nolan Smith is the only defender who started every game last season that returns this year. Five of those departed players were taken in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Smart though doesn’t see the lack of returning experience as an exclusively bad thing. He actually thinks that helps fight against complacency.

“We don’t have a reason to be complacent,” Smart said. “I mean, I’ve been on national championship teams that won it all that I was concerned about complacency because there was a lot of back. We don’t really have that problem.”

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The Georgia head coach went into greater detail about how it’s actually the returning starters that he is the most worried about. During his time at Alabama, Smart has worked on four championship-winning staffs. He was the defensive coordinator of the last team to repeat. He was also on teams that didn’t experience that same level of success.

Most of the Georgia veterans seem inclined to keep growing, something that should excite Smart. Because Georgia has plenty of players chomping at the bit to carve out their own legacy at Georgia.

“I know the guys who haven’t played are hungry,” Smart said. “We have to keep the guys who have hungry. It has nothing to do with complacency. It’s not that -- I mean, whether we win or lose every game this year, it’s not going to be because of complacency. It’s going to be because of the outcomes and what we did on the grass to make that possible. But it won’t be because of complacency.”

Nowhere is this idea more perfect than on Georgia’s defensive line. The Bulldogs saw Jordan Davis, Travon Walker and Devonte Wyatt all end up as first round draft picks. Jalen Carter is Georgia’s top returning defensive lineman and he doubles as the team’s top draft prospect. Smart will be eager to push Carter to stay hungry.

In addition to Carter though, there are a lot of talented players who want to show they can more than fill the shoes of those who left. Zion Logue and Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins want to show the college football world they can absolutely be a championship-winning team.

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“I don’t question our talent at all,” Logue said. “We have everything we need in our room to be ready to go be a championship-caliber team. We just have to put the work in to be there.”

It’s easy to say on the first day of camp that complacency hasn’t set in. You’re eager to put the pads on and get ever closer to the start of the season.

Whether that hunger is still there when Georgia takes the field against Oregon and the rest of the SEC later this fall will be something worth following. It’s pretty clearly one of the team’s buzzwords, much like connection and elite were a season ago.

Smart prefers it that way. He wants this 2022 Georgia football team to think a lot more about what is ahead of them than what they have passed in the rearview mirror.

“There is a lot of experience there that’s gone,” Smart said. “So they’ve been excited, opportunistic. Some guys have changed their bodies a little bit and in better shape. I’m excited to go see them practice. They’re excited to get out there.”

Georgia coach Kirby Smart shares thoughts on Georgia football at the start of fall camp

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