Mark Richt’s departure and Kirby Smart’s arrival in late 2015 signaled a major change for Georgia football. Richt had been the boss for 15 seasons, winning 145 games and a pair of SEC titles in that time. But he failed to contend for national titles, and for that, he was finally forced out.
Former Georgia running back Nick Chubb played two seasons for Richt and two for Smart. The Bulldogs’ second-all-time-leading rusher spoke with DawgNation last week about the differences between the two coaches.
From Richt, he learned how to set priorities, and that “being a great man is more important” than being a great football player.
“He definitely was a strong man of faith,” Chubb said. “That rubbed off on us, how he approached every day and lived his life. Definitely a great man to look up to.”
But the culture under Richt — at least near the end of his tenure — was apparently not conducive to strong leadership among players. Chubb said the biggest difference with Smart was that he lets the team leaders call the shots.
“It was just more of a player-led team,” Chubb said. “Guys were finally fed up with losing so we kinda just took it over ourselves. Coach Smart was there and supported us and kind of led us in the right direction with doing that.”
Those leadership moments included calling players-only meetings and taking control at practices, per Chubb.
“Coaches didn’t have to get on anybody,” he said. “We’d get on them ourselves and hold everybody accountable.”
What followed was truly special for Georgia fans. Year 2 under Smart yielded a dream season that included an SEC title — the Bulldogs’ first since 2005 — and a narrow loss to Alabama in the national championship game.
Chubb finished his career with 4,769 rushing yards — second only to Herschel Walker — and was selected No. 35 overall by the Cleveland Browns last week in the 2018 NFL Draft.
He spoke with DawgNation courtesy of Panini trading-card company, which printed an exclusive Cleveland Browns Nick Chubb card hours after his selection last Friday. Chubb indicated that Georgia’s future is exciting with rising sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm at the helm.
“He had me convinced as soon as he got [on campus],” Chubb said. “The way he led as a young kid coming in — not even playing yet — just shows great leadership. And then once his time was here, he really stood out to everyone. He’s definitely a great leader.”