Georgia football coach Kirby Smart identifies offseason leaders
ATHENS — The Georgia football program has grown through the offseason, overcoming adversity and complicated and sometimes divisive social issues.
Coach Kirby Smart has had a front row seat for all of it, getting to know this 2020 version of Bulldogs better than any before.
“Of all the teams we’ve had since I’ve been here, and this is going on my fifth year, I’ve spent more time with the leadership group and with the players and visiting with them, more than I have the other four combined, because you’ve got to hear their voice,” Smart said during a Friday appearance on UGA radio partner 680 The Fan.
“We’ve got social injustice going on in the world, we’ve got unbelievable things happening with COVID-19 and the pandemic,” Smart said.
“(There’s) the fear of them getting injured or being sick. There’s so much information out there and it’s coming so fast at them, we made a concerted effort as a staff to spend time with them, to hear their voice.”
Leaders, like junior Jamaree Salyer, have spoken up in the player-friendly environment Smart has created.
“It gives us a chance to be raw, because everybody has feelings,” Salyer said. “Everybody has things they want to get off their chest.”
Player unrest and disharmony has become a common issues across the collegiate football landscape, as not all programs are as sensitive to their players.
Salyer explained how the Georgia leadership council heads that sort of thing off before this can become misconstrued or detrimental to the program.
“I feel getting in those rooms and having a lot of older guys having a chance to talk and get out their feelings (helps), and then Coach Smart being able to listen to us and understand what we’re saying, and sometimes implementing it into his plans that he has for the team,” Salyer said in a Zoom chat earlier this summer.
“It’s coming together and meeting together and having our ideas aligned, that helps us a lot.”
It has also helped Smart identify the team leaders that he can rely on to help carry the Bulldogs through this COVID-19 era and toward a national championship.
“We have a really good core group,” Smart said. “Richard LeCounte, Jamaree Salyer, Azeez (Ojulari), Travon Walker, there are so many guys that are a part of this group, Kearis (Jackson).
“The leadership has really put itself at the forefront of this group, because we haven’t had the natural opportunities. We didn’t have spring practice, we didn’t have all this recruiting events, so we’ve had to do it different ways.”
Georgia is scheduled to start practices on Monday, with the season scheduled to start on Sept. 26.
Georgia football preseason