Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry is dedicated to rewinding not just any spring football game, but the spring football game of the Kirby Smart era in Athens.
(At the beginning of this retrospective, it only makes sense to ask the reader to summon up their best Allen Iverson voice. Read along. Cock that hat a certain way during your mental playback of a very famous sports sound byte. )
“We sitting in here,” Iverson said. “I’m supposed to be the franchise player. We in here talking about practice. I mean listen… we talking about practice. . Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it is my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man. I mean how silly is that. We talking ’bout practice.”
Yes, we are talking about a practice. We are talking about the most glorified practice of any of them during the Kirby Smart era.
We. Talking. About #93KDay. In Athens.
That’s the day Georgia held a glorified practice. Dressed it all up as the traditional G-Day. It was the first spring game of the Smart era in Athens. It showed this was already going to be an elevated Georgia football program.
Smart basically said “Ya’ll come” and make this special. He made that public decree at a basketball game earlier in that year.
They did. Their neighbor did. Everyone at the fall tailgate friends did. They brought along their brother Darryl and their other brother Darrell and even their cousin Chris. He lives in a van. Down by the river.
Georgia actually welcomed 93,000 fans to Sanford Stadium that day for a spring practice. Jacob Eason was the talk of the town then. That factoid does teach us a lot about perspective and elite recruits and how none of us really know what the world of college football has for the brightest of stars and the teams expected to feature them.
We are still talking here about a practice. It was a day that day could have been #105KDay if UGA officials didn’t finally opt to start turning folks away.
Georgia football: Another big reason to bring up #93KDay
This day is somewhat historically significant, too. The 16th day of April will mark the four-year anniversary of the first moment where the Smart era was ready to attack every expectation for what the Georgia football program could be in Athens.
- Winning a Rose Bowl? That was on the way
- Winning the SEC and playing for the national title in Year 2 of the Smart era? It was marinating.
- Showing the country that mighty Alabama would soon need to spill its guts and get down to its last breath the beat the Bulldogs. Yes and yes. That was coming in back-to-back seasons.
- Claiming multiple national recruiting No. 1 rankings across the various services in successive years? Yep. The staff was chopping away at that. Those “Kirbyisms” like “physicality” and “do your job” were also coming.
- The man wanted everyone to eat. Everyone in the house at #93KDay, too.
- Signing a 5-star QB in back-to-back-to-back classes? It was to be.
- Coaching up Butkus, Groza and Thorpe Award winners? Yessir.
- Back-to-back-to-back SEC East titles? That’s a rare feat in conference play since the two divisions were formed.
- Beating Notre Dame twice? Taking over Wrigley Field and that cathedral stadium in South Bend?
- Signing an unheard of total of seven prospects with a 5-star rating in one class? It was coming.
- Could over $100 million worth of facility facelifts be possible? The Magill Society was just getting ready to call the ‘Dawgs for those donation dollars.
It was April 16, 2016. It was all coming down the track.
Has it really been just four years since all of that happened? Has all of that happened so fast?
That was the day when Jacob Eason threw that pass and the recruits who were in attendance wondered if that ovation was for Nick Chubb. Did Chubb get a carry? Was that him coming into the game months ahead of his rehabilitation schedule?
It was the day when D’Andre Swift and his family came down from Philadelphia to ponder how a career in Athens might be different than the Clemsons, Ohio States and Penn States he had been thinking about. Team Swift saw that it was.
Jamaree Salyer and Andrew Thomas were in the stands, too.
“It was just an overall great experience,” Thomas said back then. “If you would have saw the fans there, it was ridiculous. The Fire Marshall was like denying people from coming in. I loved going out on the field. It made me want to go put on the pads and play. I just had a good feeling about that.”
Thomas already liked UGA a lot.
“But it definitely moved them up a little bit farther,” he said two days later.
Thomas committed to Georgia less than three months later. He was set on his way to building a career that might win the argument these days as the greatest offensive lineman in Georgia football history. Especially of the modern era.
It was a sure tell that Smart was well on his way to uniting the Georgia people. The new head man in Athens called for it.
Smart’s opening remarks after that G-Day were clear. He needed a big swill of bottled water before he let them loose.
“Well opening remarks would be ‘Wow’ I tell you what,” Smart said. “For the fan base to come out and support our program and support our kids the way they did it touches me in my heart. “It makes a special moment to know that the fan base they have got your back and your program’s back.”
“There’s a lot of doubters out there. Lot of doubters that said it couldn’t be done. Said they won’t come. Said they will find something else to do. They will stay in Atlanta, but they came. They came in groves and I appreciate that. More than they know. Our kids appreciate that.”
It was a sloppy game. Smart even noted that. G-Days in Athens are pretty much designed to be that way now.
“It speaks volumes to where Georgia is headed and what Georgia can do,” Smart said. “Because I have always said why not us? We’re just happy to be a part of us and being home. It means a lot to me.”
How much was it going to play into recruiting?
“You’ll see,” he said then. “We will see. Because they were there. They were all fired up and they couldn’t believe it. They were ecstatic. They were a lot of good players here. I think it will show the tale at the end of it when it comes all the way to the back end [of the signing period.]
He was right. Everyone saw. The previous three Georgia recruiting classes finished rated No. 12, No. 6 and No. 8 in the country. It trailed the competition in the SEC.
The next four classes have been No. 6, No. 3, No. 1, No. 2 and No. 1. That’s on the 247Sports Team Composite rankings.
#93KDay: Another reason it comes to mind this week
The sense of nostalgia here offers a time to look back, but also to project ahead. It was an amazing day in Athens.
How many schools can get 93,000 fans in the seats for a Saturday game in the fall? Georgia did that with an intrasquad scrimmage that went high on thud on low on scheme.
Georgia was able to separate itself with a practice. It continues to do so every spring.
There was rain and all kinds of inconveniences for G-Day in 2019, too. Georgia still packed in more than 50,000 for that contest. That G-Day version was still plenty packed enough to impress a lot of the core pieces of what would become another top-ranked signing class for the 2020 cycle, too.
But that won’t happen this year. Georgia won’t get that opportunity to nationally showcase another visual Exhibit A. The opportunity shows what it means when they tout to the new batch of recruits that it is special to play between those hedges in Athens.
Check out a few throwback tweets from that first Smart G-Day below. It is astounding to notice all the differences in just the venue, the “DawgWalk” and the current gameday experience at Sanford Stadium.
#TBT that #93KDay spring game in Athens. It is hard to believe that was already four years ago. How much has Georgia football changed up in that time? https://t.co/1rmtAOSuWY pic.twitter.com/fknBxAH2fU
— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) April 16, 2020
#TBT that #93KDay spring game in Athens. It is hard to believe that was already four years ago. How much has Georgia football changed up in that time? https://t.co/BNTZvJtrdh pic.twitter.com/Gv5cwwHptE
— DawgNation (@DawgNation) April 16, 2020
There was no west end zone. No recruiting lounge. No LED lights that now light up Sanford Stadium for a night game spectacle that has very few peer environments in college football.
aGeorgia will have to find another way to impress this next wave of recruits. Without a G-Day. Look for this coaching staff to do just that.
Why not us? That’s the message that will still ring true for DawgNation. With or without another #93KDay or another G-Day.