Kirby Smart on Georgia football repeating as National Champions: ‘(You’re) trying to get better for the next one’

Georgia football-Kirby Smart-2022 National Championship
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart after the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., on Monday Jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles)
Mackenzie Miles

Kirby Smart has made it clear that Georgia won’t be defending its National Championship in 2022. That’s not to say the Bulldogs won’t be trying their best to win once again, but Smart recognizes that too much was lost from the 2021 team to see the 2022 team as the same.

The group for Georgia this coming season will be looking to go out and carve its own legacy. It’s something Smart has said often this offseason, wanting this 2022 team to have its own identity separate of that from the championship team of last season.

In a recent interview with Crain & Company, Smart spoke about what winning the school’s first championship since the 1980 season meant for him. He made it clear he is far more focused on what comes next, rather than the confetti falling in the rearview mirror.

“It was self-gratifying for myself because we never won one when I was here, and it was something that we always wanted to achieve — and we want to go achieve again,” Smart said. “For me, it was what you do your job for, right? You do it really hard. You try to be the best at what you do, and we were able to accomplish that last year.

“But the minute it’s over, as a coach and a competitor, there’s no competitor I know that’s not thinking about the next at-bat, you know, the next shot you’ve got and how you can do it better.”

Even after losing four assistant coaches, 15 players to the 2022 NFL Draft and 13 players to the transfer portal, Georgia still brings back one of the most talented teams in the country for the 2022 season. Georgia placed three players on the Walter Camp Preseason All-American Watch List, which was tied for most of any school.

Related: Walter Camp selects 3 Georgia heroes from 2021 title run as first-team preseason All-Americans

As of this writing, Georgia has the second-best championship odds in some sports books. Only Alabama, buoyed by quarterback Bryce Young and edge rusher Will Anderson, is seen as a team that is better than the Bulldogs entering the 2022 season. Ohio State is also a team in the same stratosphere as the Bulldogs as well.

For all that the Bulldogs lost from last season, a number of key faces return as well. The offensive side of the ball will once again be led by quarterback Stetson Bennett and choreographed by offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

While Georgia won largely due to its defense last season, Smart is confident in what his offense will be able to do this coming season. Georgia ranked in the top 10 in points per game and yards per play last season.

“I would easily say this is the best — when you take a picture of the whole room, top to bottom, those four guys that are going to meet in that quarterback room in fall camp — the most depth we’ve ever had, especially the most depth of kind of like the guys that I know and trust can play the position,” Smart said.

If UGA is to repeat in 2022, ‘It all comes down to Stetson Bennett’

The Bulldogs also draw a favorable schedule, with Georgia likely to be favored in every game during the regular season. From the SEC West, the Bulldogs get Auburn and Mississippi State, with neither team expected to be ranked in the initial polls. Georgia’s toughest regular-season game might be its first when the Bulldogs take on Oregon in Atlanta. The Ducks will now be led by former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning.

Smart does know a little bit about repeating, as he was the defensive coordinator of the last team to successfully go back-to-back. Alabama did so in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. It has not been done in the College Football Playoff era, though Alabama and Clemson both reached the National Championship again after winning the year before in recent seasons.

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