Kirby Smart shares 3 Georgia football concerns: Focus, flu bug and future roster

Georgia coach Kirby Smart is keeping a national championship in focus amid several distractions.
Jeff Sentell/Dawg

ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs are considered a 54-point favorite over FCS Charleston Southern on a sunny fall day.

The team will honor several seniors before the final home game of the season at Sanford Stadium, and there figures to be a great amount of goodwill in the air.

It wouldn’t seem like a time for concerns, but Smart shared some issues he’s managing during his coach’s show this week.

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Smart, ever intense, is aiming his No. 1-ranked Bulldogs at what would be the program’s first national championship since 1980 and he’s intent not to let them get off track.

“It feels like there’s a lot left to be done,” Smart said. " It’s next man up, next team up, next game up. We don’t want to lose the edge, and sometimes that can happen if you don’t have the same caliber of opponent.”

Here are three concerns Smart has entering today’s game:

Team rhythm

Georgia has played with a sense of urgency throughout its perfect SEC season, running up a 10-0 overall mark and 8-0 league record.

But Smart was not pleased with practices on Monday or Tuesday, and he explained his concern the caliber of opponent — Charleston Southern — could take the team out of its rhythm.

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“Playing to a standard of excellence and not relaxing when you plan an FCS opponent,” Smart said, asked what the biggest threat to his team was this week.

“You tend to think differently during the week — you can’t do that. You’ve got to prepare the same, you have to keep rhythm,” he said. “We don’t want to fall out of the rhythm of playing really good, sound, complimentary football.

“So I don’t want any phase to slip, that’s the threat of thinking differently or acting differently because of the opponent, or maybe even the early kick time.”

The flu bug

Georgia starters Jalen Carter and Warren Ericson were among the Bulldogs affected by the flu last Saturday.

Smart said there have been more cases this week, though he did not reveal who and if any players’ statuses will be affected for the game.

“We’ve had three or four come back (from the flu) and three or four go out,” Smart said. “Each day has been a thrill a minute with who’s testing, and who has the flu.

“We’ve lost a couple in the last couple of days that we had over the weekend and Monday and Tuesday, so each day has been different.”

Roster management

Smart said 28 to 30 players will be recognized on Senior Day, but he’s not exactly sure which ones are returning, and that complicates roster management.

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The COVID-19 pandemic last season led the NCAA to not count last season against any of the players’ eligibility, allowing for “Super Seniors” to play an extra year and not count toward the 85 scholarship limit.

Smart said it’s looking like moving forward that all scholarship players will once against count against that 85-man limit, so keeping that number firm with an incoming recruiting class could get complicated.

Particularly when many of the players won’t decide if they are returning before Georgia signs several players on the Dec. 15 early signing date.

“So you’re looking at a dilemma of, do they want to stay, do you want them to stay, what role do they take on,” Smart said. “A lot of them what to get on with their careers and lives, whether it’s NFL or graduation and move on. So each one is a separate decision.

“It’s a lot to juggle before Dec. 15 signing day. It’s actually impossible because those kids aren’t making those decisions by that (signing) date, which makes it difficult.”

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