ATHENS — If Kirby Smart’s disposition is any sort of indicator, the Georgia football team is ready for the challenge ahead at South Carolina.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (1-0) play the No. 24-ranked Gamecocks at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in a pivotal SEC East Division football game.
If Smart is feeling any pressure, he certainly didn’t show it.
Of course, this is the same head coach who dug up the Billy Jean King quote this offseason that “pressure is really a privilege.”
Smart’s saying motivated rising NASCAR star Chase Elliott to win his first Cup race, and now it serves to give his players the right mentality.
Smart, in his third year leading the Georgia program, came across as relaxed and poised as he has been since appearing in Atlanta for the SEC Media Days in July.
The Bulldogs have several young players who will be making their first road trip, and others being pressed into key roles this week, but Smart does’t seem too concerned about how they’ll handle it.
“You either control it or it controls you, [and] I’m a big believer in you control it by what you do,” Smart said.
“You just try to show [players] examples of people that have played in tough environments and struggled and made bad decisions, and guys that have played in tough environments and never been affected by the environment.”
Georgia piped in crowd noise at practice on Tuesday, preparing the players for what figures to be a hostile playing environment at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We had a good, spirited practice in the heat and were able to get a lot of work done,” Smart said at the opening of his Wednesday presentation. “Good Tuesday work. Probably going to be very similar to the weather over there, 95 or so degrees.”
Smart has staged outdoor afternoon practices throughout fall camp. This Georgia team appears to be as well conditioned as any, with very few heat-related issues in August.
The Bulldogs have returned several injured players to practice this week, most notably senior receiver Terry Godwin and junior defensive back Tyrique McGhee.