ATHENS — Carson Beck’s swagger is very real, to the extent Kirby Smart recognizes and understands the degree of value to it.

“He’s ‘Mr. Mellow’ out there; the guys in the locker room love him because he’s confident, calm and very smart,” Smart said in an exclusive interview granted to ESPN reporter Chris Low last week.

“Even though he’s got a little bit of arrogance to him, he’s not holier than thou like you see with some quarterbacks.”

It’s a good thing — Smart indicated Georgia will likely only go as far as its quarterback will take it this season, the defensive front having fallen off from the legendary status of the 2021 and 2022 teams.

“That’s not to say we were subpar on the defensive line last year, we just weren’t great,” said Smart, who has challenged his defensive line to produce the first-round ‘train wreckers and havoc makers’ of the past.

“We didn’t have a dominant guy, but we’re always going to be good on defense. I don’t know that we’re going to be great this year, but I think we have a chance to be great on offense.”

Indeed, and that starts with Beck, who Smart concedes Georgia might have been too conservative with at the start of last season.

Beck’s pre-snap read ability is what one might expect from a player who claims to solve Rubik’s Cube in under one minute.

Beck’s athleticism, likewise, is on-par with the sort one would expect from a former Florida baseball scholarship winner and AAU basketball star.

“Early in the year last season, we probably did try to protect him too much,” Smart said. “But then you see nothing ever really affects him and know you’ve just got to let the cat go play because we were either going to make it or not make it on his back.

“As the year went on, he got better and better, but we were probably a little too slow with him out of the gate.”

Georgia could have given Beck more opportunities to make plays in the SEC Championship Game, too.

Instead, it was Alabama’s Jalen Milroe leading the Tide to a 27-24 win, out-playing Beck to earn the game’s MVP honors.

Beck has said he has a better feel for his mobility with a season under his belt, and it’s likely he’ll have to make more plays with three of his top four pass catchers — including first-round talents Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey — having moved on to the NFL.

Georgia is holding a scrimmage on Saturday where Beck will likely take more steps in establishing chemistry with his receiving corps.

Amazingly, five of the nine transfers on the UGA football team are at the receiver position, putting the onus on Beck to establish timing and chemistry this offseason.

Beck said earlier this offseason he knows the challenges ahead.

“It’s pretty much trying to eliminate any type complacency,” Beck told Aaron Murray during a paid Player’s Lounge interview, asked about the challenges for the 2024 season.

“And then also finding that leadership role and building these connections with all these news guys that we have, because it’s a new team with new faces.”

Beck is considered one of the leading preseason candidates for the Heisman Trophy, an award no Georgia player has won since Herschel Walker in 1982.