WATCH: A case for Kirby Smart to get Coach of the Year consideration
ATHENS — Georgia had a complete rebuild in its receiving corps, and it lost arguably its best player at each of the three levels of the defense.
Still, the expectations were for Kirby Smart to make history as the first coach to win three straight SEC East Division crowns since Steve Spurrier did so from 1994-1996.
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 4 and in the middle of the College Football Playoff hunt with a 9-1 record through 10 games for a third straight year, have managed to meet those expectations.
This, even though that rebuilt receiving corps has been ravaged by injuries to four starters (Tyler Simmons, Lawrence Cager, Kearis Jackson, Demetris Robertson), and the offensive line has just one player who has stayed healthy enough to start all 10 games (Andrew Thomas).
A quirky schedule further stacked the deck with five opponents in six weeks coming off bye weeks when they faced the Bulldogs, providing them more rest and preparation for Kirby Smart and his staff.
It’s a staff that’s still evolving in many ways.
The Georgia head coach has had to grow the program from within. Smart promoted James Coley and Dan Lanning from position coach levels to replace two of the most experienced and decorated coordinators in the business, Mel Tucker and Jim Chaney.
And yet, here is Georgia, 9-1 with one of the best defenses in college football and looking to make a second College Football Playoff in three years.
People can say it’s all about the talent. But Smart is the one who has recruited these players, and he and his staff have proven they can develop them.
There’s a good chance Ed Orgeron, with his high-priced coordinators and No. 1 team ranking, will win SEC Coach of the Year.
Smart might not even get consideration because he has built Georgia to the point where it’s expected to win every year.
That in itself is a statement, particularly when one reflects back on how few UGA players were named preseason All-SEC first-team picks (4 out of a possible 28 slots: D’Andre Swift, Andrew Thomas, J.R. Reed, Rodrigo Blankenship).
But for those who have been paying close attention, Smart’s coaching and ability to win another SEC East crown and contend for the playoffs have been impressive.