ATHENS — Georgia football needs to score more points on offense, a lot more points, and the Bulldogs head football coach knows it.
“The be-all and end-all is, are you scoring points?” Kirby Smart said last week.
The Associated Press Top 25 voters moved Indiana (No. 8) and Coastal Carolina (No. 11) ahead of the Georgia football program on Sunday, just in case Smart and his coaching staff and players needed a reminder.
No one in Athens believes Indiana or Coastal Carolina would beat the Bulldogs, but the view from 10,000-feet is different, and perception quickly becomes reality.
You are what your record and rank say you are.
Smart tells his players to control what they can control — and that is the scoreboard at noon on Saturday in Missouri (TV: SEC Network).
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Smart, rightly or wrongly, has been cast as a coach who stubbornly refuses to adapt to a more liberal passing game.
In truth, Georgia was hamstrung with walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett’s lack of arm strength and D’Wan Mathis inexperience in the offense.
But now with JT Daniels under center, the Bulldogs’ offense has shown signs of life, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken can truly be appreciated as a strong hire.
Here are three clues Smart have last week that indicate the Georgia offense will look different moving forward:
Looking for ideas
Any time Smart references studying other programs or the NFL, it’s usually related to some behind-the-scenes changes he’s on the brink of making.
Smart doesn’t pretend to re-create the wheel, and he openly shares how he chooses the best concepts from all levels of football.
“We are all always looking at what is going on in today’s pro-game, college-game, high school-game,” Smart said. “You are trying to be innovative and creative. You are always trying to advance your team.”
Building around talent
Smart, like any other coach, works to empower the players who need confidence while being more critical of his best players to sharpen their edge.
At no point was he going to be critical of Bennett or Mathis, instead, he said others around them needed to play better.
Daniels, however, is a quarterback Smart can and will push — but also, build around.
“At the end of the day, you take the players you have and you want to build your team around, your best players and what they are capable of,” Smart said. “That is a part of your recruiting process. That is a part of your offensive scheme, philosophy, to score.”
It’s safe to assume the following players (listed with current stats through 8 games) will benefit a great deal moving forward:
WR George Pickens 24 catches, 252 yards
WR Jermaine Burton 21 catches, 360 yards
WR Arian Smith 1 catch, 31 yards
RB Kenny McIntosh 4 catches, 51 yards
TE Darnell Washington 2 catches, 59 yards
Balance takes backseat
The kiss-of-death word Smart has used the past few seasons is “balance,” which some translated into meaning running the football even when more points were available through the air.
When Georgia had a championship-level defense, it made sense, and so long as the team was competing for championships no one worried about style points.
But the defense-first approach didn’t work out too well, and Smart is a winner before he is a defensive-minded coach, and he’s made it clear he’s ready to open things up.
“I want to score points. Do you care how? No, I don’t care how, as long as we can run the ball, control the line of scrimmage, not turn it over, throw the ball downfield,” Smart said. “I’m very pleased with all those things.
“I do think that being explosive is much more important than being balanced, and explosive can be done in a lot of different ways.”
Missouri and Vanderbilt, should the Commodores show up in Athens on Dec. 19, will provide Smart and his re-charged offense a chance to show just how explosive it can be.
How they voted
Some voters felt there was a wide disparity between Coastal Carolina and Georgia. Here’s a list of voters who had the Chanticleers 5 spots or more ahead of the Bulldogs on their ballots:
Brooks Kubena, Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate: Coastal Carolina No. 7, Georgia No. 15
Conor O’Neill, Winston-Salem (NC ) Journal: Coastal Carolina No. 8, Georgia No. 15
Ryan Aber, The Oklahoman: Coastal Carolina No. 10, Georgia No. 15
Ryan Pritt, Charleston (WV) Gazette: Coastal Carolina No. 9. Georgia No. 15
Brian Howell, Boulder (Co.) Camera: Coastal Carolina No. 8. Georgia No. 14
Matt Brown, State College (Pa.): Coastal Carolina No. 9. Georgia No. 14
Tom Green, Birmingham (Ala.) AL.com: Coastal Carolina No. 8, Georgia No. 14
Lauren Brownlow, Durham, N.C. radio: Coastal Carolina No. 7, Georgia No. 13