ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart didn’t come right out and say it, but the Bulldogs have leadership questions to answer this offseason.
It’s only natural when one considers the program is replacing three of the four permanent captains, Jonathan Ledbetter, Lamont Gaillard and Elijah Holyfield.
Add to that, Smart replaced both coordinators for the first time in his relatively young 3 1/2 -year head coaching career.
Smart, who hasn’t made himself available for an open media session since Jan. 1, appeared on Atlanta’s 680 “The Fan” radio station on Tuesday.
Smart said the hiring of new coordinators James Coley (offensive) and Dan Lanning (defensive) were “probably overrated,” and that “the media has made a lot bigger deal of it than it actually is.”
Smart reiterated he’s in control of offense, defense and special teams, and that how the staff works together is ultimately paramount.
“When you sit in the seat that I sit in, we’re responsible for both sides of the ball and special teams,” Smart said.
“So if you sit in those meetings, obviously it’s important to have good leadership but it’s done by a group of men who do it together.”
Veterans Jim Chaney and Mel Tucker provided leadership and expertise Smart’s first three years as head coach, so it makes sense some will speculate on how their departure affects the team.
Other leadership questions emerged after the arrest of sophomore defensive back Latavious Brini last Thursday night. The reserve defensive back allegedly assaulted an innocent 23-year-old man.
Smart and his players often talk about being player-led, and how teammates watch out for one another and stay focused on the tasks at hand.
Smart issued a statement last week indicating he will keep Brini on the team.
“This type of behavior is extremely disappointing and not representative of the standards for our football student-athletes,” Smart said in the AJC-DawgNation report. “His discipline will be handled internally and hopefully good lessons will be learned that will lead to better choices moving forward.”
Smart did not issue a statement about the condition of the victim who was allegedly struck in the head by the University of Georgia student-athlete.
Smart also updated the status of 2018 FWAA Freshman All-American defensive tackle Jordan Davis during his radio interview on Tuesday.
Davis was recently cleared for spring drills, but Smart indicated he might not be in playing shape despite the work and attention from the UGA strength and conditioning staff.
“Weight’s always going to be a struggle and a fight for him,” Smart said. “I don’t know if you’ve seen him lately, but he’s got to be ready to play. He’s got to control his weight. He’s done a really good job of having weight discipline thus far in his career and he’s got to continue to do that.”
Davis told UGAsports.com that he was injured during a weightlifting session.
“I had a little weight-lifting incident, but it’s not too serious,” Davis said in a story published following the open locker room session at the Sugar Bowl. “Yeah, I was squatting, and the next thing I knew I was doing treatment in rehab.”
Smart has wasted little time raising UGA football to national championship contender status, but key leadership positions must be filled this offseason, no doubt.