ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart has created momentum out of thin air this offseason.
It remains one of the more amazing transformations in college football this offseason.
But here it comes, a Big Red “G” Train speeding downhill from the top of the SEC East, bolstered by a shovel full of sweet Sugar Bowl success and another Top 5 finish.
Not everyone sees it. Yet.
College football remains largely a regional game. Fans look first to their own respective programs in the offseason.
That’s particularly true in the recruiting season, a time most assume the best about their favorite program’s new players and focus on the lows and misses of competitors.
Georgia football provides a great example of such this offseason.
Some in the national media have made sweeping conclusions about what the Bulldogs lost — namely, Jake Fromm — without looking closer at what returns and has been added.
There’s no such thing as a sure thing in sports.
But Wake Forest grad transfer QB Jamie Newman certainly looks the part at quarterback.
At least, former NFL offensive coordinator Todd Monken must think so, or he wouldn’t invest his next coaching move into the University of Georgia.
And Smart wouldn’t have played matchmaker, overhauling half his offensive staff in the process.
It has been a bold and successful move that has paid off on the recruiting trail and in the all-important world of program momentum and perception.
The fact Smart has elected to hold a press conference is evidence the head coach feels strongly about the early feedback on staff and in the training room.
And yet, with the “Now” nature of today’s sports world, some are already challenging Smart’s ability to get Georgia “over the hump.”
Keep in mind, Smart is only 44 years old and entering his fifth season as a head coach — 8-4 versus Top 10 teams, riding a string of three straight SEC East titles.
For perspective, Steve Spurrier, rightfully regarded as one of the greatest coaches of the modern era, didn’t win his national title at Florida until his seventh year at the age of 50.
Dabo Swinney needed eight full seasons to win his first national title at Clemson after taking the job on an interim basis in 2008. Swinney was 47 when he held up the big trophy.
When Saban was 44, he was in his first season as Michigan State’s head coach en route to a 6-5-1 record and a loss to Gerry DiNardo’s LSU team in the Independence Bowl.
Saban, in fact, didn’t even win a bowl game as a head coach until he was 49 years old at LSU. The Tigers won the national title Saban’s fourth year as head coach in 2003, when he was 52.
Smart isn’t the type to have any sort of schedule or timeline in place — he’s on record as saying anything less than a national championship isn’t good enough.
That’s just how Smart operates. The sense of urgency that he creates around him, for staff and for players, is not for everyone.
But last season, Smart’s way produced the best defense in the nation. And nine of those 11 defensive starters from the Sugar Bowl win are back.
But it’s where Georgia is at right now, and by the start of next season, plenty will see what he has coming down the tracks.
Signing day will bring more key pieces, more impact players, and more optimism than ever for Bulldogs fans.