SAN JOSE, Calif. — New Colorado coach Mel Tucker said Monday he’s leaving behind a championship caliber program at Georgia.
“Georgia is loaded, I’m leaving behind a great head football coach, an excellent staff, guys that care about kids, great teachers, motivators, developers of talent and a really strong roster,” Tucker told DawgNation in an exclusive interview.
“I think Kirby, with his passion for the University of Georgia, for the game of football, and just his energy is apparent each and every day in our staff meetings, in the meetings with the players, in practice and on game days and that’s key.
“His energy is off the charts, his passion is off the charts.”
Tucker, who spent the past three seasons helping Smart built the Bulldogs into a title contender, will watch the CFP Championship Game between Alabama and Clemson on Monday night knowing Georgia could have been there.
Tucker admits he still hasn’t watched a replay of the SEC Championship Game, and he’s in no hurry to do so.
Tucker recognizes just how close the Bulldogs were to beating Alabama and making another run at the CFP Championship Game in the playoffs before falling 35-28 on Dec. 1.
Georgia held the Tide’s record-setting offense in check until All-SEC selection and Bulldogs sacks leader D’Andre Walker left the game with a groin injury.
“That was huge, Tucker said. “We missed him.”
Georgia held Alabama in check before losing sacks leader D’Andre Walker
Meanwhile, Alabama’s Jalen Hurts came off the bench and led the Tide to the comeback in the SEC Championship Game.
“It’s tough, I haven’t watched the game yet on tape,” Tucker said Monday morning at the annual FWAA awards breakfast. “I saw it once, I don’t need to see it again right now, maybe in the summer.
“Every single one of those plays, there’s so many moving parts, you have so many plays in a game, you can rewind a play 100 times and see something different every time, and you think ‘If I’d have just done this, or maybe if I’d have called this,’ and it’s just hard when you look back on it and you’re that close I think it’s worse when you are that close.
“It’s so hard to win a football game now, that’s what makes it so special what Clemson is doing, and what Nick (Saban) is doing to just keep getting back, year after year, it’s incredible.”
Tucker said the first key to beating Alabama, as Georgia as nearly done — UGA led or was tied with the Tide for 281 of 290 plays and nearly 119 of 120 minutes the past two meetings — is confidence.
“The first thing is kids have to believe they can win the game, so many times kids get overwhelmed by the other teams’ talent, and before you know it you’re down three or four scores,” Tucker said. “I think our players, from an experience standpoint, they knew we matched up with these guys, it’s not so much about what they do, it’s how we execute and how hard we play.
“So the mindset going into the game helped a lot, and then just knowing their offense and what to expect, there was no secrets what they were going to try to do and how they were going to try to do it, and it was just making sure that our kids were prepared, and they were.”
Tucker is ready to get to work in Boulder and restore Colorado to its championship caliber status.
“First and foremost, we’ll have the best conditioned team, we’ll be based in techniques and fundamentals,” Tucker said. “Our players will play smart, we won’t beat ourselves, we’ll play fast, and we want to play a physical brand of football, we will be extremely physical.”