ATHENS — It’s been a while since Kirby Smart has coached on a team where he could say the offense was ahead of the defense going into spring football drills, but that’s where things stand at Georgia.
Smart isn’t ever one to brag on his football team, but he’s always given credit where due, and he’s willing to admit second-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken and quarterback JT Daniels are off to a good start in 2021.
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“The pace at which we are doing walk-throughs and being able to things offensively has been much better,” said Smart, who enters his sixth season as Georgia’s head coach coming off four straight Top 10 finishes.
“If anything, we are trying to adjust more to what they are doing on defense now because they are ahead of us. We (defense) were a little ahead of them last year. So, that is good. And JT (Daniels) obviously getting the spring to go through this.”
Smart pointed out that at this time last year Daniels was still rehabilitating his knee. Daniels, in fact, had not even entered the transfer portal and there were still visions of him living out his SoCal legacy playing for the hometown Trojans.
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Instead, Daniels is at the helm of a championship-caliber offense poised to set program records if all goes as planned.
Smart is already trying to keep the expectations in check after Daniels finished the final three games of the regular season averaging more than 40 points and nearly 500 yards of offense per game.
“I think the more that the mantra or message out there is that’ you’re going to be great,’ the tougher our job becomes internally to motivate and have guys,” said Smart, who has cautioned previous teams not to get too caught up in their own press clippings.
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“There have been off seasons here where we’ve had returning quarterback, returning backs, returning these guys, two great tackles- did that equate to instant success? Not necessarily. What you do and what you earn is what you get in the offseason.”
The good news for Smart is that there is so much competition at running back that run game coordinator Dell McGee is on record that seniority will not matter in the backfield this season.
The receivers, meanwhile, realize there’s only one football and the best chance of catching it is to make sure they are on the same page with the quarterbacks during the offseason.
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“I think the rapport with the receiver group for all of the quarterbacks is going to be extremely important,” Smart said, “in terms of developing our offense and getting timing in the passing game.”
The fact Georgia has returning quarterbacks with one year in the system under Monken, and a semblance of timing with the receivers, is already making all the difference.
“Yeah, we can see the effects of that even right now, even in our abilities to have walk-throughs,” Smart said. “What the NCAA allows us to do right now is the pace at which they are able to do things, install new things.”
Considering Daniels threw for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns in his first outing with Georgia’s first-team offense last season, the offseason work and growing familiarity and timing with the receivers make the Bulldogs’ offensive potential downright scary.
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Scary enough for Smart to admit it’s ahead of a reloading defense before spring drills have even started.