Georgia football-Kirby Smart-experience
041622 Athens: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart talks with Georgia defensive lineman Warren Brinson (97) during the G - Day game at Sanford Stadium Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Athens, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

What Kirby Smart is most worried about with 2022 Georgia football team

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What worries Kirby Smart the most entering 2022 season

The word elite defined Georgia football in 2021. It was part of the team’s slogan — you’re either elite or you’re not — and the Georgia offense and defense proved to be plenty elite throughout the course of the year.

For 2022, it’s a different e-word that will define Georgia, at least early on in the season.

It’s not about whether this team is elite or not. It’s whether it has the necessary experience to win again.

“I’m excited about this team because there’s a lot of opportunity,” Smart said at SEC media days. “People say, Do you have the talent? Do you have enough talent within your program? We have plenty of talent. What we lack right now is experience. That’s our job as coaches, to put those guys in a position to be successful and react in the calm manner and have the experience they need to play well against Oregon.”

Related: Kirby Smart on Georgia football-Oregon opener: ‘That game will help set us up for the SEC gauntlet’

This is most apparent on the defensive side of the ball. The talent, as Smart points out, is still there. That tends to happen when you recruit as well as Georgia has under Smart. Even after having five defenders taken in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Georgia put three defensive players on the SEC’s Preseason First Team.

But while Jalen Carter may hold the ability to blow up opposing offensive lines as Jordan Davis did or Jamon Dumas-Johnson can move like Nakobe Dean, they haven’t seen the things that Dean and Davis saw as multi-year starters.

Not only was last year’s defense elite in terms of talents, but it was also stocked with players who had seen significant snaps across multiple seasons. Travon Walker, Quay Walker, Lewis Cine and others had gained key experiences in losses against LSU, Florida and Alabama.

Much like old photographs of your grandparents, experience is the one thing you can’t replace.

“I’m more worried about inexperience,” Smart said. “If a kid makes a mistake, you’re going to say, ‘Oh, Georgia got complacent.’ I’m going to say, ‘That kid’s never seen that play. He’s never had that pressure on him.’ So we’re trying to make that happen as much as possible. I’m not as worried about guys, you know, resting on their laurels.”

Offensively there is some of that continuity that Smart craves. While Georgia has Glenn Schumann and Will Muschamp replacing Dan Lanning as the defensive coordinator, Todd Monken returns for his third season in charge of the offense.

Said offense will be led by quarterback Stetson Bennett, who is in his sixth season in college football.

“I think it’s going to be easier this year just because we really didn’t lose that many guys on offense,” Bennett said. “The guys we did lose were great players but the guys we didn’t, it is another year with Monk. It’s year 3, I’m coming back as the starter. Just keep working every single day and not being satisfied helps out.”

Georgia’s offense last season ranked in the top-10 in scoring offense, yards per play and plays of 20-yards or more. That offense certainly fits the category of elite. Georgia will need some wide receivers to step up but with the best tight end room in the country and a promising offensive line, Georgia has the potential to be better offensively than it was in 2022.

This is why Georgia is going to have to lean on it earlier in the upcoming season as the defense gains some of that vital experience in games against Oregon and South Carolina in the opening month of the season

“Experience, it teaches you everything,” Bennett said. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Bennett knows the rigors of playing on the road in the SEC. He knows what it takes to win a national championship and beat Alabama. Those experiences are why Bennett was one of three speakers for Georgia at SEC media days, alongside edge rusher Nolan Smith and center Sedrick Van Pran.

Both were starters last year, gaining some of that necessary experience to help mold them into leaders for this year’s team.

Smith and others hear the questions about this 2022 team. About the talent, about how good Alabama is and whether or not this team is good enough to win it all.

Georgia has experience with hearing that last part, as the Bulldogs so often did prior to the 2021 season. It seems like Smith and the members of this Georgia team are going to use that experience to help fuel them in 2022.

NextGeorgia football winners and losers following 2022 SEC Media Days
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