ATHENS — As Kirby Smart walked to the podium to address the media Monday morning, nothing seemed amiss. That is until he began speaking and a hint of rasp was detected in his voice.
No he wasn’t sick. In fact, after only three days of Rose Bowl practice, Smart was losing his voice.
And there’s a reason why.
“Intensity,” Smart said. “That’s probably why you hear my voice is hoarse right now.”
Thinking back to Georgia’s spring practice, one word that kept coming up wasn’t “intensity”; it was “complacency.” Even in the spring, Smart didn’t want his team to get complacent. Now heading into Georgia’s biggest game in years against Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff, Smart is meeting any form of complacency with intensity.
“I am trying to make sure that they understand that you can’t acknowledge the pats on the back,” Smart said. “You can’t embrace that, and you can’t feel good about yourself.”
It has been a little more than two weeks since Georgia’s last appearance on a playing field in the SEC Championship Game. Isaiah Wynn said that knowing there was a long break coming up after that game meant a lot to the Georgia players, even before the game concluded.
“It gave guys a chance to lay it all out on the line during the SEC game, just knowing that you had that little bit of down time for a week’s span,” Wynn said. “Now everybody is fresh, and we are looking forward to really getting back out there.”
Before getting back out on the field, there were two weeks of studying, finals and award ceremonies, and the senior gala.
It was Smart fighting against complacency.
“Obviously, winning the SEC championship is a great honor and they will have that for a long time but they can’t be satisfied,” Smart said. “I think that is what makes the difference in the playoffs, how you approach this layoff in the perspective with which you view it.”
During this time and in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 1 showdown, Smart said the coaching staff is taking the measures needed to avoid contentment.
“We are using every resource we have to make sure that they take advantage of this opportunity,” Smart said. “We are challenging them each day.”
It’s a challenge that is felt throughout the entire Georgia roster, with Smart running a “camp-type” practice this week. This means the focus is on everyone, both the starters and non-starters. Everyone feels the effects of “camp” because it is a time to work on the individual improvements of each player.
And with this camp-like attitude, players said it’s the difference between playing to get by ― with mistakes and miscues ― and playing with composure.
“Coach Smart does a really good job of making sure that we stay locked in, focusing on getting better,” Lorenzo Carter said. “A lot of teams get sloppy coming into the bowl games but he wanted to make sure that we focused on ourselves, making sure that we do what we need to do to be sharp.”
And while so much has been accomplished so far this season, Georgia isn’t letting off the gas any time soon, even if it means Smart loses his voice.
“We have accomplished a lot of things but we have to keep building on that,” John Atkins said. “We can’t get comfortable. We don’t just want to go to the Rose Bowl. We want to win the Rose Bowl.”