ATHENS —The “G” on the helmet remains the same, but the next time Georgia football takes the field it will have a new identity.

Coach Kirby Smart has called the spring football session his favorite time of year as he gets extended time to help build and shape the Bulldogs into the best version of themselves.

“Spring practice is, ‘let’s figure out who we are,’ " Smart said entering last spring. “I like the fact that you have one practice and you have a day off to teach, and then you have another practice and you have another day off to teach.”

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Last year’s team proved a fast study, pulling off arguably the most impressive rebuild in college football history by going 15-0 and winning another national championship after losing an NFL-record 15 players in the NFL Draft.

The tone entering this spring is much different in the sense this version of Georgia football, while a reigning champion has endured tragic and disappointing off-field transactions.

READ: Kirby Smart discusses tragic crash, Georgia football culture

An investigation continues into the well-documented Jan. 15 crash that claimed the lives of recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy and former UGA lineman Devin Willock.

A rash of racing and reckless driving offenses — some related to the accident — have been addressed within the program to the extent it would be surprising to see similar offenses moving forward.

Smart will, understandably, keep the focus on football after defending the program culture in an ESPN interview in the wake of having five team captains arrested over a 14-month span.

Those familiar with Smart’s hands-on management style know the head coach will also work with the athletic department to ensure the Georgia football program has a championship infrastructure.

Leadership starts at the top, and Smart has proven himself capable amid the sorts of challenges and adversity that can creep up in most any big-time program.

For all of the Xs and Os and position battles this spring, the Bulldogs will also see new leadership emerge with such leaders as Nolan Smith, Christopher Smith and Kenny McIntosh moving on.

SEC Legend Tim Tebow once said that all the talent in the world doesn’t matter without leadership, and Smart would likely agree.

Georgia can and has replaced first-round talent like Smith, Jalen Carter, Broderick Jones, Kelee Ringo and Darnell Washington before.

Quarterbacks and coordinators have proven interchangeable without much, if any ,drop-off under Smart the past seven seasons.

Ultimately, this Georgia football team and season will be defined by the direction it takes this spring, into the offseason and once back on campus in the fall.

The football portion of that equation begins today.