ATHENS — Kirby Smart was minimizing his accomplishments and debating semantics on the weekly SEC Coaches Conference Call on Wednesday.
In other words, it was business as usual for the eighth-year Georgia football head coach as he prepared for his 100th game leading the program.
It was pretty clear by Smart’s tone when he was asked about the 7:30 p.m. game with UAB being his 100th game that no balloons nor commemorative cakes are on order.
“I guess it’s a marker of some sorts, of the first 100, I don’t know the significance of it,” Smart said. “If you do a good job, and you recruit good players, and you have good organization and support, it allows you to make it to that number.
“We certainly want to go out and play our best game at that mark.”
Indeed, and while Smart is ready to overlook the great success he has enjoyed in his first 100 games and turn it into a feat of survival, he is not so quick to accept the outside criticism his team is taking from so-called fans on social media.
Some have attacked Smart’s good friend and offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, on account of first-year quarterback Carson Beck not having the same sort of early-game success sixth-year QB Stetson Bennett had last season.
While it’s true Bennett had the benefit of players Beck does not have — a healthier version of Brock Bowers along with explosive receivers Ladd McConkey (injured) and Adonai Mitchell (transferred to Texas) and NFL rostered players Kenny McIntosh and Darnell Washington — the expectations have remained the same.
Smart played the semantics game when a reporter asked about the “slow starts” fans have been talking about at the water cooler.
“No, again, the slow starting has been identified by you guys,” Smart said. “For me, it’s slow scoring — not slow starting — that’s been the case, in terms of just not putting the points on the board.
“But we took the ball and drove down and did good things, had a great opening possession last week just not getting the results from it.”
Georgia had a game-opening drive of 15 plays for 62 yards last week and kicked a field goal and one possession later drove 72 yards on 13 plays and missed a 28-yard field goal.
Smart has acknowledged the Red Zone woes, in terms of getting just 3 points on two trips inside the South Carolina 15-yard line.
“It’s the combination of a lot of things,” Smart said. “but it’s not necessarily slow starting.”
Smart said he has changed things up in practice a bit — something that’s not uncommon — these past two weeks.
“We change up practice a lot, we changed it up last week, we changed it up some this week,” Smart said, “in terms of what order we do different things.”
Already, Smart said, he can see positive attributes in this 2023 team.
“Toughness, effort, resiliency,” Smart said, “they kept their composure multiple times (when) guys could have pointed fingers.
“Those are things you can win with. We’ve had uncommon number of injuries and they’ve had to overcome those things. That affects our depth and effects the way we practice.”