EDITOR’S NOTE: Kirby Smart shared his thoughts with WCNN-AM “680 The Fan” live on Thursday night for a Georgia High School Football roundtable special edition. Smart joined the 680 hosts, including Rusty Mansell of 247Sports, for a Q&A on a variety of topics, including his thoughts on how the pandemic has affected the 2021 recruiting cycle. The YouTube link for that program can be found here and it is also embedded below at the bottom of this post.
Kirby Smart will always be known as an innovator in the recruiting game. If there’s an edge or a new way for his program to distinguish itself among its rivals, he will find it or learn about it.
That hasn’t been easy in the age of the coronavirus. The global pandemic has forced Smart and his staff to look at everything.
“For us, it has been finding new ways to reach people,” he told the 680 roundtable program. “For us, everybody started using Zoom (video conferencing) and we wanted to be the first to get on there because we knew it was going to wear everybody out. You had to get creative. I think this year has redefined all recruiting.”
Well, everything and then also everyone. It meant enlisting possible asset he could find to convey how great it would be to be a Georgia Bulldog. Smart used his human resources.
“People started using their roster,” Smart said. “People started using their players more. They started using their support staff more. The parents of current players started reaching out. You had to get creative and so everybody has. As competitive as the SEC is in recruiting, they are going to find a way to try to reach out to kids, get in touch with them and develop that relationship.”
Smart said he’s spent more time on the phone and on Zoom than ever before.
“Even talking ball on Zoom,” he said. “The kids like that. They enjoy learning the defenses and the offenses.”
Georgia was busy with recruiting days in January. It wrapped up its top-ranked 2020 class and allowed for an early start on its 2021 effort. Then came a dead period for the entire month of February. Georgia didn’t host but a handful of recruits on campus in the first week of March.
Most of the staff, including the UGA student body, was on spring break. Then the pandemic hit. The UGA staff hasn’t had a big recruiting weekend hosting a significant number on prospects on campus since January.
That boggles the mind just thinking about all of that.
That February dead period was supposed to be a good thing. That was the first time the NCAA had designed the recruiting calendar in that fashion.
“I would have never guessed that,” Smart said in response to a Mansell question on the matter. “It is so ironic that they put the February dead in. Which everybody thought was going to be an extreme positive. Because it gave a coach a life. It gave a chance to be with his family because every February weekend in the past consisted of recruiting and bringing prospects in and unofficials and come to your house and do this and do that.”
“We were like okay you get to breathe in February and then March comes along and we got the first week of spring break and the bomb drops and it is just so ironic that we didn’t catch the back end or the front end of another weekend. It kind of put us behind staring out because a lot of guys went to other places that last weekend and a lot of times in recruiting it is who you saw last.”
Smart’s full comments, including those on the start of practices next week, will begin around the 1:43 mark of the two-hour program.
(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)