ATHENS — Kirby Smart finally got to hold his first staff meeting as Georgia’s head coach on Tuesday. Then the ground shook, literally. And the bangs and drills from construction equipment could be heard.
It was for Georgia’s indoor facility, work on which will be going on all year. It would be a perfect backdrop if Smart and company were taking over a program that obviously needed rebuilding. But at 20 wins over two years, Smart’s rebuilding will be more subtle, and more nuanced.
Smart, finally getting to work after a month of splitting jobs, was just happy to be in his office.
“It’s great to be home. It’s great to have one job,” Smart said Wednesday, his first words at the podium for his first media presser as Georgia’s full-time head coach.
Smart was the third person to stand at that exact podium for a presser in less than two months: Mark Richt prior to the Georgia Tech game and Bryan McClendon for a bowl press conference. Both are gone now. It’s Smart’s show now, and his culture to sow.
“Not that anything was completely broken here before,” Smart said. “But this culture has to be set by Coach Smart and Coach Smart’s staff. And we’re doing that right now.”
By that, he meant the weight room, where Georgia’s holdover players are being indoctrinated into a new offseason program, guided by Smart’s hand-picked strength and conditioning coordinators, Scott Sinclair and Ed Ellis.
While that’s going on, Smart and his new staff will be recruiting, with the dead period ending at midnight Wednesday. Georgia’s class of 16 committed recruits currently ranks fifth nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite.
In all, Smart had about two full days in Athens – Tuesday and Wednesday – in between Alabama’s winning the national championship and the start of recruiting for Georgia on Thursday.
Smart said he could not explain how well he slept Tuesday night.
“To get in this room yesterday and to meet with this team, now the University of Georgia team, my team. Everybody told me that when you got to do that finally, and it was the only thing you had to worry about, it would be a great relief, burden off your shoulders. And that’s what it’s been to me,” he said. “I’ve been much more relaxed. I got to meet with those guys and have a conversation with them. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. That’s the first time I’ve been able to do that without something else lingering.”
Smart admitted he didn’t yet have a perfect handle on the roster he’s inheriting, especially on defense. He knows Georgia’s offense better, having game-planned against it (and very well, apparently) for the matchup in October.
But when someone pointed to Smart’s success against Georgia’s offense, he pointed out that there was less success in the previous matchup.
“We had our complications when we were in the SEC Championship game (in 2012). They moved the ball pretty well on us,” Smart said.
Georgia was able to pass and run the ball well back then under offensive coordinator Mike Bobo – one of Smart’s close friends. The two are in sync about the importance of balance, with Smart making clear that the emphasis will be on improving Georgia’s passing game, the weak point of the team this year.
“We’ve gotta be able to throw the ball better than what we’ve done in the past here,” Smart said. “And I think we can do that with the people we have here. We’ve gotta improve the offensive line. We’ve gotta get bigger people. We’ve gotta get more depth. We’ve gotta be able to survive a couple injuries, because it’s gonna happen, it’s inevitable. There’s a lot of areas to improve on.
“We’ve gotta improve on defense too. All that can be done through recruiting and the weight room. And that’s what we’re focused on.”