ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s epic postgame rant launched a national championship mindset in 2021, and it holds true today.

“We’re not practicing to beat somebody,” Smart said after a 40-13 demolition of South Carolina. “We’re practicing to beat everybody.”

The Bulldogs are expected to be the preseason No. 1-ranked team when they roll into Atlanta to face a Top 20 Clemson team in both teams’ season-opening game on Aug. 31.

Smart reminded his team of that sense of urgency after the team concluded spring drills with the G-Day Game.

“Next time we put on those uniforms, it will be for real,” Smart said, “(and) we’ll be playing in Atlanta against a really good opponent.”

Indeed, and it will be a potentially long season with 12 games, a likely SEC title game appearance and then the first-ever 12-team playoff leading into the CFP Championship Game.

Georgia, like every other SEC team, is working to build the sort of championship depth needed to navigate that path.

It will be a combination of grooming the incoming transfers and growing the crop of talented incoming freshmen.

“We’ve got guys that have gotten a lot of work and a lot of reps, fifth-year, fourth-year guys,” Smart explained. “But then we’ve got about 40 guys in their first year.

“The discrepancy between old and young is really great.”

Smart notes that discrepancy needs to shrink.

“We’ve got to get our bottom half of our roster to the top half,” Smart said.

A challenging schedule demands that happen quickly, with a road trip to Kentucky (Sept. 14) just two weeks after the Clemson opener, and then a road trip to Alabama (Sept. 28) just two weeks later.

Trips to Top 10 teams Texas (Oct. 19) and Ole Miss (Nov. 9) also appear daunting, and that’s with such rivals as Auburn (Oct. 5), Florida (Nov. 2) and Tennessee (Nov. 16) sandwiched in between.

Georgia’s greatest advantage is the level of internal competition afforded the players — “iron sharpens iron” — putting a priority on the team’s organized and voluntary workouts.

“Where the chemistry really gets built is over the summer,” Georgia Heisman Trophy candidate Carson Beck said. “When we’re in here working out without the coaches —what can we do when the coaches aren’t there?”

The transfer portal has changed the game to the extent that, even the most elite teams can’t rely on talented, experienced backups to stay in the fold when starting positions and NIL earnings are available at other schools.

The spring transfer portal season has not impacted Georgia much, if at all, to this point.

Third-team tailback Andrew Paul, backup offensive lineman Chad Lindberg and developing freshman receiver Tyler Williams are the only three Bulldogs that appear headed out of the program.

Georgia had lost 17 players in the winter portal.

Former team captain and starting middle linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson (Kentucky) was the most notable exit on defense, along with rising talents Marvin Jones Jr. (Florida State) and Xavian Sorey (Arkansas).

Georgia appears to have taken in more impact players than it lost, however, with Florida transfer Trevor Etienne looking very much like the X-factor in the offense and Miami transfer receiver Colbie Young showing unique skills and upside on the perimeter.

Indeed, it appears South Carolina defensive tackle Xzavier McCloud has the potential to be an impact player, too, and the addition of Alabama safety Jake Pope looked even better after the former Buford High School star showed his skills in the spring game.

“We’re gonna keep meeting and talking to our players,” Smart said after the G-Day Game. “We’re not where we need to be; we just don’t get to practice anymore, you get to do other things.”

Georgia is back to practicing to beat everybody.