ATHENS — During Georgia spring practice, a few conversations between reporters and photographers went like this.
Photographer: Where’s Kirby Smart? I need a few shots of him.
Reporter: I think that’s him over there.
Photographer: What, next to the guy throwing to the receivers?
Reporter: I think he is the guy throwing to the receivers.
Georgia’s new head coach did promise to be hands on. And his former boss Nick Saban was also known for throwing the ball to defensive backs during Alabama practices. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Smart actively participating in practice.
It’s just how much Smart participates that stands out. He moves from drill to drill, and has been seen personally instructing inside linebackers, crouching in a stance while shouting instructions. Lately, with receivers coach James Coley dealing with an arm issue, Smart has stepped in to throw balls when the quarterbacks aren’t available.
Which, by the way, has drawn some derision.
“I keep getting texts from (Mike) Bobo and other people talking about how bad I throw,” Smart said. “I told them I’m only doing it temporarily until we get Coley’s arm fixed.”
Smart’s throws definitely don’t have much zip, but in his defense he played safety at Georgia, not quarterback. The receivers couldn’t be asked what they thought, as none have been among the few players Smart has made available for interviews this spring. But Smart has also jumped in liberally to throw with the defensive backs.
Kirby Smart instructing the defensive backs during a drill. (ROB SAYE / SPECIAL.)
“He’s a very hands on coach,” safety Quincy Mauger said. “He’s thrown with the safeties a couple times. He’s worked with offense, defense, special teams. He’s really shown an interest in all phases of the game.”
How’s his arm look?
“I’ll say he’s in the depth chart somewhere,” Mauger said, grinning.
It can’t help but be noticed that Smart’s active involvement is different from his predecessor. Mark Richt tended to be more of an observer, and jumped in with coaching periodically. He’s also 15 years older, and was hands-on himself earlier in his tenure, at least with the quarterbacks and the offense, when he was the play-caller.
Either way, a couple Georgia players said that neither approach is right or wrong, or a big deal.
“No, it’s just a style he chooses to do,” Mauger said.
“Coach Richt was coach Richt, what he did. Kirby is Kirby,” cornerback Aaron Davis said. “But he is hands on, he is there with us.”
G-Day, Georgia’s annual spring football scrimmage, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Sanford Stadium. Check back here daily for DawgNation’s G-Day coverage brought to you by Georgia United Credit Union.
NextPodcast: Kirby Smart ‘disappointed’ after UGA scrimmage