JACKSONVILLE — Kirby Smart told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and DawgNation.com on Friday night he expected to make on a brief appearance at The TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday, and he wasn’t kidding.
The Bulldogs’ new head coach jetted into this port city on Friday, met with some coaches at the team hotel, and then came to the bowl game Saturday for a brief halftime interview on ESPN. He didn’t say much that he hadn’t said before and UGA went to great lengths to keep him sequestered from reporters covering the game, so “not to be a distraction” to the game, according to Georgia spokesman Claude Felton said.
Felton said Smart left EverBank Field at halftime, or would soon. Smart said he intended to begin his gameplan work for Clemson as Alabama’s defensive coordinator on Sunday.
On air, Smart was very complimentary of what he’d seen from the Bulldogs at halftime. They led Penn State 17-3 at the time.
“A lot of energy and a lot of passion,” he said. “I like the way they’re playing defensively and I think (UGA interim offensive coordinator John) Lilly is doing a great job on offense with the playcalling.”
Smart also talked about how difficult his task has been from a time management standpoint and that getting good players for the Bulldogs remains his top priority.
“It’s been difficult,” Smart said. “If you focus on the task at hand you can compartmentalize things and do certain things at certain times and focus on that. That makes it a lot easier.I’ve been very fortunate to work for a man like Coach (Nick) Saban for a lot of years who has managed that.
“For (Georgia), moving forward, we’ve go to get good players. We’ve got to recruit hard and we’ve got to continue to do that. And that’s my focus currently as we get ready for the big game. I’ll start working on Clemson starting tomorrow.”
As for what he’s been able to get done so far for Georgia, Smart said: “I’ve been able to get on the phone with a lot of kids. We’re excited about the state of Georgia. It’s a great state for highs school football, great coaches. There’s a lot of good players in a five-hour radius of Athens. We’re trying to take part in getting some of those guys to come to us.”
The toughest part so far: “Hiring the staff, getting used to that, going to interview coaches, talking to people and doing that business. That’s the biggest difference for me. It’s really hard because your time is constrained trying to do these two jobs. Just finding a way to get on the phone and meeting people face to face so you can hire the staff.”
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) January 2, 2016