ATHENS — Competitiveness. Toughness.
Maybe that’s the secret sauce for Georgia. Maybe that’s the area in which Kirby Smart ekes a little more out of the Bulldogs than they’ve been getting in the past. Maybe that’s what will get them over the hump from lots of wins to lots of championships.
It’s definitely one of Smart’s main points of emphasis. He mentioned competitiveness again after Georgia’s practice Tuesday, the 10th of the spring. He had mentioned it at least two other times this spring.
In fact, Smart revealed that the Bulldogs’ coaches — and those dozens of quality-control specialists that are around these days — monitor the players daily for that trait. They review video and grade them on it.
“We rank kids on scales for competitiveness,” Smart said Tuesday. “We’ve talked about it with NFL teams. They quit evaluating kids necessarily on size and weight and ability; they evaluate them on competitiveness. That’s one of the features that allows you to be successful. At the end of the day, the qualities of height, weight and 40 (time) are pretty similar. So what makes you different is your competitiveness and your toughness. We’re preaching that to our kids.”
It’s about this time in the practice routine that toughness and competitiveness become apparent. The Bulldogs are just over the halfway point for the 15-practice spring session. Full pads and full contact are the norm now. Muscles are beginning to ache just a little more. The repetitiveness of drills and plays begins to grate on players. Temperatures have heated up considerably in recent weeks.
And while they’re practicing on the field only every other day, they’re doing training of some sort every day. The toughness and competitiveness on which they’re graded on the field extends to the weight room. Gradually, it morphs from game to grind.
So how are the Bulldogs measuring up?
“You know what, we’ve got some kids who love to compete here,” Smart said without naming names. “We’ve got some other guys who don’t like to compete, and you have to challenge them and make them compete. I want them to do it themselves. I want them to self-motivate, self-start. And I want the other guys to push them so I don’t have to.
“When I come in here hoarse, that means I had to push them hard. And I’m going to keep doing it until they do it themselves.”
For the record, Smart showed up at Tuesday’s post-practice briefing hoarse. Indeed, it seems like he’s hoarse most of the time.
“We’ve got to establish that,” he said. “We’ve got to grow it from within and teach it.”