MACON – We’ve got a long way to go before we can make any determinations about Kirby Smart as a head coach. Those determinations will eventually be made on the field of play, where they always are and fairly so.
But there are some things we’ve seen and heard from Smart that should be encouraging to Georgia fans. Certainly the 200 or so folks gathered under the picnic pavilion at Walnut Creek Shooting Preserve on Wednesday left energized by what was said there.
Basketball coach Mark Fox probably said it best when he joked at the UGA Day about the new football coach. He said, “Not many people are named appropriately, but Coach Smart is. He’s a smart man.”
And that’s probably the strongest impression he has made on me so far. It seems as though Smart has thought of everything. If nothing else, he is a meticulous preparer.
Here are just a few revelations Smart shared with Wednesday’s audience that validate that perception:
- He said one of the things he had his coaches do after spring practice was rank Georgia’s players 1 through 70. And he’ll have them do it again before preseason camp.
“There might be 80 to 100 players, but you rank every player 1 to 70. Well, who should be playing?” Smart said. “The top 22 should be playing. It doesn’t always work that way, but you find out where your deficiencies are. If you’ve got three receivers in the top 10 and you’ve got no O-linemen, you’ve got a problem. You want to be balanced. We had our coaches do that. I’m not going to reveal what we found, but you see where our team is strong at.”
- Everybody has heard Smart talk about Georgia needing to become a bigger team overall. He cited a recent NBA study he read that revealed that only two percent of U.S. males are 6-foot-3 or taller.
“Everybody talks about big offensive tackles, so I tell my coaches all the time, if a kid is 6-3 or taller, we’re evaluating them,” Smart said. “We’ve got to find those guys. There’s not enough of them. And if you find one and he’s not good enough, you just knocked it from 2 percent to 1.99 fast. So you’ve got to find those guys, ‘cause when you look at the model of what’s successful in the NFL and the SEC, it’s not 6-3 and shorter at tackle. You’ve got to have large people. So when we’re out recruiting, that’s what we’re looking for.”
- Smart said the most important charge he has given his staff is to build trust with the players. To do that, he has directed Georgia’s assistants to meet with at least one player every day, and they’re to talk about anything but football. He also has the coaches ride the team buses to the temporary practice fields at the Club Sports Complex and never with their own position group.
“It’s about developing relationships with players,” he said. “If they don’t trust you, they will not give you everything (they) have.”
- Smart said it’s important for the coaches to take advantage of the NCAA rules allowing them limited access to players during summer workouts by evaluating the incoming freshmen. Twenty signees and invited walk-ons will join the team by June 6.
“These guys have to get as much attention as possible – reps, reps, reps and reps,” Smart said. “We got to see what we have in the spring. … In the summer, when these guys go out there … and we’ve got to see what they can do. We’ll find out early on who can help our team.”
- This is, after all, the coach who orchestrated the whole #93KDay initiative. Georgia fans responded and packed out Sanford Stadium to the point that were turning people away for the G-Day Game on April 16. Smart said the Bulldogs are reaping the benefits of that initiative on the recruiting trail.
“It was awesome for us,” he said. “We’ve got nine full-time coaches that are currently out on the road recruiting right now, and each and every one of them have called in … and said every school they’ve been in, that’s what they’re talking about. They’re talking about the Bulldog Nation being united and going in the same direction and that showed in the spring game. It doesn’t matter if it’s in this state, it’s all over the country and everywhere they’ve gone. They’re getting a great response and that’s because of our fans. That makes me feel really good.”
Kirby’s remarks left Georgia fans in Macon feeling good about things, and I suspect those that will hear him speak in Columbus tonight will leave feeling the same way.