From The Field: Examining 2024 Dawgs Mantra – Assume Nothing

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From The Field: Examining 2024 Dawgs Mantra – Assume Nothing

From The Field: Examining 2024 Dawgs Mantra – Assume Nothing

Kirby Smart, a coach renowned for his unique blend of intensity and discipline, has not only established a foundation of exceptional success but also transformed the way we perceive coaching. His coaching philosophy, which places significant emphasis on fostering interpersonal connections among teammates, has proven to be a transformative factor in creating a championship environment and elevating team performance.





Coach Smart’s approach to building connections is practical and instills a deep sense of belonging and recognition within the team. It starts with something as simple as learning teammates’ names, a gesture that can foster a profound connection.

Here is what Kirby said in early spring about a challenge he issued to an incoming freshman buying into building connections:

“You’ve been here three months, can you name the front row of this team meeting? It’s not like he just got there; he’s been there three months, he’s been in workouts, he’s been in interactions , and he went down the row and he named about 10 out of 20.”





Building those connections is necessary to reach championship-level performance.

Phil Knight’s Nike philosophy of ‘assume nothing,’ which encourages a proactive and accountable mindset, is at the heart of Smart’s 2024 connections-oriented direction for the program. This philosophy, often summarized as ‘don’t take anything for granted,’ emphasizes the importance of constant vigilance and effort. It aligns perfectly with Smart’s belief that players should always strive for improvement and not rest on their laurels:


1. Make sure people keep their promises.

2. Push yourself, push others.

3. Stretch the possible.

The 2023 bowl season served as a powerful testament to the significance of promise-keeping in Smart’s coaching credo. Despite not making the College Football Playoff, Smart’s Dawgs stood firm despite the setback. They showcased their commitment by showing up and dominating Florida State, while many Seminole starters, who had neglected their program and fans, left their teammates to bear the consequences. This stark contrast underscores the profound impact and the absolute necessity of promise-keeping in sports, instilling a sense of accountability and commitment in every player.

Smart’s adopted principles also apply to coaches. Glenn Schumann and Todd Hartley, both key members of Smart’s coaching staff, stand out as examples. Schumann, who came to UGA with Smart from Bama, and Hartley, who returned to Athens in 2019, have not only embraced the promise-keeping mantra but also fostered personal growth in their respective rooms. Their leadership and commitment to Smart’s coaching philosophy have been instrumental in the team’s success. For example, Schumann’s focus on individual development has seen several players grow significantly under his guidance. Hartley’s emphasis on player cohesion has contributed considerably to the tight end room’s growth into one of the team’s most productive rooms.

Pushing teammates is not just a part of athletic training but also the heart of Smart’s coaching philosophy. We’ve all seen weight room videos of coaches and teammates cheering on a try for a new personal record lift. The lifter consistently achieves his lift because we don’t record his failures, but every player experiences them. Pushing oneself in the context of sports training means constantly challenging one’s limits, whether it’s lifting heavier weights, running faster, or improving technique. It’s not just a strategy, but a mindset that starts with training before even trying for a new personal record and making repeated attempts before reaching the goal. Kirby believes that you play like you practice, and this relentless drive and determination are what sets champions apart. This concept of pushing oneself is a fundamental part of Smart’s coaching philosophy, and it plays a crucial role in his team’s success.

Linebacker Jalon Walker immediately comes to mind when thinking of pushing teammates (and himself). As the son of a football coach, Walker was no stranger to the ‘pushing’ concepts, and he embraced them fully at Georgia. His dedication to his training and his teammates; as well as, his commitment to the team’s success is a testament to the effectiveness of Smart’s coaching philosophy. Leadership is in his genes, and he has become a role model for his teammates, embodying the principles of Smart’s coaching philosophy in his every action on and off the field.

Stretching the possible could also be expressed as pushing the envelope. The concept boils down to refusing to accept the conventional wisdom of what is possible. In the context of Smart’s coaching philosophy, this means constantly challenging the team to exceed their perceived limits and strive for excellence. One hallmark of Kirby Smart’s tenure at UGA has been consistently developing three-star recruits into NFL draft picks. This feat was once considered unlikely but has become a regular occurrence at UGA due to the team’s commitment to pushing the envelope.

Milledgeville’s Javon Bullard and Chatsworth’s Ladd McConkey are two recent names that illustrate UGA’s success at identifying, developing and training less-than-blue-chip signees. Both were three-star prospects according to multiple recruiting ratings services, and both went on to play crucial roles in Georgia’s recent national championships. Their journey from three-star recruits to NFL draft picks is a clear example of how Smart’s coaching philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of individual player development and the team’s commitment to pushing the envelope, has not just led to the team’s remarkable success but also instilled a sense of accomplishment and inspiration in every player.

According to the recruiting services, the Dawgs’ likely starting center, Jared Wilson, was a three-star recruit. However, Kirby and his staff evaluated him as capable of replacing four-star recruit and fifth-round draft pick Sedrick Van Pran. Player development and careful recruiting evaluations have consistently enabled Smart to mine front-line SEC talent from lower-ranked recruits.

Kirby Smart could restrict his recruiting efforts to blue-chip prospects, allow his staffers to implement their motivational philosophies, and confine his interactions with his players to the practice fields and meeting rooms. However, his approach to coaching is holistic. Georgia builds football players, but more importantly, Smart’s approach to coaching builds leaders.





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Greg is closing in on 15 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.