There is a lot in Kirby Smart press conferences that goes unsaid at times. The 6th year Georgia Head Football Coach has mastered being able to navigate questions in a circular way. Smart has the ability to spin answers to questions in a way that goes entirely against the intent of the person asking the question. The media and the public will only truly ever know what Smart wants to be known, and the words he uses or does not use are carefully thought out and meant to keep the team and program interests first. Having said that, yesterday’s post-practice press conference had a couple of short phrases that went a long way, along with their timing, to giving insight on issues important to Smart and the program.
First, Malaki Starks committed to Georgia Football yesterday during the press conference. You can tell in watching the replay that Smart is constantly checking his phone in anticipation of the announcement by the 5 Star in-state phenom. A reporter asked a rather lengthy question, and Kirby Smart couldn’t even focus as a wry smile came over his face. The Dawgs had landed their most coveted defensive prospect in the class of 2022, an endeavor that the Georgia staff was highly invested in, and Smart couldn’t contain himself. Of course, by NCAA regulations, Smart could not mention Starks by name, but he dropped 2 words as a little inside baseball for those in the Zoom. “Go Dawgs!” Smart’s customary Tweet goes out when Georgia lands a commitment, but at the moment, Smart just verbalized his pleasure. To take time in the middle of a press conference and basically ignore a question and ask the reporter to start over, you know it was a big deal. Smart and the entire Georgia staff were excited about the commitment of Starks.
During the press conference, Smart was asked if the injury to George Pickens put more pressure or onus on Dominic Blaylock and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint to return healthy and produce. Smart responded by saying the following.
“Yeah, it really puts it on everybody. I think Brock Bowers, I think Darnell (Washington), Fitz (John FitzPatrick), James (Cook), Zamir (White), Daijun (Edwards), Kendall (Milton), we’ve got a lot of guys that we’ll try to find ways to get the ball to them. I don’t look at it as receiver pressure. I look at it as an opportunity for other guys to step up and do some special things. Rosemy is rehabbing. He has been out there doing walkthroughs, coaching the young receivers; he’s really into it. Dom is brilliant, understands it, and he’s rehabbing as well. So both of those guys are running and doing things, but they’re not cleared to practice yet.”
Look at the first name mentioned. Brock Bowers. That is not by accident or by happenstance. Kirby Smart is cautious when it comes to placing expectations on incoming freshmen. Smart knows how difficult it is to adjust to SEC play from high school, and it’s even more difficult when you did not get to play your senior year of high school like Brock Bowers. COVID postponed high school ball in California from fall of 2020 to spring of 2021, and with Bowers being a mid-year enrollee, well, that meant no senior year. For Kirby Smart’s calculated approach to even let the name Brock Bowers slip from his lips in front of the media, especially when referring to players Georgia will look to, to pick up the slack for the loss of George Pickens. For Smart’s mind to go to Bowers first, well, that’s just a testament to how impressive Bowers has been so far. Having reached out to 2 sources recently on spring practice developments and off-season workouts, I’ve heard that Bowers is exceeding all expectations and then some. The speed and fluidity that he possesses are off the chart and could allow Todd Monken to utilize him in creative ways this fall. I would not be surprised in the least to see Bowers and Darnell Washington aligned outside at the X position a dozen, maybe a couple dozen, times throughout the year.
Words matter, folks. Kirby Smart just spoke volumes about his confidence in this team and its multiple offensive weapons, even with George Pickens sidelined. They also showed just how much these coaches put into recruiting and how pleased they are when that hard work pays off.