SAVANNAH ‑‑ Kirby Smart put in a plug for the new Georgia basketball regime of Tom Crean here Tuesday while also telling a standing room only crowd at the Savannah Station that his own football team can’t live off the success of the Bulldogs’ ultra-successful 2017 team.
“I challenge everybody,” said Smart, addressing the Savannah Bulldog Club. “If you can go watch a spring practice with 82,000 people in Sanford Stadium by all means on Oct. 5 we can handle Dawg Madness in Stegeman and fill that thing up and have it the right way to introduce our new coach to our fans. I know I’m excited about seeing who turns out for that event.”
Smart was alluding to the Georgia basketball team’s open practice at Stegeman Coliseum on Oct. 5, the night before the football team’s home game against Vanderbilt. Crean’s Bulldog hoopsters will then tip off the new season on Nov. 9.
Of his own team, Smart said the 2018 Bulldogs have already put the success of last season in the rearview mirror, a year which saw Georgia finish 13-2 with an SEC championship and Rose Bowl win before falling to Alabama in overtime in the national championship game.
“I know a lot of you want to sit there and talk about last season,” Smart said. “That’s not what this is about for us. We’ve moved on. We’ve gone through a ton of offseason changes and made gains in the weight room. We had a pretty good spring practice. We’ve had more injuries than we’ve had in past years and probably a little less depth in key positions, but I’m excited about the way we came in. We’ve told these guys repeatedly you don’t have to be Sony (Michel), you don’t have to be Nick (Chubb), you don’t have to be Roquan (Smith) or Lorenzo (Carter), you don’t have to be any of these guys. You just have to be the best you.”
Smart said the Georgia staff challenges the Bulldog players by putting the players into six different categories.
“And when I talk about these categories, I not only want you to apply them to your everyday life,” he said, addressing the fans, “but also to your relationship with Georgia.
“There’s the resistance category. This player or person has not bought in. They’ve got their own agenda.
“Then there is the reluctant category. This player is hesitant, afraid to commit to team goals..
“The existent category. If you’re not careful a lot of people can find themselves in this category.
“Compliant. This is probably where we find the majority of our players at this time. Players do whatever is asked. They agree with the team goals.
“The next step up is committed,” Smart continued. “Goals are important and players want to do whatever is necessary and put in extra help and time.
“So remember,” he said, “I also want to apply this to you. So are you resistant, reluctant, existent, compliant, committed or the last, which we are driving to have everyone in, and that’s compelled.
“In compelled the team goals are the utmost importance and the player is totally invested into the program.”
Smart said the coaching staff conducted a pool where everybody had a vote on every player, as to which category they would place the player in. “And it’s amazing that we had just one young man who fell into the compelled category,” he said. “I won’t tell you his name, that’s not important. What’s important is we’re trying to move every person on this continual up one notch. What do you have to do to take yourself from compliant to committed? Then what do you have to do to go from committed to compelled? What can you do to make our university even better than it is now? When I go out recruiting there is no better pride that I have than when I slip on that ‘G’.
“As a coaching staff, we’ve got to move on from resistant to reluctant. We don’t have many guys in that boat. From existent to compliant, from compliant to committed. If everybody takes one step up, we’re going to make our team a lot better. And that’s what we’re driving, that’s what we’re trying to do day in and day out.”
Smart said every player on the team has a standard to live up to at the University of Georgia.
“We’re trying to take this football program to a place we still haven’t gotten to,” he said. “Every day you go in the weight room, every day we go on the practice field, you’re going to compete at a standard at the University of Georgia. If you’re not willing to do that, then you’re not going to be a good player. It’s going to be demanded of you to do it the right way and do it at the highest level.”
Smart said the Bulldogs aren’t going to slip up on anyone this coming season.
” They all saw what we did, they all got to see us play,” he said. “We go to South Carolina, we go to Baton Rouge … none of that stuff we did last year is going to help us. What we do this year is what’s going to help us and that’s what we’re looking forward to and we expect every one of you guys to come out to every game possible. And I also want to thank you guys for in the last two years we’ve raised almost 90 million dollars on a brand new scoreboard and the west end zone that will be completed by this fall. Those things will impact our program day to day in a tremendous way. On our game day we’re going to have recruits go in, eat and visit, hang out with their families. On top of that with our new indoor facility we had tremendous visits to our program last year.”
Smart praised the support of the UGA administration and athletic department, which he said enabled him to keep the Bulldog assistant coaching staff intact. “We’re really proud of that and a lot of these relationships are formed over a long period of time.”
Bringing applause, Smart lauded the fans for their assistance to the 2017 team. “What you guys did in traveling this year is incredible. I don’t think one person who came up to me during the autograph session did not at least attend one game. And a lot of you went to multiple games. But this crowd is going to the big games. Rose Bowl tickets, I can imagine how far down in the pocket it cost you to go out there and back. But it’s a tremendous opportunity and we want those opportunities every year for our university. I can say my university because I attended the University of Georgia and I know how special it is to so many in this room.”