LOS ANGELES – On the morning before the national championship game, Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart said one thing that made a pin drop. He said the backups get a little more work in practice than the starters because the backups need the work and must be ready to play.
“So the guys that are playing now that were 2s last year, in some cases 3s, they got a lot of work,” Smart said. “And I think [TCU Head Coach] Sonny Dykes is right; that cumulative effect — I’ve always said the states that have spring practices, their kids leave high school football one year ahead of states that don’t because they’ve had four spring practices from ninth grade to 12th grade.”
While Georgia romped to their second straight national title, the talk began to circulate around the idea of Athens being the home of college football’s newest dynasty. After the ‘Dawgs raised the four fingers, the backups entered the game and their performance did not fall off. Bear Alexander and the rest of the backups continued to get pressure under embattled TCU quarterback Max Duggan even though the game’s outcome was decided three hours prior.
While Smart will never allow himself to indulge in such hype, former Georgia Bulldog great David Pollack famously made a declaration during halftime:
“We love the Cinderella story and we love when this comes about but this isn’t really the Cinderella ending,” Pollack said. “Georgia, obviously, we’ve seen from the past couple seasons now, really, they’ve taken hold of college football. Unbelievable job.”
He made the statement while sitting next to Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Saban’s reaction certainly went viral around social media.
Who would have the unmitigated gall to make such a statement sitting next to the undeniable king of college football?
However, the stats speak for themselves. Georgia has lost one game in two seasons. During that span, the Bulldogs are 29-1. No Alpha Leader worth their salt wants to sit on the proverbial couch and watch others win. However, in Smart’s case, in the last two years, he hasn’t had to dip into the transfer portal to get players. He’s recruited and developed the talent already on campus.
Prior to Smart’s arrival, Georgia consistently underperformed. Previous coaches would recruit very well, but never produce the results that would be commensurate with the talent. Famously, the Blackout Game of September 27, 2008 was the seminal moment that symbolized the Mark Richt era at Georgia. The ‘Dawgs were flashy without substance, falling 31-0 at halftime. Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, and the Alabama Crimson Tide used that game to catapult themselves into a national power and many members of that squad into lucrative careers on and off the field.
That game, along with the 2012 SEC Championship, were two grand examples in which Georgia consistently failed when the lights shone the brightest.
Since Smart’s arrival, that entitled mentality that previous Georgia teams had is not there anymore. The players have embraced the development, the direct teaching and the hard practices. As a result, Georgia has planted their red and black flag on top of college football’s highest mountain. Smart had a message for players who are looking for a program to raise their game and get to the next level.
“We’re going to show Jordan Davis from his freshman and sophomore year, working on the scout team, and say, ‘hey, look where this guy was and look at what he became doing it this way,’ Smart said. And selling that within your program becomes a selling point to them to stick and stay and truly develop and grow in the organization.”