SMITH COLUMN: Great start to the season for UGA
By Loran Smith
Last Saturday, I took a walk from my campus address to Sanford Stadium which got me in the mood for a game which brought about pre-game concerns. UAB has had such success in Conference USA that I was a worried man singing a worried song.
Maybe that is because of a conservative nature. Maybe it was the doomsaying of Vince Dooley over the years. Mainly it was a familiarity with a history of the past, seeing favored teams bite the dust, but also the awareness that it doesn’t matter the oddsmakers take, you may be looking for trouble when you don’t respect your opponent.
I watched J. T. Daniels on the sideline during practice—in full pad regalia. He looked the same as he always looked—as if he could step on the field and hum a deep ball 50 yards on target to a fleeting receiver.
When he did not experience practice field rehearsal, it signaled that he would likely not see any game day action. The overview was that the Bulldogs, after winning that all important game against Clemson in Charlotte, could be expected to suffer something of a letdown. Additionally, the hue and cry, had a common refrain: “What’s wrong with the offense?”
I thought about all that as I watched the tailgaters, humbled by the opportunity to be back in full swing — tasty delights, refreshing libations, fight music and little kids playing touch football on the grass, bringing about this offering: What an uplifting piece of Americana! Old grads at the Georgia Center, weekend respite for the Georgia football team, recalling great games of the past; renewing of friendships and socializing with thankful fervor.
It was, gratefully, business as usual.
It is only natural that the fan base frets about the offense although Stetson Bennett with his homerun balls put the crowd at ease. You don’t want your offense to peak early. You want to give backup players playing time and you want to see the offensive unit grow.
Two things we know: One, the offensive line has the greatest of potential, and, secondly, it is well coached. All Bulldog aficionados are aware that when Kirby Smart hired Sam Pittman, he hired one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. When Pittman was hired by Arkansas, the Bulldog head coach quickly hired Matt Luke. That is akin to replacing Joe DiMaggio with Mickey Mantle.
With experience and seasoning, we will see Luke’s handiwork bringing about dividends for Georgia. He takes teaching seriously, and he has a way with young offensive linemen.
There is a collection of quality running backs, the tight ends are playmakers and the wide receivers aren’t, perhaps, great but good enough to make the fans day. Please stand by.
The schedule is laid out nicely to accommodate success, but with high expectations, there cannot be an off-day with a worthy opponent. You can be sure that Coach Smart will be on edge in that regard week-to-week, no matter the opponent. One thing you can be sure of, he will never lose a game with his mouth.
Smart has brought the Bulldogs to a level that is comparable to what he saw with Nick Saban at Alabama. By out recruiting everybody, Saban has had the good fortune of having very few off days. When one of his teams has had an off-day, he has been able to win because of superior talent. That is exactly where Kirby Smart expects to be with his program.
Although Saban shows no signs of slipping, it is a fact that advancing age eventually takes the edge off a person’s routine and productivity. When Pat Dye took the Auburn job in 1981, he got a call from Bear Bryant who told his protégé, “I thought I raised you better than this.”
The Bear did not like it that a former assistant coach of his would be the trail boss for Alabama’s main rival. He knew all about Dye’s energy, fundamental coaching acumen and his ability to recruit. He knew he could not keep up with Dye physically. The result: Bryant retired two years later.
There is no way to read trends insightfully. However, Georgia and Kirby Smart are poised to maintain a level of success that should keep the Bulldogs “in the hunt” indefinitely. Year after year.