Georgian football’s five top 7s show consistent results
Recruits during visits to Georgia this spring has seen first-hand the results of donors who have invested more than $100 million in facility upgrades over the past few years, including a sparkling football operations center, a much-needed indoor training facility and a new changing room on game day.
They also posed with something the program won last season: the National College Football Championship trophy.
After ending a 41-year national title drought behind a generational defense and underrated attack with a former extra Stetson Bennet at quarterback, will incoming recruiting classes add more gear while in Athens? Or will Georgia fall back like an LSU team that won the national title two seasons earlier?
Coach Smart Kirby doesn’t see his program as a “flash in the pan,” he told fans during the offseason of keeping the program at a level of excellence.
“I think we’ve been there,” he said at an event in Duluth in April. “It’s not like it’s the first time we’ve been in conversation. I am for consistency. We have always been efficient and constant in recruitment and constant in the field.
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Georgia has finished in the top seven in each of the past five seasons in the AP Poll, something only Ohio State has done. Georgia is tied with Clemson for the second most national league appearances since the 2017 season with two behind Alabama’s four.
“You have to stay in that conversation,” said Smart, who won the national title in his sixth season at Georgia and his second College Football Playoff Championship game. “Now it will be the most talent we have lost in one fell swoop, but every year we lose juniors who are very good players. …The challenge as coaches is to make sure we “We’re bringing in enough talent to replace them. We’re also growing.”
Georgia lost a modern NFL record 15 draft picks, including a record five picks in the first round of defense.
Talent still oozes all over the roster, and the Bulldogs fire Bennett for a sixth college season after doing what critics thought he couldn’t in leading the team to a national title.
He’s back for more.
“I’m a self-motivator, I guess,” he says. “I want to win every time, so it doesn’t change what we want to achieve this year.”
Bennett and the other returning players, including tight end Brock Bowers and NFL first-round projected defensive tackle Jalen Carter, will be joined by newcomers from a recruiting class ranked No. 3 in the nation by the 247Sports Composite, a sixth consecutive class in the top 3 under Smart. .
Georgia gets a glimpse of a program built to last like Alabama – the program Smart helped build as defensive coordinator under Nick Saban and the one the Bulldogs ultimately eliminated 33-18 in the national championship game – more than a one-hit wonder as Ed Les Tigres d’Orgeron turned out to be.
LSU went from the No. 6 preseason in 2020 to unranked at the end of this season.
The magic turned by quarterback Joe Burrow and an explosive offense with passing game coordinator Joe Brady are gone. After going 9-8 in the 17 games since LSU’s national title, Orgeron was fired in October of last season.
“It’s probably apples and oranges,” LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said last week at the SEC Spring Meetings. “Two different people. I know Kirby well and obviously I know Coach O well. Two different situations, two different things.
Woodward, who returned to his alma mater before the 2019 season and was the school’s external affairs director when Smart was an assistant for the Tigers in 2004, said he would be surprised if Georgia suffered a downturn under Smart. Woodward made a splashy hire luring Brian Kelly from Notre Dame to Baton Rouge to coach the Tigers, but couldn’t figure out what was wrong after the 2019 national title.
Whether it was a sense of complacency or staff departures, including defensive coordinator Dave Aranda or other things swirling around the program at the time, including Orgeron’s handling of misconduct allegations sexual against a player.
“There were a lot of factors and if I knew the answer I would be a Nobel Prize winner,” Woodward said. “I just don’t know. You don’t know what’s going on. The secret ingredients and the magic were right in 2019. That’s something they’ll never take away from O and it was true. What happened next ? I would like to know. I really do. I did not expect that.
Smart liked how the 2022 Bulldogs handled the months following a moment the Bulldog fan base had waited decades for.
“The pats on the back, the kids get it, everywhere you go, every time you go out to your communities, you get that, you use it for energy, but that story goes back to last year,” said Smart, the former UGA All-Security SEC. “A lot of these guys are not in this team anymore. You have a group of young men who were in the team, and I’m extremely excited to get out there and play football with them. Everyone thinks you have to be a certain age to be an entertainer on the football pitch, but if you’re talented enough… we have talented guys, but we just don’t have a lot of experience. purchased, they did a terrific job in the offseason.
Smart’s team may be the defending national champion, but he’s already dismissed any notion that Georgia is the defending national champion.
“That was never our end and that will be all last year,” Smart said at an event at the Augusta Boys & Girls Club in April. “That team last year, they wanted to destroy everyone they played. They never talked about a national championship. It’s easy for the fans to say I want to win a national championship. Our goal was to go out and annihilate, to make your opponent give up, to make him never want to play against you again.
Smart tells the story of two players wanting to address the team after the Missouri game because they were unhappy with the effort they put in.
This came after a 43-6 rout. The players wanted the whole team to show up for an optional lifting session on Sunday.
“So much work has gone into this season, this national championship,” said Jamaree Salyer, Georgia’s starting left tackle for the past two seasons, who was a sixth-round pick by the Chargers. in April. “This did not happen by chance. Everyone likes to put it on talent, but it was so much work. I hope these guys never underestimate what this job meant to this team or the leadership that went into it. We won the national championship, but I think of all the difficult days we put into it during training, meetings and visits.
Said Minnesota Vikings first-round safety Lewis Cine, a national title team starter, “I think Georgia has a great plan going forward. They had an excellent recruiting class. Kirby knows what it takes. He’s just going to do the same thing that led to winning the natty.