“There is a hunger in this group”
By Jean Frierson
ATLANTA — The Georgia 2022 football media guide’s coverage isn’t a loud, proud celebration of the 2021 national championship. In fact, the coach Smart Kirby and the designers went exactly in the opposite direction.
Despite the intense joy, pride, exultation and about a thousand additional emotions that accompanied the Bulldogs winning the program’s first national football championship since 1980 – and the relief, don’t forget – there isn’t a word on the cover about Georgia being the top dogs in college football in 2021. In fact, there are only eight words in total on the cover, and four of them are “Georgian football.” ” and “media guide”. The other four words: “RESISTANCE • CONNECTION • RESILIENCE • STRAP.”
Smart isn’t on the cover holding up the national championship trophy. Strategist Stetson Bennet is not on the cover throwing one of the five touchdown passes he threw in the college football playoff run. Cornerback Kelee Ringo is off the cover returning his Pick Six to seal Georgia’s 33-18 win over Alabama in the national championship game.
Instead, the three Georgian players on the cover are senior running backs Kenny McIntoshmain receiver Kearis Jackson and senior safety Christopher Smith. And no, none of them hold a trophy either.
The message sent by the cover is one Smart expressed during his remarks on the main stage Wednesday morning at the College Football Hall of Fame, the third day of SEC Media Days. Complacency, he said, won’t be an issue with the 2022 Bulldogs.
“It doesn’t concern me in the least,” he said. “To be complacent you have to have done something and achieved something. The men in this team for this season haven’t done that. They haven’t. We had 15 players who have now gone to camps of the NFL as a draft pick. They’re We have some returning players, but they’re hungrier than ever.”
With so many stars from last season now in the NFL, especially on defense, Smart said it’s inexperience that worries him, not complacency. At the same time, he said, “There’s a hunger in this group. A lot of guys want to prove they can replace the other guy. They don’t want to be the other guy, they want to be the next one.”
As for being the hunted now instead of the hunter, not so soon.
“We won’t be chased at the University of Georgia. I can promise you that,” he said. “The chase that we do will be from us the other way around. We’re not going to sit back and be passive.”
While Smart, Bennett, lead linebacker Nolan Smith and sophomore in red shirt Sedrick Van Pran each looked like a million bucks in costumes on Wednesday, one well-deserved prop was notably missing. None of them were wearing their national championship rings.
Lest you think Smart and the Bulldogs aren’t thrilled with what they did last year, and don’t want to remind everyone, rookies in particular, that they threw a party for the ages on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in January. night, the inside cover features photos of Smart and Bennett holding the national championship trophy alongside a photo of Ringo’s legendary comeback, as well as photos of stars like Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis.
But there is a reason why the celebration page is not visible. The Bulldogs embark on a new season, starting Sept. 3 against Oregon and former defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. This game and all those that follow will demand their full attention.
“We can’t control last year,” Smith said. “We can’t do anything last year. We can only look ahead. Be where our feet are, and that’s now.”
Van Plan said he celebrated the national championship for about 30 hours until he was back in class. Smith said it was about 24 hours for him.
Smart said one of the things coaches and players have been doing this offseason to avoid any kind of complacency or disappointment is to study during their “skull sessions” the greats – whether it’s programs, realms or whatever – who have been at the top and then fallen.
“We talk about how the mighty fell,” Smart said. “I talk about business, sport, history. You learn from the mistakes of others.”
For Van Pran, it comes down to continuing to do the things that got you to the top in the first place.
“I think the general message of all (the lessons) just was, make sure you stay humble, make sure you stay focused, make sure you stay who you’ve always been,” he said. . “I think when you allow yourself to deviate from what you’ve always done, that’s where the powerful can fall.”
The Bulldogs are still on the hunt, just as hungry as ever.
Deputy director of sports communication Jean Frierson is the UGA Sports Team Writer and Curator of the ITA Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work at: Frierson Files. He is also on Twitter: @FrersonFiles and @ITAHallofFame.