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Notre Dame Football

Kirby Smart Wants Georgia Focused On Confidence

July 17, 2019

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart enters year four in Athens and the mindset is about getting to the College Football Playoff for a shot at a National Title. 

The Dawgs are coming off an 11-3 record in 2018 and an appearance in the SEC title game, but Smart had a message on his mind on Monday at SEC Media Day. 

“Confidence is a word I think about a lot this time of year,” stated Smart. “Confidence is not about speak, about words. It's really about actions taken by someone. It's not given to anyone. It's earned and that's something we want to do with each and every year and how we build up the season. It's year four for our staff and our program. That fact excites me.

“I feel like we made great strides in each season in the way we teach, in the way we learn, in the way we develop players. It's been tremendous for us to grow. You don't have to have experience to excel, but it is an invaluable teacher. I came into this job after working in many different environments. Those each gave me good perspective, but I also acknowledged that the last three and a half years have been a great teacher as well. Those last three and a half years have been a tremendous experience for me.” 

Georgia and Notre Dame are in similar spots regardless of what you think of each program. Both programs have reached the College Football Playoff in the last two seasons and each program has a similar record over those two years heading into 2019. 

Notre Dame has gone 22-4 over the last two seasons while Georgia has a record of 24-5. Both programs are chasing Alabama and Clemson as the clock ticks under 50 days until kickoff. 

“Our mission is to bridge that gap by the actions we take, hence the word "do more," those words require action,” Smart said. “I read a quote coming in this morning that really grabbed me, and I'm not a big quote guy, but when I heard that quote, I thought that's something that our players can relate to ‘life has no remote. You got to get up and change it yourself.’ If you think about that, so many of us want to take the easy way out, whether it's changing the channel with the remote or anything else, not doing the work that has to be done. We want to do more at the University of Georgia. We're not complacent in what we've done, and we know we need to take that next step.” 

Smart has applied pressure on every aspect of his program since the 28-21 loss in the Sugar Bowl to Texas, including himself. 

“Pressure is a reflection of ambition,” explained Smart. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves day in and day out. The stress and pressure we feel emanates from our building, from our coaches, from our players putting it on each other, from our university. We apply it every day. 

“We're looking for the aggregate of marginal gains. If we get a little bit of marginal gain through our nutrition, through our weightlifting, through our film study, through our effort on and off the field, through other dedication to our community, whatever our edge can be, we're looking for that aggregate of marginal gains and that comes in every facet every way possible for our program. I got three guys with me today. This is the first time I feel like I've had these kids for a longer amount of time, being I'm coming into the fourth season.”

It sounds easy to apply pressure in the offseason, but Smart is dealing with losing both his coordinators. Mel Tucker left to take the head coaching job at Colorado and Jim Chaney left for Tennessee. 

James Coley and Dan Lanning will take over the coordinator positions. Coley was the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Georgia in 2018 while Lanning coached the linebackers. Smart believes the familiarity with the hires has helped with the transition. 

“Any time you build the infrastructure in a program, when people leave, as long as you're not changing that infrastructure, it doesn't create a lot of doubt or anxiety in the players,” Smart stated. “Certainly, from my perspective, very comfortable after being in our system for three years that we've got really good coordinators. James, our offensive coordinator, has been with us a long time. I've known James from graduate assistant days back at LSU. I have tremendous respect for him. I know the offenses he's worked with in the past. He's also been a part of ours. He has been a very integral part of that offense.

So there won't be a lot of change. It will be more about what our players can do than what our coaches do.

From a defensive standpoint, Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann are very bright. Mel was a really good teacher to them. Mel helped them tremendously grow. He gave them opportunities to grow, to get in front of the defense so we can see them interact. I'm still going to be involved defensively, makes me feel comfortable with Dan and Glenn and Charlton Warren and Tray Scott to do a tremendous job there.”

Having a quarterback entering his third season as the starter in Athens will help any new offensive coordinator and let Smart sleep at night. 

Jake Fromm has thrown for 5,476 yards, 54 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 64.9 percent of his passes. But it’s Fromm’s leadership qualities that had Smart excited for 2019 but also his future beyond Georgia. 

“First of all, I'm extremely excited he's our quarterback,” said Smart. “He is the leader of our program, the face of our organization, a guy that has given so much to Georgia and Georgia means so much to. As far as where he stacks up in the NFL, I don't think that's for me to determine. I think Jake's got tremendous ability. He's a leader. That's the first quality you look for.

“We had a guy come speak the other day to our team talking about characteristics that scouts look for. He checks every single box on that list. He's won a lot of football games. He's thrown touchdowns and hasn't thrown interceptions. All of those qualities he has are going to give him a chance of success whenever he chooses to go to the NFL.” 

There is no denying Georgia will be one of the top teams in the country in 2019, but Smart continues to want his team to show confidence in everything they do and the last two games of last season serve as motivation to complete the task. 

“It's more than the fourth quarter,” said Smart. “It is the performance against Texas, which we're not proud of. We have to grow and get better. There are learning experiences all across the board. Going to Baton Rouge, tough experience. We didn't play our best game. We have to go on the road in the SEC this year and play in some really tough environments. The biggest thing we take from those, we learn, but we also learn from our victories. We had quite a few of those last year too.”

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