ATHENS – There is a learning curve for a first-time head coach. Kirby Smart may have studied under one of the greats, had a drawer full of championship rings and brought the passion and familiarity with Georgia to make him seem like the perfect choice. But until a coach is standing in the center of the practice field for the first time, nobody really knows.
Year 2 is going to be better than Year 1. Smart firmly believes that. History supports it. Players know what to expect, but equally important, the coach knows what to expect and has a better pulse on his program.
Smart conceded in a conversation that he has some “regrets” about some of his decisions in his first season at Georgia, not game-management decisions, but the way he handled some practices leading to games. He might have pushed players too hard, particularly down the stretch of the season. He might have overestimated how much they could take. It was a difficult thing for Smart to recognize at the time because his first priority was to change the culture and practice habits.
The Bulldogs won a game at South Carolina in October. The game was postponed to a Sunday because of a hurricane. The next day in Athens, Smart had his players practice. Georgia lost the next game. To Vanderbilt. At home. Maybe there were other reasons for the defeat, but for Smart the problems started Monday.
“I’ve talked to people. It’s the only way to grow,” he said. “I felt like towards the end of the year we were a tired football team.”
There were other days he believed he should’ve backed off, decisions that may have contributed to Georgia finishing a disappointing 8-5 and in the Liberty Bowl. Below is a transcript of my conversation with Smart:
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