Kirby Smart tells his players he’s not their friend during football practices.
“I’m a tyrant,” Smart said at SEC Media Days this week, acknowledging the hyperactive and energetic disposition he brings to the Georgia practice field every day.
The intensified atmosphere is undeniable, and very much by design. Smart looks to create the most game-like environment possible to have the Bulldogs best prepared for Saturday afternoons.
Fact is, Smart is one of the more calculated coaches in college football, to the extent that his words at the annual SEC media event are worth putting under the microscope.
Smart and the three players he brought with him — quarterback Jake Fromm, safety J.R. Reed and offensive tackle Andrew Thomas — shared enough specifics about this season that some conclusions can safely be drawn:
Every coach talks it to some degree, but Smart is putting his money where his mouth is when he states that the team’s 24-5 record over the past two seasons “is not enough.”
Choosing the “do more” motto indicates Smart is confident the Bulldogs will be back for a third-straight SEC Championship game appearance and have the talent to do more.
Just as important, the players have not been broken by back-to-back losses to Alabama and remain bought in.
“We look at those games where we didn’t get over the hump in the past, and we want to do more this summer,” Fromm said. “It’s taking every game like it’s our last and trying to go 1-0 every week.”
Receiver by committee
Smart had hinted at it during spring drills, and he referenced it again when addressing how he plans to compensate for the loss of the top five receivers off last season’s team.
A committee approach indicates Smart and new offensive coordinator James Coley are serious about getting freshman receivers Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens on the field early.
UGA runs a pro-style offense that’s at its best when players are interchangeable at the three receiver positions. The talents of Pickens and Blaylock are such that things will be simplified.
“I’m excited about the guys we’ve got,” Smart said. “I don’t know that you need to have a 900-yard (receiving) guy, but you better have two or three 800-yard guys, and you need to have the ability to disperse the ball.”
Confidence in Fromm
Coaches from the Nick Saban coaching tree, particularly those who coached defense, typically aim for efficiency over explosiveness. Smart did not allow former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to do anything that bucks the trend.
But now Fromm is entering his third season as a starter, and his greatest strength is making pre-snap reads and checking to the optimal play. To take full advantage, Smart must put more trust in Fromm and put more of the game in his hands, to the extent of having a liberal audible policy.
“Yeah, he can play in the NFL -- he’s a cerebral quarterback,. He’s what they look for in a quarterback to be able to change the protections, make decisions, distribute the ball,” Smart said. “You expect him to take on more. It’s what the people around him (on offense) can handle that’s our concern because we will have some young players, especially at wideout, that we have to bring them into it and not try to teach over their head and allow them to develop.
“He is the leader of our program, the face of our organization. Jake has an aura about him. He has a positive energy that he rubs off on the other wideouts. I think he's kind of embraced this challenge now with this young group of receivers to grow those guys.”