Expectations are high in Athens this fall. What else is new.
“I went back and reviewed my notes for this event (last year), and it was the same thing,” Smart said at Tuesday’s at SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame and Omni Atlanta Hotel. “‘Georgia is expected to do this, to win the East, to win championships.’ Those are things that we embrace at the University of Georgia. We can’t run from those things.”
As opposed to running from it, Smart is hammering that message home to his team.
“We talk to our players all the time that pressure is really a privilege,” Smart said. “You should feel privileged to have pressure to win games, to have expectations.”
Smart — just as everyone in the room — understands his team was mere minutes, plays a year ago from striking a drastically different tone. His team is the defending conference champion. He knows “defending national champions” just has a different ring to it.
It does little, however, to alter the pressure cooker that Smart and Georgia are under to meet those endless expectations. Anything short of competing for an SEC and national title will be considered a disappointment.
“This season for us is going to be simple,” Smart said, breaking starkly from coach jargon to provide some clarity. “It’s going to be the measure of potential versus effectiveness. And when I say that, a lot of people are like ‘Yeah, every team has a certain amount of potential.’ I think potential is dormant ability. I think effectiveness is what we get out of our potential.”
For years in Athens, dormant ability superseded results on the field. Georgia has boasted a top-10 recruiting class nationally each year since 2013 — and interminable recruiting prowess extends far longer. “Potential” has never been the issue.
Last season was the Bulldogs’ first SEC title since 2005 and the first national-title appearance since 1982. Georgia returns its star freshman quarterback, several integral pieces on offense and defense, and welcomes the top recruiting class in the country
Last season was the taste. Fans expect that and more in 2018.
Kirby Smart isn’t running from that. He’s leaning in.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.