The votes won’t be counted until later this week, but the Georgia Bulldogs are the heavy favorites to claim another SEC East title in 2021. Alum Kirby Smart is now in his sixth season in Athens and owns a 52-14 overall record with four consecutive top-10 finishes. The Dawgs have a roster littered with former top-100 recruits and will have more talent than just about everyone else in college football. Now Smart must get the monkey off his back.
The folks in Georgia are very thirsty for a national championship as it has been four decades since the program’s last. Smart and his crew seem ready for the challenge as they looked poised and collected at SEC Media Days.
No one college football program spends more money on recruiting than Georgia. The Bulldogs have elite facilities and spare no expense when it comes to their commitment to winning in between the white lines. To do that, the school needs donations from wealthy university supporters. Head coach Kirby Smart is quite the businessman and is probably pretty comfortable yucking it up on the golf course. That smooth-talking ability was on display in his opening comments regarding SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.
“And I will say, since he brought it up, he is a mighty fine golfer,” Smart told the media. “He poor mouths better than coaches do, and his drives are longer than some of the pros we played with and straighter. I was very impressed with his golf game in Birmingham.”
Hines Ward, Champ Bailey, A.J. Green, and Todd Gurley were not able to capitalize on their name, image, and likeness. We are entering a new world of college athletics. Smart recognizes his players have a unique opportunity in 2021. The head coach wants his guys to be careful when accepting deals. A famous hip-hop artist agrees.
“I got a text from Quavo, who’s an avid Georgia fan,” Smart surprisingly quipped. “A lot of people in this room probably don’t know who Quavo is. The first text I got was two weeks after NIL started, and he said, Coach, please tell the players be selective who they put their brand with. Don’t just do anything. He used the term “thirsty.” Don’t be thirsty. Be selective in what you do, selective in how you handle your branding. You’ve got tax issues now you’ve got to deal with.”
USC transfer JT Daniels started four games for Georgia last year and the Dawgs won them all while averaging 37.25 points per game while the pocket passer averaged 10.34 yards per attempt, threw 10 touchdowns, and posted a big-play rate of 26.05 percent that would have led the SEC over a full season. A national championship is the goal in Athens, and the only way to get claim the crown is to get top-notch quarterback play. The Bulldogs believe they have that with the former five-star recruit from Los Angeles.
“The two guys that were the last two years’ national champions, they were really good quarterbacks,” said Smart. “They were great decision-makers. They were actually better athletes than people give them credit for. The decision-making process, touchdown-to-interception ratio, protecting the ball, using your playmakers, which both had really good playmakers around them, JT has those skill sets.”
Folks love Arik Gilbert
The Metro Atlanta native spent his true freshman season at LSU after being the highest-ranked tight end recruit in the internet era. After committing to Florida, Gilbert eventually returned home to Georgia. The Bulldogs were peppered questions regarding Gilbert. The starting quarterback thinks the transfer can make a big impact on the offense.
“I’ve been asked more about Arik more than anything else today, and I keep saying the same thing,” said Daniels. “He is — like there are players who have great talent and like football, and then there’s guys like Arik who have great talent and love football.”
We could very well get a College Football Playoff preview on Labor Day Saturday. Georgia and Clemson will meet in Charlotte in a prime-time matchup in a game that everyone will be watching. D.J. Uiagalelei vs. JT Daniels. Kirby Smart vs. Dabo Swinney. Todd Monken vs. Brent Venables. Top-5 roster vs. Top-5 roster. This will be a clash of titans, but the Bulldogs are not getting ahead of themselves.
“It’s Clemson-Georgia, it’s two really good teams,” said Daniels. “But I think the biggest thing for us as a team, as much as we get hyped for it, because it’s Georgia-Clemson, it’s a week one game. You can win week one, you can beat Clemson by 100 and have a terrible season, you could lose to Clemson by 100 and have a great rest of the season.”
“I think it’s important to keep in perspective that all it is is the week one game. As fun as it is competing against a really great team, let week one be week one.”
Dawgs get vaxed
Georgia is getting after it in the vaccination game. The Bulldogs are setting the pace in the conference and it looks like this could be a team that has a 100 percent rate at the start of the season.
“Our roster is over 85 percent,” Smart told reporters. “So our group there is over 85 percent, and we’re proud of that, but we’re not stopping there. It’s not about a number. It’s not about a threshold. I think everybody wants to write who’s over and who’s under. What it’s really about is being able to save our season, being able to keep our players safe.”
Kirby & Quavo
Kirby Smart and Quavo exchange text messages. I still can’t believe it.