ATHENS — Kirby Smart has often said in the midst of his championship runs at Georgia that he doesn’t pay attention to the media.
The offseason, however, is another matter for the eighth-year Bulldogs’ coach as he searches for motivation.
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Smart, speaking earlier this season in Birmingham, said the 2023 Georgia football team does not have a catchy theme or slogan at this time.
Smart had his team study one of the winningest franchises in history, the New Zealand “All Blacks” rugby team, where they learned “No one is bigger than the team” and interpreted New Zealand’s “Sweep the Sheds” to translate to “Eat off the Floor.”
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From “Attack the Day,” to “Keep Chopping Wood” and “Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing,” Smart has always sent a message, including reminding his players with a “Nobody Cares” slogan in reference to avoiding excuses.
Several players have attested they will “Do it for Dev” this season.
It’s a reference Nolan Smith brought up at the NFL Combine in reference to fallen teammate Devin Willock, who was killed in a well-documented tragic car accident in January.
Many of the Georgia offensive linemen have tattooed Willock’s No. 77 on their arms, and there is a portrait of Willock in the offensive line meeting room.
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The internal motivation is clear, and Smart has backed up his players by telling them he wants to see them back up Willock with their actions and standards, and not just their words.
The Bulldogs’ external motivation, however, has yet to be determined Smart indicated.
“Got to get through summer workouts and get to media days and see what the narrative is out there,” Smart said, likely aware his team is a near-unanimous No. 1 preseason pick on the heels of back-to-back CFP Championship seasons.
“I don’t try to jump on it too soon — it’s important to let it happen.”
One trend that’s clear with the Georgia head coach is to remind his fanbase — and the UGA players — that last season’s 15-0 run required good fortune.
The Bulldogs’ 65-7 win over TCU in the CFP Championship Game was merely one of several scenarios that was possible that night, according to Smart.
“It could’ve landed five different ways,” Smart said, asked what would have happened if UGA played the Horned Frogs five times.
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“We played well, but I know Coach (Sonny) Dykes and he has really good football team and we watched him play all those games,” Smart said. “.They didn’t play at their best, and we played well, and combine that with turnovers and combine that with a little bit of momentum.”
Smart reminded people how close Georgia came to getting knocked off at Missouri, as it trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter and needed Kenny McIntosh’s fourth-and-2 conversion run to keep its hopes alive.
“We’ve all been on slides. I’ve seen it the other way, we played Missouri and Missouri played well,” Smart said, explaining how UGA had an off game just like TCU did in the CFP finale.
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“We started really slow, and we played on the road — there are so many factors that go into that. I would not say there’s a gap that big between anybody.”
As for what he expects from this season’s team, Smart was pleased leaving spring drills, but he’ll get a better read this summer.
“June and July they will be out there working,” Smart said on the Rick and Bubba Show. “We’ll find out what we are made of in those summer workouts.”