Summer practices are a grueling experience for players. The heat is oppressive, and facing off against other teammates over and over can be a little boring. However, some years provide a little more incentive to endure than others.
This is apparently one of those years for UGA.
“When you walk in the weight room and you know you’ve got to play UNC in the first game there’s a commitment level that’s probably greater than other years, and that’s a good thing,” coach Kirby Smart said Wednesday at the Regions Tradition Pro-Am celebrity golf tournament in Birmingham, Ala.“It’s a little easier sell. That’s one of the advantages in playing in those games.”
UGA’s season opening game against North Carolina will take place in the Georgia Dome and will be televised on ESPN. It’s a matchup of teams that combined for 21 wins last season. Making the it even more compelling is the fact that the Tar Heels are coming off an ACC Coastal Division title — the first in program history — and the fact that Smart will be making his coaching debut for the Bulldogs.
However, it won’t be Smart’s first experience with an intense atmosphere since coming back to his alma mater.
“It felt like a real game the first spring game with the 93,000 (that were in attendance). When you ran out it was like it was real. It was a great atmosphere,” Smart said.
Of course, there was little opportunity for anyone to leave disappointed on G-Day — a game where UGA only played itself. That won’t be the case against North Carolina, and Smart is fully aware of what’s at stake.
“You’re playing a great opponent and you don’t know what you’ve got yet. You’ve got to find out for real, the first time you go out there,” Smart said.
Part of what Smart will be looking to find out is whether running back Nick Chubb will be healthy enough to play, and whether true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason will be prepared for the challenges that come with being a starter fresh out of high school. Those questions are unanswered at the moment, but will likely be crucial in determining the outcome of the game against the Tar Heels on Sept 3.
As Smart explained, “It’s not an opponent from a lesser classification. It’s a situation where you better be ready to play.”