ATHENS – Kirby Smart has a whole lot of good things going on at Georgia.
The Bulldogs have fully integrated their new $30.2 million indoor facility into a practice complex and training facility that stands second to none. Construction will begin on a $63 million addition at Sanford Stadium that will include a new locker room and recruiting lounge built into the West End grandstands. Given a full year to recruit for the first time, Smart and his staff brought in a class that garnered a No. 3 national composite ranking.
Heck, even Smart and his wife Mary Beth have finally seen construction completed on their renovated home on Westview Drive. So a lot of things have gotten settled and are on solid ground in Smart’s life.
Now he just needs to win. More to the point, he needs to learn how to win.
Certainly Smart got a lot of experience at winning while apprenticing under Nick Saban at Alabama. But that was different. At the end of the day, when the heat got turned up and the games were tight and decisions had to be made to effect the eventual outcome, that was all Saban.
That was all Smart at Georgia last year. Frankly, the returns weren’t great in that regard. The Bulldogs squandered a 10-point lead late against Tennessee. They made questionable decisions late in a inexcusable home loss to Vanderbilt. Georgia Tech scored 14 points in the final 6:28 to score a 28-27 upset.
Yes, there were tight outcomes that went Georgia’s way, too. But it was winning the games the Bulldogs are supposed to win when they were in position to win them that hurt Smart most in 2016. Hence, an 8-5 record.
There are several reasons to think they will be better at closing out such games in 2017. First, Smart’s a year more experienced. That whirlwind first year, with him trying to work two jobs through the College Football Playoffs while building a staff and a roster and a new home, is behind him. His methods are understood by players and coaches. All new coaches must undergo this transition, and now Smart has.
The talent base has improved and so have the facilities. Natural progression should dictate that the new young coach has, too. The key now is to see it translated into victories on the field.