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Kirby Smart embraces expectations for Georgia in 2024, ready to go play

Palmber-Thombsby:Palmer Thombs05/14/24


Kirby Smart has been around Georgia Football long enough to know that expectations are always high. Since he’s been the head coach however, expectations have seemed higher given the results. Winners of 94 games since 2016 including 46 of the last 48, the Bulldogs have ascended to the top of the sport. They are, according to oddsmakers in Las Vegas, the favorite to take home the title in 2024 and have the potential first overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner leading the way. Needless to say, excellence is the expectation – and that’s something Smart has embraced.

“There’s a standard now of, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to win every game.’ I watched that happen at Alabama where it was like, if you’re not careful, you find no joy in winning. And if you take the joy and suck the joy out of winning, it makes your career shorter. It makes it frustrating for the players,” Smart said during an appearance on Monday’s episode of The Paul Finebaum Show, recorded at the Regions Tradition. “We still celebrate every win because in the SEC, playing on the road is really hard. When we win games, we get excited about it. We find joy in it. We’ve enjoyed that. I’ve enjoyed that ride. I think it’s different every year. You have a different team. I’m trying to figure out exactly what this team needs. This team has been a little bit hungrier in spring ball because they didn’t win it. They weren’t in the Playoffs. So there is a little bit of more motivation.”

“Yeah, we’ll be the favorite in some people’s eyes. Some people will find things wrong with us. We have a really hard schedule. We play three top-15 teams on the road in our conference. That’s tough. But we’ve got a good football team. We’ve got a very consistent football team,” he continued. “We say it all the time, we’re built to sustain at Georgia. We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. We don’t want to live and die through the portal. We want to grow our players from signing with us, make them better and then give them an opportunity at the next level and be better contributors to society. I think we’re going to have a good football team next year. I don’t know how good and I don’t know how we’ll play in some really tough road games. We’ll see where it falls.”

Smart is spot on with his assessment, and conversation around the country right now backs that up. The Bulldogs are being discussed as “an almost lock” to make the College Football Playoffs. The talent they’ve got and track record that’s been built up in Athens drives that talk. Still, it won’t be easy, playing Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss on the road. Georgia also opens with ACC favorite Clemson and must take on rivals Auburn and Florida over the course of the 12-game regular season, playing 10 contests against power conference opponents – several of whom have appeared in at least one Way Too Early Top 25. In part because of that, some folks changed course post-spring practice and have Ohio State in their No. 1 spot instead of Georgia.

To have the Buckeyes No. 1 isn’t a knock on the Bulldogs. Things will shake out as the season goes along, and that’s what Smart’s ready for. Talking season has just begun, but Smart is already over it. He can’t wait to get back on the field, kicking things off on August 31st in Atlanta.

“No, I’m long past it. I was really proud of the way we finished the season in the bowl game, playing out,” Smart said when asked whether he looks back on the end to last season and thinks about how close his team was to things going differently. “That’s part of football. That’s the storyline. You can win all these games consecutively in football, whatever it was 28, 29 games in a row, but if you don’t win the championship and don’t advance, you look back and say what could we have done better.”

“We’ll always look back on that. But right now, we’re not doing that. We’re looking forward at what this team is gonna do,” he continued. “How is this team going to play? Got a really tough schedule. I’m excited to get an opportunity to go out there and play. I’m so tired of the talk about the NIL and the talk about the portal and all the complaining. Let’s go play football. Let’s get our team against their team and see where we stand. Let’s go play.”

Georgia completed spring practice in April and has watched the spring opening of the transfer portal come and go. The Bulldogs added eight transfers (QB Jaden Rashada, RB Trevor Etienne, WR Colbie Young, WR London Humphreys, WR Michael Jackson III, TE Ben Yurosek, DL Xzavier McLeod, DB Jake Pope) to a roster that returns several key pieces from 2023 including Heisman Trophy favorite Carson Beck.

With a wide receiver group that features the likes of Dominic LovettRara ThomasDillon Bell and Arian Smith, one of the nation’s top tight end groups including Oscar Delp and an offensive line that returns four players with starting experience, hopes are high for the Georgia offense. Of course though, as long as Kirby Smart is the head coach, the Bulldog defense is going to be strong, and that remains the case in 2024. Safety Malaki Starks was an All-American last season while EDGE Mykel Williams and inside linebacker Smael Mondon are certainly capable of playing at the kind of elite level. CJ Allen and Raylen Wilson played valuable snaps as true freshmen and should take steps forward – as should sack leader Jalon Walker, now a junior – while the secondary must replace three NFL Draft picks including one each at cornerback, safety and STAR.

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