Kirby Smart: 'Until we're that, we're not going to be happy'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday March 14, 2017

Georgia returns 10 defensive starters in 2017, but Kirby Smart says that doesn’t mean much of anything.

The Bulldogs were No. 35 in scoring defense last year and tied for fifth in the SEC. So it’s not like the best D in the league is coming back. Smart is looking forward to competition to create depth, but there’s no reason for starters to assume they keep their job.

“There is some great competition defensively,” he said on the Bulldog Hotline. “My biggest concern, defensively, is that these guys don’t think they’re better than they are, or get complacent, because they’re returning starters. That means nothing. If you’re returning starters and you’re the fourth-best defense in the SEC, then that’s not good enough. You have to go be the first-best. We’re trying to be the best defense in the conference. Until we’re that, we’re not going to be happy.”

UGA opens spring practice on March 21. While the defense needs to make that step up, the special teams need to make a huge step up, and Smart says the Dawgs will have two special teams sessions in each practice.

Georgia was No. 95 nationally in special teams efficiency, per Football Outsiders. That included 17-for-25 on field goals (No. 99) and 23.8 yards per kick return allowed (No. 115).

“We’re going to do special teams two times a day. It’s an area we’ve got to improve the most,” Smart said. “Who’s going to come out and give me a day’s work and buy in to selling out and saying we’re going to be the top four in the conference in every category in special teams and not be so sporadic? That’s a big part of what I want to see, and I want to see some older guys teaching younger guys.”

UGA’s spring game is scheduled for April 22. A year ago, Smart’s request to fans led to an SEC-record 93,000 fans at G-Day. He says that played a role in the opening win against North Carolina in the Georgia Dome, because it’s trial run of a real game for freshmen.

“It’s critical,” Smart said. “The more we can pack that stadium and make it like a real game, I get to find out how kids respond to that atmosphere. It was really helpful against UNC. You saw the guys that went out in that Georgia Dome and played as true freshmen. … Those guys played because a lot of them got to play in that G-Day game and get used to it. Any atmosphere we create like that is an advantage for an opening game, which will also be in Sanford Stadium.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to