SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. are all about getting those quotes and sound bites.
Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart took the podium on Tuesday. With the Bulldogs a popular pick to win the SEC East, senior running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel returning, and some changes coming to the conference, we put together the best quotes from Smart at the podium and gave a bit of analysis.
- "It's important that you understand as the head coach of the University of Georgia, I'm proud to be there, but we embrace those as the coaching staff, we embrace those as our players, when you come to the University of Georgia, the expectation is to win championships. That's what we expect to do at the University of Georgia, and that's the standard we'll be held to."
Interesting thing about this, this was the end of Smart's opening statement. He wasn't asked, yet, about the hype and pressure the Bulldogs are facing this season. Smart's facing the pressure head-on by saying this, and it's a sign he truly believes his squad can be competitive this season.
- "I think when you play quarterback in the SEC, there's no security blankets for that. I think you can ask any quarterback who's competed in play that you'll go up to some of the most formidable defenses in the country."
This is Smart's way of saying that Jacob Eason shouldn't expect his senior tailbacks to bail him out of any situation. Nor should he. Yes, Chubb and Michel combined for 1,970 yards last season, but there were also times the running game was quiet last season. Eason's always going to have his work cut out for him when it comes to facing the defenses of the SEC, and he has yet to face the best one.
- "Let be honest. They're always going to define you. They put that record next to your name. No matter how long you end up coaching, it will follow you."
Here's the thing about sound bites, sometimes they needed a little context. Here, Smart is talking about records and numbers that are associated with quarterbacks and if the public puts too much weight on them. He compared it to coach's records. It's obvious this was in reference to Eason, whose win-loss record right now is 7-5. This is the SEC. Don't want those numbers next to your name, better find somewhere else to play.
- "Just like every position on our team, kicker, punter, right corner, left corner, it does not matter what position, every coach will tell you there's great competition. If you have a returning starter, he certainly has a head start."
This was Smart's answer to the notion of a quarterback competition between Eason and freshman Jake Fromm. He's basically saying this is Eason's job to lose. No one really believes Fromm will be the starter against Appalachian State. As Eason's first season proves, it takes time to work into Jim Chaney's system. Smart latered told reporters Eason was already named the season's starter.
- "So in the weight room, when one is lifting beside the other. Nick is not a guy you want to be competing against when it comes to lifting weight because he's really strong. I have seen them race at workouts."
Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are really close. They live together, they workout together, play video games together, etc. That means they're always competing with each other. If they're racing at workouts, and trying to make each other better, imagine what four years of that can do. Look out for this backfield.
- "So you better reenergize yourself every day you wake up, because it is a war out there in recruiting. Everybody is trying to reinvent the wheel with schemes when recruiting, different ways you recruit."
This was in response to a question about longevity in coaching. Smart instantly turned it around into a recruiting question. After the kind of offseason Smart has had in recruiting (in short, it's been really good), anything he says about the process instantly becomes fascinating.
- "But last year, we had a coach tell us that we had the best talent. And he had six players taken in the first four rounds after he said we had better talent than he did and we had one player drafted. Sometimes I don't know where those messages come from."
Wondering who that coach is...have a hunch.
- "When you come to the University of Georgia, that's the man that sits out in front of you. You're going to be one of the best players in the country, coming from one of the best states in the country, one of the best high school football states in the country. We expect them to come in with that attitude and demeanor. You create that, and it permeates your program by how you carry yourself and perform on the field."
I think we just got a tease of Smart's recruiting speech. Also, it means Smart's aware of the pressure that now he's recruit some top talent, he's going to have to prove he can develop them.
- "When you talk about parity, I think parity is really good competition. I think last year, going into the last two weeks of the SEC's race, Kentucky is in the race. And when you have that, you've got almost an NFC East or AFC East effect of these NFL conferences where one loss doesn't put you out. You know the team that won the East last couple years, you can have two, maybe three losses because there's an even race there across the board. I think that's good and healthy for the conference."
The last time the SEC East champion had more than two losses was South Carolina in 2010. It's always been two or less since then. So it's too early to call this a trend. There's typically one team that clearly stands out ahead of the pack. But if "parity" in the division continues, it may not be healthier for the conference. It may just lower the stress levels of the coaches.
- "Well, certainly all us coaches have gotten our assignments, our coaches are going to hang on to us and make sure we don't go across that line. I'm obviously concerned about it at a critical time, but it is the rule, and we follow the rules."
Smart doesn't sound entirely too thrilled about the new rule change where coaches cannot walk onto the field to argue or challenge calls. It now will instantly will get called an unsportsmanlike foul. You can see the concern. Coaches lean out onto the field all the time to get a player's attention, and a referee could mistake what's going on. Or as the clock winds down, and a play doesn't go a team's way and that coach takes a misstep out on the field, things could get messy.
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