Mark Richt? Gone.
Kirby Smart? In.
A program which won 40 games in four seasons wasn’t happy enough with where it was, so it made a change and fired one of the most successful coaches in school history in order to start over with an energetic 39-year old who has never been a head coach.
On paper the move sounds ridiculous. But two important thins have happened since Kirby took over the program at Georgia that indicates he will win in a big way at Georgia.
Recruiting at UGA has never been as successful over an extended period of time; 79% of Kirby’s signees or commitments are Scout 300 players. That’s a higher recruiting clip than any program in the country. Richt’s tenure averaged around 51%.
UGA fans filled up Sanford Stadium for G Day, the spring game, for the first time in school history. The attendance was more than double an other previous spring game at Georgia.
In other words, Kirby has the attention of the fanbase, but more importantly, he has the attention and interest of the fertile recruiting base in the state. Of the top ten players in the state, the Bulldogs have commitments from four players. They are favored to sign four of the other six players. Only Stanford commit QB David Mills and South Carolina commit ATH Jamyest Williams seem headed elsewhere.
Success seems probable, but just how quick seems to be the question. Kirby isn’t exactly rebuilding UGA as much as he is recalibrating it… pointing it in the right direction with subtle changes and a more aggressive recruiting style.
Make no mistake about it - Kirby is going to have to continue to recruit at his current pace in order to have major success on the field. Saturday’s game against North Carolina will be a preview into the future of the program - even if a win is far from guaranteed.
Will Nick Chubb, UGA’s best returning player, be back to what he once was? How will UGA react to Carolina’s powerful offensive machine? What should really be expected from Georgia’s special teams unit considering the overhaul at that spot?
Then there’s the question of when and how long Jacob Eason will play. Greyson Lambert may be the stater, but generational talents like Eason won’t be held down for long. Him making his impact, much like Kirby, only seems like a matter of time.
Now, at the site of the greatest SEC Championship Game ever, Kirby gets a chance to kickstart a program that’s been so close, but never been able to punch in a championship. Had the Bulldogs taken the ball into the end zone - only four yards away - that day in 2012, Kirby almost certainly wouldn’t be leading the Bulldogs onto the field at the Dome this weekend.
And so the Kirby Smart era begins in this giant, fully-functional facility that’s being knocked down in order to make way for something new. Perhaps that’s the best way to look at things if you are Kirby - better win while you can; as fast as you can; because even though we are all pretty and celebrated at the start eventually we all get knocked down… no matter how big and bad we are.