1- “WHO IS NOT IN ATHENS “
Mark Richt and the “Defensive Coordinator Du Jour” (Du Jour is either French for “of the day” or Footballese for “not any good”) are out. This is very good for all involved. For Richt, a new lease on coaching life at his alma-matter, for the coordinators another chance to prove they do not really suck and for UGA fans an opening to hire the right people. Those who said Richt had grown ‘stale’ in Athens were spot-on. The program had stalled and was in dire need of a change of direction. Even if you are a Richt fan (and there are tons of reasons to have liked and admired him) he had peaked in his ability to make a run and it was passed time to move forward.
2- “WHO IS NOW IN ATHENS”
Whenever you fire a head coach, you can surely make things worse by hiring the wrong replacement (see Bill Callahan at Nebraska, Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, Charlie Weiss at Notre Dame for recent examples). UGA had to seek the right guy and in Kirby Smart they have exactly the right guy. They did not jump at the other UGA grad who went from Florida fail, to Auburn stop-gap to future South Carolina struggle. Smart has already lived up to his name with the way he handled the dual-role he performed during the playoffs and coaching transition. Additionally, it appears he has instantly provided a very strong staff around him.
3- “WHO IS NOW RISING”
Tennessee seems to have, after all these years, found its program footing and it appears Florida might have an avenue back to being relevant. Both of things are very good for UGA. The East cannot suck, it drains the quality of wins and threatens to cut a club off at the knees with the wrong division loss being viewed as a potentially major mistake when the playoff committee reviews potential entrants into the current 4-team event. Having the Big-3 in the division act like it will only serve to balance to league out and provide the potential for more high-quality victory opportunities. Remember if you don’t want the Vols or Gators to be any good, you are saying you are scared. If you are scared, buy a dog.
4- “CONTINUED EXPANSION OF ATLANTA’S HYPER-GROWTH RECRUITING MARKET”
There is no question Atlanta is a hotbed. And Smart seems to indicate he plans to try to build a fence as best he can around the area. A prominent recruiting analyst told me a couple of years back that he now ranks Atlanta as the #3 recruiting area of the nation, now ahead of Dallas-Forth Worth and behind only Los Angeles/Southern California and Miami/South Florida. There is enough talent here now that if UGA recruited ONLY the top 25 players in the Atlanta area alone every year, they would be a major annual top-5 program. Greater Atlanta was 2 million people when the Dogs won their only national title, it is now over 6-million and it will be over 10-million within another 30-35 years.
5- “IT IS GEORGIA’S TIME”
Since the beginning of the BCS area in 1998 and through to the new playoff area 5 SEC schools have won the national title. Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Auburn and Alabama. Simply put. If those schools, which have similar resources to UGA and less access to Atlanta recruiting can make a run to the top then there is no excuse Georgia can not get back to #1. Hugh like to say that a lot of football is ‘want to’ and ‘want to’ seems to have been lacking in Athens. If UGA really wants to win a national title, to become a true national power, there is no excuse I can see to prevent that. The Dawgs just need to want to. Everything is at their disposal – laid out at their feet. Winning the crown takes a bit of good fortune and the right leader to make it all come together. If Smart is that leader then UGA could win a national crown in the next couple of years. If it does then the real game begins, can it use that as a launching point to a decade-long run of prominence. A 10-year span where it wins the SEC title and makes the playoff 3.. maybe even 4 times. If Alabama can do it, of course Georgia can as well.
It just has to want to.