By Kelvin M Lattimore
This time last year former UGA head football coach Mark Richt named Faton Bauta the starting quarterback for the Georgia vs Florida game. A decision that proved to be unwise and untimely as the University of Georgia’s football season continued to spiral downward. Coach Richt was shown the door and is now the head coach at the University of Miami.
Fast Forward a year later and former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is now at the helm of the Bulldogs. Midway through his first season, he has had his share of growing pains as on the job training. The Dogs are 4 -4 but beyond the record itself, in Coach Smart’s first year, many are wondering what does the future holds between the hedges.
At times it seems like this season has been a big rollercoaster. Georgia started the year off with a great win on a neutral site against the University of North Carolina, then struggled to find its rhythm as Nicholls State took them to the wire. An emotional, last-second win against Missouri, followed by a 30 point thrashing by Ole Miss.
UGA would return home the next week and lose a shocker to Tennessee on a last second hail mary touchdown pass that now lives on in infamy. The next week, staring hurricane Matthew in the face, the Dogs handled a struggling South Carolina team. Returning home for the homecoming game vs Vanderbilt, Georgia suffered a shocking 17-16 defeat by the Commodores.
After a much needed bye week, Georgia tried to figure out its offensive identity before the annual World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party game against rival, the Florida Gators. Georgia went into the game as an eight point underdog in the point spread but looked to show critics and naysayers wrong in this affair. This would be prove to be another disappointing day for the red and black faithful as Georgia fell victim to a 24-10 loss. In a day where the offensive effort again looked stationery and at times just plain stuck, Florida seemed to just take what the Dawgs were giving them on the way to victory.
Georgia is now facing a red-hot Kentucky team, a top ten ranked Auburn and an in-state rival in Georgia Tech that wouldn’t mind adding salt to the wounds. Georgia could be in danger of not making a bowl for the first time since 1996.
But before Georgia fans get all up in arms, let’s hear both sides of the argument.
Mark Richt was a 10-win coach but the knock on him was that he couldn’t take Georgia to take it to the next level. The truth of the matter is that Coach Richt had some good success in his 15 years but we live in rotating world and the sun rises and sets. The sun did indeed set on Coach Richt towards the latter years of his tenure here. The talent level was there and the players weren’t being coached up or put in the position to succeed. Then the talent was not there which ultimately ended the Richt era.
Kirby Smart was brought here to make the team better not worse right? Coach Smart has to empty the can and refill it and Rome was not built in a day. Nick Sabans first season at Alabama was a filled with frustration and losses. Better days were ahead because of the hard work put in by Coach Saban and his staff which is what I believe Coach Smart will do.
I believe the lease for coach Smart is at least 5 years. First, Smart has brought in the supporting assistant coaches and the only missing piece is the talent on the field to fit their system. Some is already in place, however, the offensive line woes continue for the Dogs and the defensive line also at times does not get pressure on opposing quarterbacks leaving more work for the linebackers and defensive backs.
The team is young and the talent level is not where Smart wants it to be right now. I do believe once Smart gets the guys he wants in recruiting the tide (no pun intended) will change. This season has had its share of ups and downs. If fans are honest with themselves, then they will realize that there is a process to becoming a champion.
Whether you believe in Coach Smart or not it’s going to take more than one season to make that determination. There is still a lot of football to be played and growing to do for this Dogs team.