Kirby Smart-Georgia football-year 5

Kirby Smart knows almost exactly what Shane Beamer is going through. On Dec. 7, 2015, Smart was formally introduced as the head coach at the University of Georgia. It was his first full-time head coaching gig.

Five years to the day, Beamer was formally introduced as the head coach at South Carolina. This will be his first head coaching job and it comes at the Power 5 level.

“Shane is a good friend of mine and we’ve been friends for a long time,” Smart said. “I certainly appreciate what he did for the University of Georgia while he was here, he worked really hard to help shape and build our program. He did the same, I’m sure, at Oklahoma with Lincoln (Riley). He’s done a good job where he’s been.”

While the hiring of Beamer is certainly the biggest SEC storyline today, the date also represents the five-year anniversary of Smart taking over control of the Georgia program.

In that time the Bulldogs have racked up a 50-14 record under Smart. They’ve won three SEC East titles, an SEC championship, a Rose Bowl and a Sugar Bowl. He has a winning record against all of Georgia’s annual rivals.

Georgia has also become one of the top recruiting teams in the country under Smart, as the last four recruiting classes have finished ranked No. 3, No. 1, No. 2 and No. 1 in the country. The program also made upgrades to a number of its facilities in that time as well.

For the most part, Smart’s time at Georgia has been a successful one.

“I came in with a mantra of ‘What’s important now?’ and I don’t think that’s changed,” Smart said. “Dealing with the problem or issue that’s at hand, not trying to look too far down the road, and knowing that every day is going to be different.”

But Smart hasn’t done everything he was brought in to do at Georgia just yet. He’s still lacking that elusive national championship, which is why Georgia moved on from Mark Richt. Smart’s record has frequently been compared to that of Richt through their first five seasons in charge, often as a way to say that Smart isn’t all that much better than his predecessor.

In Richt’s first five years at Georgia, he picked up a record of 52-13 while winning two SEC championships and three division titles. What those frequent Richt-Smart comparisons fail to acknowledge is that the problems for Richt weren’t at the beginning of his coaching tenure. It came at the end, when there were blowout losses to Florida in back-to-back seasons to go along with the fact that Georgia seemed to be falling even further behind Alabama and Nick Saban.

Related: No grudges, Mark Richt responds to Greg McGarity’s recall of 2015 Georgia football firing

Smart similarly hasn’t been able to take down Saban just yet, as his teams are 0-3 against Alabama. One of those defeats memorably came in the national championship in January of 2018. The most recent defeat came this season when Georgia lost 41-24.

That loss this season is perhaps best sums up the Georgia program and what it must do to move forward. Georgia hung with Alabama, holding a lead in the game past the midway point of the third quarter. But Alabama had a difference-maker at quarterback in Mac Jones and big-time weapons in Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle at wide receiver.

Georgia hasn’t really had that under Smart. And while JT Daniels and the passing attack has shown promises in recent games, it is still only a two-game sample size.

To help overcome Alabama and do the things Smart was ultimately brought to Georgia to do, he knows that he must continue to grow as a coach and adapt to modern college football.

“If you stop growing as a coach, then you probably need to give the business up because we’re always growing and adapting to the changes that are happening in college football,” Smart said.

Related: Georgia needs more points, Kirby Smart hints at offensive changes

In Smart’s final season at Alabama as defensive coordinator, the Crimson Tide won a national title behind Heisman Trophy running back Derrick Henry. He had more rushing attempts that season, 395, than Alabama’s starting quarterback had passing attempts at 393.

College football just doesn’t work like that anymore. It has changed drastically since the day Smart was hired to take over the program. Smart seemed to acknowledge that prior to the start of the 2020 season, when he revamped his offense by bringing Todd Monken to be the team’s offensive coordinator.

In the two recruiting cycles prior to this one, Georgia signed five wide receivers who were rated as top-100 overall prospects, after he signed zero in his first three recruiting classes as head coach.

Smart very slowly is showing that he wants to continue to grow the Georgia passing offense to adapt to the modern college game. He’s continued to grow and evolve as a head coach.

It just hasn’t been as fast as perhaps everyone would want.

Kirby Smart previews game against Missouri

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The post Kirby Smart on his first 5 years at Georgia: ‘If you stop growing as a coach, then you probably need to give the business up’ appeared first on DawgNation.

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