Kirby Smart discusses sustaining high level of success

Bulldogs looking to capture back-to-back championships
Photo of UGA head coach Kirby Smart at media day
Photo of UGA head coach Kirby Smart at media day(Atlanta News First)
Published: Jan. 8, 2023 at 8:45 PM CST
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LOS ANGELES, Calif. (WBRC) - Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game marks Georgia’s third trip to the sport’s biggest stage since 2018. The Bulldogs have a chance to take home their second championship trophy in as many years when they face off against TCU inside SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

Head coach Kirby Smart, who spent eight years as the defensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama, has some experience in maintaining a high level of consistency from year to year.

“A lot of hard work, standard, a belief in the culture within it,” Smart said Saturday. “It doesn’t start when the season starts. It starts Tuesday when the season ends, and it just continues.”

Smart said recruiting and his staff play a part in the ability to keep getting back to the top of the college football mountain, but emphasized it’s about the players and the relationships with them.

“You need those things to be successful and sustain,” he said. “But at the end of the day, you better have buy-in with your players. And I think the older I’ve gotten, the more I acknowledge the relationship with the player matters much more than maybe the play you call, than maybe the practice habit you create, or anything else.”

The Bulldogs entered the season ranked third in the country, but quickly jumped to No. 1 by week three.

Despite the high rankings, Smart said he doesn’t pay attention to outside expectations.

“I don’t get to watch much TV or social media. I just worry about our team and don’t get caught up in anything outside of that,” he said. “And we’ve had a saying around our place for a long time that ‘probability is not reality.’ So, we don’t control what people say and probability. Reality is what happens on the field in between those lines.”

Georgia will face a hungry TCU team that hasn’t won more than seven games since 2017, much less been on a stage the size of the National Championship Game. Prior to the Fiesta Bowl, only four of TCU’s players had ever even participated in a bowl game.

“This is obviously our first time to be on a stage like this,” Dykes said. “And our players have really responded well to the challenge of taking all this in, because it’s new for us, and it’s unchartered territory for most of our players.”

Despite the inexperience, TCU has thrived, defeating Michigan in a record setting Fiesta Bowl. They’re now set to challenge an SEC powerhouse in Georgia for the sport’s top prize. Dykes said the exposure is challenging but comes with its own benefits.

“It’s up to us to figure out how to reap the benefits from.. when it comes to recruiting, the opportunity to recruit a different kind of player, when it comes to the opportunity to have access to staff members and additional staff and just all the things that can help you take the next step as a program,” he said.

TCU is looking to establish itself as a national brand and power by winning its first national championship since 1938 under coach Dutch Meyer. Georgia, meanwhile, is determined to build a dynasty of their own while continuing to prove the SEC’s dominance over the sport of college football.

Smart said its up to the players if they will be able to sustain their success.

“It’s will those players play hard for each other, and do they believe in their coaching staff, that their coaching staff cares for them. And that allows you to sustain.”

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