More than ever since the Bulldogs won the national championship on Jan. 10, Smart is wary of the plentiful praise being showered on his team. “Death to rats”, he likes to call it, like his former boss, Nick Saban.
But like an overwhelmed barrage, it’s been hard to hold back the praise so far this season. Opening the season ranked No. 3, Georgia not only moved up to No. 1 four weeks later, but now holds 59 of 63 first-place votes in the latest Associated Press poll. The Bulldogs were dominating then-No. 11 Oregon 49-3 in Game 1 and won their first three games by an aggregate score of 130-10.
Hence “exercise”. Smart explains.
“We’re talking about growing this week and trying to find ways to improve,” Smart said Tuesday night after the Bulldogs wrapped up that second practice of the week. “We asked each child to choose two things, write them down on an index card, put it in the team meeting room, and then (later) they have to show them how they did it. It requires growth.
Smart revealed the drill while answering a question about how players, such as former extras Stetson Bennett and Dan Jackson, and three-star defensive lineman Zion Logue, had been able to patiently progress to players that they are today.
“It requires growth, and these guys epitomize growth,” Smart said.
Jackson came to Georgia undrafted from North Hall High in Gainesville to become a regular defensive backfield starter and five-game starter safe. Logue, a junior from Lebanon, Tennessee, took three years to go from being a scout team player to starting nose guard for the Bulldogs.
Everyone was asked on Tuesday what they had put on their index cards.
“I obviously want to be the best tackler I can be,” said Jackson, who is tied for third on the team with 10 tackles and had his first career interception last Saturday. “So I wrote that I need to bring my feet up, not bend at the waist and keep my head up. Secondly, it’s about knowing and being more aware of down and distance situations, more specifically third down. That’s what I want to focus on.”
Logue was a bit more careful about sharing his goals.
“I can talk a little bit about that,” Logue said. “Mine was definitely playing the blocks better, had better eyes, had better feet, stayed on my blocks longer so the ‘backers could work a little. It kind of plays hand in hand with everyone because everyone in every group has something to work on. So I think that’s a big step for us in this week.
Smart often laments the fight against complacency. He called it the greatest enemy of success. After outscoring their first three opponents by the average score of 43-3, the Bulldogs enter a four-week streak in which they are expected to be multiple touchdown favorites over all opponents.
That and the “overdone” praise Georgia received is what prompted him to install the growth drill.
“We change it sometimes,” Smart said. “That’s something we’re doing this week. We have already done that. But we have different exercises. They post (their goals) and they put them on the door; like a kindergarten teacher, you decorate your door and you see it every day when you walk in. Then you have to stand in front of the team and show the video of where you actually did what you said you were going to do. ”
As elementary as such an exercise may seem, it is hard to dispute the results. Hence the comments from the Kent coach.
“It’s because of the hard work that Coach Smart and his team have put in and the tireless, tireless efforts they’ve put in to create a program at an elite level,” Lewis said.
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