“One of the themes our players have adopted this year has been to do more,” Smart said at the second day of SEC Media Days in Hoover. “It’s a great theme because it’s simple. We like it because we understand how close we’ve been to taking the next step. And although 24 (wins) and five (losses) the last two seasons is good, it’s not good enough. It’s not where we expect to be at the University of Georgia.”
Smart said his team can only get there by working harder than in the past two years.
“So many of us want to take the easy way out, whether it’s changing the channel with the remote or anything else, not doing the work that has to be done, we want to do more at the University of Georgia,” Smart said. “We’re not complacent in what we’ve done, and we know we need to take that next step.”
The attitude of “Do More” has been prevalent not only with the players but also with other aspects that go into building football players in the SEC.
“If we get a little bit of marginal gain through our nutrition, through our weightlifting, through our film study, through our effort on and off the field, through other dedication to our community, whatever our edge can be, we’re looking for that aggregate of marginal gains and that comes in every facet, every way possible for our program,” Smart said.
Bulldog players are taking the motto to heart.
“This entire offseason has been about doing more,” quarterback Jake Fromm said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do this offseason, what we’ll do at camp. We’re ready to get this season running”
Fromm is one of the biggest weapons Georgia has going into the next season.
“I’m extremely excited he’s our quarterback,” Smart said. “He is the leader of our program, the face of our organization, a guy that has given so much to Georgia, and Georgia means so much to.”
Fromm has NFL potential his head coach believes.
“He checks every single box on that list,” Smart said. “He’s won a lot of football games. He’s thrown touchdowns and hasn’t thrown interceptions. All of those qualities he has are going to give him a chance of success whenever he chooses to go to the NFL.”
Being in the SEC, one of the main obstacles Georgia has had to face between it and the national title is the Alabama Crimson Tide.
“We know Alabama has been very powerful in this conference for a long time. We respect the job they do,” Smart said. “I got a lot of respect for coach Saban and his program. I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him. I also understand we have a really good program, too. The biggest thing is concerning ourselves with us and not concerning ourselves with somebody else.”
The player transfer portal, a topic that has been discussed in every SEC Media Days coach’s press conference so far , has its benefits and detriments for players, Smart said.
“It allows you at times an easier pathway when sometimes that may not be the best thing,” Smart said. “But the players have to decide that. It’s made it easier for players to understand what they have to do to be able to go look and see other places, but they also have to be careful about the grass being greener on the other side.”
It becomes a problem, Smart said, when players who are in the transfer portal end up without a team when the season starts.
“I venture to say there’s going to be young men that have nowhere to go, with lost scholarship opportunities, that now don’t have a scholarship in other places,” he said. “I think we’re learning as this goes about, and we’ll continue to learn and do the best thing we can to benefit our student-athletes.”
J.R. Reed, a returning starter and a former transfer student, is expected to be a star safety for Georgia this year.
“We’ve just got to go out there and work. Not focus on them and focus on us,” said Reed. “What motivates me is my guys. We still lean on our leaders, and how far this team wants to go is how far our leaders push it.”
Smart said his safety is among those leaders.
“He’s a kid that’s come into our program and been a great leader, been a starter,” he said. “He does things the right way. He commands the respect of the other players, and he’s been an asset to our program.”
Georgia’s first opponent is fellow SEC East member Vanderbilt.
“We go on the road to Nashville to play very well-coached Derrick Mason football team. I have tremendous respect for those guys and the job they do, and our guys will be focused on that game,” Smart said. “Vanderbilt has three returning starters on offense with Vaughn, Pinkney and Lipscomb. “[They] are extremely talented. I feel like I played against those guys for 10 years. They seem like they’ve been there forever.”
Georgia is part of several prominent rivalries, with two of them being against Florida and Auburn. What are Smart’s thoughts on the Florida game possibly changing from being played annually in Jacksonville to a home-and-home series?
”I’m for what’s best for the University of Georgia and as a group and as a staff and as administration, and we’ll look at that internally and make the decisions based on what is best for our student-athletes and what is best for the university,” Smart said.
When speaking on the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” with Auburn, Smart talked about the history of the matchup.
“I don’t think everybody knows the history; that that game was played in Columbus for a long time,” Smart said. “It’s a tremendous game. And it’s one of those games that no matter where you go in the state, people talk about the Auburn game and it being one of the oldest, richest traditions.”
Offensive lineman Andrew Thomas said he likes being the rival to other teams.
“It’s a blessing to be considered a rival against another team. It means they respect us,” Thomas said. ”It’s cool to get to compete against the best every year.”
With 2019 marking 150 years of college football, Smart said the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is “that much more special.”