Let me set the stage a bit here: the other day an article was published on ESPN chronicling the why and how of coach John Calipari’s(Kentucky Basketball) and Nick Saban’s (Alabama Football) success at their respective universities; it was an in-depth analysis of what each has done so well over their careers to make them into the championship winning coaches they’re known as today.
Now, the points you’d expect to come up during the reading of this article, do come up in regards to the why these two coaches have done so well (i.e. the attention each pays to building a competitive environment, bringing in the best of the best at every position, and remaining even-keeled in their respective approaches to coaching) but it was a comment by former Georgia recruiting target Geno Smith which ended up catching my attention.
“I would imagine … he raises the bar and then really pushes them through their comfort level, which is what we do here,” Calipari said. “And they understand coming in that if you’re coming to Alabama, you’re the biggest game on everybody’s schedule. If you’re not ready for that, don’t come here. And the other thing is when you come here, you’re not the only guy that can play football. There’s going to be 40 or 50 just like you with aspirations to be in the NFL. If you’re going to screw around, don’t come here, (you) can’t do it here.”
Freshman cornerback Geno Smith corroborated Calipari’s story. The former four-star prospect spurned his home state Georgia Bulldogs to come to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and play for Saban. He knew what he was getting into when he gave his signature to the Crimson Tide. After struggling early in the season, admittedly buckling under a complex playbook, Smith came on late and started at nickelback.
“Every day it’s competition,” he said. “When we go against scout, we have good scout players, believe it or not. When we go good-on-good, you have to bring it every day because everyone is watching. There’s a lot of competition going on out there day in and day out.
“I have friends at Georgia. How we practice here is completely different. We’re physical. We tackle each other.” [emphasis added]
Before I make the mistake of sounding like too much of a non-objective homer for my homestate Bulldogs, let me make it clear that Smith’s assessment is one that I’ve heard discussed amongst actual Bulldog fans; the issues regarding Georgia’s defense and its seeming inability to play consistently—even with upper echelon talent on the field—has been a point of frustration and intense debate for quite some time; long before Todd Grantham arrived on the scene.
That said, I have witnessed the subtle changes made by both Mark Richt and Todd Grantham (the return of mat drills, two-a-days, no more publicized pool visits, more physical practices in-season) over the past few seasons and feel they have made a world of difference towards getting the Bulldogs back into the national spotlight once again.
But even with those changes in place and seemingly working, you look at the amount of yards the Dawgs gave up to the running game last season (even against mediocre competition) and you can’t help but wonder if there is a smidgen of truth to the notion that fundamentals are still lacking in Athens; is there something to Smith’s comments, even if they are on a theoretical level?
The fact of the matter is Georgia’s defense did not play up to its potential last season, why that is I do not know, but I will say that I will be very interested to see how Georgia’s new defensive line coach does in comparison to Rodney Garner because, despite what Garner and Grantham have each spun to us via media outlets, most fans are aware of the dissension which existed between the two; did their lack of coaching chemistry cause some of the defensive line issues we saw on the football field last season?
Your guess is as good as mine, I’m sure, but it’s certainly a conversation that will be had again at some point.
What say you?