JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Alabama’s 45-40 win over Clemson on Monday night was a relief for Kirby Smart in more ways than one. As defensive coordinator he helped the Tide to their fourth National Championship in the past four years. With that behind him Smart can now focus on the job he accepted five weeks ago, as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.
"It's great to be home," Smart said Wednesday. "It's great to have one job."
Smart has split time between both roles since being introduced as the Bulldogs’ coach on Dec. 7.
“I cannot explain how well I slept last night,” said Smart. “Number one, we won the national championship at the University of Alabama. To be able to finish that the right way was a relief. Obviously we did not perform the way I wanted to perform, but we won the game. To know that those players achieved what they wanted to achieve, and then to get into this room yesterday and meet with this team, the University of Georgia team, my team -everybody told me when you get to do that finally, and it’s the only thing you have to worry about, it would be a great relief. A burden off your shoulders. That’s what it’s been for me. I feel much more relaxed. I got to meet with those guys and have a conversation with them. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It was the first time I’ve gotten to do that without something else lingering.”
With national signing day less than a month away, Smart knows that he’s not going to be able to catch up on sleep any time soon.
“No down time now. Now’s the hottest time there is for recruiting. We’re getting ready to get back on the road. We’re going to attack the road. We’re going to try to go get the best players we can. We’re going to build this thing through recruiting, which you have to do. No down time now. It may feel like a down time to me, from what I’ve got. Every hour I’ve got, every waking moment we’ll be on the phone with a prospect, with support staff, with some kind of role player, to make this place as good as we can.”
Last season Georgia went 10-3 overall and 5-3 in SEC play. Smart knows that competing for SEC Championships is the standard and to get to that point he has to put his own stamp on the program.
“Not that anything was completely broken before, but this culture has to be created by Coach Smart and Coach Smart’s staff. We’re doing that right now. We’re doing that in the weight room on day one. We’re going to make sure every kid understands that. It’s a tough, competitive culture. But it’s going to be done through our eyes, our window. That’s what we want to establish in the offseason. That’s the point of the offseason — create toughness. To make kids be comfortable being uncomfortable. I think that’s important for them to have to do. I had to do it as a coach. I think when you step outside that box it makes you a better person. We’re going to challenge these kids to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”