NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s Georgia’s world, and everyone else is just living in it. The Bulldogs are looking to become the first team to win three straight national championships since Minnesota did so pre-World War II (1934-36), so the three-peat quest was at the forefront as coach Kirby Smart and his team took their turn at SEC Media Days on Tuesday.
The biggest concern for this team as the quest for history begins is the Dawgs becoming complacent. So, how will Georgia combat falling into the complacency trap? By taking on the mindset that “better never rests,” as Smart explained on Tuesday.
“Everybody here has talked about if the emphasis is on three-peat … ‘What are you going to do next?’ ‘How do you top an undefeated season?’ The threat for us is complacency,” Smart said. “The first thing that you have to do is acknowledge that it’s a threat. If you acknowledge that it’s a threat, it’s the first threat towards stomping it out.”
Smart said that the threat of complacency is something he’s fighting within the program as a whole, regardless of the role that the individual takes on. It’s a step-by-step, day by day process that never changes.
“We want guys who think independent of outcomes,” Smart said. “When you see complacency take over, it’s when a team’s enthusiasm and ego take over and they start worrying about outcomes. That’s not what we do at Georgia. That’s not what we bring into our place. That’s not something we bring in to the culture that we have.”
A key aspect of Georgia maintaining its elite level of success over the last two seasons has been perfecting the “next man up” approach. Jordan Davis was an integral part of the defensive line that powered the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship team, and Jalen Carter stepped right in during the 2022 season after serving as a rotational player behind Davis. In total, 15 players from the 2021 team were selected in the 2022 NFL Draft and 10 more were selected three months ago from last year’s title-winning team.
Georgia signed 20 high school players during the 2021 recruiting cycle, which was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventeen of those players have stayed with the program, and Smart is counting on them to carry the torch for the new-look Bulldogs this year.
“They’ve seen the return on investment from some of the older players that stuck around,” Smart said. “They’ve seen [linebacker] Quay Walker not start his sophomore year, start his junior year and go as a first-round pick his senior year. They’ve seen a lot of the evidence of success. They’ve also seen the buy-in and leadership.”
The “better never rests” catchphrase is one that Smart borrowed from the New Zealand All Blacks, one of the most successful Rugby teams in the world.
“We study it,” Smart said. “We take their six or seven mantras and we study each one per week. We dive into it and go deeper into what their mantras are and what they’ve done over 100 years to remain successful.”
It’s easier said than done, though. Smart was on the Alabama staff when the Crimson Tide failed to three-peat in 2013. That team went into the Iron Bowl undefeated but fell to rival Auburn in the famous “Kick Six” game which bounced the Crimson Tide out of the BCS National Championship contention. In total, 12 teams have had the chance since Minnesota … and all have failed.
What will Smart’s mindset be if the Bulldogs get to the point where a three-peat is a possibility? The same mindset that he has instilled within his program to this point.
“It would take a lot of work,” Smart said. “We are a long way from that to make that assumption or that theory relevant. If we to get to that point in time. I can assure that, if we get to that point, I’m going to be worried about the next day’s work more than I am the achievement.”