Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had to have known the question was coming.
When Smart stepped to the podium at SEC Media Days on Tuesday, he hit the stage as the coach of the conference’s defending champion. But as many accomplishments as the Bulldogs racked up in 2017, a lot of the talk still centered on Alabama’s walk-off touchdown pass over Georgia in the national title game.
Smart was asked if he had seen the play since it happened on Jan. 8, and he explained it’s a bit hard to avoid.
“Yeah, we watched it and evaluated it as a staff afterward. Obviously, I see it on replays on different ESPN highlights,” Smart said. “I got to watch it this morning early on ‘Get Up!’ with Mike Greenberg. I thought they might open with the SEC Championship Game, but of course not. That’s part of it. I think we embrace that as coaches.”
Smart said the loss can be a learning experience for the Georgia players. He said it’s not talked about within the locker room, but the memory of coming so close only to end up on the losing side shows the players the thin margin of error that exists in the conference and in the College Football Playoff.
“When you’re in the SEC, we all know that it’s week to week. Humility’s a week away,” Smart said. “Every team you play has the capability to defeat you. I think you see that every year that top to bottom — people can say what they want about our conference — it is tough and physical and demanding. Those rigors prepare you for the playoffs because it’s going to be the same way.”
Smart showed he wasn’t too concerned with how the 2017 season ended. Georgia’s three-player representatives at media days — wide receiver Terry Godwin, defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter and defensive back J.R. Reed — echoed their coach’s words about moving on from the loss.
All three received questions about the last play, and they each broke down why the play was a great learning tool but not something that stays on their minds.
“I can honestly just say you kind of see what it takes to get there [to the championship game]. Then you see that you didn’t get it,” Ledbetter said. “You know you have to put in that much more work. You’re just trying to figure out the recipe to get it all together. We had some pieces. We did very well. We had a great season, but what else does it take? What else can you give?”
Ledbetter emphasized how the 2018 season will play out completely different than 2017 and that the players have to gear up for a new task. Reed made similar comments in describing how the team can only take so much from what happened in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“Like they said, it doesn’t really matter about that game. It matters what we can control in the locker room,” Reed said. “We’re happy we got that far, but we want to win the national championship. That’s not something where that loss against Alabama is going to motivate us. We’re going to push ourselves.”
As much talk remains about Georgia’s loss to the Crimson Tide, Smart made it apparent it’s not something people within the Georgia program are dwelling on.
“We’re on to the next year, we’re on to the next recruit, we’re on to the next strategy whether it’s tactical, mental or physical,” Smart said. “We’re constantly looking for the next edge to try and get the edge for the next year. It’s something we don’t have to rehash all the time.”