UGA’s Quay Walker talks about transition of moving to inside linebacker
Physical. Tough. Relentless. Effort.
These are all words that were brought up by Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and his players this week when asked about the “Georgia standard” they so often reference. In games against Murray State and Arkansas State the next two weeks, that standard may be Georgia’s most important opponent.
The score on the Sanford Stadium scoreboard shouldn’t be much in doubt. The Bulldogs are listed as a 48.5-point favorite over Murray State as of Sep. 5 according to oddsshark.com, and they figure to be a several touchdown favorite the next week against the Red Wolves of Arkansas State.
But Smart wants to make sure his players know that the numbers on the Jumbotron aren’t everything.
“I think when you worry about results, like so many people in our society do, it makes it tough to ever be happy,” Smart said. “So we don’t concern ourselves with results. We try to focus on what exactly it is that we want to achieve, which is unbelievable effort, toughness, resiliency.”
This week isn’t the first time Smart has mentioned the Georgia standard. He also did before last week’s game against Vanderbilt, a game where the Bulldogs were favored by around three touchdowns.
“It’s our first chance to say, ‘Are we going to perform to our standard?’ and that’s what we’re going to measure ourselves on in this game and this game alone,” Smart said on Aug. 26.
Georgia won that game 30-6. But in terms of playing to the standard, it left much room for improvement.
On the Monday following the game, Smart said the defense had to play better at every level. This is the same defense that limited a Vanderbilt offense led by receiver Kalija Lipscomb and running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn to 225 total yards and six points.
“We just have a long way to go, a lot to improve, and we will do that,” Smart said.
The mindset extends down to the players as well. Junior running back D’Andre Swift rushed for 150 yards on 16 carries, but described his performance as “all right,” saying he could have gotten even more yards on some of his runs.
“Everybody just tries to reach excellence, try to be perfect knowing we’re never going to be perfect,” Swift said. “Just try to play to the Georgia standard, everybody just wanting to see each other win.”
Linebacker Walter Grant said the coaches preach every single day that “we’re not playing down to anybody’s standard, we’re not playing up to anybody else’s standard. We’re going to play Georgia ball and that’s what it is.”
“We just keep saying the same words over and over so the kids understand,” Smart said.
But it’s not just the coaches that hold players accountable; it’s the players too. Defensive lineman Jordan Davis mentioned fellow lineman Tyler Clark as someone that holds the guys in the trenches up to the standard.
Just as much as they hold their teammates accountable, so too do the Bulldogs play a role in teaching incoming players about the way things are done.
“Once you get here and you’ve got the brothers on the team, they’re going to take you in and teach you your role and you learn your role,” Grant said. “You just take it as it comes.”
The latest test of the standard comes on Saturday against Murray State, an Air Raid offense that likes to get the ball out quick and spread it around to different players. Smart added that the Racers’ running game is tough to defend because of the large gaps between their linemen.
The Racers aren’t coming to Athens scared either. Murray State head coach Mitch Stewart made that clear in his press conference Tuesday, saying his team has to come in and take the fight to the Bulldogs.
“We’re going to attack,” Stewart said. “We’re going to play football the way that we want to play it, and we’re going to attack. We’re going to try and execute at a high level no matter who’s in front of us.”
But as the Bulldogs will tell you, if they go out and execute to the standard they have set for themselves, they’ll be just fine.
“Every day we go out to practice, every meeting we go in, every walk through we do, our intent is to go out and be the best we can,” Smart said. “If we have those expectations upon ourselves, it really doesn’t matter what the outside world says.”