Watch Kirby Smart Discuss His 2017 Georgia Team at SEC Media Days
Kirby Smart took the stage at SEC Media Days for the second time as the Georgia head coach on Tuesday.
His Bulldogs finished 8-5 in year one but won four of the final five games to build momentum heading into 2017. Add in the return of running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel with second-year quarterback Jacob Eason and expectations are rising in Athens.
"As far as expectations, I know everybody wants to talk about it and ask questions about it," Smart said. "For me it's important that you understand as the head coach of the University of Georgia, I'm proud to be there, but we embrace those as the coaching staff, we embrace those as our players, when you come to the University of Georgia, the expectation is to win championships. That's what we expect to do at the University of Georgia, and that's the standard we'll be held to."
The standard for the past decade in the SEC has been the Alabama Crimson Tide, a program that Smart helped build as an assistant under Nick Saban. Georgia, like the rest of the conference, will try to close the gap on the three-time defending SEC champion.
"I think the biggest thing is recruiting and development. A lot of people say it's one or the other, do you recruit great players or do you develop great players. When you do both, that's when you got something special. And I think every team in this conference is trying to play catch-up in regards to that. I think each one's getting closer, and we'd like to see that gap closed through recruiting. But you can only do that through hard work and grind."
The Bulldogs have a challenging schedule in 2017 that includes non-conference games against Appalachian State and Notre Dame, but Smart understands winning the division and the conference is the first step towards the College Football Playoff.
"I think the way the playoff system is built now, ultimately you have to win your conference. Getting through your conference and the rigors of your conference becomes the most important goal of each SEC team. Because without that, you don't have much of a chance."
SEC Media Days will continue with Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Mississippi State on Tuesday.