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Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs will get everyone’s best shot during the 2022 college football season.
That’s to be expected. UGA is the reigning national champions, will open the season ranked in the top-three and will be favored in every game it plays this year.
But Georgia lost 15 players this offseason to the NFL draft and more to the NCAA transfer portal. So the question becomes – can the Bulldogs replicate their 2021 success with all of this lost experience?
Georgia has a target on its back this year, but Smart sent a warning to the rest of the nation on Wednesday at SEC media days. The Dawgs will not be hunted.
“People ask the question, ‘how does it feel to be hunted?’
We will not be hunted at the University of Georgia. I can promise you that. The hunting we do will be from us going the other direction.
We’re not going to sit back and be passive about,” Smart said.
Smart’s well aware of the talent Georgia has on its roster this year. Thanks to an incredible run of top-ranked recruiting classes, talent is not the issue in Athens.
“We didn’t build this program on hoping for one-year-wonders or hoping for one opportunity,” Smart said. “We built the program to be sustained. You sustain it by what you do every single day.
This program was built to be here for a long time. We have an unbelievable footprint with which we get to recruit.”
Georgia can go out and compete with anyone in America this year on talent alone. The issue, Smart says, is the lack of experience.
ESPN’s Bill Connelly released his returning production rankings this offseason, which takes a look at which programs return the most production from last year’s teams. Georgia checked in at No. 96 in the rankings, returning only 59% of its production in 2022. Georgia returns 73% on offense (43rd nationally) and 44% on defense (122nd).
“We have plenty of talent,” Smart said. “What we lack right now is experience.
And that inexperience is what Smart says will prevent his players from the sense of complacency. Many of the men who were key in bringing Georgia its first national championship in 41 years are now gone.
“That (complacency) does not concern me in the least,” he said.
“To be complacent, you have to have done something and achieved something. The men on this team for this season have not done that. They have not.
We had 15 players that have now gone to NFL camps or draft picks. They’re gone. We have some returning players, but they’re hungry as ever.”
Every team in the country will be watching the reigning champs closely this year. In the SEC especially, expect Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Tennessee and Kentucky to keep a close eye on Georgia and give the Dawgs their best shot if and when they play. But don’t be fooled – Georgia, inexperienced or not, will be hungry. And they’ll be the ones doing the hunting.