Georgia Bulldogs: G Day Game Reflects Kirby Smart Change

Georgia Football Kirby Smart (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Georgia Football Kirby Smart (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Georgia Bulldogs will host Georgia throngs for the annual Spring Scrimmage known as the “G Day” Game. The new normal for this event reflects the program’s changes.

Every school has them. Not every school has them like this, though. When the Georgia Bulldogs complete their Spring practices tomorrow, with the “G Day Game”, it will mark, for the public, the beginning of the 2018 season. It’s a preview of the coming Fall team, and certain position battles that are raging. But it is has become way more than that, and is now a true and genuine reflection of the difference in tone, tenor, and direction for the entire Georgia Bulldogs football program under Head Coach Kirby Smart.

Traditionally, Spring Games serve a functional and practical purpose. Ostensibly, teams have endured Winter workouts, about 13-14 Spring practices, with a few scrimmages thrown in, to help coaches evaluate talent and position depth. Those scrimmages are important. But the “Spring Game” is different because of the value of getting these guys reps in front of a crowd. Coaches get to see if the same kids who flash in practice can or will respond to the “oohs and awws” of the faithful patrons.

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There will a buzz in the stadium at kickoff, and that buzz won’t be coming from the new scoreboard or any other electrical apparatus being tested.

Under Kirby Smart, though, the “G Day Game” has been altered and expanded. It’s meaning and DNA have changed. It’s purpose is more than that.

Going back to that moment when Coach Smart, having just been hired, implored a Georgia Basketball crowd to show up for that scrimmage, the entire purpose for this game has changed.

It has gone from a lazy Saturday afternoon in the ‘Classic City” to a full blown showcase for the school, athletics department, and the football program. It’s a 2 1/2 hour commercial for UGA that will be played on ESPN.

After that exhortation, and because of the now departed QB Jacob Eason, 93 thousand people packed out Sanford Stadium to watch a football team practice. When Eason hit a 40 yard out pass, and dropped it in the fading Receivers hands, the place went nuts. At a practice game.

In the two years Smart and company have been in Athens, the team has had an increased success on the field and in recruiting. It’s that last part that matters most for this game.

While it’s important to understand the functional aspect of having a live and public scrimmage, its impact on recruiting has been undeniable. It isn’t coincidence that G Day crowds have gone from mid-40K under former Coach Richt to now 93K sellouts, and that UGA’s recruiting classes have gone from rankings of 8-12 nationally to having the undisputed number 1 ranked incoming class for 2018.

It was one of the myriad of lessons Smart learned from Coach Saban at Alabama. Those fans never needed to be extolled to show up. They have massive crowds every year for Spring scrimmages because those fans are almost like a cult. And that fervor and devotion ensures that they always have a loaded recruiting class. The best players want to play for the best fans.

Saturday’s “G Day” game is expected to be another sellout. Having come from a heart-wrenching overtime loss in the National Championship, and sporting a first look at some of those vaunted kids from that 2018 recruiting class, that place will be buzzing.

And in that atmosphere, Georgia will be hosting highly rated High School players and their families from all over the country. It will be a giant, glossy, red and black Georgia infomercial on national television.

Selling out for a Spring scrimmage is no longer an issue. Scoring the number 1 recruiting class for a given year is no longer anathema. Broadcasting a Spring practice on national television is now to be expected.

This is all a reflection of the changes of direction for the Georgia Bulldog Football program under Kirby Smart.

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