Georgia hoisted the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy late in the evening on Jan. 10 after topping Alabama 33-18 to celebrate its first national title since 1980. Coach Kirby Smart celebrated, players danced, fans cried and the biggest party Athens has ever seen kicked off in earnest.
In reality, however, that night marked the beginning of Smart’s toughest challenge ahead as leader of the Bulldogs football program.
There have been some remarkably average to slightly above-average coaches who have won national championships. LSU’s Ed Orgeron (2019), Auburn’s Gene Chizik (2010) and Larry Coker (2001) are just a few that come to mind. Others, like Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and ex-Ohio State coach Urban Meyer sustain success at an elite level.
So now the question is: In which category will Smart land?
The assumption by most observers based on Georgia’s recruiting prowess, booster support and momentum is that it will be the latter. The Bulldogs have finished in the top four in the 247Sports Composite recruiting rankings every year since 2017, and Smart has done a great job filling vacancies with players who are ready to compete at an elite level. Will that assumption become reality?
Orgeron and Chizik were fired just two years after winning titles despite loaded rosters and comparable support. Coker had a couple more great seasons with the Hurricanes when the program competed in the Big East but went 25-12 during first three seasons in the ACC before being canned after a 7-6 record in 2006.
First thing’s first, though — Georgia has to fill plenty of holes off of its title-winning team. Its top two running backs, top wide receiver and top four tacklers are gone. Plus, for whatever reason, there’s…