GA News: OnlineAthens - For Georgia fans, Smart's first season as coach is so far, so good

TideFans Reporter

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Sep 21, 2006
October 15th, 2016 03:00 PM

If the Georgia football season was a class, the Bulldogs would be passing with flying colors at midterm, according to the opinions of a host of fans interviewed before Saturday’s homecoming game against Vanderbilt.
At the midpoint of Kirby Smart’s first season as Georgia’s coach, the Bulldogs came into Saturday’s game with a 4-2 overall mark and a 2-2 record in the Southeastern Conference.
For the most part, the Bulldogs have earned a B, although some of the informal grades offered on Saturday might have included a bit of a curve. But there’s no question those surveyed believe better days are coming and they’re not far away.
“I’d give them a B-plus,” Dean Stone, a 1993 UGA graduate from Metter, said. “We’re still a young team, trying to get everybody experience. I think Jacob (Eason) is coming along fine and the more he plays, the better he’ll get. He had some ups and downs, like last week, but overall I’m satisfied with this team. It’s a transition year, they’re still learning and the (offensive) line needs some improving, but they’re still young. I think it’s going well.”
“I’d give them a B, probably,” Dylan Hall of LaGrange said during his tailgate repast on Milledge Avenue. “They could have done better, obviously, like against Nicholls State and I don’t think they showed up quite as well against Ole Miss, but they’ve been in a lot of close games and they’ve shown a lot of fight, and I give them credit for that.”
Former UGA quarterback Parker Welch, a 2013 graduate who now works as a production manager at Caterpillar, knows well of the ups and downs involved in college football and while he admits a bit of bias, he’s been pleased with what he’s seen in Smart’s first season.
“I think they’ve done well,” Welch said. “They’ve had a difficult schedule, especially in conference. The two losses we have are to great teams, there’s no denying that. We’ve seen great improvement, especially from some of the young players on the team and I think coach Smart is learning a lot about the players and their performance and about their capabilities.
“If I had to give them a grade, it’s tough to give them a 100. But given the circumstances, and with this being coach Smart’s first year, they’re in the 80th percentile. I wish it was better, but I think they’ve done a great job given the circumstances…I’d give them a B-plus.”
Patricia Melton Rogers, a 1985 graduate of UGA’s Grady College, assents she was grading on emotion, but she’s happy with the team at the halfway point.
“I will give them a B,” Rogers, who proudly pointed out she hails from the same county as sophomore wide receiver Terry Godwin, said. “I’m in the stands and not on the field, and as a fan I see what I think are inconsistencies and I don’t understand them. As a Dawg fan, you’re in a clutch until the clock runs out. It’s up and down with emotions, but it’s never boring.”
Rogers’ daughter, Mary Margaret Rogers (a current Grady student) agreed with her mother.
“I would give them a solid B,” she said. “There’s definitely room for improvement but I think Smart is doing good so far. . I think they’ll pick it up once they start learning how to play with each other better.”
Relaxing before the game on the Sanford Street bridge, the Boone family from Cumming offered the widest range of grades.
“I’d give them a C,” Alexandrea Boone. “It’s been so-so, but better than last year. It could be better. I think they could bring it up to a solid A by the end of the season.”
“A-plus,” Taylor Boone countered. “We’re in a rebuilding year and it’s the first year for Kirby and the first year for Eason and we’re doing amazing things right now. This is the first year for a lot of people, (Nick) Chubb is back from a terrible injury and he’s having a great year and we’ve got a whole bunch of running backs behind him. I believe the next two years are going to be huge.”
“I’d say B-plus,” T.J. Boone added. “We’ve got a new coach and he was handed what (Mark) Richt built and he needs a couple of years to put together his plan. The only reason Tennessee beat us was a Hail Mary miracle and Tennessee looks pretty good this year. The raw materials they have right now are impressive, and after they get a few years playing in Kirby’s system, it will be amazing.”
Although the grades were firmly in the B range, fans are confident the Bulldogs will be able to bring that grade up by the end of the season. Success in exams against Florida and Auburn are paramount to moving into “A” territory.
“If they beat Florida they can get an A, but probably not an A-plus,” Alexandrea Boone quipped.
“I think one of their toughest challenges is Florida, and that’s going to be their next big obstacle,” Welch said. “They’re a talented team; they’ve just got to figure out how to best utilize their talent. I think coach Smart has done a great job so far.”



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