Kirby Smart SEC coach of the year?

Athens Banner-Herald
Athens Banner-Herald

Good morning. This is a busy time of year for the Georgia football coaching staff.

The early signing period is coming up. The transfer portal will crank up next week. Oh, and there’s the matter of the SEC championship game Saturday against LSU.

It’s also a busy time for those that cover college football.

All-conference teams to select. A Heisman Trophy ballot to fill out. Every day another email comes to vote on an end of year award.

When it comes to the SEC Coach of the Year, that’s not such an easy call this season.

You could give it South Carolina’s Shane Beamer who has his team in the top 25 this week after wins over Tennessee and Clemson, two playoff contenders at the time the Gamecocks knocked them off. A 4-4 SEC record and blowout loss at Florida is also on the ledger.

Tennessee’s Josh Heupel will get some votes surely. Taking the Vols to a No. 1 ranking in the second season with an explosive offense that pounded LSU in Baton Rouge and upset Alabama make a strong case, but there’s that lopsided loss at South Carolina and getting easily handled by Georgia.

I sent in my ballot for our USA Today Sports SEC selections last week and gave the nod to LSU's Brian Kelly. That was before a Texas A&M team having a horrible season killed the Tigers playoff hopes. Winning the SEC West after being picked fifth and beating Alabama was a much better than expected first year for Kelly.

Right now, the pick would be Kirby Smart. And that’s not being a homer beat writer. It’s hard to argue with losing 15 NFL draft picks off the national championship team and going 12-0 again and sitting at No. 1 in the nation.

Smart knows how to get his team from having a sluggish game turn into a loss.

Georgia players made available Monday didn’t seem to be paying lip service how important an SEC title is for them even with a playoff spot looking secure. Smart is setting that tone.

“There's such a respect, especially in this part of the country, for the Southeastern Conference, that winning a Southeastern Conference championship is extremely impressive for the quality of football and the number of NFL players that come out of our conference,” he said. “I think our players take a lot of pride in that.”

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