The Difference Between Good and Great
If you’ve read my columns or listened to my radio show, you’ve likely heard that before. The phrase was used frequently to explain why I wanted the Georgia football program to move on from former head coach Mark Richt, despite an almost-violent pushback from his most ardent supporters.
Georgia was good under Richt, sometimes very good. But it needed to be great. Bulldog fans deserved it to be great, just like Alabama’s football program. There was no crime in believing Georgia should be like Alabama. Why not strive to be like the best?
The Georgia program had the pieces in place to be great, except for the leader to implement the plan. It had the resources. It had the facilities. It had fertile land for recruiting right in its own backyard. And yet, for years, Georgia was only good but rarely great.
There’s a difference, and we are seeing that now.
Kirby Smart is making Georgia great. We saw signs in the first SEC game on Saturday that proved that once again, if we didn’t already believe it.
Georgia had a conference game in a place that has been a nightmare at times, with scars left behind. Six years ago, Georgia went to Williams-Brice Stadium as the fifth-ranked team in the country. South Carolina was rated sixth, so it was a much closer matchup than the one this season. That game was embarrassing, as the Gamecocks blew Georgia out 35-7 that day in Columbia.
Again, South Carolina is not as good this year as it was in 2012. However, they have regained a certain swagger with head coach Will Muschamp. There was a belief among the South Carolina players and the fan base that the Gamecocks could stand toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs this season.
They couldn’t. It wasn’t even close. South Carolina might be good this season, but Georgia is great. There is a difference.
We can look at stats and the final score to prove the point, but the most glaring indication of how far the Georgia program has come in its third year under Smart happened with a single play. It wasn’t one of the big plays by Jake Fromm or Mecole Hardman. Instead, it was an injury to star left offensive tackle Andrew Thomas.
It was perhaps the last person Georgia fans wanted to see injured. Thomas has developed into one of the best offensive linemen in years, and yet there he was, on the ground, not getting up.
Thomas was helped to the sideline, into the injury tent. And out came freshman Cade Mays, a five-star prospect from Tennessee. At 6-6 and 318 pounds, Mays is an inch taller and two pounds lighter than Thomas. But he might be just as good.
The Bulldogs didn’t miss a beat with Mays on the line of scrimmage. He was very impressive. There was little drop-off, if any, in the offensive line with Thomas out. And it made everyone remember what usually happened when Georgia lost a star lineman under Richt, who simply did not value the line of scrimmage as much as his successor.
Let’s be honest. When a Georgia lineman was injured in previous seasons, a desperate shell game would have ensued. The right tackle would have gone to left tackle, and the left guard would have moved over to right tackle. The right guard would have switched to left guard, and then some backup rumored to be transferring soon would have come in at right guard.
The word “depth” was seldom used for Georgia’s offensive line. That’s why Smart said in his first press conference it would be his priority taking over the program. He had to get the lines of scrimmage better or the Bulldogs would never be great.
Well, mission accomplished. Georgia’s depth on the line is tremendous. Mays taking over for Thomas was not a catastrophe. Instead, it was a sign of how far this program has come in a short time. There is a difference between good and great, and having the team no longer crumble when a star is lost is a great sign Georgia is getting there.