“Thanks, Greg. I appreciate all you do for our conference, our game. He works tirelessly alongside our presidents. I’m very fortunate at the University of Georgia to have one of the best presidents in the business, President Morehead is the member or leader of so many committees. I can’t even remember all the names of ’em. He does a tremendous job trying to make sure that our game is safe and that things are headed in the right direction. I appreciate what he does for us.
I want to go reverse order today. I usually thank you guys at the end. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you guys for the incredible coverage you gave us. And this conference is second to none. I’ve been in other conferences, worked in other conferences, this is my 24th year being involved in the SEC. It literally is the best there is. You guys make it that way. I really appreciate what all you guys do.
I also want to take an opportunity to give a shout-out for the 50th anniversary of Title IX. I got a wife at home that played college basketball. That wouldn’t have been possible without Title IX. And also am a girl dad. My daughter Julia is an athlete, runs cross-country, plays basketball. I want to thank the people and the leaders in the SEC who have promoted women’s sports for a long time.
Our women’s sports programs in the SEC are incredible. Most competitive there is of any conference there is out there in all sports. I love being able to honor that anniversary as well.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t talk about our opening game. The Chick-Fil-A kickoff game for us, I get to open against Oregon, go against a longtime friend, a guy who meant so much to our program in Dan Lanning. We open against Oregon right here in Atlanta. We’re excited for that opportunity. We get a chance to represent the SEC right off the jump.
Our players are excited about that, and so am I.
I’m also going to go in reverse order and talk about the players we have here today. We got a special group here. I think anybody would be proud of the players they bring. It’s why you bring ’em. This group is really special to me. Stetson Bennett, we all know his story. If you guys ever wanted to do a documentary, this guy has been through it, when you look at what he’s done. He’s going to graduate this fall in economics. He’s from — I like to kid him, because people think he’s from Blackshear. He’s actually from Nahunta. If you want to do some research, look that up, Nahunta, and he was a transplant from Blackshear to Nahunta down in south Georgia. A great family, and is going to graduate in the fall.
Nolan Smith is now a math major. Soon to graduate. He’s come back for his senior year. What an incredible personality he has. He’s one of these players that pushes our team. I tell the story all the time about our players working out, as strength coaches and leaders in our organization, we don’t like for our players to bend over. We feel like it shows weakness if you bend over during your runs.
Nolan was screaming so loud one day at our players, I had my young 10-year-old out there, Andrew. He was trying to keep up with the players running 40s. Nolan screamed and yelled about being bent over. I was looking at Andrew, my son, and he was bent over, and he popped up real fast. When Nolan screams at you, you wake up quickly. He demands a lot of respect in our program because of the way he works. He’s from Savannah, Georgia.
And then the third guy we were able to bring was Cedrick Van Pran, who’s been our center, kind of our caller of fronts. He was a tremendous guy to recruit. He does everything the right way. He’s from New Orleans, he’s a communications major, and one of our guys that we think is a leader on our team and a part of an offensive line unit that’s got a lot of guys returning.
I’m excited about those three players. I hope you’ll spend time, talk with them, visit with them, get to have a good time with them.
One other quick story I wanted to share about Nolan. He’s kind of the jokester on the team. He likes to crack jokes and do things. Around December 23rd of last year, we were planning for Michigan, the Playoff run. We had a team Christmas party, and we had a team meeting before it. I was up in front of the team, everybody was there, we had a little roll call check, checking the seats.
Nolan wasn’t there. He comes running in. He had a box in his hand and said, Coach, Coach, the team bought you a Christmas present. Well, it was Just for Men hair coloring to help out with these grays that I got going on here. I thought it was hilarious, he thought it was hilarious. He keeps everything loose for the guys. I didn’t make him run but about 30 sprints for that. He’s a fun guy to be around, needless to say. You guys will spend time with him today.
We started this thing off last year with the quote: Success comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. Well, we embraced that last year. Guess what? That doesn’t change. For our team, it’s embedded in what we do.
We didn’t build this program on hoping for one-year-wonders or hoping for one opportunity. We built the program to be sustained. You sustain it by what you do every single day.
This program was built to be here for a long time. We have an unbelievable footprint with which we can recruit. So the five-hour radius of Athens, Georgia, gives us a chance to be around some of the best football student-athletes there are in the country. We’ll continue to recruit those, develop those. Also going nationally.
But the team we have coming back, I’ve done the rounds this morning, I’ll bet you at least 50 people have asked me the question, so feel free when we open up for questions to ask me, the concern there is for complacency.
That does not concern me in the least. To be complacent, you have to have done something and achieved something. The men on this team for this season have not done that. They have not. We had 15 players that have now gone to NFL camps or draft picks. They’re gone. We have some returning players, but they’re hungry as ever.
People ask the question, How does it feel to be hunted? We will not be hunted at the University of Georgia. I can promise you that. The hunting we do will be from us going the other direction. We’re not going to sit back and be passive about it.
Our guys have asked questions, and we’ve done a lot of studies on how the mighty have fallen. We have skull sessions, 15-minute meetings, 20-minute meetings and breakout groups. We talk about how the mighty have fallen. I’m talking about business, sports, history. You learn from the mistakes of others.
For us, it really boils down to one cultural belief: That we have a connection that’s greater than our opponent. We’re all going to be tough, we’re all going to be physical in the SEC, but can we be better connected together? Can we have 1 plus 1 equals 3? For us, 1 plus 1 equals 3 means we get more together than we do apart. This team believes that.
I’m excited about this team because there’s a lot of opportunity. People say, Do you have the talent? Do you have enough talent within your program? We have plenty of talent. What we lack right now is experience. That’s our job as coaches, to put those guys in a position to be successful and react in a calm manner and have the experience they need to play well against Oregon. That game will help set us up for the SEC gauntlet we have coming up after that.
With that, I’ll open it up for questions.”