Riding Home: How UGA Got Kirby Smart and Carolina Did Not

October 8, 2019

ATHENS - Dean Legge is joined by Josh Kendall of the Athletic to talk about the Dawgs and Carolina, Kirby Smart's path to being the head coach at Georgia, and the strange relationship between Carolina and in-state foes Clemson. 



Dean Legge - Another edition of riding home this time Dean Legge with a special guest, Josh Kendall, who covers Carolina for the Athletic now cover them for the state for a long time. Also, Josh was a beat reporter covering Georgia from 2000 at least 2003 on right where were you before that?

Josh Kendall - So Jim Donnan's last year, what was Jim Donnan's last year?

Dean Legge - 2000

Josh Kendall - Yeah. 2000

Dean Legge - So, the two of us have had a long history now with almost a decade long with you for South Carolina. I went to college in South Carolina, obviously married a woman from South Carolina. So I know Carolina pretty well. And I didn't want to do that the typical you know discussion about South Carolina and Georgia this week. I mean, the Dawgs are three and a half TD so favorite over Carolina.

Really one season that's been I would say memorable the the year to 2017 when they beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl, but even that year, their archrival Clemson, go into the playoff and then their number two rival, so to speak Georgia playing in the playoffs. But when you look around the league, Josh, Georgia and Carolina, you know, Georgia with the the higher Kirby smart what he had been able to do the same sort of thing at Carolina, or do you think that the combination of Kirby and Georgia is something that would have been tougher to to replicate it at Carolina?

Josh Kendall - I think it would have been much tougher to replicate Carolina, I think that, you know, Kirby took over a program that won 20 games in the previous two years, we all took over a program that had won 10 in the previous two years. So I think you start right there, that excludes all the other. What I think are natural advantages that Georgia has is a program in terms of its geography, in, you know, so, so proximate to one of the best recruiting areas in the country, and historical tradition and being a lot more of a name brand in South Carolina. So I just will suffers by the comparison to what curry has done, but it's just not a fair comparison.

Dean Legge - I don't think it is either. I think two shows how well your old friend Steve Spurrier did at Carolina. I mean, you could make the argument that he's the greatest coach at two different places in the sec. I mean, I don't think there's much question he's the greatest coach at South Carolina.

Josh Kendall - Yeah. Yeah, the winningest coach, certainly at two different places in the sec, and I can't like he had bear did that. Yeah, I mean, I don't know if anybody ever appreciates anything in the moment. But especially football fans, but the three 11 win seasons is never going to be replicated.

Right. I mean, those things were outward, were almost never going to be replicated no matter what, they're certainly never going to be replicated in the current reality, which is that Georgia and Clemson are both on basically unprecedented runs in the program's history. And you're stuck geographically and sort of psychically between both of those programs and South Carolina. So yeah, I think will suffers when compared to his predecessor, he suffers when compared to his former college teammate, and South Carolina is suffering this year because they've lost in North Carolina and Missouri and email. So they've got to get this guy get things kind of pointed in the right direction here. But that's a real tough I asked this week.

Dean Legge - Yeah, I mean, we had a podcast last night talking about are we completely dismissing Carolina's chances to quickly I hate doing that in sports, but you know, it's even with it being a noon game, even with the Feaster running back is, looks pretty legit to me. But one guy's not going to beat this army of efficiency that that Kirby has built over here. You know, I've seen him Now shake hands with a lot of people at midfield. And, you know, there was a look on Jeremy Pruitt's face this past week, like, you know, we knew this was coming kind of, and then this is the wrong way to Josh, but it seems sometimes when I watch Kirby CC old friends, whether it's will or Jeremy or even Derrick Mason, just guys that he knows kind of out he's not going to have this with Gus or with Dan Mullen. But when he gets to the middle of the field, it's almost like he feel sorry for him. It's, it's worth it's worth.

Josh Kendall - A probably does the same way. And I think he probably understands better than any of us, you know, that he is in a much better situation than some of his old, old teammates and old coaching colleagues. But, you know, I don't we, you're right, we cannot and should not dismiss South Carolina's ability to win the game, but there just doesn't feel like a blueprint where that happens. Carolina has got a pretty good run game this year. But Georgia has smothered the run for the most part. I just don't see where South Carolina sneaks up and steals this.

Dean Legge - When you look at I think the thing that Kirby did in his time, Georgia, or in his time since
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Georgia, really, that maybe guys like will Mike Bobo. You know, Derek Dooley, even I guess not really, Derek Dooley, but just the coaches that have ties to Georgia, I think Kirby played the political game in a way that no one else did, in a way that he he became friends with people who mattered, and he was never dismissed. I remember a long time folks on the message boards and, you know, say whatever you want to about message boards with that plenty of people on there that know what they're talking about. And they, their view of the world was that Kirby would never be the coach at Georgia because of X or whatever it was. But all all the time, he had figured out the right people to talk to at Georgia, to the point that when it marks time was coming, you know, to a close, and when it did close, there was no one else that it really considered. I mean, they didn't consider Tom Herman or Justin Fuente, or will Muschamp it was only Kirby. And that's the same. That planning I guess, if you want to call it that is the same thing. It feels like he does in recruiting, he just knows the right people to deal with. He knows the right way to talk to people. Did you think I mean, if marketed fired in 2010 the likelihood of Kirby smart being the head coach of Georgia at that time was not high would you say?

Josh Kendall - Right and i think that you know, timing is important we you know, I think we're both believers in that timing is critical in life and, and Kirby, I think, get some credit, not all the credit some credit for the timing, because I think he probably started to map this situation out a while back. I think that's what himself in position and knew that mark Richt knew and in 2010 that mark Richt was not imminently going anywhere and then he wanted to play the long game meanwhile will must champ you know who is it Texas and Texas is head coach and white and had an opportunity much earlier different places and it's not like excuse me you're gonna turn down Florida to wait for your alma mater if you've got a chance sec job you take it and we know how that worked out. But I think Kirby through some good fortune, which everybody needs and through like you say good planning, put himself in the in the right position so that he was the guy and when it came down to it, he was much better position at a much more attractive candidate. I think more I more attractive candidate then will must champ when you have both of these jobs coming up in about a second. I just think that that was you know, situation felt almost inevitable by the time people were signing contracts there.

Dean Legge - The two schools there were four schools essentially for my understanding of things. There were four sec schools that that always noticed or paid attention to curvy, but two of them to come more seriously. The four include South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Auburn with Georgia Auburn paying the most attention I mean, that all and and George and Carolina and Tennessee wouldn't know it as well as Georgia Norwood because what Kirby was doing in those states, you know, in Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia was he was defeating them year after year with important players like Alvin Kamara you know, into the name of anyone from Georgia that played at Alabama. And it matters right. Derrick Henry? You know, Derrick Henry was Yeah, was at least in part Kirby Jake from was going to go to Alabama. So Donovan Tomlin said there were a lot of guys that won't open it up over there. But you know, that you could get Galvin, excuse me that you could get Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara. They both played Alabama for four years, but one of them won a Heisman Trophy there and the other one rips up the NFL all the time. It just showed how good of a job that Kirby could do now he was again he wasn't exclusively the guy for for either of those guys, particularly Derek but but he was a big part of it. And he would have been a huge part of Jake from so Georgia, Alabama, Georgia, and an Auburn really understood it. I don't know, if at the time Carolina his leadership knew how important he was in the world of recruiting. I think he's the best recruiting person period. I thought it was used to be urban. I don't I don't know. I think Kirby is probably as good as it gets. You can see that it's hurting Alabama to some degree in ways that no one really would have ever thought. But it does hurt them on the margins. And that's what it takes in this league. Do you think that I mean, I don't want it I've been talking so much about Tennessee here lately, has didn't even turn the conversation towards them. But in the in the game of chess that is, you know, the next generation of coaches and the SEC, some of these guys are having a hard time even getting to be in the next generation. I mean, will is in a rocky situation right now in Columbia. I think he's done a pretty good job generally speaking at Carolina. I'm not sitting here saying right. It's the same thing as what Spurrier did. But I'm not. I mean, you know, look at Jeremy Pruitt that looks like a hot dumpster fire with no water in sight. You know, and others. I mean, Mike Bobo is on the verge of being out at Colorado State. Derek Dooley has been around the block a time or two. It's tough out there.

Josh Kendall - Well, I mean, I think that there's no question that Kirby is, I think, the best recruiter in the sec at the moment. And you know, singularly they're recruiting as a group as well as Alabama. And I think Kirby probably stands alone and drew just to single out one guy that you want it to be your recruiter your your deal closer your head coaches, we could wrestle certainly think it's Kirby. And I think that if you're going back, you know, circling back around the timing issues, and whether or not South Carolina, how well they played it administratively. What you have to remember is they weren't they weren't ever really in control of their timing. So that was always the Spurrier Stan. Georgia was to some degree, Georgia when they realized they needed to make a move to get Kirby when they felt like they were going to 10 years decision. If they waited a year, they move Margaret out of town, South Carolina, I think probably didn't do a lot of advanced planning, because they didn't know what they were planning for when they were planning for. So instead of feeling like we got to get everything lined up for this year, they were just kind of waiting for Steve to be to be gone. And then going to move from there. And he goes in the middle of the year and you're kind of caught, you know, red handed a little bit. And by the time in South Carolina was just never going to lower Kirby smart overhead of Georgia, South Carolina without a head of Georgia Laura head, but they could have gotten him before that. Right, but they weren't in control of that they were not gonna move Steve Spurrier, you know, getting before the beginning before that they would have had to move Steve Spurrier out of the way. That was never gonna happen.

And that, again, that's not me advocating for Carolina to fire most champ I think. I thought that would be better this year than they are. I'll say that. But at the same time. You know, what, what happens in Colombia, in in this state, generally speaking, talking about South Carolina is not exclusive to Carolina. This goes both ways with them and Clemson. They are I would say those two fan bases are over obsessed with one another and what the other is doing. Georgia doesn't really have that situation. I mean, Georgia Tech doesn't really, you know, they're not in the University of Georgia and athletics. And Florida and Georgia are so far removed geographically in terms of where the fan bases are, you know, in South Carolina, whether you're in, you know, Bennettsville or Bamberg, everyone, everyone's kind of lumped together. I mean, there's more Carolina fans probably in the Hey, there are Clemson fans, although you wouldn't know what if you drove drove around here lately. But generally speaking, it's barely a Carolina State, I would say. But I'm old enough to remember when Devo Sweeney was nearly run out of town for losing to Carolina, not the fifth time, but I think it was like the fourth time when South Carolina beat them. 

Dean Legge - I don't want to say embarrass them. But they consistently... Clemson underperformed in those games against Carolina when they were both ranked teams or one of them was ranked. And the two fan bases there. I mean, you can't talk about South Carolina without talking about Clemson and Clemson about Carolina. There's they really are interrelated, interrelated in a very, it's not narcissistic, not the word. But if you could have a narcissistic duo, they're just as bad as Ole Miss and Mississippi State. And Auburn and Alabama. They just they're kind of and I'm going to give I hate it on for this. But they've been loser programs until these last couple of you know, until this decade. I mean, nobody really thought about either of these programs. Certainly, no one thought about Carolina before Spurrier did what he did. And they just kind of played one another at the end of the year. And, you know, that's how it went. But Carolina can't help but look at the two national championships and Clemson and say, Hey, wait a second. Now. That's it. They want to I mean, I know part of them wants to say hey, that's bullshit, because y'all aren't going through what we're having to go through. And then Eclipse and people are like, we just beat Alabama by 100. So what's your problem? Right? It's it's it never ends. I mean, like it goes back and forth on Facebook between those groups. Those two, it never stops. There's no, there's no such thing. There is no such thing. There's no such thing as a scoreboard in that rivalry. It never ends.

Josh Kendall - Right? I think they have an unhealthy fascination with the other program. I did. I don't think there's any any question about that. And I think one of the things that Spurrier did to the betterment of South Carolina's program was deflect some attention from the Clemson robbery to play. We're not just going to work you be in one and 11 is not good enough. Even if it is clips, we're not going to worry about take down the beat Clemson sands 12 months out of the year. And I and I think that that helps South Carolina improve. It wasn't a huge part of it, but it helped. So yeah, given that you're in this constantly symbiotic relationship right now, that's really bad news for Carolina because Clemson is on such a roll, and beating their brains out and beating them on the recruiting trail and their fans are crowing really loudly as as they have the right to do because they're defending national champions. 

And they cried about it louder than anybody in the country probably love you know, reveled it but enjoyed it as a you know, enjoyed it and you know, miss it greatly. 

Dean Legge - I can assure you they miss it greatly. That's totally true.

Josh Kendall - Yeah. Oh, they absolutely do. But it just goes back to bringing it back around to this Georgia south. The Georgia game soccer game this weekend. There's there's no where, if you're South Carolina, and will Muschamp right now to turn where things look good, where you feel like you've got a good solid hold on things. You're too big rivalries are way out in front of you on long winning streaks against you. So you know that that makes it difficult. And you know, this, this week, will not be as bad I'm assuming losses for South Carolina against Georgia and Clemson this week won't be as bad as as the fat as the Clemson week. That loss won't hurt the staff this last one so it won't hurt South Carolina people as much. But I think the reality of it will I think they're kind of known to do where do the Georgia rivalry is right now they're not quite known to this Clemson rivalry yet. They're kind of number the Georgia rivalry. Not a lot of people expect to win. So you know, they'll they'll take this loss, what I expect to be lost in and move on, and then really worry about turning things around this season. But you know, that lots of people, almost all the people outside of South Carolina football building and Columbia are expecting the South Carolina loss.

Dean Legge - You know if Carolina were not named South Carolina and Clemson were coming to town, I would give them just as good a chance of tripping up Clemson who sometimes forgets their pads and Death Valley when they go on the road. It seems like in these games, but that they're playing Carolina in Columbia, and everybody knows what's at stake in that robbery. I don't think Clemson would lay an egg in it. But I mean, we are talking about a program that they just don't play well sometimes. And it's like out of the blue. Yeah, so you just never know. But I you know, I don't know. I you will I'll say this about this Georgia Carolina thing. You do want more for this game of late. You know, Georgia hasn't exactly beaten South Carolina's brains in over the history of the world. But this would be I mean, if if what Las Vegas thinks holds up, this would be this would be as good a run against Carolina as in as in my lifetime, because it would be five straight games, if I'm not mistaken, with double digit wins 15 1617 1819 that that would be pretty unprecedented in this time. And a couple of those Georgia teams were not very good. And they still do that the Carolina so we'll just we'll just see. I don't know suck. This is what Carolina has been in for a long time that Josh they've been better than this. But they are a program that has struggled to get past the seven when Mark for a long time. And the five year span that they were beating up on Clemson, which coincided with their best five years in school history has masked some of the reality that is South Carolina football through the years and to some degree South Carolina athletics.

But we will welcome you back to Sanford between the hedges. It will see can't wait. I one thing before we go. What was the last time you were at Neyland Stadium.

Alright, thanks, Josh Kendall from the athletic for joining me today

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