Georgia players now say ‘culture change’ is real, and results have been spectacular

ATHENS — This is what a Georgia football player said last year, when asked if there was a culture change taking place since Kirby Smart became the head coach.

“No. I don’t see any difference. .. The culture’s still the same.”

And this is what a Georgia player said after Saturday’s 41-0 win at Tennessee:

“It definitely feels different. It’s different because of the culture change.”

Those two comments, so seemingly diametrically different, were by the same player: Sony Michel. They just came one year apart, and with Georgia off to its best start in five years.

Georgia (5-0) has risen to No. 5 in the nation, its highest ranking since the end of the 2012 season, and has beaten its two SEC opponents by a combined score of 72-3.

So the term “culture change” is being thrown around a lot. Smart used the term on Monday. Michel, even after being a skeptic in the spring of 2016, had done a 180 by last weekend. When fans throw the term around, they’re looking at results under a second-year head coach. But when the team does, what does it actually mean?

At its core, practice habits seem to be the main emphasis. Making practices harder than the games, to put it in the most simple terms.

“The harder you practice the easier the game is,” junior receiver Terry Godwin said. “I would say the culture change to us is just buying into what coach Smart brought in. I feel like the majority of this team has done it. And it goes to show on game day. You see what it’s producing.”

Godwin, who was a freshman in Georgia’s final season under Mark Richt, was asked if the culture was broken before Smart arrived.

“I wouldn’t say it needed to change or anything like that,” he said. “I would just say you’ve got a new staff coming in, a new head coach, so you want to buy into what he’s bringing into the organization. That’s kind of what we did.”

Georgia did have plenty of success under Richt, even in the final few years: The…

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