The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

UGA looking to move past national title loss to Bama

31 days ago
Brandon Zimmerman | SEC Network

ATLANTA - Jonathan Ledbetter is hard to miss. At 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, the Georgia defensive lineman is a mountain.

But Ledbetter wore something to SEC Media Days on Tuesday that made even this massive lineman look small. His SEC championship ring.

The SEC title ring dwarfed Ledbetter's finger, the sparkling jewels a reminder of what Georgia accomplished last season, but also what is left to accomplish.

A national championship.

"The work we put in last year, we thought that was enough," Ledbetter said. "We have to give more. We have to sacrifice more."

It's been six months now since Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa hit DeVonta Smith on a 41-yard, game-winning touchdown pass in the Tide's 26-23 overtime win over Georgia in the national title game.

The play was the defining moment of the 2017 college football season. So much so, Smart even had to watch the replay while appearing on ESPN's Get Up! on Tuesday morning.

"I thought they might open with the SEC Championship, but of course not," Smart joked.

With SEC Media Days shifting to downtown Atlanta this year, the Bulldogs arrived on Tuesday a few blocks from the building that defined their 2017 season. Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium was where Georgia beat Auburn to capture its first SEC championship since 2005. It is also where the Bulldogs lost to Alabama.

Smart said he and his coaching staff immediately moved on after that game ended.

"It's something that you guys think about a lot, but not really us," Smart said. "We're on to the next year; we're on to the next recruit; we're on to the next strategy, whether it's tactical or mental or physical, we're constantly looking for the next edge to try to get the edge for the next year. So it's something that we don't have to rehash all the time."

Ledbetter said the players have used the ending of the season as motivation to get back, and finish the drill.

"You see what it takes to get there, then you see that you didn't get it, you know you have to put in that much more work," he said. "You try to figure out the recipe to put it all together. We had a great season, but what else does it take? What else can you give? You have to dig deep. It's not going to be the same season. It's going to be clean slate."

Especially on defense. Georgia must replace three starting linebackers, including SEC title game MVP Roquan Smith. Defensive linemen Trenton Thompson and John Atkins along with safety Dominick Sanders have also moved on.

On offense, quarterback Jake Fromm returns for his sophomore season, and will be pushed by the No. 1 overall recruit in the ESPN 300, Justin Fields. Sophomore running back D'Andre Swift, who rushed for more than 600 yards as a freshman, will be expected to carry much of the weight lost from the graduation of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Georgia also brings in the No. 1 running back in the ESPN 100, Zamir White.

The Bulldogs are the likely pick to win the SEC East when the media votes later this week. For Georgia to win championships in 2018 and beyond, though, it will have to do one thing. Move past the loss to Alabama.

"I think our players will use that experience to grow," Smart said. "I think that's big for our program - and understanding that if you do things a certain way, then you can get to certain places. We just have to be able to finish it when we get there."