Georgia football plays UT-Martin this Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN+. More than likely, most of us know nothing about the Skyhawks. I decided to go on the google machine and look up the SkyHawks, see how they play, and figure out who they are.
UT-Martin is an FCS team competing in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Conference of Champions. They have won back-to-back conference championships in 2021 and 2022. Kirby Smart, our fearless leader, compared the Skyhawks to Georgia, not only for their back-to-back titles but also for their style of play.
The Skyhawks are led by Jason Simpson, who is in his 18th season at the program’s helm. According to UT-Martin’s website, Simpson is the longest-tenured coach in the Ohio Valley Conference. Simpson’s winning record at UT-Martin is 107-84. The similarities of the Georgia program are evident when Simpson has been quoted saying Kirby Smart’s new mantra, “eat off the floor.” I don’t think Kirby Smart owns the rights to that phrase, but it is pretty easy to believe that Simpson liked what Smart was saying. The SkyHawks, even though on a much smaller scale, are facing the same things Georgia is facing. The biggest issue is complacency. Both Simpson and Smart are trying to combat complacency with their recent success.
The Skyhawks are replacing 14 all-OVC players from last year’s team. Again, doesn’t that sound familiar? Furthermore, the Skyhawks have 11 players who all have preseason awards. Three of the eleven were named All-Americans: defensive end Daylon Dotson, tackle Gavin Olson, and tight end DJ Nelson. The Skyhawks are a power on the FCS level and have FBS talent on their team.
UT-Martin just named Kinkead Dent the starting QB. Dent graduated from Ole Miss and appeared in 17 games in his career. There is not much tape out there of Dent besides him holding the ball for PATs. But Smart said that is not how the staff scouts; they scout by watching the offense as a whole.
UT-Martin has played some FBS teams before. Just last year, they played the Vols in Knoxville. Watching the game on YouTube, UT-Martin came out and gave a bit of a fight against the Vols early in the first quarter. They lost 65-24, but for the first quarter, they impressed me.
UT-Martin is not going to go into Sanford Stadium and beat Georgia. It will be an impossible task to do something like that. Since 2019, only one team has won against the Dawgs in Athens: South Carolina. I would be shocked if Georgia sleepwalks the season’s first game, but stranger things have happened. But UT-Martin is a team that is impressive for the level they play at. Honestly, they remind me of Kent State. So, even though the Dawgs should drum the Skyhawks, appreciate them for what they are: an excellent FCS team.
Soon, these programs like UT-Martin will be struggling. Most of these teams will need more money to support the football team. As a fan of college football, that is a shame. These smaller programs have allowed coaches to develop, like Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp. Also, it allows countless kids across the country to get an education and play the game we all love. So, I know it’s not as exciting to kick off the season against UT-Martin as it is Oregon. But we should all appreciate what the Skyhawks are doing.