Kirby Smart is one of the hottest names around.
Alabama’s defensive coordinator has seemingly been mentioned in every head coaching search in the country—for years now—but he’s yet to leave Tuscaloosa.
Earlier this week, head coach Nick Saban said that nobody has called to inquire about speaking to any of his assistant coaches about a job opportunity, but it’s probably only a matter of time, as there are plenty of vacancies in the SEC in Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee, and nationally, too.
Smart has coached under Saban for a long time. In 2004, he was the defensive backs coach at LSU, then left to coach the running backs at his alma mater Georgia in ‘05, but was drawn back to Saban and coached the safeties for the Miami Dolphins in ’06. Then when Saban took the Alabama job in ‘07, he brought Smart along.
“We speak the same language and have been on the same page for a long time,” Saban said. “I have total faith, trust and confidence in what he’s doing during the game in terms of calling the game as well as making adjustments.”
Since Smart has been Alabama’s defensive coordinator—he started out as an assistant and quickly rose up the ranks—the Tide has had an elite unit. His best might have been in 2011 when Alabama finished the season as national champions with a defense ranked No. 1 in all major statistical categories.
The 2009 Broyles Award winner, Smart’s defense is currently No. 1 in total defense (233.7 yards per game) and scoring defense (9.3 points per game), and ranked in the top 5 in every other major category.
Alabama assistant coaches are not made available to the media except before one scrimmage in the fall and before the bowl game. Back when Smart addressed reporters in August, he was asked if he expected to still be in Tuscaloosa six seasons later.
“I knew when I came here longevity was a possibility,” he said. “They give you every opportunity to be successful here. Whether it’s the president, the AD, whether it’s coach Saban, so I certainly expected to be here awhile.
“There’s nothing worse than recruiting a player and then leaving the player. Here you get the opportunity to see them through. That’s my greatest self-gratification, seeing them through, seeing them have success, having the relationship.”
And the players love him.
“I’ve learned so much from him in the past three years than I ever have,” said linebacker Nico Johnson. “He sees things that we don’t see. He sees things that happen before they even happen.”
Saturday’s SEC Championship game between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia involves countless storylines from the programs themselves, the staffs, the recruiting battles, etc. But one of the more intriguing is Smart, his Georgia roots and game planning to go against one of his best friends and old college roommate—UGA offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
Smart was a four-year letterman at defensive back for the Bulldogs in the late 90s where he was a first-team All-SEC selection as a senior. He finished his career with 13 interceptions and his name is still listed in the record books. He came back to coach the running backs under Mark Richt in 2005 before going to Miami.
Tuesday, Richt was asked about Smart and Bobo's relationship.
“They're super-competitive, they want to win, and they certainly want to win against one of their best friends in life that they're going to have to talk with and deal with for the rest of the year and the rest of their career," Richt told a slew of Georgia reporters. "That is an interesting match-up right there."
Richt continued to say that when Smart coached at UGA in 2005, he and Bobo were "just like two peas in a pod."
"They're just good ball coaches and good people," he said.
Smart’s name may always be linked to Georgia—and countless other schools for that matter—but until he seriously entertains the idea of becoming a head coach somewhere, he’s dedicated to Alabama.
“He’s a very hard worker, a bright guy. He’s really done a phenomenal job for us,” Saban said. “He’s as fine of an assistant as I’ve ever had. He just does an exceptionally good job in all areas, recruiting, getting along with other people on the staff. You name it, he does it extremely well.”
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