The news that Todd Grantham would be leaving the University of Georgia came as a bit of a surprise. Sure, rumors sprang up as early September, but so far this young offseason Coach Richt had been steadfast in denying any coaching changes.
Now, with the resignation of Coach Scott Lakatos and Grantham's defection, it appears that the Bulldog defensive staff is in line for a total rebuild. It's obviously way early to have any idea who'll even interview for the job. And if past hires (Van Gorder, Grantham...) are any indication, Mark Richt doesn't mind looking beyond the usual suspects. However, a few names have already emerged as popular candidates to become the next defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia. We'll be looking at several through the day today, and as the search progresses. We start with perhaps the best known candidate.
Kirby Smart, the former Bulldog and current Alabama DC was the first name on the nation's lips. He spurned the job in 2009 and one has to wonder what has changed since. For one Rodney Garner is no longer a member of the staff. Rumors have circulated for a long time that Smart and Garner aren't bosom buddies, but I don't see how that alone makes the job more attractive than before.
I don't see Smart leaving Alabama at this point except for a head coaching job, which we don't have to offer. And Greg McGarity has not been a champion of the "Coach in waiting" concept in the past. And I have a hard time imagining Mark Richt going along with the idea either. There's also the question of what you say to the longest tenured assistant on the Bulldog staff, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Bobo is also a successful coordinator, a Georgia alum, and a respected recruiter. But his name just isn't as hot as Smart's. I don't know that Coach Richt has enough Machiavelli in him to do that to his longtime offensive coach.
Smart's 3 year, $3.85 million deal with the Tide is also an issue. Georgia can beat it, but Alabama might be willing to up it. Certainly there's a tipping point beyond which Nick Saban feels he can find someone else to do the job without the distraction of occasional overtures from the home folks. I have no idea where that number is, but it involves substantially more coin than Todd Grantham was making.
The verdict? I think Smart is more of a wish than an option. There have been a lot of changes in Tuscaloosa already this offseason (OC Doug Nussmeier already left town), but all the things that seem like they would have to fall into place for Kirby Smart to be your next defensive coordinator at Georgia just aren't likely to line up. There are certain big name boosters who will insist that he gets a call, and I expect McGarity and Richt to indulge those folks. But the move just doesn't make a lot of sense for Smart.