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Better Know a Coach: Kirby Smart

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Kirby Smart knows how to play between the hedges.
Kirby Smart knows how to play between the hedges.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

DawgSports will be bringing you first looks at those who may be named to replace Head Coach Mark Richt.** We'll continue the series by reviewing the history of one Kirby Smart.

Raised in Bainbridge, GA, Smart starred for the Bainbridge High Bearcats and for his father (who was head coach). Enrolling at the University of Georgia in 1995, he played defensive back for the Bulldogs for four seasons. Any possible deficiencies were quickly covered up and remedied when he was joined in the defensive backfield by Champ Bailey.  Benefiting from a lot more attention on the secondary receivers, he snagged 5 interceptions his senior year and was named first team All-SEC.

A professional football playing career was not in his cards (signed as undrafted free agent by the Colts but was cut), and he stayed at UGA to watch Champ as a graduate assistant for Coach Jim Donnan in 1999. He moved further south in 2000 to join Chris Hatcher's staff at Valdosta State as a DB coach, and was promoted to the Defensive Coordinator position for the 2001 season. He jumped at the chance to join nearby FSU's staff as a graduate assistant under Bobby Bowden in 2002, and that move eventually paid off in spades.

Two years later, Smart headed west on I-10 and landed under the tutelage of the Nicholas Lou Saban, Jr. in Baton Rouge. Doing what he knew best, Smart coached DB's for Saban at LSU in the 2004 season. This was  right about the time Saban was going to be the coach forever at LSU, so when Saban immediately jumped to the Miami Dolphins, Smart connected with Mark Richt and coached the UGA running backs during the 2005 campaign.

After winning an SEC Championship, he couldn't wait to rejoin Nick Saban in 2006 as the safeties coach for the Dolphins (and we know how that turned out). A little thing called "Alabama" happened, and Smart followed Saban to Tuscaloosa for the 2007 season. He was promoted to full defensive coordinator for Alabama in 2008, and has since been named the Assistant Coach of the Year. Oh, and three national championships, tons of NFL first round recruits, and generally top-ranked defenses most every year.

He worked with Jeremy Pruitt for the 2012 Alabama season, and has deep ties with many good high school programs. He runs a 3-4 scheme, but has multiple alignments from the base, and it relies on very strong weak-side linebackers to make big plays. Rolando McClain, CJ Moseley, Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower fit that bill. Of course it helps if you have a strong defensive down linemen. Well, Terence "Mount" Cody and Marcell Dareus fulfill that requirement. And in case your front seven aren't up to snuff, you need a secondary that can pressure wide receivers on the line and in space. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, Kareem Jackson, Javier Arenas, Dee Milliner and Greg McElroy all thrived under this scheme. Wait, I think maybe it wasn't McElroy, who Alta Vista tells me was the mold for AJ McCarron, who was in turn Brodie Croyle 3.0 (John Parker Wilson being Croyle 2.0, and Croyle being Croyle 1.0. But I digress).

UGA would be getting an alumni, one of the hottest assistants in the nation since 2010, and one with extremely high rates of success obtaining and developing recruits.  If there's a "can't miss assistant" coach out there, Smart is generally the consensus #1. That's with the caveat that "can't miss" and "assistant" are relevant, and supersedeshiring a known head coach instead of a coordinator who has yet to hold the reins. Smart has reportedly turned down many other offers including UGA's DC position in 2010. Either way, it won't be the answer to our offensive woes, unless you want Smart to convince Thomas Brown to stick around and run up the middle on 3rd and long.

** Just so we're clear, I am NOT happy having to type those words.