The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that "barring a last-minute snag" in the negotiations Kirby Smart will be named the new head football coach at the University of Georgia. An announcement could come as soon as Sunday, following the SEC Championship Game. That timing makes sense given Nick Saban's general loathing of anything that even looks a little like a distraction. Distractions aren't a part of The Process.
The AJC is also reporting that Smart will retain defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, but that there are no details yet on which other coaches might be retained. My suspicion is that running backs coach Thomas Brown and wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon stand a reasonable chance of being retained. I base this on the fact that a) both are ace recruiters, b) both are Georgia grads who were playing at Georgia when Kirby Smart last coached there in 2005, and c) both are still out on the road recruiting for the Bulldogs. A) and C) are probably most significant.
As much as Bulldog fans and players wish for it, I think it's relatively unlikely that defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt would be retained in this situation. For one, Pruitt has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in Athens during his two seasons in town. If Smart wanted to retain his former assistant he'd have to do some convincing. Make no mistake, there are people within the athletic department who don't like Pruitt. Like, "won't work with him" don't like. Smart would have had to decide beforehand that keeping Pruitt and starting his tenure by telling those folks to deal with it or hit the bricks was worth it.
There's also perhaps a little bit of a struggle of egos there. Both Pruitt and Smart are intense coaches, and Pruitt has long been rumored to be looking to move into the head coaching ranks. Heck, he's been linked to the South Carolina opening by some reports as recently as today. Would he even want to stay around to take part in a building job under a new head coach? Would he want to risk the perception that Smart's really running the defense, that he's to Kirby Smart what Kirby Smart was to Nick Saban?
On the other hand, Pruitt is the strongest link to many of the Bulldogs' most significant recruits, and keeping him would go a long way toward keeping those recruits. Smart recruits Georgia for the Tide, so it's not like Mecole Hardman and Julian Rochester have never met the guy. But still, Pruitt's the reason those guys were committed to or very high on Georgia.
And I'm less convinced than some that Pruitt is ticketed for head coaching. Everyone has a little baggage, but Pruitt brings with him those questions about his, let's say, "intensity", and the tawdry allegations that FSU fans gleefully leveled at him when he left Tallahassee. While those allegations may be entirely untrue, they would likely be part of the discussion any Power 5 AD would have with Pruitt before handing him the keys to the program.
Sure the two are friends who talk often. But they have cell phones all over the place these days. I don't work with all of my friends and you don't either. So while there are reasons to believe Pruitt might stay, and that Smart might want him to, there are also reasons why it just might not work out.
In the end, it was always likely to be Kirby Smart. Everyone knew this, deep down, and that he's only likely not to be the guy if something important snags the deal. We'll be back as more details about this come out, including if those snags come out of the woodwork. Until later . . .