Every season there are a group of assistants many believe are ready to take the next step up into a head coaching position. This year’s crop of qualified coaches who have earned the big corner office features former assistants like Jimbo Fisher (FSU) and Joker Phillips (Kentucky). Today we’re looking at guys who Sports Geek, Bleacher Fan, and I feel are ready to take the next step. All three are proven assistant coaches in BCS conferences. Yet, of course, my guy is the best. Enter Kirby Smart.
Smart is a good ole South Georgia boy, playing high school football less than 100 miles from my hometown before taking his talents between the hedges in Athens at the University of Georgia. Before hitting the big time in the coaching ranks, he was an assistant coach at a small school in Georgia called Valdosta State University, which just so happens to be the alma mater of both Sports Geek and myself. The Geek even met him a time or two, but I never met him. (Editor’s Note: I’ll share a funny story about him here in an argument one day. Stay tuned.) Stops along the way in his coaching career included Florida State, LSU, Georgia, and even the Miami Dolphins, bringing him to his current role as a defensive coordinator at Alabama. He’s Nick Saban’s boy, having worked for him in Baton Rouge, Miami, and now in Tuscaloosa.
Kirby has a lot going for him. He’s young (34 years old), energetic, and is a proven hot commodity as an assistant coach. He is a 2009 recipient of the Frank Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach. He even contemplated returning to his alma mater to coach under Mark Richt, but he decided to remain loyal to Saban and the Crimson Tide. He got a nice raise, too.
There was really no need to leave Alabama for Georgia. He is the defensive coordinator for the defending national champions, and judging from the pre-season polls and the post-season predictions, the Tide are a favorite to repeat again. A big reason why is Smart’s defense. The Tide defense was second nationally in scoring last season, but nine starters either graduated or moved on to the NFL. However, the depth that Smart helped established should soften that blow. Many of the players that are replacing those starters earned valuable playing time a season ago.
Kirby Smart has “future head coach” written all over him (Editor’s Note: How do you know?). He certainly learned from one of the best, and despite being so young he has some impressive credentials on his resume. It’s highly doubtful Smart would leave Tuscaloosa for another coordinator position. After all, if he won’t leave for his alma mater, where else would he go for the same job? However, he would likely consider leaving for a head coaching job in the right situation. A school would be wise to give this guy a look next winter, quite possibly as Smart is celebrating another national championship.