Georgia has reportedly found a replacement for 15-year head coach Mark Richt, and is expected to hire former Bulldogs player and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, as first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chip Towers and confirmed by FootballScoop and ESPN's Mark Schlabach. Smart was the top target for Georgia all along, according to SB Nation's Steven Godfrey.
A Nick Saban assistant with LSU, the Miami Dolphins and Alabama, Smart would take over a team with a loaded roster ready to win right away, but with high enough expectations to fire a coach that had consistently produced double-digit seasons.
We're now *that* much closer to every SEC East team hiring a former Saban assistant. And as a defensive coach, he'd need some offensive help, so why not look to the guy he's replacing?
Smart has been one of the nation's most successful assistants in his eight years with the Crimson Tide. He won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach in only his second year as Alabama's DC and has won three national titles — and four SEC West rings — under Nick Saban. His defenses have ranked in the top five in terms of FBS total defense in all but one of his season's as the unit's architect, and even then they still ranked 11th.
Alabama's defense has probably been the best in the nation since Smart took over, and it seems nearly every starter who's eligible for the NFL Draft gets picked up by a professional franchise one way or another. Smart was paid more as a coordinator at Alabama than what some head coaches make, and he's played a key role in the Crimson Tide winning three national championships in four years. Given his defensive pedigree, many have tabbed him as one of the top head coaches-in-waiting for years.
That reputation started back in 2011 when reports tied him to the Ole Miss vacancy that eventually went to Hugh Freeze. Smart's name really blew up one year later when he was linked to three different SEC posts. Various rumors had him in play as the new head coach at Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn.
Smart, 39, has been an SEC man throughout nearly his entire football career. He played four years at the University of Georgia as a defensive back, and earned All-SEC honors his senior year.