Smart reflects on his coaching tree, first five years as a head coach

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Smart reflects on his coaching tree, first five years as a head coach

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and Georgia offensive lineman Trey Hill (55) before a game against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC., on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and Georgia offensive lineman Trey Hill (55) before a game against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC., on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Georgia hired Kirby Smart just over five years ago on Dec. 7, 2015, replacing former head coach Mark Richt, who spent the previous 15 seasons in Athens.

The South Georgia native came back to his alma mater from Alabama, where he spent eight years under Nick Saban. Smart is thought of to be one of the best and brightest in Saban’s coaching tree, which is a list that is long. Now, five years in as a head coach, Smart has a small coaching tree of his own.

Two years ago, former defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was hired away from UGA to Colorado, where he would spend one season before taking the job at Michigan State. Last December, former offensive line coach Sam Pittman took the head coaching job at Arkansas, which is where he spent previous time at. Recently, former tight ends coach and special teams coordinator, Shane Beamer, was hired to be the head coach at South Carolina.

All three coaches were brought in by Smart as apart of his initial staff after taking the job at Georgia.

On Monday, Smart was asked about Beamer taking the job at South Carolina, and he was nothing but happy for his long time friend.

“Shane is a good friend of mine and we’ve been friends for a long time,” Smart said. “I certainly appreciate what he did for the University of Georgia while he was here, he worked really hard to help shape and build our program. He did the same, I’m sure, at Oklahoma with Lincoln (Riley). He’s done a good job where he’s been.”

Beamer was hired at South Carolina on Smart’s five-year anniversary since being appointed the head coach at Georgia. In that span, the Bulldogs have a combined 50-14 record under Smart. The program has three SEC East Titles, an SEC Championship, a Rose Bowl victory and a national championship appearance. Plus, Smart has a winning record against all of Georgia’s rivals.

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Smart has also signed four top-five ranked recruiting classes and is helping the program expand the football facilities. Since taking over in 2015, Smart has built the program into an annual contender for the College Football Playoff.

Smart has the program moving in the right direction, although he has yet to win a national championship. Since reaching the title game in his second year, the pressure has been on the former Georgia safety to bring a championship back to Athens. He has shown he can compete in recruiting, keep the program afloat and in contention, but hasn’t been able to overcome a national powerhouse like Alabama.

Many say Smart has reached his ceiling faster than Richt, especially since the records through their first five years are similar. Although, Smart is only 45 years old and is still a young coach. It seems like he has a long way to go. He’s constantly still learning to adapt to college football, which is a game that’s always evolving.

Georgia’s offense struggled last year for the better part of the season and received a lot of backlash as former quarterback Jake Fromm was under scrutiny. Smart adjusted and went out and hired a veteran offensive-minded coach in Todd Monken. He also went out and signed dual-threat quarterbacks Jamie Newman and J.T. Daniels, both of whom are very talented players.

“If you stop growing as a coach, then you probably need to give the business up because we’re always growing and adapting to the changes that are happening in college football,” he said.

Smart said that continues to grow every day, and that’s the most valuable thing he’s learned since first becoming a head coach.

“I came in with a mantra of ‘What’s important now?’ and I don’t think that’s changed,” he said. “Dealing with the problem or issue that’s at hand, not trying to look too far down the road, and knowing that every day is going to be different.”

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.