Nick Saban clearly means a lot to Kirby Smart. At every turn, Smart has proven to be complementary of his former boss.

That was the case once again last week ahead of the Regions Tradition Golf Tournament in Hoover, Ala.

“Nick’s been great,” Smart told a group of reporters. He’s been wonderful over my career. He’s a great man. He’s a leader in college football and continues to do that. He’s been very supportive of me and my family. Enjoyed it.”

Smart though will not be matching up against Saban when Georgia and Alabama meet up on Sept. 28. Saban announced his retirement earlier this year, clearing the way for Alabama to hire former Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer as his replacement.

Unlike Smart, DeBoer does not come from the Saban coaching tree. The new Alabama coach spent the previous two seasons at Washington before working at Fresno State before that.

Smart worked with Saban for nine seasons at Alabama. There’s a deep familiarity with Saban. That is not the case with DeBoer.

“Don’t know much about Kalen,” Smart said. “Been in a couple of meetings with him in the SEC head coach meetings. Been great to get to know him. Shared some thoughts in those meetings that we all share in our “head coach family.” Seems like a great guy.”

When Smart and DeBoer next meet on Sept. 28, it will be the first time the two match up as head coaches.

Smart will hope to have more success against DeBoer than he did Saban, as Smart is 1-5 in his career against Alabama. The lone victory came in the 2022 National Championship Game, when Georgia beat Alabama 33-18.

The last time Georgia faced Alabama came in the 2020 season, with Alabama winning 41-24. That game though was played in front of a limited crowd due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It is the only time Georgia and Alabama have met during the regular season since Smart became Georgia’s head coach. The other five have either come in the SEC championship game or the national championship.

Georgia and Alabama met last season, with the Crimson Tide winning 27-24. That defeat prevented Georgia from possibly facing DeBoer’s Washington team in the College Football Playoff last season. The Huskies went 14-1, with the lone loss coming to Michigan.

That last loss to Alabama has been a motivating force for Georgia this offseason.

“I think there was a bad taste in our mouth after last year,” Georgia offensive lineman Tate Ratledge said. “Of course there’s things I want to accomplish by myself and I want to see this team accomplish. Those things had a big reason why I came back.”

The history between Smart and Saban always added weight to the Georgia-Alabama rivalry. When Smart and DeBoer meet for the first time this fall, they’ll begin writing a new history together.

And perhaps Smart will have a strong understanding of who he is matching wits with when he and DeBoer face off on Sept. 28. The game will air on ABC and start at 7:30 p.m. ET.