Auburn hire Bryan Harsin joins ‘Old Man Kirby’ in SEC shark tank
ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart turned 45 years old on Wednesday, on the verge of completing his fifth season as the Bulldogs’ head coach.
It has been an impressive run, Smart 9-5 vs. Top 10 teams and becoming the second coach in history to win three straight SEC East Division titles (2017-19). Smart and the Bulldogs have a fourth-straight Top 10 finish at stake in their Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl game with Cincinnati at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 1.
Indeed, just call him “Old Man Kirby” when noting the striking turnover in the SEC head coaching ranks since Smart took over the UGA program after the 2015 season.
UGA rivals Florida, Tennessee and now Auburn have all hired new coaches since Smart became Georgia’s head coach, with former Boise State coach Bryan Harsin the latest to jump into the shark tank.
The 44-year-old Harsin is a former Boise State quarterback (1995-99) as well as assistant coach (2001-2010) and Broncos’ head coach (2014-2020).
Smart and Harsin have been across the field from one another just once, albeit in much smaller roles.
Smart was the running backs coach on the 2005 Georgia team coached by Mark Richt that beat the Broncos 48-13 in Athens en route to the SEC Championship.
That Boise State team had Dan Hawkins as head coach, Chris Peterson as offensive coordinator and Harsin as the tight ends coach.
Peterson was promoted to head coach after the season, and Harsin to offensive coordinator, and the 2006 Boise State team went 13-0 and beat Oklahoma in a 43-42 Instant Classic Fiesta Bowl.
Harsin left to work as Mack Brown’s co-offensive coordinator at Texas (2011-12) in narrowly misseing being a part of a Broncos’ program that avenged its first loss to Georgia, as the 2011 Broncos beat the Bulldogs 35-21 in Atlanta.
The Texas stint led to Harsin’s first head coaching job at Arkansas State, where he replaced recently departed Gus Malzahn.
Harsin went 7-5 with current Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz as his co-offensive coordinator, splitting Sun Belt Conference championship honors, leaving prior to the program’s bowl win to become Boise State’s head coach.
Harsin promptly won Boise State’s first Mountain West Conference Championship his first season back home — he’s from Boise — and was named the FWAA First-Year Coach of the Year.
Many wonder how Harsin and the staff he hires will recruit in the SEC, particularly with powerhouses like Alabama and Georgia covering the same region.
Fact is, there are more great players to go around than any of the staffs can gather, and teams don’t always pick the right targets.
Georgia, for example, bypassed Co-SEC Freshman of the Year Tank Bigsby, a 4-star prospect from Hogansville, Ga., to chase Texas prospect Zach Evans.
Evans’ complex recruitment led him to TCU, where he had 54 carries for 415 yards and 5 touchdowns, appearing in five of his team’s 10 games.
Bigsby, meanwhile, averaged 6 yards per carry and had four 100-yard games, finishing with 834 yards and 5 touchdowns on 138 attempts.
Kendall Milton, the back Georgia did sign, was injured in fall camp and again in season, playing in six of nine games with 31 carries for 183 yards and no touchdowns.
Harsin’s 2021 Tigers’ team will have another former SEC Freshman of the Year, Bo Nix, leading a talented team.
Still, Harsin and his new staff will need to hit the ground running to gain traction with a productive 2021 signing class.
The Tigers rank just 41st in the 247Sports team composite recruiting rankings, well off the pace set by SEC leaders Alabama (No. 1), Georgia (No. 3), LSU (No. 4), Texas A&M (No. 7) and Florida (No. 10).
(age, and tenure at current school)
Alabama HC Nick Saban, 69 years old, 13 years (on Jan. 3)
Kentucky HC Mike Stoops, 53 years old, eight years
Georgia HC Kirby Smart, 45 years old, five years
LSU HC Ed Orgeron, 59 years old, four years (hired as interim HC 9-25-16)
Florida HC Dan Mullen, 48 years old, three years
Texas A&M HC Jimbo Fisher, 55 years old, three years
Tennessee HC Jeremy Pruitt, 46 years old, three years
Ole Miss HC Lane Kiffin, 45 years old, one year
Arkansas HC Sam Pittman, 59 years old, one year
Missouri HC Eli Drinkwitz, 37 years old, one year
Mississippi State HC Mike Leach, 59 years old, one year
Vanderbilt HC Clark Lea, 38 years old, one week
South Carolina HC Shane Beamer, 43 years old, two weeks
Auburn HC Bryan Harsin, 44 years old, one day
Georgia football Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl