Kirby Smart downplays questions surrounding Georgia defensive play-caller: ‘That’s overblown’

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12/31/21 - Miami Gardens - Dan Lanning and Kirby Smart during the 2nd quarter of the 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Michigan Wolverines at the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

ATHENS — As it stands, Georgia has two co-defensive coordinators in Glenn Schumann and Will Muschamp. The Bulldogs saw Dan Lanning depart for the Oregon job, as he had been the defensive coordinator for the past three seasons.

But Smart has mostly kept quiet on who is going to be the defensive play-caller for Georgia this coming season. Lanning would stand next to Smart on the sidelines and signal in plays and calls for the Georgia defense. Obviously that won’t be the case for Georgia this coming season.

When asked again on Tuesday who will fill that void, Smart was as forceful as he has been in terms of providing an answer to the question.

“That’s way overblown,” Smart said. “We know what we’re doing in house and that’s the focus.”

Related: Georgia football 2022 spring practice live updates, injury news and key position battles

Schumann is the longest-tenured member of the Georgia staff, as he is entering his seventh season as linebackers coach. Defensive line coach Tray Scott is back for his sixth season as well, with Smart identifying both coaches as key members of establishing the Georgia culture.

With Schumman seemingly in-line to take on a big role, Smart did expand on how Schumann has grown as a coach at Georgia. For all his experience, Schumann is still just 31 years old.

‘He’s always trying to grow and get better. He’s never satisfied,” Smart said. “He’s constantly on Zoom with the NFL guys; he talks to high school coaches; he’s a sponge. Doesn’t think he knows it all. Always trying to find a better way to do it, to reinvent himself as a coach.”

The Bulldogs did bring in two new coaches to help on the defensive side of the ball, in addition to promoting Muschamp from special teams coordinator to co-defensive coordinator. Fran Brown will be the new defensive backs coach while Chidrea Uzo-Diribie is the new outside linebackers coach.

Related: How Will Muschamp became Georgia’s most interesting assistant coach

‘’Chidera gives us great energy, enthusiasm, played the position, easy to recruit outside backers and defensive ends at University of Georgia because we’ve produced a lot of them,” Smart said of Uzo-Diribe. “It’s also easy to recruit to him because he played the position with tremendous success, had an stint in the NFL. He has got a really good track record, high character, very enthusiastic, and we’ve seen the impact on our players with what he’s done.”

One of the players Uzo-Diribie will be coaching is Nolan Smith. While many of the key faces from Georgia’s dominant 2021 defense are off to the NFL, Smith elected to return for his senior season. Part of the reason he did so was so that he could graduate, something his mom wants him to do.

But another reason is so that he can leave an even bigger legacy at Georgia, adding to what he has already done.

“Hopefully, my name is up there on that pillar behind you as be team captain one day,” Smith said. “I get to come back and show my kids that I graduated from here, I built a lot of things here in my little pond and I tried to make a ripple effect.”

Georgia has to replace a litany of stars on both the defensive line and linebacker. On the one hand, it speaks to the level of development that Schumann and the Georgia coaches are capable of. But it also speaks to the task ahead for Schumann and the new-look defense as a whole.

There are a lot of new faces in new places for the Georgia defense this spring.

“It’s big shoes to fill this year. We don’t want to put that much pressure on ourselves, but at times we have to,” defensive lineman Zion Logue said. “We have to step in. We have a lot of snaps. We need to be up field, special teams, defense, offense. Guys have to step up in different places in different areas.”

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