ATHENS — Kirby Smart is putting Will Muschamp on the sideline to face Clemson, and it might just be the winning edge Georgia needs.
Muschamp’s expertise working in the secondary has come in handy with the Bulldogs replacing seven defensive backs, and when special teams coach Scott Cochran took a leave of absence, Muschamp was an easy choice to replace him.
It’s an added bonus Muschamp spent much of the past five years sharing the state of South Carolina with Dabo Swinney, recruiting against the Tigers every day and game-planning to try to beat them.
“Yes, he’s been a tremendous asset,” Smart said on his Zoom call on Monday. “I can’t express enough the move to get him on board, and how important it’s been especially considering our situation, him being an on-the-field coach.”
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs kick off against No. 3-ranked Clemson at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
Smart had originally hired Muschamp after last season to serve as a senior defensive analyst, where he could watch his son, walk-on QB Jackson Muschamp.
It seemed a natural hire for Smart after Muschamp’s firing. The two have always been good friends going back to when Muschamp helped Smart break into the coaching ranks at Valdosta State, and then again helping to pull him to LSU to work under Nick Saban.
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Muschamp’s role at Georgia has enabled him to spend time working alongside Smart again, along with secondary coach Jahmile Addae.
Smart pointed out there’s plenty of work to go around with the Bulldogs replenishing a secondary that lost five former starters to the NFL and transfers Major Burns (LSU) and Tyrique Stevenson (Miami).
“We’ve never had that many holes to fill; I know not in the years I’ve been here, (and) I can’t think of a year ever coaching in my experience that we’ve had that many departures in the same unit,” Smart said. “So, it’ll look very different. A lot of those guys are as talented as the guys we’ve had in the past but very rarely have we had lack of experience.
“We just have to go execute and we have to communicate well. Clemson makes it hard on you because they do a good job of moving people around and shifting in motion.”
Muschamp, working from the sidelines, will help to make it easier for the young and inexperienced Georgia defensive backs.
Muschamp, of course, will also be directing traffic for special teams.
“He’s been a jolt of energy to special teams, he’s been an extra set of eyes in the defensive backfield,” Smart said. “We’ve been able to break things down. You know there are a lot of parts to the secondary and when you’ve got new parts in all those parts it helps to have an extra set of eyes.
“He’s been tremendous at that, and he’ll operate on the sideline and make a lot of special teams calls, signals, and decisions. Those kinds of things, and he’ll also help with our defensive backs on the sideline.”
Clemson had great success against Muschamp, beating him all four times the Tigers and Gamecocks met in the midst of a 10-game regular-season win streak against SEC teams.
Georgia was on the opposite sideline the last time Clemson lost a regular-season game to an SEC team, in 2014.
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Smart sees this opening game as an opportunity for a big win, but also, for growth.
“Our fans crave these kinds of games, we as coaches crave these kinds of games,” Smart said. “You find out a lot more of yourself when you play in these kinds of games … it’s an opportunity to make us grow and be better in our SEC schedule regardless of the outcome.”
Muschamp, working as special teams coach and calling signals for the secondary, will be right in the middle of it.
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