HOOVER, Ala. – Whenever Jonathan Allen would run off the football field after one of his third-down sacks – and that happened a lot — he’d almost always be greeted with a mid-air chest bump or helmet-slap from Kirby Smart.
That won’t be the case this year as Smart finally answered one of the head coaching calls he’d annually receive. The chance to take over at Georgia, his alma mater, was too great to ignore.
“Probably his intensity and his tenacity,” Allen said of what he misses most with Smart gone. “He was such a fired-up guy. I love that from a coach. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
Smart got a lot out of Allen at Alabama. The 6-foot-3, 291-pound senior proved to be one of the best pass-rushers in the country during the Crimson Tide’s run to a national championship. Utilized primarily as a third-down specialist on a defensive front that went nine deep, Allen recorded 12 quarterback sacks. All of those came against Power 5 competition and 11 against ranked teams.
Ignoring a promising NFL shot and choosing to return to Alabama for his senior season, Allen now must adjust not only to a new defensive coordinator, but also to a new line coach. Bo Davis resigned after being the focus of an NCAA investigation for impermissible recruiting visits.
Alabama replaced Smart with Jeremy Pruitt, Georgia’s defensive coordinator that last two years, and Davis was replaced by the Buffalo Bills’ Karl Dunbar.
Allen was asked to compare the two coordinators.
“I’ll say (Pruitt’s) a lot more laid back,” Allen said. “But he still gets fired up; he’s a great coach, from what I’ve seen in spring. I can see why we brought him in. He’s a hell of a coach and we’re so excited to have him.”
Smart and Davis represent just part of a mass coaching transition on that side of the ball. Smart took defensive backs coach Mel Tucker to Georgia as coordinator and also Glenn Schumann, who served in a defensive analyst role the last four years in Tuscaloosa. Schumann is coaching linebackers for the Bulldogs.
That has meant a lot of new faces coaching on the defensive side of the ball for the Crimson Tide. But Allen doesn’t believe that will spell a setback for the Bama D.
“No, not at all,” Allen said. “We’re always behind Coach (Nick) Saban. The way we feel, if Coach Saban has enough trust to bring them here then so do we. Honestly, (they have to) earn the trust within the players. But, I mean, we follow Coach Saban, so if he tells us ‘this is a good guy and he’s going to be able to help us,’ then we’re 100 percent behind them.”
As for Smart at Georgia, Allen expects the former defensive chief is going to be a great head coach.
“I think he’s very ready. We’re so excited for him to go back to his alma mater. I think he’s going to have tremendous success. I’m just glad he didn’t come back to the SEC West.”