TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Kirby Smart famously has been working two jobs for the last month as both Georgia’s new head coach and Alabama’s defensive coordinator. And, in case you haven’t heard, the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide (13-1) is playing Clemson (14-0) on Monday night for college football’s national championship.
But while Smart’s responsibilities to the Bulldogs have bled into his Alabama schedule of preparation, the Crimson Tide’s coaches and players say emphatically that it hasn’t detracted from them.
“There is no slack,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said emphatically Wednesday at the Tide’s news conference at the Mal Moore Atheltic Facility. “Everybody I think is totally committed to what they need to do here. I don’t have any questions about that. I didn’t have any questions about it in preparation for the last game. I certainly don’t have any based on this game.”
“If anything it’s up,” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said of Smart’s energy level in practices and meetings this week. “It’s more. We know this is my last go and it’s his last go, so we’re going to give the best that we can. … For the most part, Coach Smart has been extra hard on us to get the job done.”
Smart seconded that notion. Speaking to a room of reporters right after the Crimson Tide came off the field from a two-hour practice, Smart appeared physically tired and sounded hoarse. But he said he has gone out of his way to being sure his charges know they’re getting his all when he’s wearing his Alabama pullover.
“It’s tough to manage both, but I take pride in giving the same amount of time I’ve always given to the Alabama players of game-planning, adjusting,” Smart said. “Certainly when I would have been recruiting for Alabama I’m on the phone or Internet or Twitter, I spend all that time on Georgia with the recruiting. At the end of the day, the coaches here are still recruiting for Alabama just like I’m recruiting for Georgia, so that time gets offset.
“But as far as my commitment to the players, it hasn’t dropped any. If anything, I’m trying to make sure they know I’m giving them everything I’ve got every day and bring a lot of energy out there.”
Saban, who has been through this process many times over the years, said he emphasizes to outgoing coaches to simply focus their energies on the players and the rest will take care of itself.
“I think sometimes when you coach, if it’s not for the players doing all the things they do to help you be successful, you wouldn’t have success,” he said. “You wouldn’t get opportunities. So I think we’re all doing this in honor of the team and the players. And that’s something I think that everybody should have tremendous amount of respect for in terms of what everybody on the staff is doing to try to help this team do the best they can in this particular game.”