ATHENS — Kirby Smart is his own person, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit wants to be absolutely clear on that.
But if you look at how the Georgia football program has been rebuilt the past two years, Herbstreit says, there are a lot of similarities to Alabama.
On Monday, Smart had a Coke bottle on the podium as he spoke — just like Saban does in Tuscaloosa.
“I think people, if they are being honest with themselves, see Kirby Smart at Alabama for all those years [as an assistant], him basically picking up the blueprint from Tuscaloosa, moving it to Athens, and in a couple of years, seeing that play itself out,” Herbstreit told DawgNation in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
Herbstreit, who has been an analyst for ESPN’s College GameDay since 1996, said Smart has transformed Georgia into a “perennial powerhouse.”
The former Ohio State quarterback said he would do things the same way as he perceives Smart has done them with the Bulldogs.
“If you grew up and your model was looked at as a dynasty, and you lived that, why would you do anything outside of that dynasty at Alabama, you were a big part of that dynasty,” Herbstreit said.
“If I were Kirby, I would literally take every single thing we did and bring it to wherever I was going, let alone my alma mater, where I’ve got great resources, great tradition, and great high school football within that 90 mile radius around Athens.”
As for the comparisons between Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and Smart, who coached alongside Saban for 11 years — nine in Tuscaloosa — Herbstreit said they are valid.
“With the media, Kirby is a little lighter and not quite as challenging, in that setting, I think his personality, he’s his own person,” Herbstreit said. “When it comes to talking to him versus Coach Saban, I think personality is about the only thing that’s different between Kirby and Coach Saban.
“I think the football side is very, very similar.”
Smart has made light of the comparisons to Alabama and Saban, most recently at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., this spring.
“Just like I left Alabama with all the secrets I learned when I was there I took with me,” Smart said, before mentioning other former Saban assistants. “And [Will] Muschamp took all those secrets from LSU, and Jimbo [Fisher] took all those secrets from LSU, now Jeremy [Pruitt] has all those secrets.”
Smart does, however, make sure to give Saban proper credit.
“I think I learned a tremendous amount about being a leader and the head of an organization from working for Coach Saban,” Smart said. “But it’s not like I’m the first one to ever go do this. There’s been guys that have been successful that’s left [Saban’s staff]; there’s guys who haven’t been successful that left. It’s to each their own. It’s about each individual person.
“Some guys try to do it like him, some don’t. I don’t think that’s the exact recipe.”