DALLAS — Welcome back to the All-Kirby/All-The-Time Cotton Bowl. New Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday he has packed some Bulldogs team gear and he plans to wear some of it after the Cotton Bowl when he travels to Jacksonville for the Dogs’ Taxslayer Bowl game against Penn State on Jan. 2.
“I’m going to fly right after the game,” Smart said. “The Georgia stuff is in the (hotel) closet. My wife brought some stuff but I really haven’t looked in there to see what’s there.”
The schedule works out since Georgia’s bowl falls two days after Smart will coach Alabama’s defense against Michigan State. He said he plans to “just observe the game” and “meet with some people,” as well as fulfill some media obligations. He doesn’t expect to meet with the existing coaching staff.
Smart said he’s not sure if he’ll watch the game from the field or a box, adding, “I obviously have some stuff here to worry about right now.”
He also said the result of Alabama’s game will determine whether he travels from Jacksonville to Athens (if the Crimson Tide loses) or back to Tuscaloosa (if the Tide wins).
Smart also mused over the fact that he wore plain khaki slacks and a logo-free black pullover over a white T-shirt at the Cotton Bowl’s media day. He was the only Alabama coach or player in attendance who did not wear official Alabama gear. (Alabama coach Nick Saban didn’t wear a team shirt but his sweater was team colors.)
“I purposely dug this out of the closet,” Smart said. “You notice what it has on it, right?”
Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, sitting at an interview table near Smart, said, “I already said something to him about that. Obviously he did it on purpose. I may go put my visor on him.”
Smart touched on a few other topics:
• On former Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt: He’s replacing Smart as Alabama’s defensive coordinator. Smart acknowledged he “visited several times” with Pruitt about staying at Georgia but he would not say if he ever actually offered him the job.
“We had heart-to-hearts,” Smart said. “But that stays between Jeremy and I because we’re close friends. We obviously had conversations because that’s part of the process. … The biggest thing with him is he had a chance to come back to Alabama. This is where he played. This is where he went to school, and he thought it was a great setup for him. He came back to a great place and he’s working for a great man.”
Smart reiterated that he was given the freedom to hire any coach he wanted and at no time did athletic director Greg McGarity take Pruitt off the table because of any reported friction this past season.
When asked about reports Pruitt and his abrasive personality was at the center of dysfunction on the Georgia coaching staff, Smart said, “I don’t know the answer to that because I wasn’t there. I heard a lot of the same rumors you heard. A lot of people told me stuff that I didn’t know to be true. I didn’t verify it. I can’t verify it. And I didn’t want to get caught up in that because I really didn’t care. All I care about is what happens past that. How are we going to progress and go forward? And like I said, he had a great opportunity come up.
• On coaching defense himself: Smart admitted that the thought of being his own defensive coordinator at Georgia “has crossed my mind.” But it’s not his preference and he will continue to interview candidates.
“Some coaches have done that. Lane did that from an offensive perspective and Will (Muschamp) said he was probably more involved with the defense (at Florida) because it was his passion. But you have to be careful. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s all going to be dictated by who I’m able to contact and talk to. But it’s obviously a big responsibility. It’s not something I want to put on my plate. But if I don’t find the right guy, then it might come to that.”
• On how much time he is spending daily on Georgia: “Five or six hours. I sleep about six hours so that leaves, what 10 or 12 (on Alabama)? This has changed everything,” Smart said, holding up his cellphone. He noted, “The bus ride over here to the stadium was 30 minutes,” enough time for phone calls.
Smart said Saban has been very accommodating and that he has been excused from recruiting or academic meetings since accepting the Georgia job.
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