ATHENS — Five years ago Kirby Smart was wooed heavily by Mark Richt to return home to UGA as Richt’s defensive coordinator. Ultimately, Smart decided to stay at Alabama.
Now Smart is set to replace Richt, sources said Tuesday night, and has to choose his own staff. Given his Georgia background and familiarity with the school, no doubt Smart has long been thinking about what his staff will look like.
The most intriguing hire, because it has the most mystery with Smart, is who he would bring over as offensive coordinator, and what that will mean for what type of offense he runs.
Alabama receivers coach Billy Napier has experience, having guided Clemson’s offense in the late 2000s. But another name to watch could be Western Kentucky offensive coordinator Tyson Helton, whose offense ranked 10th nationally this year in total yards. Helton was at UAB as an assistant coach from 2007-12, so Smart would have gotten to know him then.
As for the other spots, here are some early indications:
- When Smart was Georgia’s running backs coach in 2005, one of his tailbacks was Thomas Brown, who is in his first year as Georgia’s running backs coach. So there’s also some familiarity there.
- Current defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is not expected to be retained, even though he and Smart worked together at Alabama. Pruitt will immediately become a candidate to replace Smart as Alabama’s defensive coordinator.
- Will Muschamp, who was Smart’s teammate at Georgia in the mid-1990s, could also be coming home. Muschamp, the former Florida head coach, is finishing up his first season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator. Smart will talk or already has talked to him about running his defense at Georgia.
- Scott Cochran, the strength and conditioning coordinator at Alabama, is close with Smart, and will be joining him at Georgia, AL.com reported on Tuesday night. It’s unsure what that will mean for Mark Hocke, who came to Georgia this year after six years as Cochran’s associate coordinator.
- Bryan McClendon, currently Georgia’s receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, has emerged as one of the nation’s top recruiters. That doesn’t automatically mean he will be retained, but there will be pressure on Smart to do so. McClendon was also on the team in 2005 when Smart was an assistant, though he was a receiver.
- At defensive line coach, there’s conflicting information: Current Georgia defensive line coach Tracy Rocker could be retained, a source told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but another source said Florida D-line coach Chris Rumph could be pursued.
- Kevin Sherrer, who was Georgia’s outside linebackers coach the past two years, is close with Pruitt, but is also familiar with Smart and Muschamp through his time as an Alabama assistant.
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