ATHENS — The lack of a special teams coordinator – or at least one person specifically dedicated to special teams – was one of the great criticisms of Mark Richt’s tenure at Georgia. At Alabama, meanwhile, there has indeed been a special teams coordinator for the past eight years.
So will Kirby Smart bring that philosophy with him to Georgia?
He’s not sure yet.
“I obviously philosophically believe in having that,” Smart said on Monday. “But I’m not limiting myself to not breaking it up (among different assistants). Until I get that position filled and feel comfortable with it, with the person I would hire, I’m not ready to say that yet.”
What’s important to remember is that the NCAA limits a staff to 10 full-time coaches – the head coach and nine assistants. Richt always said that if the NCAA expanded it to 11 coaching spots he would add a special teams coordinator. Failing that, he preferred to break it up among individual assistants. Two years ago he appointed John Lilly and Mike Ekeler as co-special teams coordinators, but in reality the duties were still broken up among the assistants.
When Georgia’s special teams failed, as they did often the past few years, the lack of one special teams coordinator was quickly pointed to as a culprit.
Of course when the special teams succeeded – Isaiah McKenzie’s many punt and kick return touchdowns, for instance – it was overlooked.
Alabama’s special teams have been consistently better, with Bobby Williams serving as special teams coordinator since 2008. He is also the tight ends coach. In Nick Saban’s first season at Alabama, 2007, Ron Middleton served in those roles. Even then it hasn’t just been the special teams coordinator: Alabama’s defensive coaches have also had input on things like covering kicks and punts.
Ideally, Smart will have a similar set-up. But it will depend on how the coaching staff ends up piecing together, and if he ends up hiring multiple coaches with a good special teams background.
“Philosophically I do think having a special teams coordinator that does all of those things is more important.,” Smart said. “But should I come across a situation where one coach is really good at two (special teams units) and another coach is really good with others, and they’ve got history with success at that, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t do that.”