DESTIN, Fla. — Poised, relaxed and balanced, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart handled his third SEC spring meetings in stride on Tuesday afternoon.
Smart might be the fastest-rising star in the college football coaching ranks, but he has maintained an appealing down-to-earth disposition.
The hot-button issue at these SEC meetings seems to be that of graduate transfers and whether the conference should change a rule requiring them to sit out for a season for in-conference moves.
Smart was the only SEC coach to point out the hypocrisy of the rule when a questioner asked about coaches making an argument that a player they’ve developed for years could leave the system and help another program.
“You mean just like we do as coaches, right?” Smart said. “Just like I left Alabama with all the secrets I learned when I was there I took with me, 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.
“So, I don’t see it that way.”
Smart said he’s in favor of graduate transfers having the freedom to choose where they go without having to sit out a season.
Here are five other issues Smart addressed on Tuesday:
1. Title game
It’s hard to imagine how painful losing a National Championship Game in walk-off, overtime fashion could be, but Smart explained why he quickly got over it.
“The way the world is now, we had to recruit within two days of that,” Smart said. “So, I’m in homes selling the season we had and the progress we made, and you can’t let that play beat you twice.
“In this profession, you learn quickly there’s going to be plays we’re going to make and win a game, and they made a great play and they won the game,” he said. “I think it was a lot more important for us to move on and worry about recruiting than to dwell on that. It’s certainly not something I’m sitting here focused on now.”
2. Negative recruiting
Smart was told that Nick Saban believes other coaches are negative recruiting against Alabama by questioning how much longer Saban will be the Crimson Tide’s coach.
Smart made it clear that he doesn’t think Saban is going anywhere soon.
“I think Nick is in great health; I played pickup basketball with him for 20 years, it felt like,” Smart said. “He takes care of himself, he plays a lot of golf, he’s very healthy. When people ask me that question, I think he’ll coach as long as he wants to because he’s competitive. He doesn’t want to do anything else and he’s good at what he does.
“A kid asks me that, he may coach forever; he’s probably going to outlive me, the way he takes care of his body.”
Smart said he doesn’t think negative recruiting is an effective tool.
“Negative recruiting, to me, never works on the kind of kids and people you want in your program,” Smart said. “If they buy into that, they are probably a little gullible.”
3. Nick Saban influence
Saban has seen several assistants go on to take other jobs, and some presume that those coaches attempt to clone the formula of their former boss.
Smart explained that’s not always the case, and it’s not what he attempts to do.
“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.”
Still, Smart made sure to give proper credit where he felt it was due.
“I certainly don’t want to discredit anything I learned in that organization or working for him,” Smart said. “I worked for him in three different places — you’ve got to remember, it’s not like it’s just Alabama. I worked with him with the Miami Dolphins and LSU.
“A lot of my success I can attribute to Nick, and I appreciate the way he developed not only me as a coach but a lot of guys that worked for him.”
4. Paranoid coaches
Smart said there are indeed “a lot of really paranoid coaches” when it comes to the topic of stealing signals and play calls during games.
“You’re not looking at one that’s overly paranoid, but maybe I should be,” Smart said, “because everywhere I’ve coached, people are freaking out a week before the game, day before game.
“We played Alabama this year and I had so much other stuff to worry about, I didn’t worry about that. I didn’t change anything we did. I don’t know if they did or not, [but] I had my hands full with other things. I think there is a paranoia out there about that. It’s probably overdone, in my opinion.”
5. Schedule fix
Smart said he would be all for playing Auburn at home in back-to-back years — like the Tigers did with Georgia in 2012 and 2013 — so that Georgia could avoid playing Auburn and Georgia Tech in back-to-back road games.
“Absolutely, if we can get a chance to fix that and return the favor we paid to them,” Smart said when told that Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has discussed wanting to avoid playing Georgia and Alabama in road games in the same season.
Smart said the reason Auburn hosted Georgia in back-to-back games six years ago was related to the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart, Destin, Fla., May 29, 2018
Georgia coach Kirby Smart from SEC Spring Meetings in Destin
Posted by Mike Griffith on Tuesday, May 29, 2018
This story was written by Mike Griffith and originally appeared on SEC Country here.