ATHENS — Former Georgia coach Mark Richt, recently ranked No. 10 on an All-time SEC coaches list, chuckled when asked about hiring Kirby Smart as a running backs coach.
It happened in 2005, after Smart worked one season as defensive backs coach at LSU under Nick Saban, and Richt sought him out.
“I just wanted him on my staff,” Richt told DawgNation in an exclusive video interview
The 2005 Bulldogs went 10-3 and won the SEC Championship Game with Smart on staff and D.J. Shockley at quarterback.
Richt knew Smart was a valuable addition to his staff.
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“I knew (Smart) was a great recruiter, I knew he was a Georgia man, and I knew he was going to be a good guy. I just knew he was a great coach.”
Richt obviously had a good source to ask about Smart in legendary College Football Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden. Smart was on Bowden’s Florida State staff in 2002-2003 as a graduate assistant.
But Richt also knew Smart’s strength was on the other side of the football, even though he hired him as an offensive assistant.
“The plan was over time, a short amount of time, to integrate him back on the defensive side of the ball, either as a linebackers coach or DBs coach,” Richt explained. “The timing wasn’t right on defense, but I had a place on offense, and I wanted him to be a part of us.
“And I think when Nick Saban went to the Dolphins, Kirby ended up going with Nick at that point, but the plan was to eventually, and sooner than later, get him on defense.”
Richt said he liked Smart’s coaching disposition and background, putting him in the same category with former Georgia players-turned coaches Will Muschamp and Mike Bobo.
“If you look at Muschamp, and Bobo, and Smart, those three guys are kind of kindred spirits, they are all old school ball coaches that have a tough mentality,” Richt said. “Guys that kind of grew up around it.
“You just knew the three musketeers, or whatever you want to call them, were hard-nosed, tough ball coaches that could recruit and understood the SEC — that it was a rough place to coach, and rough place to recruit, and I knew they could do it