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July 1, 2014

Kirby Smart Q&A with 680 The Fan

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart granted a rare interview with Atlanta radio station 680 The Fan on the "The Front Row" morning show. Following is a transcript of Smart's interview.

680: Are you a guy that is careful to not spend time on the Internet and Twitter? Are you strategic about "noise"?

Kirby Smart: I think working for coach Saban, you stay pretty humbled, you don't have to worry about it near as much. Most of my time on the Internet and Twitter is done as recruiting and that is 24/7 so I don't have time for the other.

680: Talk about Georgia. For a guy whose job is to beat Georgia, what are your emotions about your time in Athens and being in Athens, your history there and everything else.

Kirby Smart: It is a very special place, I met my wife there, Mary Beth, who played basketball there. You know, five of the greatest years of my life. I tell kids all the time in recruiting. It is a great place to go to school at, it is awesome, I had a super time there. Having a lake place here and my parents living in Raven County makes it easy to get back there when I get time off in the summer. But obviously in the line of business I'm in, just like yall are, it's a business and you work for a university and that is where your loyalties are and that is where you try to win.

680: Was there somebody at Georgia when you were playing that kind of coaxed you into being a defensive coordinator or a coach at one point, or did you always know that was something you wanted to do?

Kirby Smart: It was probably my dad. Dad being a high school coach, I grew up around it. Joe Kines was that way, he coached me for 5 years, he got me on at Florida St. Then Muschamp connected me with coach Saban. So I've been very fortunate to be with some good coaches that have made me the coach I am.

680: How about Muschamp and what happened last year with that squad? Was it more injuries and obviously lack of talent at certain offensive positions and skill spots but can you put your finger on it?

Kirby Smart: It is hard to. I think it is a combination of a lot of things but everybody forgets the year before they are sitting at home watching us and Georgia play and then they are sitting their while we are playing Notre Dame. They are in the BCS bowl, they are third or fourth in the country, other then losing to Louisville they are really one game away from the national championship. Fast forward one year, how much it changes.

680: You were around Bobby Bowden, Mickey Andrews, what was your job at Florida State?

Kirby Smart: I was a graduate assistant. So basically I went to Valdosta State, I was a defensive coordinator but I had a chance to go to FSU. When I had a chance to work for Bobby Bowden there was no doubt in my mind I was going to go do it.

680: How do you get that gig?

Kirby Smart: Joe Kines, who was working under Mickey said "hey, we got this good young coach down here, he will come up and help coach our corners". I got a chance to get a graduate degree paid for. So I jumped all over it, worked with Mickey, Bobby Bowden, Joe Kines, and at FSU, which was an hour from my hometown. I was all over it.

680: The biggest difference between how Bobby Bowden does his business and how Nick Saban does his business and then the similarities between them?

Kirby Smart: You know that is interesting because I always said they are like polar opposites. Bobby was so laid back, let so many of his coaches do so much more freedom. He ran the program in a different way than Nick did and they are both so good at what they do. If you had to say the similarities, I would probably say game maintenance as far as pregame speeches, talking to the team, controlling the team. Bobby was very much, what I say to the team affects them the same way Nick is. The psychology of what I'm saying to the team is very similar. It is two different kind of kids but Coach Saban is still from that era of Bobby where he has coached both kids. But I agree, Bobby's backend, when I was there, those last years, we won the ACC each year. We didn't win a national championship but it was still a special place with him and Mickey together.

680: Last week, Spurrier doing what he does, talking about Saban, "last I checked they win recruiting every year but they have only been to a couple SEC title games" I mean he is taking his shots but he did say Saban said to him one time I wish I could work like you do and play golf and have fun and not get crazy but I cant do that and im not capable of it. Do you think that is a really honest way to describe coach Saban?

Kirby Smart: I'm the same way. People are built, there DNA is different, their personality types. I mean you don't feel comfortable going into the game if you haven't done everything possible to the wits end and you feel like you should do more. I know people that work with coach Spurrier and I know coach Spurrier and he does a great job. We played them, you know the year they kicked our butt, Alabama went to South Carolina. I will never forget, they came off an off week and I was taking to Shane Beamer pregame. Shane said "Kirby we did not meet once on Saturday and Sunday in the off week" and I said "What?". I mean we are meeting nonstop. So I'm thinking this is great, we have got this game won. It has nothing to do with the outcome of the game, how much you meet, what you do. It is about the players and what they do and putting them in good situations. They had good players and we had good players but hey they beat us that game.

680: But if it doesn't matter why are you guys so...

Kirby Smart: It makes us feel good. Makes me feel good going into the game, I'm ready I have done this, I've looked at third down six times by the time we get to the game and I can feel comfortable with it. I mean some of it is superstition but some of it is preparation. You don't think you can watch enough. For instance, we are playing UGA in the SEC Championship, Mike Bobo calls after the game and we are talking, sharing ideas, and he is like "You know, I watched that game from 2006" and I'm like good God, you know he went all the way that far back in one week's span to try to watch and get ideas and you realize I may be talking myself out of things or chasing ghosts.

680: You guys lost a heck of a football player to the draft in C.J. Mosley, who steps up in his place to be that leader on the defensive side of the football?

Kirby Smart: I would say Trey Depriest is probably the guy coming back. He will have a lot of tackles just by the nature of his position. But you aren't going to actually replace C.J., you just do the best you can because he was a special one.

680: Can you talk about the three best football players that you have been able to coach?

Kirby Smart: Oh man, we have had some good ones over there. Most talented in my opinion, Marcell Dareus. He is as talented a big man as I have ever been around. Donta Hightower, extremely talented, could pass rush, play linebacker, play inside backer. The last one would probably be HaHa Clinton-Dix or Javier Arenas, who both were very talented. Javier is in Atlanta now, I'm really excited about that, the kid is a stick of dynamite.

680: Do you talk to a lot of NFL coaches about these guys?

Kirby Smart: A lot. Through these events, all these guys come over and talk, share ideas. They want information and obviously they want to know about the kids because obviously they want good investments.

680: Three toughest players you have game planned against?

Kirby Smart: Oh god, Johnny Manziel. I mean nightmare for us. He is the perfect storm for us because he is athletic, he can move around in the pocket but yet he can still make the throws. You know, the first year he ran all over us and we said okay we are going to rush five, do the Michael Vick theory, fill up the pass rush lanes, come after him and then he made every throw. He had a huge receiver out there that gave us problems matchup wise. So for us, that was a nightmare. Next guy would probably be Cam Newton. Where he was a different kind of talent, it is hard to stop but it is different then Johnny. Johnny gives nightmares, Cam is just so big. The next one would probably be Darren McFadden. He rushed for about 250 on us my first year at Alabama.

680: Cornerback and maybe the defensive backfield in general last year I thought was a bit vulnerable at times, an injury in the spring to Eddie Jackson, how is he doing and what do you guys do to fix some of those problems you had?

Kirby Smart: We are hoping to get better but it is hard. We have got two incoming freshmen that are really highly rated and they are both there this summer working out really hard, they are track guys, they are nationally ranked. One of them has the fastest in the world 18 and under 300 meter. The Marlon Humphrey kid who is Bobby's son and the other is Tony Brown. We hope that helps but you start counting on freshman and you will be right back in trouble again. So we are hoping to shore up somethings. We lost two really good safeties, Vinnie Sunseri and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix but we got three senior safeties and a kid named Landon Collins that maybe one of the best guys in the draft next year.

680: Have you had a chance to watch Coker do some of his stuff?

Kirby Smart: Haven't seen him do much. In the summer we aren't allowed to watch him.

680: What about Jeremy Pruitt?

Kirby Smart: Jeremy Pruitt is awesome. He came in worked under player development for Coach Saban. Was a high school coach and high school coach's son much like myself. He is a great example of how many high school coaches are out there that never get the opportunity and he comes on with us, does a great job recruiting, does a great job with the football scheme, he keeps it simple for the kids. Players like playing for him, I think he is a great coach and I think he is a great hire for those guys.

680: Let me ask you if it is a fair comparison. Mark Richt spent many years with Bobby Bowden, had a lot of opportunities, was always rumored to go and he said "we will take a job when me and my wife know it is the right job at the right time." Your name obviously comes up all the time, you are at the most prolific program, you have had incredible success, do you think that mindset of Mark Richt is a good one for you and your family?

Kirby Smart: Certainly, my family is so happy in Tuscaloosa, my wife loves it, weve got six-year-old twins and a two year old. We've been very fortunate, I've moved seven times the first seven years I coached. The last eight I have been in the same place and my kids only know one place. For us that is very comfortable, I could finish my career being a defensive coordinator. I would be happy knowing I had success doing it and I was the best I could be at my job. But if the opportunity knocks then so be it. Head coach is what the whole end all is. There may be a time if I'm 45-50 that you get a little more antsy to be a head coach but at 38 I'm not sitting here saying I got to go today in order to take one just to take it. There are so many coaches that mentored me, Joe Kines, Kevin Steele, and everyone of them says don't just jump at the first one. Because if you get the wrong one it could be the last one.

680: AJ McCarron had a theory last year that too much success led to last year'ss losses, do you agree with that?

Kirby Smart: I agree with that. Complacency is the biggest problem and we all fight it. It is hard. When kids don't believe they can be beat, kids don't believe there is a little fear factor there it is hard and it is hard selling our kids on it. We got to do a better job on it.

Click here to listen to the full interview.



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