January 10, 2010

Is Smart leaning toward Dawgs?

After weeks of speculation, it appears Georgia's search for a new defensive coordinator has come to an end.

Multiple sources have told UGASports - which the website has independently confirmed - that Kirby Smart has accepted the Bulldogs' offer to take over for Willie Martinez who was fired over a month ago.

UGA officials did not immediately return messages for comment and no formal announcement by the school has been made.

Sunday, head coach Mark Richt was asked during a teleconference to announce Rennie Curran's decision to turn pro whether or not Smart had been hired.

"I'll say what I've said all along, in that I won't make any comment until I get my man," Richt said.

When asked if a hiring was imminent, Richt responded, "I'll let you know what that happens."

Exact terms of Smart's deal are not known, but sources told UGASports that the deal was for at least three years and expected to double the $369,350 he earned last season with the Crimson Tide.

Richt has said that his new defensive coordinator would be allowed to have control over who his remaining defensive assistants would be.

Sources say that one of the first coaches Smart will reach out to is former Bulldog defensive captain Travis Jones, currently the assistant defensive line coach with the New Orleans Saints.

The status of current defensive line coach Rodney Garner remains unclear, although indications are he will not be asked to return.

While Smart's Georgia ties were an obvious asset, it's what he did with the Crimson Tide's defensive which made him such an attractive candidate for Richt.

Alabama is just days removed from a National Title win over Texas.

The Crimson Tide led the SEC in scoring defensive, surrendering just 11.1 points per game and held Florida to just 13 points in the SEC Championship Game.

The Crimson Tide also topped the league in total defense (241.7 points per game,) and rushing defense (77.9). Alabama was also second in the league in passing defense, giving up just 163.8 points per contest.

The 34-year-old Smart joined the program at Alabama after spending the 2006 season as safeties coach with head coach Nick Saban and the NFL's Miami Dolphins.

Before that, he spent six years on the collegiate level with Georgia (1999 and 2005), LSU (2004), Florida State (2002-03), and Valdosta State (2000-01).

As the running backs coach at Georgia in 2005, the Bulldogs averaged 162.2 yards per game, the third best mark in the SEC. Smart spent the 2004 season as defensive backs coach under Saban at LSU, where he tutored two NFL draft picks: Corey Webster (2nd round, New York Giants) and Travis Daniels (4th round, Miami Dolphins). That season, the Tigers allowed 157.2 passing yards per game, which ranked second in the SEC and fifth nationally.

Prior to going to LSU, Smart was a graduate assistant coach under Bobby Bowden at Florida State in 2002-03 and served as defensive coordinator (2001) and defensive backs (2000) coach at Valdosta State. He began his coaching career as an administrative assistant at Georgia in 1999.

As a player, Smart was four-year lettermen at defensive back for the Bulldogs, where he was a First-Team All-SEC pick as a senior. He finished his career with 13 interceptions, fourth in Georgia history, and led the Bulldogs with six interceptions in 1997 and five in 1998. A four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll, Smart earned his undergraduate degree in finance from Georgia and his master's degree from Florida State in 2003.

A native of Bainbridge, Smart is married to the former Mary Beth Lycett of McDonough, who played basketball for Andy Landers Lady Bulldogs.

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