Nick Saban’s best recruiting job this offseason may have been his ability to keep coveted defensive coordinator Kirby Smart on his staff for another season.
One of the more overlooked aspects of Alabama’s recent dominance over college football has been the ability of Saban’s coaching staff to stay intact—for the most part.
Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain left to take the head-coaching job at Colorado State, while linebackers coach Sal Sunseri—father of Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri—bolted to take over the defensive coordinator position at Tennessee.
However, most Alabama fans rejoiced that Sunseri was the only loss on the defensive side of the ball—and more importantly, that despite heavy interest from other schools, Smart rejected overtures to remain on the sidelines in Tuscaloosa this fall.
But could the 2012 season be his last as a member of the Alabama coaching staff?
Seemingly every offseason, the coaching carousel churns at a faster pace—and by the end of the upcoming season, Smart will be the most in-demand assistant coach (if he’s not already) in the country.
Considering the impressive list of current head coaches who served under Saban as coordinators—guys like Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Florida’s Will Muschamp—Smart has crafted a top-notch resume under Saban that should help him land a quality job in similar fashion.
While Saban is known as one of the top defensive minds in football—and rightfully so, gets a ton of credit for the Crimson Tide’s mastery on that side of the line of scrimmage—Smart has built a reputation strong enough to warrant the interest of schools who will be in the market for a new head coach next season.
During Smart’s four years as defensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s defenses have led the SEC in total defense the last three seasons, and tied for the top total in 2008.
Smart—the 2009 Broyles Award winner (given to the nation’s top assistant coach)—heads into his sixth season at Alabama (fifth as defensive coordinator) coming off a year when was the architect of a unit that may go down as the best defense of the BCS era.
Assuming Alabama maintains their efficiency on defense this fall, there’s no doubt that Smart’s coaching stock will be through the roof by season’s end.
At this point for Smart, leaving Alabama is not a matter of if—but when—and for the right opportunity.
After spending nearly a decade (he’s been a member of Saban’s staff since 2004 when he was the head coach at LSU) being groomed under the best coach in the country, Smart is ready to be the leader of his own program—which means that Alabama fans should treasure what may be Smart’s final ride with the Crimson Tide.