Alabama Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has one of the buzziest names in college football right now when it comes to head coaching jobs across the country that will likely be “available” in a few months, and for good reason.
The Crimson Tide defense is first in the country in points allowed, 25th against the run, and 87th against the pass. Although their pass defense could be porous if opposing quarterbacks had an opportunity to throw (theoretically), they never do, given the overall dominance of the Alabama defensive front.
In spite of a recent raise which made Smart the highest paid assistant on Nick Saban’s staff at an annual salary of $750K, it has become a foregone conclusion in Tuscaloosa the Tide will be looking for a new defensive coordinator sooner than later.
Given there are several high-profile jobs that should open in the course of the next few months, it’s worth the time to take a look at where Kirby Smart could land and why he would be a good fit at each destination:
I’d Bet on These
While Smart’s name may not be the first to roll off the tongues of Arkansas Razorbacks supporters who have their sights set sky-high– see Mike Gundy, Tommy Tuberville etc.– he could be a nice fit for a program that will need to be defense-first, especially in the short-term.
With the departure of Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis, two of the offensive unit’s mainstays, Arkansas will be looking for unproven underclassmen to step up and take the reins of an offense that has struggled mightily so far in 2012.
If Kirby Smart could install much of the Alabama defensive philosophy at Arkansas, he would at least give them the opportunity to keep their collective heads above water until experience can be cultivated and recruiting classes could be shaped around a new philosophy.
While it may be blasphemy to suggest, Kirby Smart could as easily land with the Auburn Tigers as anywhere else. Gene Chizik has a vote of no confidence from the Auburn fan base at this point and it’s a foregone conclusion he will not be on the sidelines in 2013.
Who better to take over for the Tigers than someone who knows the inner workings of their most-hated rival inside and out and could work to level the battleground not only in the yearly match-up but also in the recruiting wars in the South.
Auburn fans would embrace Smart with open arms if given the chance to do so.
The Odds Are a Little Steep
Call me crazy, but what if the lure of the NFL is finally too much for Nick Saban and he decides to give it a shot, accepting one of the head coaching jobs on Sundays which are certain to be available next spring as they always are.
If this was the case, why would Alabama bother going outside the program when the transition to a new head coach could be nice and smooth internally?
Tennessee Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley has the hottest seat of any coach in the SEC at this point other than Gene Chizik. The patience of Volunteer nation has run out with the once-promising Dooley to turn things around and make Tennessee relevant once again in the SEC East.
Dooley may or may not make it through 2012 and into 2013– this is still somewhat debatable. Would the Volunteers’ athletic administration be willing to roll the dice on another young talent like Smart right after one fails to be a program changer?
Maybe. Maybe not.
A Long Shot, but Stranger Things Have Happened
Hear me out.
Let’s say the Texas Longhorns finish 5-7, 6-6, or depending who you want to believe, 7-5, and Mack Brown is asked to resign and accept the inevitable “administrative position” awaiting him in Bellmont Hall on the Forty Acres.
At this point, the Texas coaching search becomes the hottest item in the country. Why would Texas not go all out and put its money where its mouth is and “go young” with Kirby Smart, the hottest coaching candidate in the country.
Smart’s energy and enthusiasm could be just what Texas needs to turn things around, permanently, and re-establish its place as one of the country’s top programs, not just on paper, but on the playing field in the Big 12.
Keep your eyes on Kirby Smart, folks, he’ll have a new address outside of Tuscaloosa very, very soon.
Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Kris is also the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.