Georgia Bulldogs: Kirby Smart

Top SEC recruiters 

June, 9, 2014
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It’s next to impossible to limit the list of top recruiters in the SEC to just five, but that was the assignment here. It’s no surprise to see an Alabama assistant at the top of the list with the recent run the Crimson Tide have been on, but those who follow it closely enough also know there’s some tremendous recruiters across the state at Auburn.

SEC's lunch links

March, 11, 2014
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Half of the SEC teams have started officially-sanctioned football-related activities with Missouri and Vanderbilt opening spring practice on Tuesday. There's a lot going on.

Best SEC recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
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Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

It's no secret that Southeastern Conference has been the top conference in the country as far as recruiting over the last several years. The league currently has six teams ranked in the top 11 of the team recruiting rankings. Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters around the ultra-competitive conference.

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SEC Friday mailbag: Week 4

September, 20, 2013
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From Jospeh Bowker (@Joe_Bowker10): What are the chances that a one-loss SEC champion gets into the national championship game this year?

It all depends on the rest of college football. There will be plenty of possible candidates -- Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, the loser of the Alabama-LSU game -- but it will be extremely difficult to surpass the likes of Clemson, Ohio State, Oregon or Stanford if any of those teams are still undefeated at the end of the season. The most likely candidate right now is Georgia, which suffered a loss in the opener. If the Bulldogs can run the table and defeat the winner of the West in the SEC title game, it would be hard to keep them out of the national championship. Still, they would need a few things to fall their way, similar to Alabama a year ago.




From Daniel Badger (@badger_daniel): Both Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn are 3-0. Which coach ends up having a better first year at season’s end?

Both coaches have looked impressive in their respective debuts, specifically Bielema whom many doubted coming in. But based on schedules, Malzahn will likely have a better year. Arkansas has to travel to Rutgers on Saturday, and from there the Hogs play five of their next six games against ranked opponents. The only team not in the top 25 is Auburn, which travels to Fayetteville on Nov. 2. It’s a brutal stretch for the Razorbacks, who have to finish the year in Death Valley against LSU. It wouldn’t shock me if Bielema won the head-to-head battle against Malzahn, but the Tigers finish with the better record.




From John Keahey (@jkeahey): Was it that much improvement by Alabama’s offensive line or was Texas A&M’s defensive line just that bad?

It’s too early to say, but I would lean more towards Texas A&M’s defensive line being that bad. They struggled against the likes of Rice and Sam Houston State in the first two games, and it only got worse against Alabama. Give the Tide credit. It was a hostile environment, and they overcame adverity to outscore the Aggies, but the offensive line will still need to improve before the Ole Miss game next weekend and more importantly before LSU comes to town in November. It’s not a lack of talent for Alabama. It’s more of a chemistry issue, and the more the line plays together, the better the unit will become. As for Texas A&M, we’ll know more about the defensive front when it plays at Arkansas next weekend.




From Jared Moore (@TheJaredMoore): Do you think Ole Miss can get more than eight regular season wins?

The Rebels are certainly off to a great start, but three of their next four games are against top-10 teams, and sandwiched in between is a road test at Auburn. They’d be happy to come out of that stretch with two wins. However, the second half of the schedule is much easier. They play six straight home games, including two against Idaho and Troy, and they finish the year at Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. There’s a real possibility they win their final five games, which would put them right at eight even if they lose their next four. They’re not quite there with Alabama or LSU, but they can definitely get to eight or possibly nine wins.




From Tennessee Sports (@SportsNewsTN): What other coaches are the Texas Longhorns pursuing, perhaps in the SEC, Pac-12 or their own conference?

The two coaches most likely to get a call are Baylor’s Art Briles and TCU’s Gary Patterson. They have Texas ties and have been very successful at their respective programs. However, Briles is 57 years old, and Patterson might not be a big enough name for the Longhorns. If they strike out on Nick Saban as expected, Texas could request an interview with UA defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Saban’s right-hand man. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience, but his name always seems to come up for big jobs. Keep an eye on Will Muschamp, too. He was orginally named the successor to Mack Brown, but that fell apart when he left for Florida. Would he leave Florida to go back to Texas?

Bobo targets the 229 

June, 19, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo can often be heard shouting across the practice fields in an accent that could be described as a southern drawl. Detractors -- and Bobo’s success on the recruiting trail has earned him many -- would describe his voice as “backwoods” or “countrified,” maybe even “hillbilly.”

But that country-boy swagger rings true to his roots and is the language Bobo’s recruiting targets speak. If it isn’t their first language, it is their second and they slip into it like a favorite baseball cap when Bobo talks to them.


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Kamara talks in-home visit from Saban 

January, 18, 2013
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ESPN 150 running back Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) lives in the heart of a fiercely contested recruiting battle between Alabama and Georgia. He has received hundreds of letters, countless phone calls and innumerable visits from coaches. Kamara is used to answering phone calls from the likes of Nick Saban and Mark Richt. To him it is all old hat.

But it is not to his mother, Adama Kamara, who had Saban in her den on Wednesday night.


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SEC's 'Dandy Dozen' of assistant coaches

December, 12, 2012
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The head coaches are the ones who make the big money in the SEC.

But without a quality staff, a head coach isn’t going to survive very long in this league.

So as we look back on the 2012 regular season, let’s pay tribute to 12 assistant coaches who separated themselves from the rest. Each of these guys made a huge difference in their development of players and units.

We’ll call it our “Dandy Dozen” of SEC assistant coaches, and they’re listed in alphabetical order:

Mike Bobo, Georgia, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: A finalist for the Broyles Award, Bobo has the Bulldogs ranked in the top four in the SEC in both rushing and passing offense. They scored 28 or more points in 11 of their 13 games, and did it with an offensive line that was both young and unproven when the season began.

Burton Burns, Alabama, associate head coach/running backs: Despite injuries to Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler, Alabama didn’t miss a beat in its running game. In fact, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon became the first two players in school history to each rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

John Chavis, LSU, defensive coordinator/linebackers: Like clockwork, Chavis just keeps on churning out rock-solid defenses at LSU. The Tigers are No. 8 nationally in total defense and No. 11 in scoring defense, and that’s despite losing their top playmaker on defense (Tyrann Mathieu) in the preseason.

D.J. Durkin, Florida, special teams coordinator/linebackers: When you play as many close games as the Gators did this season, you better be good on special teams. They weren’t just good. They were excellent in all facets, which is a credit to Durkin and the job he did in coordinating the entire kicking game.

Herb Hand, Vanderbilt, offensive line: For the second year in a row, Zac Stacy rushed for 1,000 yards, and for the second year in a row, the Commodores more than held their own up front offensively. One of the best decisions James Franklin made when he took the job was holding onto Hand from the previous staff.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas A&M, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: Just his work with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel alone was enough to get Kingsbury some serious props. But Texas A&M’s offense also put up crazy numbers in its first season in the SEC. Kingsbury, a finalist for the Broyles Award, has suddenly become a hot commodity in the head coaching ranks.

Brad Lawing, South Carolina, defensive line: One of the more underrated coaches in the SEC, Lawing has been doing it for a long time at a very high level. His defensive lines at South Carolina have been excellent the past few years and are one of the big reasons the Gamecocks have made their move into the SEC’s upper tier.

Matt Luke, Ole Miss, co-offensive coordinator/offensive line: Just about everybody agreed in the preseason that the offensive line was Ole Miss’ weakest link, but Luke was able to get everything and then some out of that group after a lackluster showing by the Rebels in the trenches in 2011. What’s more, Ole Miss was one of only three teams in the league (Texas A&M and Georgia) to average more than 250 yards passing and 165 yards rushing this season.

Sam Pittman, Tennessee, offensive line: Few units in the league improved as much from 2011 to 2012 as Tennessee’s offensive line. The Vols gave up just eight sacks in 12 games, which was tied for fourth nationally, and padded their rushing average by more than 70 yards per game. Pittman’s approach was exactly what the Vols needed up front, and they blossomed into one of the top offensive lines in the SEC.

Dan Quinn, Florida, defensive coordinator/defensive line: The Gators won 11 games in the regular season, and they held the opposition to 17 or fewer points nine times. Quinn, a Broyles Award finalist, put a defense on the field during his first season at Florida that was very good. But the one this season played at a championship level. The Gators head to the Allstate Sugar Bowl ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring defense and No. 5 in total defense.

Bob Shoop, Vanderbilt, defensive coordinator/safeties: For the second straight season, the Commodores rank among the top 20 teams nationally in total defense. They’re also No. 15 in scoring defense. They’re not real big up front and lost three key players from last season (Chris Marve, Casey Hayward and Tim Fugger), but Shoop keeps finding ways to stop people.

Kirby Smart, Alabama, defensive coordinator/linebackers: Alabama fans were holding their breath when it looked like Smart might be going to Auburn as head coach. The Crimson Tide had six players drafted off of their 2011 national championship defense, but here they are again going back to the national title game and ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense.

Alabama still in hunt for Alvin Kamara 

October, 9, 2012
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NORCROSS, Ga. -- The Alabama coaches were not joking when they sent ESPN 150 running back Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) 105 recruiting letters back in February. In spite of the recent commitment of ESPN 150 athlete Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee) to the Crimson Tide, Nick Saban and Kirby Smart are still pursuing Kamara.

That might surprise plenty of Georgia fans who thought that Henry’s decision would send Kamara, who had named Georgia and Alabama as his leaders, straight to Athens, Ga.

[+] EnlargeAlvin Kamara
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comEven with Alabama seemingly stocked at running back, the Crimson Tide are still after Alvin Kamara.
“Coach Smart is out here tonight,” Kamara said. “They are still after me as hard as when it all started. They called me after Derrick committed. Coach Smart and I talked and he said, ‘You know we still want you as bad as we did before.’ Bama puts guys in the NFL and the atmosphere up there is crazy. I love it. I am comfortable when I get into Tuscaloosa.

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We're always looking for the next best thing. The coaching world isn't any different.

Who's the next Urban Meyer? The next Chris Petersen? What about another Brady Hoke?

Who's that next great assistant who rises up the ranks and takes over a major program ... and succeeds?

I'm not completely sure, but I have a few ideas. Here are some coaches lurking in the SEC who could be on their way to bigger and better things or are ready to take the next step with their current teams:

Head coaches
  • James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Franklin became the only first-year coach in Vandy history to guide the Commodores to a bowl game. He surpassed the program's win totals in each of its previous two seasons and signed arguably the school's best recruiting class in 2012. He brought attitude, confidence and a bit of swagger to the program. He could have left after one year but is really looking to turn things around at Vanderbilt.
  • Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: Bulldogs fans probably don't like hearing this, but Mullen is becoming a hot name among the coaching ranks. In his three seasons in Starkville, he has guided Mississippi State to two straight bowl wins. In 2010, he led the Bulldogs to nine wins for the first time since 1999. Mullen says he is happy in Starkville, but if he continues to win, bigger schools won't hesitate to go after him.
Assistants
  • Shawn Elliott, South Carolina offensive line coach/running game coordinator: Steve Spurrier has raved about Elliott's impact on offense and bringing in the zone read package. Elliott has done wonders for South Carolina's offensive line, which was a continual sore spot in Spurrier's early years at the school. Elliott is also a dogged recruiter. Having grown up in Camden, S.C., Elliott is somebody to watch when Spurrier hangs it up. If he doesn't get that job, somebody is going to snap him up.
  • Rodney Garner, Georgia defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator: He has been at Georgia for a while and has been wooed several times by other schools. LSU went after him several years ago, and Lane Kiffin was interested in bringing him to Tennessee. In the past 12 years, he has coached plenty of NFL talent, including four first-round draft picks. He has consistently been one of the league's best recruiters as well.
  • Todd Grantham, Georgia defensive coordinator/associate head coach: He could start getting more looks for head-coaching gigs. He has vast NFL experience, including being a defensive coordinator at that level, and more schools are looking for coaches with NFL experience. Grantham has proven himself as a recruiter and worked under two of the best in the college ranks -- Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech and Nick Saban at Michigan State. He has made a tremendous difference in turning around Georgia's defense and has an edge about him that successful head coaches possess.
  • Chris Kiffin, Ole Miss defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator for defense: He is one of the bright young names among the assistant ranks. As the defensive line coach at Arkansas State, he coached up Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Joiner, who tied for third in the nation in sacks and 10th in tackles for loss. Arkansas State also led the conference and ranked eighth nationally in tackles for loss (7.62 per game) and tied for 15th in sacks (2.69 per game). He is a tremendous recruiter and helped bring in a solid defensive class in a short amount of time this spring.
  • Kliff Kingsbury, Texas A&M offensive coordinator: After being a standout quarterback at Texas Tech, he is considered one of the top young assistants in college football. He came over with Kevin Sumlin from Houston, where he helped guide the Cougars' offense to its record-setting year in 2011. Houston led the nation in total offense, passing offense and scoring in 2011 behind quarterback Case Keenum. The Cougars averaged 599.1 total yards per game, including 450.1 through the air, while scoring more than 49 points per game.
  • Paul Petrino, Arkansas offensive coordinator: He came over to help run Arkansas' offense with his brother, but after Bobby Petrino was fired this spring, Paul Petrino assumed the role as primary playcaller. In 2010, he guided an Illinois offense that broke school records for total points (423) and points per game (32.54). The Illini averaged 42.1 points and 448.9 total yards over the final seven games of the season. If he can keep Arkansas' offense going this year, his phone might start ringing a little more.
  • Bob Shoop, Vanderbilt defensive coordinator/safeties coach: He has been a head coach at Columbia and is innovative on defense, playing the kind of attacking style that attracts great players. He helped orchestrate one of the most impressive defensive turnarounds in the country last year, as Vanderbilt ranked ninth nationally in pass defense efficiency and 18th in total defense. Vandy's defense also ranked among the nation's top units in interceptions, points allowed and rush defense.
  • Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator: He is one of the best defensive coordinators around, and it seems like only a matter of time before he is a head coach somewhere. Smart has already passed on a few head-coaching opportunities. He is making $950,000 a year and is in a position to be picky with coaching jobs.
  • Trooper Taylor, Auburn wide receivers coach/assistant head coach: He is one of the hottest and most successful recruiters in the SEC. He brought in and trained some elite receivers at Oklahoma State and Tennessee before making his way to Auburn. He is continuing that trend and has turned Emory Blake into one of the SEC's best pass-catchers. He was co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, and if Auburn's receivers make another jump, Taylor could be waving his towel elsewhere soon.
  • Frank Wilson, LSU running backs coach/recruiting coordinator: He has emerged as one of the sport's top recruiters. As a running backs coach, he has done a tremendous job with the Tigers. Last season, LSU averaged 202.6 rushing yards per game and tied a school record with 35 rushing touchdowns. Three backs eclipsed the 500-yard rushing mark. Wilson commands tremendous respect from his players.
  • David Yost, Missouri offensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator: He has been at Missouri for 11 years, but he has to start getting more attention as an exceptional playcaller. He has a great eye for talent and pointing out mismatches in his spread scheme. In 2011, Mizzou ranked ninth nationally in rushing (244 yards per game) and had one of the most balanced offenses, as Mizzou was one of only two schools in the country to average at least 230 yards rushing and passing in each game.

2013 OL Kublanow gives Jr. Day an 'A' 

January, 31, 2012
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A few days before national signing day 2012, Georgia entertained many of its top targets for the 2013 class. A team can never start too early in the cutthroat world of recruiting.

One of those top targets is offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow (Marietta, Ga./Walton). The old-school brawler has a load of offers already and is picking up more by the week. His offer from Georgia, though, had the talented lineman checking out Athens for Georgia's Junior Day.

“It was good. It was a lot of fun,” Kublanow said. “I got to talk to the coaches a lot more and see a lot more. On game day everything happened pretty quickly, you have to get to the stadium pretty quickly. But we had a lot more time.”

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