There’s a common narrative when it comes to Alabama defensive coordinators: They don’t have nearly as much power over the unit as head coach Nick Saban does.
Perhaps aware of this sentiment, Saban made sure to give coordinator Kirby Smart plenty of credit on Monday.
“This is Kirby’s defense,” Saban said. “I try to be a good graduate assistant whenever I can, to sort of help him out.”
Smart’s name has been involved in several job-related rumors. He is reportedly the No. 1 candidate on UGA’s wish list, with other SEC schools — including South Carolina — reportedly taking notice of his work with the Crimson Tide as well.
Alabama’s defense is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation in yards allowed, and has been the unequivocal savior of a team that started the season 2-1.
Saban said Smart’s smarts have been crucial.
“He understands (the system), and can apply it in the game as well as anyone,” Saban said. “And I think that’s the key. Not only understanding, but it’s being able to apply principles in the situations in the game. That’s what he’s really good at.”
It’s not just X’s and O’s, though.
“I think his competitive character certainly rubs off on players in terms of his spirit, his enthusiasm, his attention to detail,” Saban said. “All these things contribute to how we’ve been able to play defensively.”
Saban hired Smart to be his secondary coach in 2004 (at LSU) and 2008 (at Alabama). The second time around, Saban said he was tired of assistant coaches leaving town after one season.
“I was looking for a good, young, smart, bright, aggressive secondary coach that we could sort of develop,” Saban said. “It’s worked out great.”