Kirby Smart, the 2012 AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year and the 2009 Broyles Award winner as college football’s top assistant coach, is in his ninth season with the Alabama football staff and seventh as defensive coordinator. A former standout defensive back and scholar-athlete at Georgia, Smart is one of the nation’s most respected defensive coordinators. He moves back to coaching inside linebacker in 2015 after tutoring the safeties in 2014. Smart also coached the inside linebackers from 2009-12.
His 2014 defense was solid once again, ranking fourth nationally against the run, surrendering just 102.4 yards a game. The Crimson Tide ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense (18.4 ppg), while ranking 12th nationally in total defense (328.4 ypg). He helped junior safety Landon Collins earn unanimous first-team All-America honors while being selected as a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, Thorpe Award and Lott Trophy. Senior safety Nick Perry also developed into a key cog in the secondary under Smart’s guidance in 2014, making a career-best 80 tackles with two interceptions and six pass breakups.
Smart crafted another elite Alabama defense in 2013 after losing six more players to the NFL. The Crimson Tide ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense (13.9 ppg) while ranking fifth in total defense (286.5 ypg), seventh in rushing defense (106.2 ypg) and 11th in pass defense (180.3 ypg). Alabama was fourth nationally in red zone defense and fourth in fewest first downs allowed. He helped mold defensive leader C.J. Mosley into the nation’s best linebacker and winner of the Butkus Award. He was also a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, the Lombardi Award and the Bednarik Award. Mosley led all Alabama tacklers in 2013 with 108 stops and nine tackles for loss while finishing third in career tackles with 319.
Smart retooled the Alabama defense in 2012, molding a unit that lost six starters to the NFL after the 2011 season. The Tide led the nation in total defense (250.0 ypg), scoring defense (10.9 ppg) and rush defense (76.4 ypg) while ranking seventh in pass defense (174.3 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (103.72). The Tide defense featured two first team All-Americans in cornerback Dee Milliner and linebacker Mosley. Milliner was a finalist for the Thorpe Award, presented to the nation’s top defensive back, after making 54 tackles, with a nation-leading 20 pass deflections and two interceptions. Mosley was a finalist for the Butkus Award and led the team with 107 tackles while making seven tackles for loss, four sacks and intercepting two passes.
The 2011 defense led the nation in all five major categories including total defense (183.6 ypg), scoring defense (8.2 ppg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg), passing defense (111.5 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (83.69 rating). Dont’a Hightower (a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Lott Trophy, Butkus Award and Bednarik Award) led the team in total tackles with 85. The first team All-SEC selection also recorded 11 tackles for loss, four sacks, eight quarterback hurries, one interception and a blocked kick. Hightower was selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots with the 25th pick.
Smart’s rebuilding job in 2010 was impressive, as the Tide remained one of the nation’s elite defensive units while replacing nearly the entire defense (nine starters). Alabama led the SEC and ranked third nationally in scoring defense (13.5 ppg) and fifth nationally in total defense (286.4 ypg). The Tide also ranked first in the SEC (sixth in the NCAA) in pass efficiency defense. Safety Mark Barron and defensive lineman Marcell Dareus earned first team all-SEC honors while Hightower, safety Robert Lester and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick were second team all-SEC selections.
The 2009 season was a special one for Smart, as he not only helped lead Alabama to the national championship but also took home the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country. The UA defense again was regarded as one of the nation’s top units, leading the SEC and ranking second nationally in scoring defense (11.7 ppg), pass efficiency defense (87.7), rush defense (78.1 ypg) and total defense (244.1 ypg).
In the 2010 BCS National Championship game against Texas, the Tide recorded four interceptions and scored a defensive touchdown. Three players on Smart’s defense earned first-team All-America honors – linebacker Rolando McClain, cornerback Javier Arenas and nose guard Terrence Cody – while Barron was a third team Associated Press All-American. McClain captured the Butkus Award and Cody was a finalist for several national awards.
The 2008 Alabama defense was rated among the nation’s best. The Tide finished third in total defense (263.5 ypg) and seventh in scoring defense (14.3 ppg). Senior captain Rashad Johnson earned first team All-America honors at safety as well as first team all-SEC recognition after intercepting five passes, including two that were returned for touchdowns. Alabama snagged 15 interceptions in 2008 and brought back four of those for scores.
Under Smart’s guidance in 2007, Johnson led the SEC with six interceptions and earned first team all-SEC honors along with cornerback Simeon Castille. A third member of the Alabama secondary, cornerback Kareem Jackson, was honored at the end of the season as a second team Sporting News Freshman All-American.
Smart joined the Tide after spending the 2006 season as safeties coach with head coach Nick Saban and the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Prior to his stint with the Dolphins, Smart 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, Smart’s Bulldogs unit averaged 162.2 yards per game, third 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, LSU allowed 157.2 passing yards per game to rank second in the SEC and fifth nationally.
Smart was a graduate assistant coach under Bobby Bowden and Mickey Andrews at Florida State in 2002-03, having served as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach (2001) and defensive backs (2000) coach at Valdosta State the previous two seasons. He began his coaching career as an administrative assistant at Georgia in 1999.
As a player, Smart was a four-year letterman at defensive back for Georgia, where he was a first team all-SEC pick as a senior. He finished his career with 13 interceptions, which was fourth in Georgia annals, 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, Ga., Smart is married to the former Mary Beth Lycett of McDonough, Ga. The couple are the proud parents of twins Weston and Julia and son Andrew.