Go ahead and find yourself twenty or so minutes of me time this morning, because you’ll definitely want to give a listen to Stewart Mandel’s excellent interview with Kirby Smart. (Mandel’s introduction starts at the 17:00 mark and the interview itself kicks in at about 18:30.)
When done right, as this one is, an advantage a podcast Q&A has over one you read in print is that it’s easier to gauge how involved the interviewee is in the discussion. Kirby seems a little withdrawn at the start, but you can sense he becomes more engaged in the conversation at the point when Mandel asks him about, ironically, what kind of offense he prefers to run. That level is maintained until the interview’s end, when Mandel asks a couple of questions that Kirby prefers not to discuss. And doesn’t.
Feel free to draw your own impressions from their conversation, but here are a few things I took away from it:
- The vision thing. Obviously, there’s a big difference between preparation and implementation, but if there’s one thing that shines through the entirety of the interview, it’s that Kirby has a very clear idea of what he wants to do in running a football program. I suppose it’s no great surprise that someone who’s worked closely with Nick Saban for more than a decade has both a big picture in mind and a sense of how to go about achieving it. While we don’t know how Kirby the game day coach will fare yet, we have seen the way the staff has been recruiting since his hire; listen to what he says about recruiting mid-way through the interview and match that up with the way the staff has been pursuing recruits since the changeover.
- The return of the alumnus. He’s given a lot of thought to how coaching at the school where he played impacts things, especially on the recruiting trail.
- Quarterbacks. The conversation about offense morphs into a more specific discussion about the quarterback position and that’s where things get most interesting, starting with Smart’s ideal, who, essentially, is Deshaun Watson, a pro-style quarterback with the ability to escape when the pocket breaks down. The most revealing moment in the entire Q&A is when Mandel asks Kirby if he currently has a quarterback on the roster who fits the bill in that regard and Kirby replies after a moment that he doesn’t. Which isn’t to say that none of the three currently battling don’t have their redeeming features – Smart goes on to list those for each of them. That’s the part you should listen to most closely, especially if you intend to watch their G-Day performances to get some kind of idea of how the battle is shaping up this spring. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that I came away from listening to that feeling (1) Lambert has a stronger chance of being the starter on opening day than many of us might think and (2) Smart’s comment about Ramsey’s footwork shouldn’t be taken as some kind of sly remark about his punt work.
- Transition. Listen to what Smart says about how he and Tucker approached the question of terminology with the change in defensive coordinators and compare that to what Richt and Schottenheimer said and did post-Bobo.
Anyway, enough of me rambling about it. Go listen and let me know what you think in the comments.