“That’s the thing that separates the men from the boys.”

Admit it – there’s a tinny little voice in the back of your head that occasionally pipes up and says “Kirby was just running Saban’s defense at Alabama.  How do you know what he can do on his own?”.

This probably won’t do much to shut that little voice up.

The first thing to know about Alabama’s defense is that it’s Saban’s defense. Always has been and always will be, as long as he’s there. But he said it’s incorrect to think that he’s pressing every button, making every tweak and calling every play.

“We make changes as we go, but at its core, the system stays the same,” Saban said. “There’s so much diversity in the offenses you face now — the spread, no-huddle, four open, regular formations you always see and then people go spread out of regular formations. The key, to me, is that you know how to adjust the system to everything or at least you’re giving yourself a chance. And then the special situation things you do, whether it’s the pressures you have on third down, those are the things you’re always looking to improve on, and it has to be a little bit relative to the players you’ve got.”

Saban, despite being the face of the Alabama defense, is continually looking for assistants who challenge him and aren’t afraid to think outside the box. But at the end of the day, the buck on defense stops with him.

“People have input in all these things, and that makes the system better,” he said. “But I at least know how to fix it when it goes wrong, and I can help them fix it and help them adapt to things. My role is more to help them prepare the game plan of doing what we have to do and, philosophically, how we need to play. And then I try to help teach the players where I can in certain areas.”

It’s the risk you run when you hire someone without previous head coaching experience.  (Which has been the case with four of the last five head coaches at Georgia, by the way.)  You can go on all you want about how impressive the resume looks, but until you’ve seen the new guy in action, you never know.  When it comes to the product on the field, we’re all hoping it doesn’t turn out to be a year of “what would Saban do?”, but right now, hope is all it is.

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UPDATE:  Then again, Kevin Scarbinsky says Kirby won the spring game debut contest with Saban.  You gotta start somewhere.

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UPDATE #2:  Kirby has a rebuttal.

“I always felt like, one of the niches is if you can recruit the SEC you can be a head coach in the SEC,” Smart said. “I had that. I might not have a conference championship or a national championship as a head coach, but I had the recruiting factor. Which is critical in this league.”

Which is nothing to sneer at… but couldn’t Richt make a similar argument when he was hired?  That in turn leads to this Nick Saban question:

“He’s asked from time to time, ‘What’s going on? Why don’t they win more?'” said Smart, recalling questions posed about Georgia by Alabama coach Nick Saban. To which he replied, “I don’t know that. I’ll never know. They won good, they just didn’t win big.”

Maybe it takes more than being an outstanding recruiter.

55 Comments

Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Strategery And Mechanics

55 responses to ““That’s the thing that separates the men from the boys.”

  1. georgiajeepn

    How many college coaches have been hired as a head coach without ever having served as an assistant coach first? Maybe a handful of high school coaches but I bet they were assistant coaches at one time. Heck even the almighty Saban was an assistant at one time.
    I worry more about Kirby Smart having to overcome “The Georgia Way” than I do if he learned enough from Saban.
    Let’s just say Smart was taught by probably the best the college game has ever seen and leave it at that.

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  2. Derek

    Kirby’s been in it long enough to know it inside and out. The larger issue for me is whether Kirby/tucker will adjust to the talent or whether they’ll install the saban defense betting that the talent will come. Not every roster has 6 guys that can control the box like Alabama has AND roll in 8 to 9 DL without skipping a beat. If you watch Alabama play, their goal is to convince you that you can’t run the ball vs. their front seven, then they get you to spread out and they go to nickel. Their gambit is that your QB can’t throw into tight spaces and/or do enough damage with his legs to worry about. When they play a guy like lambert, they kill him. When they play a guy like deshaun or Manziel, it gets ugly for them at times but they simply don’t adjust. They keep doing what they do. If that’s kirbys approach in 2016, well we’re rebuilding. We’re facing a better set of qbs this year, than last. I’m hoping that we ease that saban identity in as the talent takes shape over time and not try to do it all at once. To me this is a more interesting thing to watch than the QB. We KNOW who the QB will be eventually. We don’t know if Kirby is going to install the same defensive game plan he employed at Alabama in 2015.

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    • Will (The Other One)

      Are we though (facing better QBs)? The only two obvious “upgrades” I see are @Ole Miss and Del Rio not possibly being as bad as Harris at UF. I’d say Del Rio is still a step down from Coker, so the real question is Ole Miss (UNC has a new QB, don’t they?)

      I remain far more worried about the run defense, which was easily Pruitt’s biggest weakness, and lack of depth on the D-line.

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      • Derek

        Don’t forget Missouri, Kentucky, perhaps auburn and that UT’s QB is a year older. No one on the schedule is getting worse at QB save unc. The qbs we faced last year were pretty bad as a whole. Not so this year.

        Run/pass defense are not mutually exclusive. If you can’t stop the other teams running game, then applying Saban’s approach is a real train wreck. I agree that we couldn’t stop the power run game the last two years. That’s not going to just change just because rocker is now being overseen by tucker and smart. We just haven’t had the strength on the edges and the depth to really control the box like Alabama does. That’s going to take time.

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        • Derek, you are exactly right. The secret sauce in Alabama’s defense isn’t that secret. They control the LOS with the front 6 or 7 without committing safeties in run support. Last year, they could rush the passer with their front 4 + 1 LB on occasion, get pressure and play great zone defense behind it. When Bama does that, they slowly suffocate an offense by denying it the oxygen it needs – mismatches and space. We don’t have the depth along the LOS to do that immediately, and his success will be directly tied to his ability to build that kind of defense. When they don’t, you get what Deshaun Watson did in the CFPCG.

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  3. birddawg91

    and wasn’t Saban’s Defense Belichick’s at one time. Point is everyone learns their defensive scheme from who they worked with its how they apply it when it is there own that counts. Also, looks like kirby understands good college defense is more about the Jimmy and Joes than X’s and O’s.

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  4. JN

    I’ll take a decent x’s and o’s guy who is a lights out recruiter (and roster manager) and can motivate over an x’s and o’s guru who is just average at the other two (I won’t say the Louisville DC’s name, but if you call it out, I’ll whistle) every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Saban is the best college coach right now (ever IMHO), period. His ability to evaluate talent, land talent, and then tweak things to maximize that talent is his single greatest assest, IMHO.

    Kirby would not have been in the position he was in if he couldn’t put together a competent defensive game plan. His ability to scheme goes without saying at this point. It’s his ability to recruit that matters.

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    • dawgtired

      “It’s his ability to recruit that matters.”
      And that seems to be going well. If we bring in the talent and we have the right coaches at the ‘technique’ level, that’s more than half the battle. If Tucker can be under Kirby, what Kirby was under Saban, we are good to go on the D side of the ball. Hopefully Tucker will be good enough so Kirby will be freed up to give detailed focus to all areas of the program.

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  5. Not bad, not bad at all. I’ll be proud when my son finally gets the better of me, so should Saban. It just means I thought my son well to be on his own and raised him up to be much better than me.

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  6. Bulldog Joe

    Kirby fully understands from day one that quantity in recruiting is as important as quality.

    I don’t believe Coach Richt fully appreciated this fact until it was too late.

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  7. Turd Ferguson

    The vast majority of people — Dawg fans included — who insisted that Kirby was merely Saban’s puppet will nonetheless give Pruitt all the credit in the world for Alabama’s defense moving forward.

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  8. Yeah, the jury is still out, and will be for a while. However, the work ethic and positive feedback from recruits are both good indicators that Kirby will be successful. Send the jury back to the deliberation room.

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    • W Cobb Dawg

      Agree. Even saban says it’s a system. Which I infer to mean preparation. So far, it doesn’t appear CKS is gonna be outworked or lacks attention to details. How can anyone look at the first few months of Kirby’s reign and not be optimistic? Ive heard success can usually be predicted by watching a person’s preparation.

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  9. charlottedawg

    But but but. … south Carolina wanted him so he’s gotta be a can’t miss head coach! !!!

    Kirby may be what finally gets us over the hump and I hope he does but i wouldn’t be shocked if he turns out to be muschamp 2.0.

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    • Derek

      If Will had signed Jacob Eason he’d still be florida’s coach. Smart won’t have Will’s problems at QB so there is no chance of a repeat of will’s issues at Florida. If Kirby gets what will got out of his defense, we’ll be just fine.

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      • Excellent, Derek. Will recruited what the WWL thought would be the “BEST QB EVAH” in Jeff Driskel. Weis like Jacoby Brissett in that same class. He transferred, and Driskel became a bust. You get a bust or 2 at QB and you’re in Florida ’14 or Georgia ’15 territory. You also get a Charlie Weis or Brian Schottenheimer, and then you have the perfect storm.

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      • it’s a little more than that. Muschamp completely changed the identity of Florida’s offense, and they weren’t really equipped for it. Also, Charlie Weiss.

        Georgia is going to stay committed to running the ball (and upgrading the line?). Whether we improve over the Schotty years or not is yet to be seen, but I’m optimistic.

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  10. Dog in Fla

    “This is what the extra comma is in your salary for.”

    Who knew what the extra comma, is in your salary for

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  11. sUGArdaddy

    We’re going to win a lot. FSU’s offense used to be Bobby’s, but turns out Richt did just fine, then handed it over to Bobo and it got better.

    He won’t be a muschamp because he’s not a maniac. Ever see him go on a tirade as a DC like Muschamp did at Auburn before he was a HC and last year? Of course not. That dude is crazy.

    I think the bigger question is how much this hurts Bama. I see us as the team to beat in the conference in 2-3 years. Richt’s departure ended up being the nail in the coffin for Bobby. Bama is better because they have better players. All schemes look really good with talent. They won’t have as much talent. They just won’t, because more peach state stars will be in Athens and we’ll nab a few from Alabama as well because of Kirby’s ties there.

    If you can’t already see a huge difference in the swagger with which Kirby carries himself vs. Derek Dooley, Muschamp and even McElwain, you’re not looking. This guy looks like he was born for this moment. And we get to enjoy it.

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    • Dog in Fla

      And if you believe what you read (and I always do) from the comments in the “Kirby Smart, tour guide” previous thread, Kirby’s already rolling in a Ford SUV Swagger Wagon

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    • Otto

      Bobo certainly improved the box scores

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    • ugadawgguy

      Richt’s departure signaled the end for Bowden because Richt was running that offense — and other aspects of the team — autonomously before he left.

      Kirby was not running Alabama’s defense autonomously.

      There are huge differences between Kirby’s situation now and Richt’s at the time he took the Georgia job.

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      • sUGArdaddy

        Yes, but there are also huge similarities. Richt was a lead recruiter, and that will be the biggest impact on Bama losing Richt. But play-calling has a feel to it. Kirby was calling the defensive plays, make no mistake. Maybe Pruitt will pick up where he left off, or maybe he’ll throw in a few Jacksonville clunkers for the Tide. Kirby learned the feel of calling the right defenses, and there’s no promise you can replace that easily.

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      • Sic em85

        Just look on the sidelines during Alabama games. Nick is always around kitten. He leaves Kirby alone and trust him.

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    • Puffdawg

      I believe you nailed it on the swagger.

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  12. MLB2

    “Why don’t they win more”- cause we don’t cheats as good as you, boss.

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  13. Go Dawgs!

    Mark Richt won plenty in the first half of his tenure. He won two SEC titles and played for a third. I’ll always believe that after Kathryn Richt’s cancer scare, his focus changed a little and rightfully so. There were changes at Butts-Mehre that hamstrung some of what was going on, too.

    In any event, Kirby’s got it all going his way right now. He’s got the laser focus, Let’s see how the next few years go.

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    • sUGArdaddy

      Agreed. It was that 2006 season. It’s when he handed the reigns of the offense over mid-season. We went on a losing streak like never before that season. Our recruiting dipped, and I think if affected him.

      I also think the Devon Gales situation greatly affected Mark Richt and the team this last year. We were a pretty potent machine till that moment. I was very confident, and we were a very physical team. I think it shook Richt up, and reminded him there are more important things than football.

      There are, and kids’ health is definitely one. The problem is that this brutal league won’t let up. People don’t care that you’re feeling down, introspective or a little sorry for yourself. And it’s not that we didn’t want to win, but we lost an edge.

      I hope Richt gets it back and enjoys the game again. And here’s to some good luck for the Dawgs in the department of all the strange things that have happened to some of our teams in all sports in recent years.

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      • Normaltown Mike

        “It was that 2006 season. It’s when he handed the reigns of the offense over mid-season. We went on a losing streak like never before that season”

        You’re mis-remembering the CMR to Bobo passing of the torch. CMR handed the reigns over to Bobo b/c his FSU “my 11 beat your 11” philosophy was getting it’s ass beat that season. CMR let Bobo develop a gameplan and call plays against Auburn and we had a huge win and after that, CMR turned it over formally (and we upset Tech).

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        • sUGArdaddy

          No, I remember it correctly just didn’t state it well. Mid-season in my mind WAS Tech. I meant in the middle of the season (rather than off-season).

          All I remember was talking to a buddy after the Tech game (before word got out about Bobo) that we sure did stay committed to the run that last drive (which helped bleed the clock ’cause Tech couldn’t stop Danny Ware) and how un-Richt-like that was.

          Turned out we were right. It wasn’t Richt.

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    • Tim In Sav

      Jesus guys, why do some people have to lay the blame for everything wrong with ga football the past 7 or 8 years on B-M. I’m sure some there have their faults but Mark Richt was getting paid 4 million dollars a year to pay attention to details, like the time we were down to what was it 75 players on scholarship. I liked Richt but for the most of the past 7 or 8 years he was a terrible game day coach. Change is in the air.

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  14. Raleigh St. Claire

    The recruiting Kirby is talking about isn’t the kind of recruiting Mark Richt did.

    We recruited well under Richt, but it was not elite, especially on the offensive front.

    Beyond that, hopefully no one needs the roster management issue rehashed again.

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  15. ugadawgguy

    This is, and has always been, my biggest concern about Kirby as a rookie head coach.

    Richt came to UGA after running FSU’s offense with great autonomy. For much (maybe most) of Richt’s tenure at FSU, Bowden was a figurehead who had turned over nearly every aspect of his team to his assistants.

    That’s in stark contrast to Saban, a notorious micromanager. Kirby has never had autonomy until now. We won’t know what kind of a coach he is until we see some Georgia games this season.

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  16. DawgPhan

    Seems like Kirby thinks he was wagging the dog when it comes to Bama recruiting success. I am not sure that is the case.

    Either way, he sure thinks that he is just going to out recruit everyone and that everything will take care of itself after that.

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    • ugadawgguy

      So it would seem, based on the quotes cited in the article linked here.

      I think he’s right that if Georgia could recruit like Alabama, we’d win all the time. But that would be true anywhere — if [insert program name here] recruited like Alabama, they’d be a dynasty.

      If my aunt had — well, you know.

      Only Alabama can recruit like Alabama, largely due to factors that will never be matched at Georgia.

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      • Normaltown Mike

        the counterfactual is Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price & Mike Shula. Alabama can’t make up with talent or resources for a coach that is (in order) a dumbass, a cut above average, a rake and a mediocrity.

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        • Good point about Saban … He’s the Spurrier of defense as a tactician (we’ll find out if that rubbed off on his pupil). He controls the program like the Bear did (no way Kirby gets that freedom in Athens especially regarding discipline). He has built a recruiting and roster management machine more like an NFL team (Kirby is doing the recruiting thing very well).

          All of that rolled into one makes the Alabama program the best in the game. Hopefully, Kirby took the good parts of The Process mixes it with the positives of the Georgia Way and gets us where we want to go.

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  17. I don’t think Saban’s success has anything to do with scheme. I think it has everything to do with his obsessive attention to detail in preparation, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that rubbed off on Kirby in all his years there.

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    • Normaltown Mike

      Saban and Smart (I hope) both believe in competing in everything that you do and doing it with 100% commitment and effort. I don’t believe this was CMR’s philosophy. I know which one I’d rather have for a brother in law vs a head coach.

      BTW, you’ve been scarce around here lately, I started to think that you were Derek’s sock puppet all along.

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      • Derek

        I don’t know how to break it to you Mike, but you’re my sock puppet.

        Btw: I hope we go 0-12 next year so that chili will want another new coach, almost.

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        • Normaltown Mike

          “I don’t know how to break it to you Mike, but you’re my sock puppet.”

          That explains the hemorrhoids!

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    • Debby Balcer

      That personality is not made not learned.

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  18. Eldawg

    You and Alex Scarborough should get a room ha.

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