ATLANTA — All the rumors were officially put to rest Wednesday, the speculation was soundly and matter-of-factly ironed out. Giff Smith is indeed a member of the Buffalo Bills coaching staff.
The now former Georgia Tech recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach said just as much Wednesday afternoon, when he met privately with a small, intimate contingent of reporters on campus.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in doing is being able to coach at the NFL level,” Smith said. “And when this situation arose, I sat down not only with my wife and my family, but with (head) Coach (Paul) Johnson to kind of weigh out the pros and cons and at this point in my career, we feel this is the move that’s best for us.”
One day after team message boards and Internet sites unofficially reported his departure, Smith confirmed that he will be leaving Georgia Tech immediately to rejoin former Yellow Jackets head coach Chan Gailey as the Bills’ newest outside linebackers coach.
The Telegraph was also able to report Smith’s career change Tuesday afternoon after Dodge County head coach Lee Campbell told the newspaper that he received a text message from one of his former Hawkinsville players who now plays for the Yellow Jackets that said Smith was leaving. Campbell coached at Hawkinsville from 1999-2007.
The mostly unexpected news comes exactly one week shy of National Signing Day, the official end to the latest recruiting period.
So far, the Yellow Jackets have 16 high school seniors committed to play football next fall, with 13 hailing from the Peach State alone.
Since being named recruiting coordinator in 2006 — Smith came to Georgia Tech from Tulane in 2004 and was immediately named solely defensive coordinator — Smith has become a noted in-state recruiter, attracting respect from coaches and publications alike. Just Monday, the St. Petersburg Times published a story in which it asked a national recruiting expert to give his pick of the top six recruiters in the Southeast. Smith was among those he listed.
For Georgia high school coaches like Baldwin’s Jesse Hicks, Smith’s presence will be sorely missed.
“He has been vital to our area since I’ve been here,” said Hicks, who has coached at Baldwin since 2002 and calls Smith a friend. “Even though we don’t have any players at Tech right now, he and the other Tech coaches come through every year for our spring game and recruit our players. He did a great job covering this area.”
Last February, three Middle Georgians, including Westside’s Julian Burnett, signed with the Yellow Jackets. This past fall, Burnett and Fitzgerald native Jemea Thomas played often as true freshmen.
Georgia Tech was slow to make the announcement official Tuesday because the school had not received an actual resignation from Smith, a member of the sports information department said.
Gailey, named earlier this month the Bills’ newest head coach, led Georgia Tech from 2002 until he was fired just days after the Yellow Jackets lost a seventh straight series game to rival Georgia in 2007.
For more on this story, come back to macon.com and check tomorrow’s Telegraph.