When Kirby Smart sat down during his off week to study some film, he saw a familiar face.
Taking a look at Georgia Tech, with the rivalry between the two in-state foes drawing closer, Smart saw Miami head coach Mark Richt add another win to his career record over the Yellow Jackets.
And with that victory, Smart saw his predecessor lead the Hurricanes to a 5-0 record.
“I think Mark’s done a tremendous job. They’ve beat Tech two years in a row now,” Smart said. “I think Coach Richt has a rejuvenated energy.”
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Although the sample size for Richt is small at Miami against Georgia Tech, his track record versus his former rival is strong. As Georgia’s head coach, Richt went 13-2 against a series of Yellow Jackets head coaches — George O’Leary, Chan Gailey and current head coach Paul Johnson.
Richt’s team currently stands atop of the ACC Coastal division and has collected significant road wins at Florida State and Duke. His upcoming schedule will be tough, however, as Virginia Tech and Notre Dame will make the trip to Miami in November.
While players on Georgia’s roster have bought into Smart’s culture change, there are many who were either recruited or played under Richt. After a number of respectable seasons in Athens, Richt’s latest success isn’t a shocking development.
“I’m definitely proud of him, and I see that’s a good team going on right now,” said Jackson Harris, who signed with Georgia under Richt in 2015. “I’m not surprised at all. I’m excited for him and hope he has continued success.”
Richt is in search of his first conference title appearance since 2012 when Georgia fell 32-28 to Alabama in the SEC championship game. That also marked the last time that the Bulldogs held a No. 3 ranking in The Associated Press poll, which is where they now stand after a 7-0 start.
Prior to the season, Richt wished Georgia the best of luck on Twitter and followed it up by telling Miami-based reporters that he was “happy” for the players he recruited along with those who he didn’t.
On Georgia’s end, the greatest respects to Richt were given by those who played for him. Outside linebacker Davin Bellamy developed under Richt before becoming a full-time starter a year ago.
“He’s a great coach, and I respect everything he has done for me,” Bellamy said. “He knows how to get guys going and he teaches discipline and technique. It’s the same thing that they’ve been teaching here, and he brought it to Miami. He has those guys playing great football and I can’t say anything bad about him.”
Richt also played a role in landing receiver Javon Wims as he made his way through the junior college route.
Wims, a Miami native, committed to Georgia when the program was still coached by Richt on Nov. 6, 2015. Wims thought about returning home and joining forces with Richt when the Bulldogs’ coaching staff changed. But the recruiting battle was finished by Smart when he laid out his vision for team and individual success.
Nevertheless, it is special for Wims to see his hometown team do well while under a coach he was once set to play for.
“I don’t check the rankings or anything, so I didn’t know they were undefeated,” Wims said. “Absolutely, I’m glad that he’s having success down there.”