UGA Football

Saban lauds what Smart, Tucker have done at Georgia

Mel Tucker and Kirby Smart.
Mel Tucker and Kirby Smart. AP

While Georgia isn’t on Alabama’s regular-season schedule, the Bulldogs have certainly caught head coach Nick Saban’s eye.

That primarily has to do with the 7-0 start Georgia has gotten out to in head coach Kirby Smart’s second season at the helm. Smart was a longtime assistant at Alabama under Saban for nine seasons. With both teams ranked in the top three, Saban complimented Smart on his job performance.

“I think they have one of the best teams in our league right now,” Saban said. “They’re playing great on both sides of the ball. They play together, they’re confident in what they’re doing. They look very well coached on both sides of the ball. I think he’s done a fabulous job, no question about it. They’ve done a really good job in recruiting and continue to add to the players they had. I think that’s what you need to do. He’s done a really, really good job.”

When Smart arrived at Georgia, he brought over a lot of what he learned during his time at Alabama.

But Saban, like he does with all of his assistants who get head coaching jobs, offered some advice to Smart about what he believes to be important when leading a college football program.

“One thing I tell all the guys when they get (head coaching) jobs is you have to be your own man and do what you believe and trust in,” Saban said. “There’s probably no doubt about the fact we worked together for (nine years at Alabama) and some of the good things we do maybe rubbed off. And he’s a very bright guy, so some of the not-so-good things we do he probably eliminated and created a program of his own, which has done very, very well. He’s been very successful.”

Saban was also complimentary of Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who has the Bulldogs ranked third in total defense at 252.6 yards per game and fourth in scoring defense at 12.6 points per game.

Saban said he considered promoting Tucker, who was Alabama’s defensive backs coach before heading to Georgia, to be his defensive coordinator. But with Jeremy Pruitt available at the time, Saban made that move instead.

“Mel’s got a great personality. He’s really upbeat and positive,” Saban said. “The players are really attracted to him. He’s a great teacher. He does a really, really good job. He has patience. He’s very enthusiastic in his work. He’s very bright, smart and understands schemes. He’s got a great wealth of experience and knowledge from all the places he’s coached. He’s one of the best coaches we ever had on our staff at any position.”