Former Colleagues Kirby Smart And Jim McElwain Ready For UGA vs Florida
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and his Florida counterpart Jim McElwain share not only some incredible successes as Alabama assistants, but a close friendship forged during their time as coordinators in Tuscaloosa.
McElwain joined Nick Saban’s staff in 2008 as the offensive coordinator. Smart had just finished his first year as the Tide’s defensive coordinator. Over the next four years, Alabama went 48-6 and won two national championships. McElwain moved on to coach the Colorado State Rams for three years, before taking over the Gators in 2015. Smart remained in Tuscaloosa four more seasons, helping the Tide win two more national titles before taking over the helm at Georgia last season.
On Saturday, they’ll will square off in Jacksonville against one another for the second time since the Alabama practice fields. In 2016, McElwain and the Gators took home the 24-10 win over Georgia in Smart’s first year. Quarterback Greg McElroy, who led the Crimson Tide to a national championship, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution last summer, “There are times the offense really strongly dislikes the defense, and vice versa. Those guys are both fiery. Mac and Kirby, as much as they respected and appreciated each other, our goal was to beat them and make them look bad.”
Coach Smart worked with a few other Florida staff members during his Alabama days as well, including offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
During last year’s SEC teleconference, McElwain mentioned he knew Smart would end up with a premier head coaching job. “Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. He had a bunch of opportunities along the way, obviously, and yet I think he did a great job of being patient and taking the one that he had his eyes on, I guess,” he said. “We never talked about it, you know what I mean, but there was no doubt about it.”
Smart reflected on McElwain’s game planning abilities and how he bonds with his players. “He’s a funny guy, dry sense of humor. Very family-oriented, great man to be around,” Smart said. “I’ve always thought he does a great job offensively, and the players when I was around him really liked him a lot and played hard for him.”
It should be quite a chess match between the two good friends in Jacksonville on October 28th.