At just 36 years of age Kirby Smart has become one of the hotter names in the country after his success as the defensive coordinator at Alabama. Coaching the secondary for the Crimson Tide in 2007 before moving to his current role as defensive coordinator, Smart's first season saw Rashad Johnson lead the SEC with six interceptions while both Simeon Castille and Kareem Jackson earned All-SEC honors.
In 2008 Alabama's defense finished third in the nation in total defense and seventh in scoring defense, setting the table for a big 2009. Earning the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach, Smart's defense led the SEC and finished second nationally in scoring defense (11.7 ppg), rushing defense (78.1 ypg), pass efficiency defense, and total defense (244.1 ypg).
Replacing nine starters off that defense heading into 2010, Smart's group didn't suffer any letdown as Alabama led the SEC and ranked third nationally in scoring defense (13.5 ppg) and fifth nationally in total defense (286.4 ypg). That was just a precursor to what Alabama's defense did in 2011 however.
Under Smart's guidance Alabama led the nation in all five major defensive categories including total defense (183.6 ypg), scoring defense (8.2 ppg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg), passing defense (111.5 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (83.69). Currently in 2012 Alabama's defense is first in total defense (233.67 ypg) and scoring defense (9.25 ppg), second in rushing defense (77 ypg), third in pass defense (156.67 ypg) and fifth in pass efficiency defense (98.66).
A four-year letterman at Georgia and a first-team All-SEC pick as a senior safety when he had five interceptions, Smart finished his career with 13 career picks for the Bulldogs. He earned a degree in finance from Georgia and got his master's from Florida State in 2003 while serving as a graduate assistant under Bobby Bowden and Mickey Andrews for the Seminoles.
Working with Saban for the first time in 2004 at LSU, Smart coached defensive backs for the Tigers and tutored NFL draft picks Corey Webster and Travis Daniels. LSU ranked second in the SEC and fifth nationally in pass defense that season.
Showing his versatility, Smart went to Georgia the following season and coached the running backs for the Bulldogs before moving to the Miami Dolphins as Saban's safeties coach. That season in Athens the Bulldogs averaged 162.2 yards per game on the ground, third in the SEC.
There is little doubt that Smart knows football based on his success as an assistant coach. Working with both Saban and Bowden has given him a blueprint on how to have success on the collegiate level. Also a tireless recruiter, Smart is a coach who would bring energy to the Auburn program and put an emphasis on physical football and strong defense.
Cons Having never been a head coach, the Southeastern Conference is a tough place to use as a learning ground. Having spent much of his career with Saban and earning his stripes as a defensive coordinator under him at Alabama, the question remains on how much credit he can take for the success of the Crimson Tide defense and how much should go to the head coach?