Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart spoke Saturday to reporters in New Orleans as the Crimson Tide prepares to play LSU for the BCS National Championship on Monday.
Smart was asked what it was like to work for Nick Saban, if he thinks he is ready to be a head coach (which he said he is ready,) and what it will take to stop LSU on Monday. Below is a transcript of his comments as provided by the Sugar Bowl.
Q. Question about the morphing sort of ability of your players and that versatility of your players on the defense, how that sort of aids the overall cause and scheme of what you try and accomplish.
KIRBY SMART: Each guy kind of has his own traits and talents. Big man over here likes to stop the run, and we've got some pass rushers. We've got Mark, who plays a lot like a linebacker in the box at times, and then he's also deep part safety.
So each guy has special attributes that we try to use to make our defense special.
And we have a lot of personnel groupings, more than most people have in college, and that's because we have some good players and we try to utilize their skills in every situation in the game.
Q. Kirby, could you talk a couple of the younger guys on the defense, Trey DePriest and how he's come along and how Bradley Sylve transitioned since moving over?
KIRBY SMART: Both those kids are talented kids. Trey's a young guy who came in early, so he's ahead of most young guys, he's got a spring extra on everybody. He's really learning the defense. Plays hard. Has great speed.
Again, he's got to get bigger, stronger, but he's a fast guy that can fly to the ball. We're looking for good things. He played really well on special teams. Glad we got him. He's the backup right now to Dont'a [Hightower].
And Bradley did a great job transitioning over. He didn't go to camp with us. He was a wideout, and now he's becoming a good corner for us, taking a lot of reps. Reminds me of a lot what Dre [Kirkpatrick] did when he was a freshman when we have Javi [Javier Arenas] and Kareem [Jackson] and all those guys. He's taken a lot of reps in learning the defense, which is really important, and we haven't had to play him.
Q. Kirby, what in your mind was the biggest key to neutralizing LSU's offense last time? Do you expect the same kind of game?
KIRBY SMART: Certainly don't expect the same kind of game. I think it will be a very different game this time. Think they'll do some different things; we'll do some different things defensively.
I don't think they'll play as conservative as they did last time. They were in quarterback flux. They were in transition. They've got a stable guy now, so obviously they may have more game plan for him.
But for us it's not really about what they do; it's going to be about what we do. And we gotta execute. We've got to stop the run. Can't give up big plays.
It's that simple, and that's hard to do without taking chances to do both. So we'll put some pressure on the edge guys. We'll put some pressure on the inside guys and ask them to stop the run and see if we can.
Q. Kirby, how is their offense different preparing for them over the last four games with [Jordan] Jefferson as the starter as opposed to preparing for them last time?
KIRBY SMART: Absolutely none for us. I think it's a misnomer to think it's different, because we knew Jordan Jefferson was there before we played them the last time. We knew what plays they ran when they had Jordan Jefferson last time. It wasn't like we didn't practice with those plays.
I think if you ask our kids, they've seen the same plays they saw last time. Will they do something different? I'm sure they will. But so will we.
So for us the preparation is do what they do, do what we do, and then adjust to what they do new. And that's kind of the way we're looking at it. So we've prepared very similarly.
And gotta be prepared for the option. Everybody makes a big deal about the option. They ran the option last time. Everybody forgets we played Jordan Jefferson a year before in Baton Rouge and they ran a lot of plays that Jordan runs.
We're excited about the opportunity.
Q. Kirby, how demanding is it coaching for Nick Saban and how has he prepared you for possibly being a head coach one day?
KIRBY SMART: When you say "demanding," to me the definition of demanding is they require you to do what you're supposed to do, when you're supposed to do it, and how you're supposed to do it. That's what he does. So is he demanding, yeah, he requires you to do your job.
And I appreciate that. That gives me job security knowing that everyone in the organization is held accountable. And he holds everybody accountable. When he's demanding he's usually right.
To me that's probably the greatest feature I've learned or will take with me when I become a head coach, is you have to be demanding. You have to be able to confront people if they're not doing their job or not doing it the way you want it.
It's hard sometimes. Just like asking these players to be leaders to go in front of their peers and challenge a guy, that's tough. And these guys have done it. Coach Saban does it and it flows down into our organization. He's been a great asset to me, and I'll take a lot of things with me if I ever get the opportunity.
Q. Do you think you're ready for that next step?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I definitely think I'm ready for the next step. I think it's got to be the right place, the right opportunity. And it's not really presented itself. Not something I think about a lot.
I'm completely happy at the University of Alabama being the defensive coordinator. It's the greatest non?head coach job in the country and it's a great place to be. Great players here, great support system.
But, yeah, certainly think I'm ready.
Q. People have made a big deal all year about how athletic and big and physical your defense is, but I wonder how you rate this group maybe compared with some others with their ability to diagnose quickly, like do they know it's the run quickly, are they going to know it's the option quickly. How are they in diagnosing?
KIRBY SMART: They're very instinctive, is what we use as coaches, is the term we use, instinctive in play recognition, formation recognition.
Chapman's in there ?? yesterday I go down the hallway getting ready for practice, and he's in there watching tape. Our kids do a good job watching tape and seeing things. They like football. They enjoy the game. That's the reason they've been successful.
This defense is as good as any I've ever been around. Obviously the 2009 group was really special. And this group is kind of different because we're really good on the edges. And really stout inside with Chap and got some good backers and got good secondary.
It's similar to the other team, the only difference is I think this one has a little more speed on it.
Q. Kirby, as a guy who studies for a living and tries to come up with answers for a living, how do you explain this run by the SEC with going for the sixth straight title, just the high rankings by three or four teams every year?
KIRBY SMART: Well, I think regionally, when you look at it, high school football, in my opinion, it's so great in the SEC states, the high school football is at a higher level. Coaches are paid more. So the more you pay the coaches, the better quality players you get, the better quality programs you get, the development of players.
Spring practice, a lot of places don't do spring practices. By the time Mark Barron and Josh Chapman are seniors in high school, they've had four spring practices. That's almost like an extra season.
I think it's just more advanced. My dad's a high school coach. I've always felt that way. So I think that has made football better in the South, therefore there's more players. And everybody talks about the "D" line. So there's obviously a difference in the "D" line. But there's other skilled players.
In the South, if you're a really good athlete, you may play corner. It's not necessarily true everywhere else, they're wideouts. So you get lesser athletes, lesser DBs in some of the other regions, whereas in our region it's okay to play corner. You've got to have good athletes playing corners because they're good athletes at wideout.
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