At his Monday press conference, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was generous in his assessment of this year’s Crimson Tide team ahead of Saturday’s top three matchup, and he offered the highest praise to one Tide playmaker, in particular.
When asked what makes this version of the Alabama offense so prolific, Smart pointed to a mix of personnel and coaching.
“What has made them succeed is players,” he said. “They’ve got really good players. [Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian] does a great job of implementing a system that the kids can execute.”
Believing Najee Harris to be one of the best running backs in the country, Smart added that the Tide are “massive up front.”
“They make you defend the whole field,” he explained.
The Crimson Tide enters its showdown against the Bulldogs leading the nation in scoring offense and ranking third in total offense.
Perhaps the greatest factor in forcing teams to defend the whole field has been the play of Jaylen Waddle, someone Smart says requires significant game planning.
“He’s as dynamic and electric as I’ve seen,” Smart said of the Tide’s leading wide receiver. “He touches the ball, you can see it on tape, it pops off. And it’s really not just special teams. They find ways all over the field to get him the ball. They move him around, they motion him, they give him touches every way you can. Shame on them if they don’t because he’s electric when he touches the ball. He’s just a really, really good football player. He’s tough. Man, he’s tough. He runs the ball tough. He’s physical. There’s a lot of challenges there for us with him. He creates a lot of issues.”
Waddle is third in the nation in receiving yards per game, averaging 132 yards per game, while also posing a threat on special teams.
This is the third week in a row that Alabama head coach Nick Saban faces a former assistant.
Last week’s game against Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin resulted in a revelation that some of those assistants are on a group text thread in which they talk about their former boss.
Kiffin took to Twitter on Monday to allege Smart had wished the thread remained confidential.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) October 12, 2020
When asked about the text thread and Kiffin’s use of the “Fight Club” mantra, Smart laughed it off as being typical of Kiffin’s persona.
“That’s Lane being Lane,” Smart explained. “I’m not interested in that. He can do whatever he wants to do. He did it all last week. That’s Lane’s personality.”
As for the 0-21 record of Saban’s former assistants against their one-time boss, Smart sought to look at the larger picture.
“I don’t know anybody who has a good record against Coach Saban,” he remarked.
Smart did identify one area where he has learned the most from college football’s greatest coach.
“Focus on the task at hand,” he concluded. “I’ve thought he was always the master at that of not really having the highs and lows and emotional spells of a coach. Focus on what’s important now.”