Auburn coaching rumors: Kirby Smart to interview for Tigers' job

Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn is looking to the dark side for a potential head coaching candidate. The Tigers will interview Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

His name had been bounced around on potential candidate lists for the Auburn head coach vacancy. Now, Phillip Marshall of Auburn Undercover is reporting that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will interview for the position. He is the first reported interview -- well, other than Charlie Strong, who denied talking with Auburn -- since the position came open one week ago.

As defensive coordinator for the Tide, Smart is one of the hottest coaching prospects among assistants in the country. He was awarded the Frank Broyles Award as college football's top assistant coach in 2009, and more recently, Smart was named the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year for 2012.

Smart was a defensive back at Georgia from 1995 to '98 and began his coaching career as an administrative assistant at UGA in 1999. He moved on to Valdosta State in 2000 to coach defensive backs and was promoted a year later to defensive coordinator. Smart took a graduate assistant position under Florida State legend Bobby Bowden in 2002 before accepting a position coaching defensive backs under Nick Saban at LSU in 2004. The next season saw Smart step outside his comfort zone and coach running backs at Georgia before rejoining with Saban in Miami as the Dolphins' safeties coach in 2006. When Saban took the job in Tuscaloosa in 2007, Smart followed him as an assistant and was promoted to defensive coordinator a year later.

Under Smart, Alabama's defense ranked second in the SEC in points allowed per game in 2008 and has finished first in each year since. The Tide 'D' has ranked first or tied for first in total defense every year with Smart as DC, and Alabama posted an incredible 183.6 yards allowed per game in 2011. It's impossible to know how much Saban has to do with Alabama's gaudy defensive numbers, but it's pretty clear that Smart knows what he's doing on that side of the ball. He's young -- 36 years old -- and a great recruiter, and the only downside is that Smart has no head coaching experience. But then again, plenty of other programs in recent memory have hired hot coordinators and seen it work out -- Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, just to name a few.

Former Auburn head coach Pat Dye has been openly stumping for Smart to be considered for the job during his weekly on-air radio spot on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, and this will make some conspiracy theorists believe that Dye's influence still runs deep on the Plains and that he is the one really running the show. We aren't convinced this is the case as much as we're convinced that Smart is a solid candidate that will likely be a good-to-great head coach whenever he gets the opportunity.

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