Coaches reunite when No. 3 Georgia hosts South Carolina

Field Level Media

October 08, 2019 at 6:09 pm.

There are numerous examples of SEC coaches whose paths have crossed during their careers.

The relationship between Georgia’s Kirby Smart and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp is one of the more unique.

Both head coaches are graduates of Georgia, former teammates who also coached together as assistants at two other programs.

In fact, Muschamp gave Smart his first full-time coaching gig while the former was the defensive coordinator at Valdosta State. They joined forces once again as assistants on Nick Saban’s staff at LSU.

The two will oppose each other Saturday when No. 3 Georgia (5-0, 2-0) hosts South Carolina (2-3, 1-2) in Athens.

“Where we became closer was the opportunity he gave me to come to Valdosta State, and we worked together there, and then we worked together at LSU, and those two years we spent in the same staff, we probably bonded more than we did while we were here (at Georgia),” Smart said.

“He’s always been a very intense coach, a good football coach. I think he does a good job running the program, and that has allowed us to share information when possible, when it’s not about scheme and it’s more about philosophy. He has been a good friend. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Muschamp feels the same.

“We’ve been good friends for a long time, regardless of the circumstances, like when I was the defensive coordinator at Auburn and he was the defensive coordinator at Alabama,” Muschamp said. “There’s a lot of respect on both ends.”

Georgia is rolling after throttling Tennessee last weekend 43-14. The Bulldogs’ offense — averaging 42.8 points per game — is led by quarterback Jake Fromm (86 of 111 for 1,076 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions) and D’Andre Swift (460 rushing yards, 7.0 per carry).

One of Smart’s goals? Getting off to a faster start than the Bulldogs did last week at Tennessee, when the Volunteers jumped out to a 14-10 lead before Georgia roared back for the win.

“Maybe we’ve got to do a better job as coaches of preparing them early in the game,” Smart said.

“When you’re a good defense, I do think that you don’t see the same things. You see different stuff because they’re trying to generate plays against you, and that’s been the case for us, but we’ve got to do a better job starting off for sure.”

The Gamecocks have the potential to put stress on a Dawgs’ defense that has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.

Despite dropping a 47-23 decision to Alabama, South Carolina piled up 459 yards of offense against the Crimson Tide, including 324 passing by true freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who has given the Gamecocks a spark since taking over at the position for injured Jake Bentley.

He has completed 88 of 144 passes for 912 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Running back Rico Dowdle, who leads the team with 370 rushing yards — 6.6 per carry — is good to go after suffering a sprained ankle against Kentucky on Sept. 28, Muschamp said. The coach also said that backup quarterback Dakereon Joyner (hamstring) is expected to be available.