Tracking the Tide: Kirby Smart

Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player or coach and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

Kirby Smart

Defensive coordinator

Alabama allowed 246.0 yards and 10.7 points per game this season

Role in 2012: Smart was once again head coach Nick Saban's right-hand man, implementing his defensive scheme and making in-game adjustments for the Crimson Tide.

The good: The sixth-year coordinator performed a nearly complete overhaul on a defense that was historically dominant a year ago. Consider how three-quarters of the secondary was drafted. Think about how two of Smart's All-American linebackers from last season are contributing on Sundays. The way he's brought along young players like Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Xzavier Dickson and Trey DePriest is remarkable. Despite not having the same type of experience and playmakers as a year ago, Smart has produced a defense that ranks in the top 10 of nearly every major statistical category.

The bad: Whether it was a product of youth or not, consistency evaded the defense. Just look at the late-season lapses on third down as a prime example. When the pressure was on, missed tackles and errors in execution added up. They were correctable mistakes we didn't see a season ago.

Crystal ball: Smart's stock continues to rise. His flirtation with Auburn aside, it's only a matter of time before the 36-year-old makes the leap to head coaching. Athletic directors in need of a leading man will not only see a coach from a strong program, but also one that can recruit like gangbusters. Smart has made huge inroads in the state of Georgia and has helped Saban pull in top-3 classes every year since 2008.