Georgia second-year football coach Kirby Smart has worked for five bosses during his career — Jim Donnan, Chris Hatcher, Bobby Bowden, Mark Richt and Nick Saban.
Smart will face a former mentor for the first time as a head coach Saturday night when his No. 13 Bulldogs (2-0) meet Hatcher's Samford Bulldogs (2-0) inside Sanford Stadium. Hatcher was Valdosta State's head coach from 2000 to 2006, with Smart serving as his secondary coach in 2000 and his defensive coordinator in 2001.
"I'm very thankful of the opportunity he gave me," Smart said this week in a news conference. "I really enjoyed my time on his staff. Some of my greatest memories are at Valdosta State. I was young then and a whole lot different as a coach.
"For two years there, I just had a lot of fun, and he's a great guy to work for."
The Blazers went 10-2 in 2000 and 12-1 in 2001, winning the Gulf South Conference both of those seasons and advancing to the Division II playoffs. Hatcher, who led Valdosta State to a Division II national championship in 2004, has compiled a 136-67 career record in 18 seasons that includes stops at Georgia Southern and Kentucky's Murray State.
Smart came to Valdosta State after serving as an administrative assistant under Donnan at Georgia in 1999, and he left Hatcher's program after two years to become a graduate assistant for Bowden at Florida State.
Although Georgia will have the advantage in talent, depth and support this weekend, Samford redshirt junior quarterback Devlin Hodges certainly has an experience edge over counterpart Jake Fromm, who will be making his first home start. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Hodges is the reigning Southern Conference offensive player of the year, having set a slew of program records last season by completing 375 of 530 passes (70.8 percent) for 4,088 yards and 36 touchdowns.
In a 56-41 loss at Mississippi State last October, Hodges threw for 468 yards and four touchdowns.
"Their quarterback is extremely accurate and extremely athletic," Smart said. "He's very similar to the guy (Notre Dame's Brandon Wimbush) last week, because he can run and do a lot of the same things, but he's probably more accurate. You've got to be careful with this guy, because if you come after him every play, they're going to throw the ball really quick, and you've got less out there to defend with on screens and things.
"With this team, the ball is going to be out quick."
Samford opened this season with a 28-23 win over fellow Football Championship Subdivision program Kennesaw State and also has a 49-41 victory over West Alabama, a D-II school. Hodges threw for four touchdowns in the opener and three more last week, but Hatcher believes the offense has been a little shaky as his veteran quarterback adjusts to younger weapons.
In last week's win, Samford had two interception returns for touchdowns and one kickoff return for a score.
"I like our team," Hatcher said. "This is like every week in that we're just going to try to be the best we can be no matter the opponent we play. This week will be no different."
Odds and ends
On Wednesday, Georgia released its 2018 schedule, which includes nonconference home games against Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, UMass and Georgia Tech. ... Reserve offensive lineman Sage Hardin, who redshirted in 2015 and played in one game last season, announced this week via social media he is giving up football due to multiple injuries that have left him unable to run well and unable to sit without pain. ... The Bulldogs practiced outside for the first time this week on Wednesday, working out for two hours in full pads.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.