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Georgia photo by Tony Walsh / Georgia's Kirby Smart already has three former assistants coaching Power Five programs, but he doesn't consider himself having any kind of coaching tree.

It already seems like ancient history, but Georgia's first football season with Kirby Smart as head coach in 2016 yielded an 8-5 record.

The Bulldogs lost at home that year to Vanderbilt. They also lost at home to Georgia Tech and concluded that season in the Liberty Bowl.

Yet that year served as the foundation for a program that won the 2017 Southeastern Conference championship, claimed three straight SEC East titles and currently sits No. 2 nationally behind Alabama. Smart's inaugural staff contained Mel Tucker as defensive coordinator, Sam Pittman as offensive line coach and Shane Beamer as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

Tucker, Pittman and Beamer now head Power Five programs — giving Smart a relatively quick and impressive coaching tree — with Beamer's first South Carolina team set to visit Sanford Stadium this Saturday night.

"I definitely don't see them as my tree," Smart said Tuesday night on a Zoom call. "Two of them are my elders, and I learned a lot from them. Mel has a ton of experience and a lot more than I do, and he's been all over NFL staffs and has been really successful. I was very blessed to have someone of Mel's nature to help me start this program and build this thing.

"Sam was the same way. He was great for us here, and he's a great friend, and I don't take credit for either one of them."

Tucker was the first Georgia assistant under Smart to get a head-coaching opportunity, leaving for Colorado after the 2018 SEC title game and spending just one season with the Buffaloes before taking over at Michigan State. Pittman left the Bulldogs for Arkansas following the 2019 SEC championship contest and earned his biggest win with the Razorbacks last Saturday night with a 40-21 drubbing of Texas.

Beamer was the first of the three to leave Georgia, doing so after the 2017 season, to become Oklahoma's tight ends coach.

"Shane went and wanted to learn a different way," Smart said. "He went to Oklahoma to do that, and he's part of our tree and part of his dad's tree and part of Lincoln Riley's tree. He's kind of his own person cutting his own cloth."

 

Quarterback update

The chief certainty regarding Georgia's quarterbacks right now is that third-stringer Carson Beck is the only one completely healthy.

"JT (Daniels) feels much better," Smart said. "He has continued to improve. He's better now than he was on Saturday. I don't know that he's 100%, but he's certainly getting closer to that. Stetson (Bennett) is repping. JT is repping, and Carson is repping.

"Stetson's definitely got lower-back issues. He strained some stuff. He's able to go, but I don't know if he's at 100%."

Of course, Beamer has yet to reveal whether Zeb Noland or Luke Doty will be his starting quarterback Saturday. Noland has led the Gamecocks to wins over Eastern Illinois and East Carolina while Doty recovered from a foot injury.

"Every quarterback is a little different, but the plays they run that aren't designed for the quarterback are the same," Smart said. "The offense doesn't change. The mobility might change, but that's about it."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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