Overall record: 52-14 (all at Georgia)
Is Kirby Smart turning into another Mark Richt? Well, like Richt, Smart’s presence in Georgia has complicated recruiting a bit for Tennessee football. There’s a reason that the Vols’ last top 10 finish, in 2001, was the first year UGA hired Richt and went on this run. Even if they can’t win the big game, they make sure to secure the top talent in Georgia, a crucial state for UT.
Heading into this year, Smart’s greatest recruiting class in history from 2018 is now all made up of seniors. Of course, there are some early NFL Draft departures from that class and some transfers, most notably UT offensive lineman Cade Mays, but the class is still loaded.
Overall, even if he hasn’t won a national title yet, Smart is still one of the top coaches in the league. He’s a model of consistency and keeps this team in the top 10 every year. Remember, when Phillip Fulmer hired Jeremy Pruitt at the end of the 2017 season, he was trying to replicate the success Smart was having at the time.
Obviously, that was a mistake. Not only is Pruitt completely different from Smart, but UT needs a bigger splash than just a standard defensive coach or elite recruiter. Still, Smart appears to be knocking on Saban’s door, and he could steal a win soon enough. He belongs up here for now.