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Nick Saban Reflects on Working with Kirby Smart

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was very complimentary of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart ahead of their matchup on Saturday.

The SEC Championship Game will feature two of the best coaches in college football, and their respect for each other runs deeper than the sport itself.

Before head coach Kirby Smart fielded one of the best teams in program history, he served as an assistant under Alabama head coach Nick Saban. The two spent nearly a decade together in Tuscaloosa, with Smart serving as Saban's defensive coordinator and right-hand man.

Their relationship is well documented, as this will be the fourth time the two have faced off. Smart has yet to defeat his former boss, and Saban is currently 24-1 all-time against his former assistants.

The lone loss came against Texas A&M and head coach Jimbo Fisher this season. The performance encapsulated what many thought for weeks and what Saban tried to tell us all year: this Alabama team is weaker than in years past.

When you look at the names on the roster, you may not think that, which is fair. Alabama always fields talented teams, but this year's difference is that their youth is standing in the way.

This is one of the youngest Alabama teams to play under Saban, which has negated their ability to play complementary football. Several plays every game make the viewer wonder what would happen in that situation with past Alabama teams.

Saban knows this, and to his credit, acknowledged that Georgia has put together the most complete resume in college this season. However, he attributed much of that success to his former assistant turned head coach.

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"Kirby's done a marvelous job. He did an outstanding job in all the years we were together. I don't know, nine or ten years. It was a long time that we worked together. He did as good a job as anybody that I've ever had on our staff. I knew that when he got his opportunity to be a head coach, he would do a really good job. He's bright. He's smart. He's enthusiastic. He does a good job in relationships with players. He's a good recruiter. So he's done a great job there."

Saban typically has a high level of respect for all his former staffers. However, the quote usually stops there. This time, he continued and commended Smart for a complete job he has done both in his time with Alabama and Georgia.

"Look, I'm always very gracious in terms of the gratitude that I have for what guys did when they were with us, and I understand that they do it well because they want opportunities themselves. And it's always good to, A, appreciate what they did for us, but also there's some pride in it that they have gone on and done very well in building their own program. Kirby has just done a fantastic job."

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