|Could Kirby Smart be pointing his way toward Auburn? (US Presswire)|
Could the job that finally lures away Nick Saban's right-hand man actually be the one on the other sideline of the Iron Bowl?
Unlikely as it seems, it's a distinct possibility after the Birmingham News and other outlets reported that Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart interviewed with Auburn Monday and is a serious candidate for the Tigers head coaching position. Smart is one of Saban's longest-tenured assistants, having served on his staff with LSU and the Miami Dolphins before being named Alabama's defensive play-caller in 2008.
Smart would not be the first Auburn head coach to have served as an Alabama assistant. Pat Dye was a member of Bear Bryant's staff for nine years before moving to East Carolina as a head coach (he went to Auburn from Wyoming seven years later), and 1998 Auburn interim head coach Bill Oliver had been the defensive coordinator for both schools in the 1990s.
The reasons Auburn might be interested in Smart are obvious, starting with the Tide's top-five rank in FBS total defense all five seasons of Smart's Alabama tenure. They've ranked No. 2 or better three of the past four years. Smart is also known as a good recruiter and a high-energy leader.
The downside is that after Gene Chizik's 3-9 disaster, restless Auburn fans might not have much patience with a coach they've spent the last several seasons viewing as an arch-enemy. How much credit Smart deserves for the Tide's defense and how much belongs to Saban is also a matter of debate.
Auburn has also reportedly interviewed Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn and Clemson coordinator Chad Morris while making contact with TCU's Gary Patterson and former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino.