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Smith's departure could leave Tech in a bind

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

ATLANTA -- Giff Smith insisted Wednesday his decision to leave Georgia Tech only one week before national signing day will not hurt the Yellow Jackets' recruiting class.

Smith was Georgia Tech's defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator under coach Paul Johnson. He is moving to the NFL to coach Buffalo's outside linebackers for former Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey, the new Bills coach.

Smith spent four years on Gailey's staff at Georgia Tech before he was retained by Johnson.

Smith acknowledged some schools would have reason to worry about losing a recruiting coordinator so close to signing day. He said Georgia Tech is different.

"I don't know if there's ever a great time for anything," Smith said when asked about the timing of his move. "The unique thing working at Georgia Tech is when you recruit, kids understand the value of the education and what all Georgia Tech stands for and the program coach Johnson is building. It doesn't disrupt a recruiting class or cause conflicts like it might at another school."

Smith said he has offered to remain at Georgia Tech for next week's signing day but doesn't know if Johnson will accept the offer.

"We appreciate everything that Giff did for our program," Johnson said in a statement released by the school. "We wish him the best of luck in Buffalo."

Johnson was visiting recruits out of town on Wednesday and unavailable for further comment, according to Georgia Tech spokesman Dean Buchan.

Smith, who was in Buffalo on Tuesday before returning to Atlanta, said he has talked with some recruits who are expected to sign next week.

"I have spoken to some and told them hopefully I'll be able to coach them four years from now," Smith said. "I told them they made the best decisions for them and Georgia Tech is special and nothing has changed as far as the quality of the decision."

Smith said the agreement to join Gailey's staff in Buffalo came "pretty much in the last 48 hours."

"There is nothing easy about leaving Georgia Tech," he said, adding he believes working in the NFL will help him reach his goal of becoming a head coach.

"When I got into coaching I made the decision that I want to be a head coach, and I think as you go through your career and as you build your resume, you try to make the best decisions to achieve that goal," Smith said.

Smith said being known as a full-time coach, instead of as a recruiting coordinator, "should make me more marketable as a coach."

Johnson fired defensive coordinator Dave Wommack after the season and hired former Virginia coach Al Groh to head the defense. Smith would not say if he pursued the opening.

"I'd rather not get into any of that," he said.

Smith worked on Johnson's staff at Georgia Southern from 1996-98. Smith was an assistant coach at Tulane from 1999-2003 and was associate head coach his last two years.