ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Chris Hatcher has good reason to feel proud of Kirby Smart's success in bringing a national championship to Georgia.
After all, Hatcher gave Smart his first coaching job.
Smart will face his former boss when No. 2 Georgia plays Samford, coached by Hatcher, on Saturday in its first home game since winning last season's national title.
Georgia (1-0) lost 15 players to this year's NFL draft, including five first-round selections from its defense. Even so, the Bulldogs looked strong in last week's 49-3 runaway win over then-No. 11 Oregon in Atlanta.
Hatcher was Valdosta State’s coach when he hired Smart to coach defensive backs in 2000.
“Kirby has done an outstanding job,” Hatcher said. “He was a tremendous coach at 24 years old when we were together and he’s built his team into a power, one of the best football teams that I’ve ever seen on tape and probably the best football team that I’ve ever played or coached against.”
Hatcher said Smart has reloaded on defense despite returning only three starters.
“I think they’re very similar to last year, they’ve just got different names on the back of their uniforms,” Hatcher said. “It was hard for me to tell the difference from what I saw on tape from last year.”
One week after facing his former co-defensive coordinator, Oregon first-year coach Dan Lanning, Smart now will be looking across the field at another familiar face.
“Now it’s moving on to a guy I know a lot about and a program I have a lot of respect for,” Smart said of Hatcher. “And he’s done a tremendous job everywhere he’s been.”
Samford (1-0) moved into the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 at No. 25 after beating Kennesaw State 27-17 on Sept. 1.