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Giff Smith says he accepted a job with the Buffalo Bills because he believes it improves his resume and will help him one day fulfill his goal of becoming a head coach. It won’t, however, disrupt Georgia Tech’s recruiting.
“Nothing easy about leaving Georgia Tech,” said Smith, who coached at Tech the past six seasons and spent the past four as recruiting coordinator. “It’s just an opportunity career-wise that we felt as a family was the best thing at this time.”
With Signing Day a week away, many of Tech’s commitments said they are sticking with their decision to sign with the Jackets on Feb. 3.
Defensive tackle Shawn Green of Grayson, whom Smith would have coached in his other role as defensive line coach, said his decision is solid.
“I first heard it from Coach [Paul] Johnson,” Green said. “I was like, ‘For real?’ I was shocked. I didn’t see that coming. I liked Coach Smith. He was a good D-line coach and I wish him the best. But it doesn’t change anything at all. I’m still committed to Georgia Tech. The only thing running through my mind is who is going to be coaching me now?”
Recruits who haven’t committed but are considering Tech say they don’t feel like Smith’s departure is a factor. One of the reasons is that the remaining eight coaches actively recruit. That’s what most have been doing this week as Tech looks to fill the rest of its class. The Yellow Jackets have 16 commitments and may add as many as four more.
Roswell wide receiver Chris Boyd, a longtime commitment to Vanderbilt, said he will be taking an official visit to Georgia Tech this weekend. He is being recruited by wide receivers coach Al “Buzz” Preston.
“Georgia Tech is a special place,” Smith said. “You recruit different types of kids at this school. These kids are intelligent kids. They value the Georgia Tech degree and understand the opportunities it presents later in life.
“Timing is never great, but it was never an issue that I thought it would affect recruiting to any degree. I don’t see any disruptions at all. that’s what makes this place a little bit different than others.”
Johnson made an in-home visit with Loganville offensive tackle Morgan Bailey on Wednesday evening.
Smith’s departure came up in discussion, according to Bailey. “(Johnson) said he was sad to see him go, but he understood and that he was going to get another coach in there to get the job done.”
The 6-foot-5, 298-pound Bailey says he remains loyal to the commitment he made to Georgia Tech last summer, although rival Georgia appears to make a late push. Bailey said Georgia offensive line coach Stacey Searels called last week to measure his interest in the Bulldogs.
“(Searels) said I could come to Georgia and be a real leader for the offensive line over there,” Bailey said. “He said Georgia was going to offer me a scholarship, but I think he is waiting to see how much I’m interested before doing that.”
“I grew up a Georgia fan. I told (Searels) that I appreciated the consideration, but that I have found a home at Georgia Tech. My recruiting is over. I’m a Yellow Jacket, and that’s how it is going to be.”
Bailey said Johnson was pleased to see that he added about 15 pounds of muscle since football season. “He was joking how their left tackle weighed 243 pounds by the end of last season, and I was pushing 300. He said I looked good, and that they weren’t ruling out playing me anywhere along the offensive line — including center, tackle, or guard.”
Smith said he’s waiting to hear from Johnson if he will be helping Tech through signing day. He declined to say if he was interested in Tech’s defensive coordinator job, which was recently filled with the hiring of Al Groh. He also declined to discuss many of the specifics of the job at Buffalo, other than to say he had flown back from there on Wednesday and that he was excited to be reunited with Chan Gailey.
Gailey, who coached Tech from 2002-07, lured Smith from Tulane back home to Atlanta in 2004. Joining Gailey in Buffalo will mark the second time that Smith will rejoin a former boss. Johnson gave Smith his first full-time job at Georgia Southern in 1996, and kept him on staff at Tech after Gailey was fired. Johnson was out of town and couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.
That familiarity is what Smith said made the decision so easy to make on one hand: “It’s kind of unique, it makes for a nice comfort level that you know what you’re getting into,” Smith said of Gailey.
And so hard on the other: “It makes it tough because you respect him so much, and you know what he’s doing here is special,” Smith said of Johnson.
But, in the end, Smith said becoming the outside linebackers coach at Buffalo makes him more marketable, even though it means leaving Atlanta, where he grew up (Mableton) and where his two children were born.
“[I want] Opportunity one day to sit in the big chair and do it the way you want to do it and see if it turns out,” Smith said.
Staff reporters Michael Carvell and Chip Towers contributed to this report.