Smith says change won't hurt 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."

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."

Recruits who are considering Tech say they don't believe Smith's departure is a factor for them. 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 might add as many as four more.

Roswell wide receiver Chris Boyd, a longtime commitment to Vanderbilt, said he will take 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."

Smith said he's waiting to hear from Johnson if he will help 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 Wednesday and that he was excited to be reunited with Chan Gailey.

Gailey, who was Tech's coach 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 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 an] 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 writers Michael Carvell and Chip Towers contributed to this article.

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