Some sad news to start this morning as we learn former 'Bama offensive coordinator Homer Smith passed away yesterday morning. Smith had been battling cancer in recent years, but even as of a few months ago he was still active in the coaching community. Cecil Hurt has a nice column looking back at his time at Alabama:
"I was blessed to have two great offensive coordinators, Mal Moore and Homer Smith," former quarterback Jay Barker said on Sunday. "But it was Coach Smith who really opened my eyes to the possibilities in the passing game. Before, I had coaches who would tell you something and maybe give you a test. But Coach Smith would make you stand up in the meeting and actually teach. He'd make you go through the entire playbook. Sometimes you'd stand up at the board for an hour-and-a-half, but his theory was, if you could teach it, that meant you knew it. And because of that, when you went on the field, everything came easily."
Smith's offenses rolled up record numbers in 1988 and 1989 with David Smith and Hollingsworth at quarterback. His return to join Gene Stallings' staff was a more qualified success, since some of his ideas were at variance with Stallings' more conservative approach. Still, he had Barker breaking records and making it to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist and winning one of the most-remembered games in Alabama history, a 29-28 classic over Georgia.
Though Smith only spent a few years at Alabama, he is arguably the greatest Alabama offensive coordinator in the post-Bryant era, and his offenses were generally imaginative as they were productive. His offense was largely the driving force behind the final two Bill Curry teams that combined to win nineteen games, and the 1989 offense is arguably one of the best in school history. His return to Tuscaloosa in 1994 to form the so-called Dream Team coaching staff with Gene Stallings and Bill Oliver did not go as planned, but even so he still transformed Jay Barker from a pedestrian player coming off of a major knee injury to a bona fide Heisman Trophy contender, and he remained a fan favorite.
Beyond his successes on the field, though, most impressive for Smith may have been his accomplishments in the classroom. Smith was a football coach by trade, but that did not stop him from earning an economics degree from Princeton, an MBA from Stanford, a PhD in theology from Harvard. Not surprisingly given that background, he was held in high regard by his football peers as one of the most innovative offensive minds of his day. All in all it's a sad day for college football, as we lose one of the best coaches and most unique individuals.