When Colorado made the decision to part ways with head football coach Karl Dorrell and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson on Oct. 2, a door opened for Jeff Smart.
A Boulder native and former CU linebacker, Smart has been promoted to an on-field coaching position for the remainder of the season. A quality control specialist for the Buffs the past year and a half, Smart essentially takes Wilson’s spot on the coaching roster and will work with linebackers.
“It’s a dream come true,” Smart, 35, said. “I grew up in Boulder. I was born in Boulder played here. Family still lives here. I’ve always wanted to coach here. It’s living the dream. I’m just having a blast.”
Certainly the circumstances aren’t ideal, as CU’s 0-5 start led to Dorrell and Wilson being let go, but Smart is relishing the opportunity.
A 2005 graduate of Boulder High School, Smart walked on at CU as an inside linebacker. Three weeks into the 2007 season, he was placed on scholarship. He was second-team All-Big 12 in 2008 and a team captain in 2009. During his three years as a starter, he racked up 291 tackles and 12 tackles for loss.
His coaching career has taken him to Columbia, Penn, Boise State, Missouri and then CU a year ago. Since coming back to CU, he has helped inside linebackers coach Mark Smith. Now, he will work alongside Smith as the two coach inside and outside linebackers.
“We’re doing some different things on defense and moving some positions around, some guys around,” Smart said. “So, me and coach Smith are really just kind of tag-teaming it. I can float around to different positions, and so can he and we’re kind of just doing what’s best for the guys, to get as much coaching as we can for each position and each player too.”
For Smart, there’s not a dramatic difference in his day-to-day role, except that he now gets to work more with players than he did before.
“I don’t think anybody gets into coaching to be a lifelong QC or analyst,” he said. “The point of coaching is to coach, so yeah, it’s been phenomenal.”
Smart and the rest of the defensive staff have a significant task in front of them, as CU has been one of the worst defenses in the country this season. Smart, however, has been impressed with how the players have prepared for Saturday’s matchup with California at Folsom Field (12:01 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
“The whole energy in the entire building is different, amongst the coaching staff, amongst the team,” he said. “It’s a totally different energy and excitement level and focus level. For me, specifically, I’m doing different things than I was doing to an extent, so it’s just fun. It’s been enjoyable.”