Kirby Smart worked under Nick Saban at Alabama and, when he landed as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, many assumed that the two men would be recruiting against one another on a repeated basis. While that is certainly the case, a piece from Tom VanHaaren of ESPN has emerged that highlights a different recruiting rival for Smart and the Bulldogs.

That rival is Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan linebackers coach Chris Partridge is one of the program’s most dynamic voices on the recruiting trail and he tells ESPN of a renewed interest in the state of Georgia and the Southeast in general.

“The main thing was that we want to be a national program, and we want to find the best kids all over the country. I went in and when I started recruiting the area, I realized that it’s a place where football is very important, they play the right way, and they’re extremely well coached. It’s a place that’s very conducive to what we’re looking for, and once we realized that and started seeing all the talent, we realized we needed to make a push.”

Michigan went in to Georgia and secured an impact commitment from defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon just a few months ago and the Wolverines haven’t been shy about mixing it up in the peach state. In general, the influence of Michigan seems to be growing in the area and 2018 defensive back Chris Smith (Hapeville, Ga.) indicates that it is Harbaugh-driven.

“Now that Coach Harbaugh is at Michigan, a lot of people are talking about them down here,” Smith said. “I wasn’t even really thinking about Michigan like that until he and the rest of the staff started really recruiting me. Just the effort and time they spend on the kids and that they’re genuine, I think that all plays a part in it.”

It isn’t a surprise to think that multiple schools would be battling for prospects within the talent-rich state of Georgia but it is definitely a wild sentiment to suggest that Michigan would be the biggest rival for the Bulldogs on the trail. Only time will tell but the evidence could be mounting in that direction and Jim Harbaugh isn’t likely to slow down.

ESPN believes Nick Saban isn’t Georgia’s biggest recruiting rival Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Rowland is a lifelong Atlanta sports fan that also grew up in a Michigan Wolverines household. He previously worked with FanSided, SB Nation and UPROXX sports and covers college football for FanBuzz.
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