Long-time defensive line coach Giff Smith heads into his second season coaching the position for the Chargers.
The Chargers’ defensive line performed beyond admirably in Smith’s first season. As a unit, the Bolts boasted the NFL’s 10th-ranked rush defense. The Chargers held nine of their 16 opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground and recorded the NFL’s second-highest percentage of tackles for loss. Smith’s star pupil was defensive end Joey Bosa, who captured NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after leading the Chargers and all NFL rookies with 10.5 sacks. Despite playing in just 12 games, Bosa also led the Chargers in tackles for loss and quarterback pressures. As a unit, the Chargers defensive line accounted for nearly half (16) of the team’s 35 sacks on the season.
A native of Mableton, Ga., Smith was a three-time All-America defensive end at Georgia Southern. He was a team captain as a senior and a part of three NCAA I-AA national title teams (1986, 1989, 1990) for the Eagles.
Smith launched his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Arkansas (1991-93) and Georgia (1994-95) before spending three seasons (1996-98) coaching wide receivers and the secondary at Georgia Southern. He went on to spend five seasons (1999-03) coaching the defensive line at Tulane before taking over as the defensive line coach at Georgia Tech in 2004. In 2007, the Yellow Jackets led the nation in sacks (47) and ranked second in tackles for loss. One of Smith’s top players was Joe Anoa’i, a first-team All-ACC pick in 2006, who is now known as Roman Reigns and won World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) heavyweight championship in April 2016. Three additional linemen who played for Smith at Georgia Tech went on to play in the NFL. They include Michael Johnson, Vance Walker and Derrick Morgan.
Smith moved to the NFL in 2010, taking over as the defensive line coach for the Buffalo Bills. He spent three seasons in Buffalo (2010-12), during which time defensive tackle Kyle Williams was selected to the first two Pro Bowls of his career and defensive end Mario Williams had a 10.5-sack season.
Prior to joining the Chargers, Smith spent two years (2014-15) coaching the defensive line in Tennessee. In 2014, Smith helped the Titans implement a 3-4 scheme, and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey posted a career-high 13 tackles for loss. In 2015, the Titans racked up 39 sacks, tied for 12th in the league. The defensive line accounted for 13.5 of those sacks, including a team-high-tying seven by Casey, who was selected to his first-career Pro Bowl following the season.
Smith and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Ava and Sam. In 2000, Smith was inducted into Georgia Southern’s Athletic Hall of Fame.