Berry College didn’t have to search far to find its next defensive coordinator. They are both familiar to the Vikings’ program and Rome in general.
Zack Smith, who has served as Berry’s defensive line coach for five seasons, was announced Tuesday as the team’s new defensive coordinator, filling the role just recently left vacant by Nate Masters following his decision to take the role at West Georgia.
“Zack has been a huge contributor to our success on and off the field at Berry football for the past five seasons,” head coach Tony Kunczewski said. “He is more than ready for this job and will bring energy and passion to the position. We’re so happy to be able to promote from within our program.”
While Smith has been a part of helping the Vikings rise to one of the top defensive teams in Division III, he began his time in Rome as a part of the Shorter University football program as a player, a graduate assistant and as an assistant coach.
Smith has served as the Berry defensive line coach since 2015 and added the role of special teams coordinator prior to the 2018 campaign.
“I am extremely excited to step up and lead the defense this upcoming year,” Smith said. “We have a great group of young men here, so I am very motivated to work with them in a position of higher responsibility. My experience here at Berry has been second to none, so I am honored to be in position to help our program excel to the next level.”
Smith’s defensive line was among the top fronts in Division III in 2016, ranking No. 3 in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (66.6). Berry also led the Southern Athletic Association with 32 sacks and 12 fumble recoveries.
In his first year with the Vikings, Smith’s defensive line helped Berry lead the conference in sacks (27), rushing yards per game (116.9) and interceptions (15). He also coached two All-American defensive linemen in Mamadou Soumahoro and Coosa graduate Bryson Lamboy.
Berry claimed its fourth consecutive SAA title in 2019, rising to a program-best No. 7 in the American Football Coaches Association Top 25. The team ranked second in NCAA Division III with 4.27 sacks per game this past season and was top-10 in defensive touchdowns. Since the 2015 season, the Berry defense has led the SAA in rushing yards allowed per game.
A native of Newnan, Smith coached the defensive line at Shorter for two years after serving as the Hawks’ outside linebackers coach during 2010 and 2011.
He transferred to Shorter in 2006 but saw his time on the field end due to injury. He then transitioned to coaching as a student assistant while completing his bachelor’s degree in public relations and later completed his master’s degree while a graduate assistant coach.
Smith began his college career at Presbyterian College from 2002-04, where he was a two-year starter and was named the Defensive Freshman of the Year.
He lives in Rome with his wife Bethany Jo Smith, his son Zackry O’Neal and his daughter Ivy Bea.