Georgia Bulldogs: Rodney Garner

SEC lunchtime links

June, 27, 2014
Strange seeing legions of soccer fans cheering about losses and ties, but that's World Cup group play for you. Next up in the knockout rounds, they'll settle any ties with a penalty-kick shootout. Seems only slightly more fair. At least college football has the Kansas tiebreaker and not some kind of punt, pass and catch exhibition.

Top SEC recruiters 

June, 9, 2014
It’s next to impossible to limit the list of top recruiters in the SEC to just five, but that was the assignment here. It’s no surprise to see an Alabama assistant at the top of the list with the recent run the Crimson Tide have been on, but those who follow it closely enough also know there’s some tremendous recruiters across the state at Auburn.

SEC's lunch links

February, 10, 2014
What a historic moment from former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. Hats off to one of the SEC's best players in 2013.
AUBURN, Ala. -- Aaron Murray isn’t about to face his former team. He didn’t rush for 214 yards and two touchdowns last week, earning SEC player of the week honors. He’s not Nick Marshall.

But amidst all the injuries, Murray has remained the one constant for this Georgia football team.

Despite losing multiple weapons on offense, Murray is still third in the SEC with 2,477 yards passing and tied for second with 20 touchdowns. On Saturday, the senior threw his 115th career touchdown pass to become the league’s all-time leader.

“He’s good at everything does,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He can hurt you in the pass game. He’s a veteran guy. He’s pretty fast when he takes off, and he knows how to run an offense. He’s one of the better quarterback to ever play in this league, and I think that says it all.”

But Auburn has an ace up its sleeve when Murray comes to town this weekend. First-year defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has been around the SEC, and he faced the Georgia quarterback twice while he was running the defense for South Carolina.

As a freshman, Murray finished 14-of-21 for 192 yards against the Gamecocks with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked three times. The next year, he fared better, throwing for 248 yards and four touchdowns, but Georgia still lost. He’s won a lot of games in his career, but he’s yet to beat Johnson.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAaron Murray's experience will help against Auburn, but he'll face a defense that can lean on its defensive coordinator's experience.
“He's gotten better each year,” Johnson said. “You could tell he was a winner and he was a playmaker in his early years, but I've noticed how much better he feels when he needs to move in the pocket. He knows when he can extend the play, and he's doing some things that a veteran, if you will, knows how to do.”

Johnson will have his unit prepared and Auburn has improved dramatically under Johnson.

The Tigers are up 44 spots from last year in scoring defense (66th to 22nd). They have allowed 204 points through the first 10 games, the fewest points Auburn has allowed through 10 games since 2008. They’re also second in the SEC in red zone defense.

“He's outstanding,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “There's a reason why Auburn is playing so much better on defense. He's got a long history of going to different places, and within the very first season, turning that thing around statistically in a big way. He's done it again here at Auburn.

“As much as running the football has been big for Auburn and Nick Marshall playing great has been big, the defense has been a big part of this turnaround as well.”

Johnson isn’t the only one who knows the Bulldogs well. First-year defensive line coach Rodney Garner spent 15 seasons in Athens, Ga., before accepting the same role with Auburn in the offseason. He knows this Georgia team inside and out.

But familiarity with a team only goes so far.

“I think people know what we're going to do,” Richt said. “So can they out-execute us? Same thing with us, can we out-execute them? After a while, there's really not many secrets. The reality is we all get each other's film. We get every single game film that we want, so you can't really hide what you do.”

There’s a lot at stake for both teams Saturday. Murray is hoping to keep Georgia alive in the SEC East, but it’s up to Johnson and this Auburn defense to stop him. The Tigers are just two wins away from a trip to Atlanta for the conference title game.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Richt had no connection to the SEC when he became Georgia’s head coach in 2001, but he knew better than to let the same be said of his coaching staff. Nearly half of Richt’s first staff had SEC experience -- and Richt readily admits that was by design.

In defensive line coach Rodney Garner, he had not only a former All-SEC player and coach at Auburn and Tennessee, he had a well-connected recruiting coordinator who helped keep Richt’s first signing class intact.

In Neil Callaway, he hired a hard-nosed offensive line coach who played under Bear Bryant at Alabama and coached under Pat Dye at multiple stops including Auburn.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray and Mike Bobo
Paul Abell/US PresswireOffensive coordinator Mike Bobo (right) was one of many people Mark Richt has hired that had SEC ties.
In Mike Bobo, he added a young former Georgia quarterback whose father built a decades-long reputation as a football coach within the state.

And in Jon Fabris, he had a live wire who brought intensity to each practice after playing in the league at Ole Miss and coaching at multiple stops, including South Carolina.

Over the last 13 years, Richt has developed plenty of experience in the league, leading the Bulldogs to two SEC titles and five Eastern Division crowns. Throughout that time, however, the SEC presence has remained on his staff.

Bobo is the lone holdover from Richt’s first batch of hirings, but he now has company from another former Georgia player, running backs coach Bryan McClendon, and a number of other assistants who have played and coached in the league.

Offensive line coach Will Friend was an All-SEC performer at Alabama and once served as a UGA graduate assistant under Richt. New defensive line coach Chris Wilson came to Georgia in the offseason after a stint as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. And while he never coached in the SEC prior to becoming the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator in 2010, Todd Grantham worked under the league’s current kingpin, Nick Saban, as an assistant at Michigan State.

In other words, it isn’t necessary to hire a head coach with SEC ties for the coaching staff to still have the league’s distinct flavor. Richt was an up-and-coming Florida State coordinator who ran a high-scoring finesse offense when he accepted the Georgia job and yet his collection of assistants included tough coaches who cut their teeth in the SEC, helping mold differing philosophies into a winning combination.

Few programs have won more consistently than Georgia since Richt took over as the Bulldogs’ head coach, so previous SEC experience might be slightly overrated as a predictor of future success in the league. Richt’s tenure might never have gotten off the ground, however, if he hadn’t initially hired some coaches who understood the SEC’s physical demands and who already developed key recruiting contacts within the state and region.

Multiple philosophical changes that Richt instituted played some part in Georgia’s sustained success, but his tendency to hire coaches who already have a lay of the land within the nation’s most competitive football conference has been one of the most important stabilizing factors of his tenure.

Post-spring position review: DL 

April, 22, 2013
Editor’s note: Last week we started reviewing each of Georgia’s position groups at the end of spring practice. We took a look at the offense last week. Today we begin examining the defense, starting with the defensive line:

Returning players/stats: Garrison Smith, Sr. (Eight starts in 2012. 57 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack); Ray Drew, Jr. (23 tackles, 1 TFL); Michael Thornton, Jr. (No tackles); Sterling Bailey, So. (One tackle); Jonathan Taylor, RFr. (Redshirted in 2012)

Newcomers: Toby Johnson, Jr. (ESPN’s No. 4 overall prospect in the 2013 junior college 100, No. 3 DT. Expected to enroll this summer); John Atkins, Fr. (Hargrave Military transfer. Enrolled in January); Chris Mayes, Jr. (No. 87 in 2013 junior college 100, No. 14 DT. Enrolled in January); DeAndre Johnson, Fr. (No. 84 DT. Expected to enroll this summer)

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Aside from tailback Isaiah Crowell, no player in Georgia’s heralded 2011 recruiting class arrived with more hype than defensive end Ray Drew. And yet the rising junior struggled to make much of an impact in his first two seasons as a Bulldog.

But after working his way into the defensive line rotation late last season and acquitting himself well -- including an eight-tackle game against Georgia Tech, a single-game total that tied for second among Georgia’s defensive linemen last season -- Drew entered this spring with a newfound confidence that he can perform at the college level.

“The more you play, the more comfortable you get,” Drew said. “And then after I had my game against Georgia Tech where I think I had about eight or nine tackles there, I guess it kind of just freed me and it was kind of like, ‘OK, let’s go.’ ”

(Read full post)

DawgNation on the Radio

February, 12, 2013
All the signing day excitement is in the rearview mirror but there are still a lot of questions being asked about how the Bulldogs closed out the Class of 2013. On Tuesday morning DawgNation joined ESPN’s Athens affiliate 960 The Ref to talk about recruiting and more. Some of the topics discussed were:
  • Should Georgia fans be upset with the class that signed on Wednesday?
  • What is the latest on running back Sony Michel?
  • Is there more pressure on the staff to sign top in-state players next year?
  • What effect will losing Rodney Garner to Auburn have on the Calls of 2014?

Listen to the show here.

Allen-Williams talks Georgia offer, timing 

February, 12, 2013
Last Wednesday, Georgia picked up two additional signees to its Class of 2013 in DeVondre Seymour and Davin Bellamy. The coaching staff had hoped for at least three more top talents to join them but they found themselves in second place all three times.

Instead of licking their wounds on what was a disappointing day, the coaches were on the phones, working toward the 2014 class.

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ESPN 300 DE Bellamy joins Dogs 

February, 6, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. -- Davin Bellamy (Chamblee, Ga./Chamblee) became the 14th ESPN 300 member to join Georgia’s 2013 recruiting class Wednesday, following through on recent interest in the Bulldogs after checking out Tennessee and Oregon.

The former Florida State commitment was defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s top target at outside linebacker, particularly after Naim Mustafaa switched his commitment to Oklahoma State after the season. The 6-foot-5 Bellamy is ESPN’s No. 299 overall prospect and No. 25 defensive end.

Georgia believes the athletic Bellamy can eventually fill a similar role to that of former Bulldogs All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones as his career progresses.

What is the impact of Bellamy's decision?

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DT Montravius Adams chooses Auburn 

February, 6, 2013

VIENNA, Ga. -- For a moment, rural Dooly County High School was the center of the college recruiting world as the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle prospect, Montravius Adams, finally announced on ESPNU where he would be attending college. After taking official visits to Florida, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and Auburn over the last five weekends, it seems that getting the last word with Adams was the secret to winning him over.

“I want to thank my family and my coaches for helping me through the process and for making me a better person," he said Wednesday morning during the announcement at his school. “I only have one more thing to say, and that is War Eagle!”

Adams said early in his recruitment that he would like to leave the Peach State to continue his football career. Clemson appeared to be the early front-runner, as the Tigers’ coaching staff was the first to offer the Under Armour All-American. More than 20 programs followed suit, and in the end Auburn and new coach Gus Malzahn prevailed.

“I loved Clemson, but in the end I think Auburn was the right choice for me," Adams said. "My mom loved everything about Auburn. The school, the coaches -- everything.”

In-state power Georgia did everything it could to secure its top remaining target, but former UGA recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner departing for Auburn was a critical blow.

“Coach Garner going over there helped a lot," Adams said of choosing the Tigers. "If he hadn’t have gone there I would not have looked at Auburn. It would have helped Georgia if he had stayed.”

What is the impact of Adams' decision?

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New coach focused on wrapping up class 

January, 30, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. -- Chris Wilson officially has been a member of Georgia’s coaching staff for three weeks, but the Bulldogs’ new defensive line coach barely has had time to even meet his new pupils.

Aside from a team meeting immediately after his hiring, Wilson and the other members of Mark Richt’s staff have been focused on wrapping up the recruiting class that will sign next Wednesday.

“We fill every minute of their day,” Wilson said Wednesday afternoon, “and every minute of my day when I’m not in the office is pretty full, too, on the road.”

Wilson, who took over Rodney Garner’s spot as line coach after working as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State in recent seasons, said he has hit the recruiting trail hard since arriving at Georgia. He has started to familiarize himself with the talent-rich Atlanta area and said his travels have taken him “from Kansas to South Georgia.”

Coincidentally, two of the top remaining prospects on Georgia’s board are defensive linemen in those locations -- ESPN’s No. 4 junior college prospect Toby Johnson (College Park, Ga./Hutchinson Community College) and No. 2 defensive tackle Montravius Adams (Vienna, Ga./Dooly County).

“We all have the same prospects or suspects on our board. What happens is obviously you have relationships with guys that are more in your region, and that’s probably the biggest difference,” Wilson said of the difference between recruiting at Mississippi State and UGA. “Obviously being at the University of Georgia, you have access to a few more of those quality athletes. That was the biggest thing is being able to build a relationship quickly with those guys.

“That’s been great because Coach Garner, who I have a lot of respect for, had done a tremendous job of selling the University of Georgia, as well as Coach Richt and Coach [Todd] Grantham. So it’s been fairly smooth so far.”

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Georgia offers ESPN Watch List DE 

January, 25, 2013

When Georgia lost defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner to Auburn, the worry amongst the Georgia fans was more focused on how his departure would impact recruiting so close to signing day rather than what would happen on the defensive front. But according to one ESPN Watch List standout, Garner’s replacement will do just fine.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia officially announced Wednesday afternoon that Chris Wilson will join Mark Richt’s coaching staff as defensive line coach, replacing Rodney Garner, who recently left for Auburn.

Wilson has been defensive line coach and either defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator at Mississippi State since 2010 after spending five seasons at his alma mater, Oklahoma, coaching defensive ends and special teams.

“Chris is a tremendous teacher, outstanding recruiter, mentor and brings a wealth of knowledge in coaching the defensive line to our program,” Richt said in a university release. “He has an extensive background not only as a position coach, but also as a coordinator and is a very solid fit with what we do on defense.”

DawgNation first reported that Wilson had accepted the job last Friday.

In his 16 seasons as a college assistant, Wilson’s pupils included Mississippi State All-American Fletcher Cox and Oklahoma’s Jeremy Beal and Auston English and C.J. Ah You, all of whom reached the NFL.

“Our family is excited to have the opportunity of coaching at one of the top institutions in college football,” Wilson said. “I’m looking forward to being part of the Georgia program and putting all our energy and effort into winning games and championships, which I know is the goal of all those in the Georgia football family.”

Toby Johnson reacts to coaching hire 

January, 6, 2013
The recruitment of one of Georgia’s top remaining targets had been in limbo for a while after recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner left the Bulldogs to take a position at Auburn. Juco defensive tackle Toby Johnson (College Park, Ga./Hutchinson Community College) maintained that the Bulldogs were still his top team, but everything hinged on who was hired to replace Garner, Johnson’s position coach and primary recruiter.

Late Friday evening DawgNation received word that Mississippi State defensive line coach Chris Wilson accepted an offer to join Mark Richt’s staff. The hire has not been finalized, but a formal announcement is expected by Tuesday. Wilson was Johnson’s primary recruiter at Mississippi State and will continue to try to bring the talented defender to Athens.

“I think it is a good hire,” Johnson said. “Coach Wilson has put a lot of people in the league. He is a good coach, and I have a good relationship with him.”

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Peach State: Top Tier Recruiting Ground?
California, Florida and Texas are largely considered the "Big Three" in college football recruiting. But national recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to explain why Georgia deserves to be in the top tier and has numbers to prove it.