If you’ve been following social media, you’ve probably seen Georgia coaches crisscrossing the country visiting some of the nation’s top prospects across a variety of recruiting classes.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise given how much head coach Kirby Smart stresses the importance of recruiting. January is a contact period per the NCAA’s recruiting calendar, which allows coaches to have face-to-face contact with prospects off-campus grounds. For Smart, he won’t be able to make these trips again until September.
Starting Monday, the recruiting schedule moves to a dead period, which limits contact between coaches and prospective recruits. The hay will be in the proverbial barn at that point.
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Which means Smart will then fully turn his attention to his coaching staff, which has been short two on-field assistants. Dan Lanning is now the head coach at Oregon, leaving his position as defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach. Cortez Hankton meanwhile joined LSU’s coaching staff, creating an opening at the wide receivers coach position.
As far as the defensive coordinator opening, Smart quickly announced Glenn Schumann and Will Muschamp would serve as co-defensive coordinators. Schumann worked as the inside linebackers coach, with Muschamp serving as the special teams coordinator last season.
The easy solution would be to move Muschamp to outside linebackers coach and promote Scott Cochran back to special teams coordinator. Cochran originally held that title before having to step away from the team in August. He returned in October and worked in an analyst capacity.
Smart though has shown that he is willing to get creative with regards to his coaching staff and won’t always make the easy hire so to speak. That’s partially how Cochran ended up on Georgia’s staff in the first place when Smart plucked from Alabama after his long-held role as the strength and conditioning coach.
To that point, not many had heard of Lanning when Georgia hired him to coach outside linebackers after the 2017 season. He had spent just two seasons as the inside linebackers coach at Memphis prior to arriving in Athens.
It should also be noted here that Cochran hasn’t been spotted out on the road recruiting for Georgia. Per NCAA rules, coaching staffs are able to elevate analysts to go out and recruit for a program if there is an on-field opening. There has been an analyst tasked with doing that though, and his name is Buster Faulkner.
Faulkner left his position as Southern Miss offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2020 to come work at Georgia as a quality control analyst on the offensive side of the ball. That Faulkner is out recruiting for Georgia says a lot about how Smart views him and his future at Georgia.
With the opening at wide receivers coach, Georgia could potentially add coaching wide receivers to Todd Monken’s list of responsibilities and name Faulkner the quarterbacks coach. Monken currently serves as both the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Of course, the wide receivers coach opening is a coveted position by other coaches. Georgia has been deliberate in finding the right person for the job, as to be expected. Names like Hines Ward of FAU, Grant Heard of Indiana and Bryan McClendon of Miami have all been linked to the job.
Ward and McClendon both attended and played at Georgia, with the former enjoying a successful career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The latter has actually served as the wide receivers coach at Georgia during the 2015 season. McClendon also worked as the interim coach for Georgia for the 2016 Taxslayer Bowl, when Mark Richt departed for Miami and Smart and had not yet taken over the Georgia program.
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McClendon would be the biggest swing of the bunch, as he’s currently slated to be the wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator at Miami under Mario Cristobal. McClendon spent the last two seasons at Oregon with Cristobal and prior to that was the wide receivers for four seasons at South Carolina when Muschamp was the head coach. McClendon also served as the offensive coordinator for the Gamecocks in 2018 and 2019.
Post-National Signing Day hires are quickly becoming the norm in college football and Georgia will be no different in that regard. The Bulldogs also need to be weary of the NFL hiring cycle as well, especially with regards to Monken. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman previously reported he could consider heading back for the right opening. Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the New England Patriots offensive coordinator in the event it becomes open.
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