Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. There’s a coaching vacancy on the defensive line, so it’s time to break out the checkbook.
Spend money to make money
Once recruiting season finishes, coaching change season begins. There isn’t a program in the country that doesn’t have some shakeup among its coaching staff every year, and UGA is no exception. The first change this season: defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.
It must be said that this is a strange move. There has been no indication that Rocker is leaving Georgia to pursue another gig, so it either means coach Kirby Smart and Georgia were done with him, or he was done with Smart and Georgia. There was nothing about the defensive line’s performance on the field that indicated he was in danger. In fact, the defensive line improved more than any unit on the team over the course of the season. More likely, it’s something to do with recruiting that spelled the end. Georgia has missed on the top defensive linemen in the state of Georgia the last two years, both 5-star prospects. Knowing how much of a premium Smart puts on recruiting in-state, it could’ve been enough to get him looking in another direction.
Regardless, it’s done now. Maybe we figure out why there was a change one day; maybe we won’t. But one thing that is for sure is that Georgia has a vacancy on its coaching staff. After the news broke Tuesday, Seth Emerson put together this list of possible replacements for Rocker. But one name he left off that list, and a name that’s been circulating in the rumor mill, is Alabama outside linebacker coach Tosh Lupoi.
Who knows how much validity there are to the rumors, but if it did happen, it would be big. Lupoi joining Georgia’s staff is the best possible scenario, from a recruiting standpoint at least. The 35-year-old Californian has been the best recruiter on the Tide staff since joining in 2015. Part of the reason for that are the doors he opened for Bama on the West Coast. Lupoi is the reason 5-star RB Najee Harris is going to Tuscaloosa. If Smart continues to lock down the state of Georgia in recruiting, there’s no doubt he’ll eventually want to expand the borders and recruit more nationally. Lupoi would help do that.
He’s not just a great recruiter, though. Last season, he coached the likes of Reuben Foster and Rashaan Evans, two of the best linebackers in America. And let’s not kid ourselves, there’s also the added benefit of taking away Bama’s top recruiter — not that it would hurt the Tide that much.
The trick will be pulling Lupoi away from Nick Saban and Alabama. There are few sweeter gigs one can get in college football than the one he has and there’s little reason to leave. Georgia would need to offer a lot to make him take a what is a lateral move at best. That would probably include some title such as associate defensive coordinator or something along those, plus a fat raise. Lupoi is making $550,000 at Alabama right now, which would already make him the fifth-highest-paid UGA assistant after the coordinators, OL coach Sam Pittman ($650,000) and WR coach James Coley. Rocker made $525,000. Georgia might have to pay him equal to or above Pittman to land him.
But that pay raise is another reason why Lupoi would be the best hire. If Georgia AD Greg McGarity does indeed shell out some big cash to sign a top defensive line coach, it should be seen as a statement of intent that the athletic department isn’t just talking about wanting to be one of the top programs in America; it’s putting in the work. The staff that a head coach surrounds himself with can be just as important as the coach himself and make up for a lot of shortcomings of the head coach. Dabo Swinney sure as hell ain’t great at the X’s and O’s, but he surrounded himself with some of the best assistants in America and they won a national championship. And he got those assistants by paying them. Big.
If Georgia truly wants to be the best, it has to compete for the best coaches as well as the best players. Unfortunately, you can’t pay players. But you can pay coaches. McGarity already set a precedent by giving Smart’s first staff better deals than staffs under Mark Richt, as well as growing the support staff. And that has to continue to keep the best coaches coming to Athens. Defensive line is arguably the most important position with regards to winning championships, and recruiting defensive linemen is only becoming harder as they grow in demand. Georgia should spare no expense to get the best coach for the job, and that’s Lupoi.
Top recruiters of 2017
Speaking of great recruiters, it should come as no surprise to you that Georgia has a couple on its staff. With recruiting over, some of the major recruiting services released lists of the best recruiters of 2017. And there was no way the No. 3 class in the country wasn’t going to have some of those spots. Two coaches in particular received the most praise: OL coach Pittman and ILB coach Glenn Schumann.
Here’s what Rivals had to say about the pair of UGA assistants ranked in its top 25:
SAM PITTMAN, Georgia
Biggest get: Isaiah Wilson
There’s no doubt offensive line was a weakness for Georgia in 2016, and Pittman was in charge of rebuilding the group going forward. He hit the recruiting trail and did exactly that. The headliner of the class was 5-star Isaiah Wilson, but Pittman also landed 4-stars Netori Johnson, Andrew Thomas and D’Marcus Hayes. Elite prospects speak highly of Pittman, and his transition to recruiting in the state of Georgia has been impressive.
. . .
GLENN SCHUMANN, Georgia
Biggest get: Jake Fromm
Schumann had a major impact on Georgia’s class, starting with helping land Rivals100 safety Richard LeCounte, whose early commitment set the tone for the entire 2017 class. Other prospects Schumann played a big part in recruiting include 4-star linebackers Nate McBride and Jaden Hunter, as well as 5-star quarterback Jake Fromm. Schumann was tasked with helping Georgia lock down the in-state talent, and he did a very good job of doing exactly that.
247 Sports didn’t create a list breaking down the best recruiters, but it did keep a more simplified list that ranks hundreds of college football assistants on their recruiting ability each season. Pittman (9), Schumann (15) and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker (20) all ranked in the top 20 recruiters nationally. Kevin Sherrer (27), Dell McGee (36) and James Coley (49) also picked up spots in the top 50.
UGA hoops loses … again
The parade of misery better known as the UGA men’s basketball season marched Tuesday night with a 12-point loss to Florida in Athens. Anyone who was still holding out hope that this team could make it to the NCAA tournament can let go of their delusion now. The Gators were one of the final good teams Georgia had a chance to play this regular season and they trounced the Dawgs.
The loss is another gut punch for Mark Fox. Based on what I’ve seen on Twitter, in the comments on DawgNation and various other Internet-type places where UGA fans gather, he seems to have lost the confidence of Dawg fans. Lots of fans have been on the fence about the coach for a few years, but considering this team has fallen so far below the threshold that was expected of it, the worm may have turned. He, however, is only in the second season of a five-year deal and would be owed $1.7 million if UGA made a change after this season. It’s difficult to see McGarity spending that on a coach only to have to turn and spend more money on a new one.
Fox did take one positive from the loss: At least Georgia fans care that the team is bad now.
“The great news it that [the fans] care,” Fox said. “The great news is we have people now that care. Because for a long time we didn’t have (that). And they could be disappointed, because I haven’t gotten this team to play – to find victory. Even though on nights we’ve played well. But we have to stay the determined course, and keep fighting forward.”
Georgia basketball: just good enough to disappoint.
Caliya Robinson wins another award
UGA women’s basketball player Caliya Robinson received another honor for her stellar play in the last game. In addition to being named espnW’s National Player of the Week, Robinson was named the SEC Player of the Week on Tuesday.
— Georgia Basketball (@UGA_WBB) February 7, 2017
- ‘Silly Season’ back in full swing at Georgia (Chip Towers, DawgNation)
- What do the recruits think about Tracy Rocker leaving the program? (Jeff Sentell, DawgNation)
- Georgia legend David Pollack says he wants to get into coaching in ‘4-6 years’ (Cody Pace, DawgNation)
- Georgia losing staff member to its first SEC opponent (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- William Poole III’s length fits into what UGA seeking now in its DBs (Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald)
- Georgia tennis’ Ellen Perez, Caroline Brinson bond through food, culture (Jacob Stansell, Athens Banner-Herald)
- Georgia sets time for spring game (Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald)
Nothing to see here. Just a wiener-dog taking a shower. Move along.
THIS IS SO CUTE, I WISH MY DOG ENJOYED BATHS pic.twitter.com/4kA7wLol5v
— Baby Animals (@BBAnimals) February 7, 2017