Think back to when you were a kid coming down the stairs for Christmas morning. You’re scanning the room for that one gift you really want. Maybe it was a bike or a PlayStation 2.
You wait your turn to unwrap the gift and you get exactly what you wished for. Remember how you celebrated that moment of getting the one thing you really wanted.
That’s how Georgia running backs coach Dell McGee reacted when 5-star running back Kendall Milton told him he was committing back in June.
In McGee’s time at Georgia, he’s gotten to celebrate a win like that a lot. He’s served as the primary recruiter for five 5-star prospects, including three 5-star running backs the Bulldogs have landed under Kirby Smart.
But McGee is a lot more than a great recruiter. In each of the last two seasons, Georgia has had four different 1,000-yard rushers. And going back to his high school days, he helped develop the likes of Jarvis Jones and Isaiah Crowell.
He’s almost certainly overqualified at this point to just be considered a running backs coach, which is part of the reason he’s also now the running game coordinator for the Bulldogs.
“Well, he’s a great person for me to lean on,” Smart said. “He’s been a huge bonus for me personally and when I’m not here, he’s usually the guy in charge.”
Success has followed McGee pretty much wherever he’s gone. He got his start in the coaching game as the head coach at Carver-Columbus High School in Columbus, Ga. Prior to his arrival in 2005, the school hadn’t posted a winning record in nine years and never had a season with double-digit wins.
In his eight years as the head coach, he won 88 games, good for an average of 11 wins a season. His team won the school’s first football state championship in 2007. After his success at Carver-Columbus, he served as an analyst at Auburn — his alma mater — for the 2013 season. The Tigers ended up playing for the national championship that season.
In 2014, he became the running backs coach at Georgia Southern. In his two years with the program, the Eagles won 18 games with the 2015 team taking Georgia to overtime before losing. When then-head coach Willie Fritz took the Tulane job, McGee was named the team’s interim head coach for the bowl game. He led the Eagles to their first bowl win in school history, a 58-27 demolition of Bowling Green.
But McGee was not named the permanent head coach and instead became the running backs coach at Georgia. Like James Coley and Sam Pittman, he was on Smart’s initial staff at Georgia. The Bulldogs have had a 1,000-yard rusher in every season McGee has been in charge of the running backs room and produced two top-35 NFL draft picks in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
The running back who next seems poised to become a high draft pick is D’Andre Swift, who could possibly do so as soon as the 2020 NFL draft.
Swift was also the first 5-star prospect that McGee helped land, as the Philadelphia running back committed to the Bulldogs back in September of 2016.
At the time of his commitment, Swift assumed that he was going to be the lead guy as a freshman at Georgia. It made sense given Michel and Chubb both had the chance to leave for the NFL draft after their junior seasons. But both elected to stay, bumping the 5-star running back into a complementary role.
The role change was an adjustment for Swift, and he admitted it wasn’t easy when he first got to Georgia. But McGee helped him deal and grow from the situation.
“He just treated me real mature,” Swift said. “Holding me to a real standard at Georgia. When I first came in here he was really hard on me. So I just had to overcome that little phrase and since that he’s been real great.”
Swift still found a way to make some huge plays for Georgia as a freshman, most famously in the SEC championship game when his 64-yard touchdown run effectively iced the game. As a sophomore, Swift blossomed even more, as he rushed for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns.
When you add up McGee’s ability to relate with high school recruits —stemming from his time as a high school head coach — and the work he’s done at both Georgia Southern and Georgia, it’s easy to see why the ‘RBU’ pipeline has only gotten stronger since McGee came to Georgia.
“He can relate to the players,” Smart said of McGee “(He) Is a great recruiter. Very knowledgeable at making adjustments on the offense.”
The 2019 season figures to be very big for McGee both on the field and on the recruiting trail. He’ll get a chance to show off his loaded running back room with Swift, Brian Herrien, James Cook and possibly a healthy Zamir White this season. The Bulldogs have led the SEC in rushing in each of the last two seasons and seem poised to do it again.
But McGee isn’t finished on the recruiting trail.
Despite having a 5-star commitment in Milton, Georgia wants to add another highly touted running back. The two names Milton has routinely mentioned have been 4-star running back Tank Bigsby and 5-star running back Zachary Evans.
To some recruits, playing with another elite prospect might be worrisome. That could possibly mean fewer carries for Milton at the next level.
But when you factor in that McGee has been able to get four different running backs to 1,000-yards in each of the last two seasons, it’s easy to see why Smart, Swift and Milton all believe in McGee’s vision.
“I trust (running back) coach (Dell) McGee and trusted everything he’s done in the past and everything he plans to do in the future,” Milton said.
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