ATHENS – It may be possible as soon as next week for Georgia to hire another full-time assistant coach. And it just so happens that it has Jay Johnson, who was Minnesota’s offensive coordinator last year, on staff as a quality control analyst.
But those two facts aren’t connected, according to head coach Kirby Smart.
“There were no promises made to anybody to come here that you’ll be the 10th assistant,” Smart said on Thursday. “There will be consideration, and we’ll look for the best available guy for our staff.”
The NCAA’s Division I Council, made up of 12 administrators, is supposed to vote Friday on the package of legislation. If passed in its current form, the addition of a 10th full-time assistant coach would be effective immediately, allowing Georgia to hire or elevate someone right away.
But the council will consider an amendment that would delay the 10th assistant coach until Jan. 9, 2018. That was proposed by the Mid-American Conference, on behalf of smaller programs with smaller budgets, who also worry about their coaches being poached by big programs between now and the start of next season.
Smart’s impression is that it will happen later, not sooner.
“We were told it would not be until January because of the chaos it would create,” Smart said. “Obviously if they do make it effective then we’ll push on, we’ll try to make the best decision possible.”
Johnson, who was also Louisiana-Lafayette’s offensive coordinator from 2011-15, was hired by Georgia after he was not retained in January at Minnesota, along with most of the rest of the staff. Johnson can be seen at most Georgia practices, watching the offense from the side, not allowed to do any coaching, per NCAA rules. But he is allowed to help behind the scenes, and Smart credited Johnson with bringing situational drills from Minnesota that Georgia has already implemented.
But while Johnson would certainly be qualified, there would also have to be a role for him. Georgia already has a receivers and quarterbacks coach, and the offense has five full-time assistants, while the defense has four. So Smart could opt to even it out.
The additional assistant isn’t the only legislation due to be voted on Friday. And Smart had a firm stance against one piece.
A proposal is aimed at preventing a school from hiring anyone associated with a recruit – such as parents or high school coaches – for a non-coaching positions. That includes strength coaches and analysts.
The problem with that, as critics see it, is that it would prevent schools for hiring young, up-and-coming coaches for legitimate reasons. Former Georgia and current defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, for instance, was hired out of high school for an off-field role at Alabama, before eventually being elevated to a full-time assistant role. Current Georgia outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer followed the same route from a high school job to Alabama.
“I’ve got a hard time with that, as the son of a high school coach, and as a guy who has seen tons of high school coaches go on to greater success,” Smart said. “Kevin Sherrer, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Jeremy Pruitt, man the names go on and on. A lot of the best coaches I’ve ever been around have been high school coaches.
“We get ideas from them. I know a lot of you guys think a lot of those guys don’t know what they’re talking about. They face more of the offenses that we face. So they have to find ways to stop them and create plays. So so many guys that I respect are now being cut out of it. Now, they’ll argue that they aren’t being cut out, it’s only the ones that have prospects. But is that fair, to cut out a guy because he has a prospect to cut off an opportunity to develop his career and move on. I think it’s cutting a lifeline from our program base, where we get our lifeline from. Do we have to go to the NFL now to get our coaches? Where do you develop coaches from? They develop from high school up.”
But Smart did also indicate he supports the spirit of the legislation.
“I certainly don’t like hiring a guy to get a player either,” he said. “So it’s a fine line.”