ATHENS — Kirby Smart has proven he can hire a championship caliber staff once before, and now the Georgia football coach must prove it again.
It’s fair to say the Bulldogs’ program has a challenge on its hands, even with an abundance of talent and experience returning on the 2019 roster.
Georgia lost defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to the Colorado head coaching job and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to a salary that was essentially doubled at Tennessee (when one considers that state has no income tax).
The 43-year-old Smart, on the verge of his fourth season as head coach, made a popular internal promotion at the offensive coordinator position, elevating 45-year-old James Coley.
Coley has added play caller duties to his responsibilities as the quarterbacks coach.
The only outside position coach hire to date has been up-and-coming tight ends coach Todd Hartley.
Hartley is a former UGA student assistant (2005-08) and graduate assistant (2009-10) who was on the Miami staff Mark Richt left behind with his sudden retirement.
The Chaney for Hartley trade on offense would’t appear even on the surface.
Further, with more than six weeks having gone by since Tucker’s departure, the Georgia fanbase is growing nervous.
Two more staffers announced their departures earlier this week, with graduate assistants Cody Kennedy and Wendel Davis moving up in the business with staff positions.
Excited to be joining the Tulane football family. Thankful for the experience this past season at UGA working with some of the best in the country. Ready for the future with the Green Wave. #RollWave pic.twitter.com/JAZtY6kP4M
— Cody Kennedy (@CoachCKennedy) January 17, 2019
Thank u @FootballUGA @KirbySmartUGA @Coach_mtucker @CoachSchuUGA for the opportunity to work 3 seasons with the best players and staff in the country, forever grateful…….. BLESSED 🙏🏿 TO BE HOME! @UIWAthletics @UIW_CoachMorris @CoachDeas #UIW
— Wendel Davis (@CoachWendelD) January 16, 2019
Smart has been on the road finishing up what looks to be another top 2 ranked recruiting class, five 5-stars in the fold and the so-called “Kirby Copter” mode of transportation in full effect.
But this silly season of college football has been further complicated by more generous transfer provisions for student-athletes.
No doubt, it was a national headline when former UGA backup quarterback Justin Fields transferred to fellow championship contender Ohio State.
Georgia losing freshman tight end and former Jim Chaney-recruit Luke Ford to his home state school of Illinois was another costly defection.
The Bulldogs have three scholarship tight ends remaining: senior Charlie Woerner, redshirt freshman John Fitzpatrick and freshman Ryland Goede.
Goede, an early enrollee, is coming off an ACL injury his senior season of high school and may not be ready for contact at the start of fall drills.
The recent news that defensive back DeAngelo Gibbs is headed for Tennessee is a good thing for a talented young player who had trouble fitting into Georgia’s system.
Gibbs, of course, did not take part in the 2017 postseason and was not enrolled in the spring semester of 2018. Gibbs played in seven of 13 games in 2018 before being dismissed prior to the Bulldogs Sugar Bowl trip.
At some point the carousel will stop spinning, and Smart will have the opportunity to add new recruits to the class to replace the departed and he’ll find the defensive coordinator that he feels is the right fit.
For now, it’s a game of watching and waiting.