ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia football defensive coordinator Mel Tucker could have just as easily been stepping behind a podium in Knoxville, Tenn., this weekend as head coach of a rebuilding Vols football team.
Tucker was one of three finalists for Tennessee’s head coaching job — along with eventual pick Jeremy Pruitt and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
Instead, Tucker is digging in for a third season at Georgia with sights set on another national championship run.
Tucker’s presentation Saturday morning provided an example of why he’s on track for a head coaching job at a Power 5 school.
Tucker carefully answered each question in the media session, shedding insight and praise where appropriate, while maintaining a direct and honest approach.
The most obvious question involved replacing SEC Defensive Player of the Year Roquan Smith.
Tucker and the Bulldogs are still working on that one, though seeing Natrez Patrick back in the mix at inside linebacker is cause for optimism.
Here are some other key personnel quotes from Tucker:
Mel Tucker, Aug. 4, Butts-Mehre Building
“We have encouraged [Jonathan Ledbetter] to develop and move forward and get better and better every day — make good decisions, become a leader for our team, become a better football player, work in the weight room — do all those things. We have a program here with our support staff, player development and all our coaches and people at the academic center. We have a program where we expect guys to progress and mature and get better, and we take pride in that. He is a prime example of a guy who was at this point and now he is here because he has bought into our program.”
“J.R. [Reed] is another guy who has stepped up as a leader for us. He’s comfortable with his teammates. He is establishing himself as a player that can produce on the field. He gives great effort; he does really well in the video room — takes good notes. He is very unselfish and helps other players. His character — he is an impeccable guy. He has a really good pedigree, so he is another guy we are leaning on for leadership.”
“[Deandre] Baker is one of the guys I take a lot of pride in and I’m very proud of what he’s done because he’s worked himself into what he is today as a player. He works really hard in practice, he’s developed in the meeting room, he’s emerged as a leader for us.”
“Richard [LeCounte] has a much better grasp of the defensive scheme. At this point, it’s about the details. Really, the devil is in the details in our defense. He’s been more disciplined at what we’ve asked him to do. He asks really good questions. He spent a lot of time in the offseason studying and I’ve seen his overall maturity level improve.”
“I always thought that [Otis Reese] could play safety because he’s athletic and he’s got good change-of-direction, he’s got good ball skills and good range on the deep part of the field and he’s a good tackler. I don’t see whether there’s any limitations on what position he can play in our secondary role as a safety and I feel good about that. I’m used to playing with big safeties.”
“I takes a unique type of guy to be able to play multiple positions and to be able to produce at a high level. We think Tyrique [McGhee] is that type of player. So far he has shown that he can handle that. You could relate him somewhat to someone in Aaron Davis’ role over the past couple of years. Aaron played every position in the secondary for us, and I think good secondaries have those guys who can play multiple positions and be problem solvers and gives you the ability to play the type of coverages you need to play when you are playing.”
“Tyson [Campbell] is playing corner right now and right now we are only playing him at one position. So, all the corners on our roster, he is competing with those guys. All of our guys know we are going to play the best players. We give guys lots of opportunities to show what they can do. We do a lot of two-spot drills; we take a lot of reps; we coach every player whether it is a walk-on or a senior. It doesn’t matter. We coach everyone of them the same. We are trying to develop as many players as we can so we have the best football team that we can have. We will see what happens. He will get what he deserves.”