ATHENS — Half the teams Georgia football plays in SEC action consider the Bulldogs rivals, but some are more pronounced than others.
The Bulldogs’ rivalry hierarchy figures to shift again in 2020 with Georgia flipping Auburn (now October) and Tennessee (now November) on the schedule.
There figures to be more emphasis on beating the Vols in 2020 than any other time since the turn of the century.
That was when then-new UGA coach Mark Richt denied Phillip Fulmer’s bid to take over the SEC once and for all after Steve Spurrier left Florida for the NFL ranks following the 2001 season.
Fulmer’s back in power at Tennessee, this time as AD, and the schedule flip benefits his program more than any other. The Vols no longer have to play two of their three biggest rivals — Georgia and Florida — back-to-back.
The Bulldogs, as Kirby Smart recently explained, figure to be younger in the future, so delaying what could prove to be a pivotal SEC East showdown game should prove beneficial.
But there’s even more to the Georgia-Tennessee rivalry, as outgoing Bulldogs D’Andre Walker pointed out on the “Rich and John” Show on 92.9 The Game.
Walker dismissed Georgia Tech and Florida as rivals, but he hinted at some understandable animosity between the Tennessee and Georgia coaching staffs.
Not only do the programs battle for recruits in Atlanta, but they have also battled for staff members.
“Tennessee, when it comes down to Tennessee, the whole coaching staff left Georgia to go to Tennessee,” Walker said last week. “So, I mean, they were all over each other, so that will be huge rivalry,”
Fulmer said when hiring Jeremy Pruitt that he expected his new head coach to be judged on the same three games as the Tennessee coaches before him: Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
#Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt says Phillip Fulmer looked him dead in the eye when he was hired and said, “The head coach at Tennessee is going to be judged on three games: Florida, Georgia and Alabama”.
A round of applause ensued at the Rotary clubs of Knoxville meeting. pic.twitter.com/B6K1rkx3rO
— Chierstin Susel (@ChierstinSusel) May 1, 2018
The SEC East Division championship runs through Georgia most recently, and with the Bulldogs signing top classes under Smart, that doesn’t figure to change anytime soon.
Here’s a look at the current Tennessee staff and the coaches’ ties to Georgia:
HC Jeremy Pruitt … Georgia DC 2014-15
OC Jim Chaney…….Georgia OC 2016-18
DC Derrick Ansley
OL coach Will Friend……….Georgia OL 2011-14
DL coach Tracy Rocker…….Georgia DL 2014-16
LB coach Chris Rumph
ST coach Kevin Sherrer……Georgia OLB 2014-17
WR coach Tee Martin
RB coach David Johnson
QB coach Chris Weinke
TE coach Brian Niedermeyer…Georgia grad assistant, 2015