ATHENS — There are reports coming out of Maryland that the Terrapins are interested in talking to Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker about their vacant head coaching position and that Tucker may be interested in listening.
Such talk coming with three games remaining in the regular season and a conference championship on the line is not ideal. But Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart doesn’t seem too concerned about it.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart briefs reports on the Bulldogs’ preparations for Auburn after their practice on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Chip Towers/DawgNation)
“You don’t deal with it,” Smart said after the Bulldogs’ practice Tuesday. “Mel’s one of the most professional people I’ve ever met. He’s worried about these guys on this team. He’s worried about coaching his tail off for them, leading the defensive unit, making the calls. … I know that Mel’s focus is on getting his guys ready to play.”
Tucker is certainly experienced when it comes to changing jobs, and his track has been decided upward since leaving Wisconsin as a defensive back. The 46-year-old native Ohioan was fielding overtures even as the Bulldogs were preparing for the College Football Playoffs last season.
After the season ended, Tucker interviewed with Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer for the Vols’ head coaching job after the season ended in the National Championship Game. He was passed over in favor of Jeremy Pruitt.
Smart said then he expected Tucker to become a head coach at some point.
“He’d do a tremendous job,” Smart said. “He’s been an interim coach before, and I know he’d do a tremendous job given the opportunity.”
Tucker came to Georgia from Alabama, where he had worked for just one season as secondary coach on Smart’s defensive staff. Before that, he’d been a long-time NFL defensive coach, starting out as the Cleveland Browns’ defensive backs coach in 2005 and working his way up to defensive coordinator by 2008. He then coordinated defenses for the Jacksonville Jaguars — serving there as interim head coach for the last part of one season — and the Chicago Bears before heading back to the college ranks with ‘Bama.
Tucker’s first four jobs as a coach were at colleges: Michigan State (grad assistant), Miami-Ohio (DBs), LSU (DBs) and Ohio State (DBs/DC).
Georgia’s defense finished last season sixth in the nation and second in the SEC in both points allowed (16.4 ppg) and total defense (294.9 ypg). The Bulldogs are 10th (16.4) and 13th (306.6), respectively, this season. His unit’s production and Tucker’s recruiting prowess makes him a strong candidate for many jobs.
It’s something Smart can identify with after his run at Alabama
“I’ve been there and done that,” he said. “I know what that’s like to have your name mentioned in a lot of jobs.”
It’s good, mostly.