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Kirby Smart and the Georgia offense are going to look very different next fall.

Kirby Smart recognizes his offense needs to change after latest Georgia football coaching moves

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Georgia offense set to undergo radical changes after latest coaching hires

It would’ve been easy for Kirby Smart to run it back on offense for the 2020 season.

He could’ve written 2019 off as an anomaly. The Bulldogs faced unexpected turnover at the wide receiver position coming into the year and Georgia would be breaking in a first-year play-caller in James Coley.

Maybe Jake Fromm could’ve been convinced to stay and enter an offense with more talent at the wide receiver position, along with a greater sense of familiarity with Coley. One only has to look at what Matt Ryan did in year two of Kyle Shanahan’s offense to understand that sometimes it takes time for things to gel on offense.

Unfortunately, Smart and the Georgia football program do not have the luxury of time. This upcoming season will mark the 40th anniversary of Georgia’s last national championship. That’s far too long to go without a title at a place like Georgia.

Smart also has to worry about getting farther and farther away from Georgia’s most recent College Football Playoff berth. The elite programs like Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama have all made multiple trips to the playoff. And the longer the Bulldogs go without a return trip, the more that 2017 feels like an aberration, instead of the norm.

That’s part of the reason why the Georgia offense figures to look so incredibly different in 2020. Because the 2019 season made it clear that you can’t just out-talent teams and rely on your defense to carry you to titles and accolades.

The first sign of change came when the Bulldogs landed graduate transfer quarterback Jamie Newman. With what we know about him and his skillet, Newman might as well be the antithesis of what Fromm was the for the Bulldogs.

Newman thrives in the deep passing game, while Fromm was always better at methodically picking a team apart piece by piece. Newman is also an outright weapon as a runner, as he ran for 574 yards and six touchdowns last season. Fromm rarely was ever used in such a way. Fromm was also a Georgia product through and through, while Newman will have just one year — one shot — at leading the Bulldogs.

Given what we saw at times with Coley’s offense last year, Newman’s running ability likely would’ve helped open things up for the rest of the unit. But seeing what new offensive coordinator Todd Monken has done at the NFL and college levels, Newman’s vertical passing strengths could mesh very well with his concepts.

That’s part of why it made so much sense for Georgia to name Monken as the offensive coordinator. Many will wonder if this is similar to Nick Saban bringing in Lane Kiffin or Ed Orgeron adding Joe Brady to LSU’s coaching staff. And from the surface level, it certainly looks like Smart is attempting to do the same thing in turning the offense over to an outsider in Monken.

But there’s an opportunity cost that comes with bringing in Monken. And it looks as if that is Coley. Georgia did state that Coley would remain on staff as an assistant head coach, but did not specify any further role.

On Monday, the Bulldogs hired Southern Miss offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner. He’s well-versed in coaching quarterbacks from his time as both a player at Valdosta State and as an offensive coordinator at schools like Arkansas State, Middle Tennessee State and Southern Miss last season. To go from a job like that to an off-field role at Georgia might seem a bit odd.

Georgia has had over-qualified support staffers before, as Jay Johnson went from Minnesota offensive coordinator to Georgia analyst to Colorado offensive coordinator. Georgia also brought in former Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to a support staff role last offseason. But both of those men were not actively employed prior to joining Georgia like Faulkner was.

As for what Faulkner could possibly bring, former Georgia offensive lineman Jon Stinchcomb explained why Faulkner and Monken could work very well together for the Bulldogs.

“You just brought in someone with experience with the NFL ranks who knows what it looks like when you have some of the elite athletes on the planet playing for you,” Stinchcomb said of Monken. “Buster comes from a background where you have to create a little more opportunities because you don’t have that same level of talent.”

Related: Why new offensive hire Buster Faulkner is ‘the perfect complement to Todd Monken’

With Faulkner joining Georgia, many wondered what could come next for Coley. His current title of assistant head coach means that he could still serve as an onfield coach for the Bulldogs and allow him to go out and recruit.

Though at the moment Georgia does not have a quarterbacks coach. Coley heled that position for the past two seasons.  Then later on Monday, Coley scrubbed his Twitter, changing his avatar, Twitter background as well as his bio, which now just reads The University of Georgia.

 

Coley has been on Smart’s staff since the latter first arrived prior to 2016. He’s worked as a wide receivers coach, quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator. He’s been one of Georgia’s best recruiters, with his work in south Florida being a big reason Georgia has landed the likes of Tyson Campbell, Tyrique Stevenson and Marcus Rosemy.

But Georgia’s offense wasn’t good enough last season. Coley admitted that when speaking at the Sugar Bowl and took responsibility for the struggles. They weren’t all on him, but as the offensive coordinator, heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Maybe with more time, Coley could’ve been able to turnaround the Georgia offense. Add in one of the standout freshmen, get a little more out of George Pickens, sprinkle in some deep shots and quarterback runs with Newman at the helm, and Georgia’s offense likely would’ve improved from the nation’s 49th best scoring offense.

But time is no longer a luxury Smart has. He’s entering year five, and he’s still yet to win a title. Unfair as that might be, it is the main reason he replaced Mark Richt. So that’s why he’s had to make such radical changes this offseason, even if it comes at the expense of one his top lieutenants at Georgia in Coley.

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