Tracy Rocker is no longer the defensive line coach at Georgia.
Let’s deliver a salvo of answers to the big question: How do his two defensive line signees for 2017 feel about that?
Malik Herring, the nation’s No. 4 defensive end this year, was stunned. He learned about that decision via an interview request via DawgNation.
Herring called it a “shock” it happened. He has cited Rocker many times as a reason why he favored Georgia, but most of those statements also mentioned head coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder already has signed a binding letter of intent, but he said his feelings were “still the same” about his decision. He even shared a big “Go Dawgs” in a text message reply.
The same goes for 4-star DT Devonte Wyatt. Georgia held off South Carolina in a fierce late recruiting battle for the program’s only defensive tackle signee.
Wyatt called it a part of the “business” of college football.
“There were a lot of coaches I had a connection with at Georgia,” Wyatt said. “That’s the head coach in Kirby Smart and (director of player development) Jonas Jennings and the offensive line coach (Sam Pittman), too. That is not going to cause me to think differently about Georgia. I am going to keep on grinding and giving it my all for Georgia.”
He was also surprised by it. To an extent. But he had thought about it.
That’s because his head coach at Towers quizzed him on every scenario as they burned the midnight oil figuring out Georgia or South Carolina. Dr. Brian Montgomery made him envision his comfort level when faced with the thought of every Georgia coach bolting for another job.
“Coach Rocker moving on doesn’t make me feel differently about playing for Georgia,” Wyatt said. “I was kind of surprised but the crazy part about it is my coach had already asked me how I would feel if Coach Rocker left. He’d asked me what I would do? I told him I wouldn’t do anything. I would still go hard on the football field for Georgia. This really doesn’t change anything for me. I am still going to keep on grinding for Georgia. I know (Coach Smart) will find a great defensive line coach to coach me up. I realize this is all a business.”
That leads to another question: How do the Class of 2018 recruits feel about this move?
Darnell Jefferies, an up-and-coming recruit from Newton High, just picked up an offer from Georgia late last month. He holds offers from Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, among others.
“It is a shock,” Jefferies told DawgNation today. “But he’s a great coach and this kind of thing happens. I wish him all the best where ever he lands.”
It sounds like UGA will still have a great shot at a rising prospect who can play either defensive end or defensive tackle. He’s made many trips to UGA over the last two years and was a teammate of UGA 4-star receiver signee Jeremiah Holloman at Newton High.
“I still think UGA is an outstanding team and I believe Coach Smart will put together the best coaching staff to lead the Dawgs to a great season,” Jefferies said.
T.K. Chimedza, a 4-star defensive tackle from IMG Academy in Florida, is another major UGA target on the defensive line for 2018. He also told DawgNation that the Rocker news would have no bearing on his eventual decision.
Chimedza is rated as the nation’s No. 15 DT prospect for 2018.
Rocker had won his recruiting battles over the years. Landing 5-star Trenton Thompson was a major coup. Thompson was rated as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in 2015.
But the state of Georgia has seen some of its top defensive line talent leave the state over the last two years. Derrick Brown, a 5-star recruit from Lanier High, chose Auburn and that served as a bitter pill for the 2016 cycle.
The state’s No. 1 defensive tackle this year, 5-star Aubrey Solomon, also signed with Michigan. The Wolverines beat out Alabama and Georgia for his signature last week.
Those could be labeled as the big picture issues. But the reactions from those recruits are also an important part of that story.