ATHENS — By now, Nolan Smith and Kearis Jackson have a good idea of what the Georgia standard is. They know what they have to do to represent Georgia on the field and what they need to get out of spring practice.
Yet the two mainstays at the outside linebacker and wide receiver position do have a bit of unfamiliarity this spring as they are both playing for new position coaches.
Smith will now be coached by Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who was hired away from TCU as the outside linebackers coach. Bryan McClendon meanwhile returns to Georgia after he had been set to be the wide receivers coach at Miami.
Add in Fran Brown taking over as the defensive backs coach and Stacy Searels on the offensive line and Georgia has four new assistant coaches.
“As is the case in all businesses, really when you look at it, when you have success, sometimes you have change and people get opportunities,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “So we’ve got two new strengths coaches, four new position coaches, several new quality control people, so a lot of new faces.”
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In Jackson’s case, McClendon isn’t exactly a new face. Yes, McClendon coached at Georgia before as both the running backs coach and the wide receivers coach, but he also recruited Jackson when he was the wide receivers coach at South Carolina.
“He’s always been a high-energy guy but he means business at the same time,” Jackson said. “So far, I’ve been enjoying the ride.”
Similar to McClendon, this will be Searels’ second time as a position coach in Athens, as he served as the offensive line coach from 2007 through the 2010 season. He spent the past three seasons working as North Carolina’s offensive line coach.
Searels was the last assistant hired, after he took over for Matt Luke in late February. Offensive lineman Warren Ericson hasn’t spent much time with Searels, but the senior guard took notice of Searels’ tone immediately.
“He wants us to continue the tradition of being a dominant offensive line that Georgia has always had. So, he has come in, stepped in, and done that really well so far,” Ericson said. “He also has different lingos and terms to be used on different calls. We’re having to adjust with that. He is having to adjust with our plays and our lingo as well. So, it’s a little bit of a give and take as far as what he is having to learn and what we’re having to learn from him.”
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This will be the third different offensive line coach Ericson has played for since he first arrived as a member of the 2018 signing class.
The defensive coaches don’t exactly bring the same level of experience to Georgia, but Smith has been impressed with the energy and enthusiasm so far of Brown and Uzo-Diribie.
Of the new hires, Uzo-Diribe is the youngest of the four as he is just 29 years old. While some might see that youth and inexperience as a concern, Smith sees it as a positive as Uzo-Diribie brings relatability to the room.