ATHENS — Tracy Rocker has left Georgia after three years as defensive line coach.
The circumstances of Rocker’s departure are not clear. A team spokesman simply confirmed that Rocker was “no longer with the program.” He becomes the first member of head coach Kirby Smart’s staff to leave this offseason.
Rocker was on a one-year contract that paid him $525,000 this year, making him the fourth-highest paid coach on the staff, after defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and offensive line coach Sam Pittman. Rocker had also carried the title of associate head coach.
Despite a young defensive line this past season, Georgia finished fourth in the SEC in run defense, and Rocker’s defensive linemen combined for 11.5 sacks.
Rocker was one of two holdovers from Mark Richt’s staff, the other being outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer. Rocker was hired as part of the overhaul of the defensive staff after the 2013 season, replacing Chris Wilson, who was only with the staff for one year.
A native of the Atlanta area, Rocker played at Auburn, where he was an All-American. He went on to a short NFL career as a player, then embarked on a coaching career that saw him have stints at numerous NFL and college stops. But the Georgia job marked his first return to his home state.
Georgia had a young but talented defensive line last season. Trent Thompson was named the defensive MVP of the Liberty Bowl, fellow sophomore Jonathan Ledbetter had a strong season after opening with a six-game suspension, and freshmen Julian Rochester, David Marshall and Tyler Clark all showing strong flashes.
Last week Georgia signed two defensive linemen, Devonte Wyatt and Malik Herring.
“Would I like to have had more? Yes. Was I pleased with what we had last year? Yes,” Smart said. “But ultimately there’s a limit for what you can have. There’s a target area for what you can have at each position. We’re kind of on our target area in that position. I don’t think you ever turn down a good defensive lineman. They’re just hard to come by, and it’s really hard to get those guys.