ATHENS — Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley is making the move most everyone anticipated when head coach Kirby Smart added new offensive coordinator Todd Monken last Monday.
Coley, 46, is expected to join the Texas A&M coaching staff, according to a UGA source with direct knowledge of the situation and TexAgs.com.
Coley, who also coached quarterbacks last season, had recently been named assistant head coach on the UGA staff, but he was no longer designated a position group.
Coley’s status at UGA became more tenuous when Smart hired Southern Miss offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner last Monday, assigning him an off-field coaching position as an analyst.
The move triggered speculation that Coley could be on the way out sooner than later, and any concept of Coley working with Monken was a long shot.
There has been speculation that Faulkner would assume the spot on the staff vacated with Coley’s anticipated exit.
Georgia has not made any announcement on Coley’s departure or how or when the on-field coaching staff vacancy will be filled.
Faulkner was hired in at a salary of $150,000, per information obtained by DawgNation on Thursday through a public records request.
Coley’s UGA rise
Coley has been on Smart’s staff since the fifth-year head coach took over the program before the 2016 season. He was promoted to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2018, receiving a raise from $450,000 to $850,000 as he reportedly declined a chance to join Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M staff as OC.
Coley became the full-time OC last January when Jim Chaney departed the UGA staff for the Tennessee OC Job and was bumped up to $950,000 — the highest paid assistant on the staff.
Sam Pittman, who was the second-highest paid assistant at $900,000 departed the staff earlier this offseason to become the Arkansas head coach. Former Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke replaced Pittman in December at the same salary, $900,000.
The Bulldogs went 12-2 and finished No. 4 in the nation last season, running up a 5-1 mark against teams that were in the Top 25. A championship-level defense didn’t often need much support on offense, and the game plans had a familiar emphasis on efficiency, ball control and balance.
UGA ran the strong legs of tailback D’Andre Swift, who gained more than 1,200 yards. Swift was the team’s most consistent and explosive skill position player until a shoulder injury derailed him the final two games of the season.
“It’s who you have out there and who you’re trying to feature,” Coley said at his Sugar Bowl press conference. “So what gives you the best chance? Giving the ball to the tailback who’s a really good player, or throwing the ball to a young guy who may not be ready for that moment yet? You know what I mean?”
Still, the offense struggled at times. UGA finished 50th in the nation in scoring offense, 61st in total offense and 72nd in passing yards. A rash of injuries in the receiving corps was compounded by QB Jake Fromm having some uncharacteristic off games.
Coley explained during a Sugar Bowl press conference in New Orleans that the lack of consistency in the pass game, and with Fromm, was closely tied to the injuries at receiver.
“It happens when you get injuries; you get guys in the game that haven’t played in a while, or it’s their first chance and they are a little nervous and they take their routes a little deeper than where they should be,” Coley said. “It ends up looking like the guy (Fromm) was not playing as good as he was a year ago.”
Georgia and Fromm rallied in the Sugar Bowl with 26-14 win over Baylor. Fromm passed for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 of 30 completions. It snapped a skid of five straight games where Fromm’s completion percentage had dipped under 50 percent.
The statistical slump aligned with senior go-to receiver Lawrence Cager missing time and games on account of injuries. Coley pointed out Fromm’s completion percentage with Cager on the field was 71 percent.
Smart cited the team’s “merry-go round” at receiver when assessing the offensive issues, but he also pledged to fix the offense after the season.
The addition of Wake Forest graduate transfer QB Jamie Newman and incoming freshman QB Carson Beck provided a boost in personnel, and then came the addition of the high-profile offensive staff members.
The Bulldogs also added Florida State grad-transfer TE Tre’ Mckitty along with signing impact tight end Darnell Washington. The recruiting class also includes three receivers ranked among the top 75 players in the nation.
Last year, Georgia added receiver prospects George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock, both of whom ranked in the top 40 overall in their class. Both players made an immediate impact in 2019.
It has become clear the Georgia offense is opening up as Coley is moving on.
Coley will go back to work with Fisher, who he worked alongside at Florida State from 2007-12.
Fisher was the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator from 2007-09 while Coley coached tight ends and receivers in 2008-09. Fisher became head coach in 2010, and Coley was promoted to OC and worked for Fisher through 2012 before leaving for Miami.
More from DawgNation