SPRING PREVIEW: Georgia Bulldogs — and Kirby Smart — will be hearing a lot of new coaching voices in 2019
PRE-SPRING FOOTBALL ANALYSIS
Part XVI: The Coaches
This is Part 16 and the final entry in a series breaking down and analyzing each position group for the Georgia Bulldogs in advance of spring football practice, which is scheduled to begin on March 19.
ATHENS — Georgia fans believe strongly in coach Kirby Smart, and Smart believes strongly in himself. That will come in this handy this season as the Bulldogs and Smart will go to battle with a much less experienced coaching staff surrounding them.
Smart lost at least 97 years worth of experience off the staff that helped him compile a 24-5 record over the last two seasons. That included veteran offensive and defensive coordinators Jim Chaney and Mel Tucker, respectively, as well as some behind-the-scenes personnel that had more to do with the Bulldogs’ success than a lot of people might realize.
Tucker and Chaney had both been with Smart since he first became Georgia’s head coach 2016. In fact, Chaney was Smart’s first hire in December of 2015, and that proved critical for Smart to land his second hire, which was offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
Retrospectively, Tucker was in the plans all along. But Tucker, then the defensive backs coach at Alabama, wasn’t officially on board until he and Glenn Schumann accompanied Smart on a UGA-provided private jet back to Athens from Phoenix the morning after the Crimson Tides’ win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship. Schumann had been a defensive analyst for Smart at Alabama.
That gave Smart two solid foundational keystones on which to build his staff. In Chaney and Pittman, he was able to hand off the offense without needing to provide much input over and above broad philosophical parameters.
Meanwhile, in Tucker, Smart had a near-perfect pragmatic task master. A former NFL defensive coordinator and interim head coach, Tucker had the knowledge and insight to be able to implement whatever it was Smart was demanding, either in the meeting room or in the heat of the moment on the field. Tucker also lacked ego, so he was able to readily defer to Smart whenever needed. He was also comfortable and confident enough in his own knowledge to put his own spin on things, or to overrule Smart in some cases.
From that, the Bulldogs will be moving to a young duo of first-time defensive coordinators in Dan Lanning and Schumann. The 32-year-old Lanning, who will be calling the defensive plays and have the most seniority, hasn’t coordinated a defense or offense even on the high school or small-college level. Same for the 28-year-old Schumann, who will serve as co-coordinator.
On the offensive side of the ball, James Coley succeeds Chaney as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He was co-coordinator last year after moving over from wide receivers. Coley had been a coordinator before at Florida State and Miami, and he coached quarterbacks with the Hurricanes. But this is the first time at Georgia that Coley will have total charge of practice planning and play scripts, in addition to game-day play-calling. It’s a big job that Chaney was probably under-appreciated for outside of coaching circles.
Equally unknown will be the effects of Smart losing some accomplished coaches off his support staff. Foremost among those is Jay Johnson. Johnson joined the Bulldogs as an offensive quality control consultant in February of 2017 after losing his job as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. After Johnson left to join Tucker as offensive coordinator, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm called him, “the unsung hero of Georgia football.”
“He did wonders for me in that quarterback room,” Fromm said during Sugar Bowl preparations.
Smart knows this, of course. So he went to the proverbial “coaches waiver wire” to find a replacement for Johnson. That brought the Bulldogs Shawn Watson, who was similarly dismissed as Pitt’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Watson previously held coordinator positions at Texas and Louisville.
On the defensive side, Georgia is sure to miss the services of Tyson Summers, who joined Tucker as Colorado’s defensive coordinator. Summers assisted Tucker with the defensive backs as a quality-control analyst last year. That’s after being a head coach at Georgia Southern and a defensive coordinator at Colorado State.
Smart lost two other members of his defensive support staff to Colorado: Travares Tillman, who will coach defensive backs, and Brian Michalowski, who will coach outside linebackers. Also, Jesse Stone, a graduate assistant who helped Georgia’s offense, accepted a full-time position as an offensive analyst at Miami.
None of this caught Smart by surprise. For every exit, Smart has located and brought in a replacement.
Such staff transitions are something Smart witnessed up close and personal as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator and right-hand man at Alabama. But this is the first time he has had to deal with it en masse at Georgia.
The Bulldogs can only hope the transition is as seamless for them as it has been for Saban and the Crimson Tide. The expectations are equally as high, that’s for sure.
Let’s look at the changes that are known at this point:
- Offensive coordinator: James Coley, 46: Coley takes over after serving as co-coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season. He was receivers coach for the Bulldogs from 2016-17 and had previously held coordinator positions at Miami and Florida State.
- Defensive coordinators: Dan Lanning, 32: Lanning was promoted to defensive chief from outside linebackers coach, which he will continue to lead as position coach. This is his first opportunity as a coordinator, having coached inside linebackers at Memphis and DBs at Sam Houston State before joining the Bulldogs last year; Glenn Schumann, 28: Schumann was promoted to co-coordinator after serving the previous three years as inside linebackers, which he’ll continue to coach. Schumann followed Smart to Georgia from Alabama, where he was defensive quality control coach.
- Defensive backs coach: Charlton Warren, 42 — Warren came to Georgia from Florida, where he coached one season. Before that he spent one season at Tennessee, and then two at North Carolina, all as DBs coach. The Atlanta native was longtime assistant and former player at the Air Force Academy. At $600,000 a year, he is the Bulldogs’ highest paid defensive assistant.
- Tight ends: Todd Hartley, 33 —Hartley succeeds Jim Chaney as Georgia’s tight ends coach, a position he held for three years at Miami under former head coach Mark Richt.
- Other additions: Shawn Watson, offensive quality control — Comes to UGA from Pitt, where he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Also been an OC at Texas ans Louisville; Jules Montinar, defensive quality control — Former Alabama grad assistant comes to Georgia from Texas State, where he was special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach; Austin Armstrong, defensive quality control — Was a graduate assistant at University of Louisiana.
- New titles: Sam Pittman, associate head coach/offensive line; Dell McGee, run-game coordinator/running backs; Cortez Hankton, passing game coordinator/receivers
- Departed personnel: Mel Tucker, defensive coordinator/secondary — Now head coach at Colorado; Jim Chaney, offensive coordinator/tight ends — Now offensive coordinator at Tennessee; Jay Johnson, offensive analyst/quarterbacks — Now offensive coordinator at Colorado; Tyson Summers, defensive analyst/secondary — now defensive coordinator at Colorado; Brian Michalowski, defensive quality control — now outside linebackers coach at Colorado; Travares Tillman, defensive quality control — now cornerbacks and safeties coach at Colorado; Jesse Stone, offensive graduate assistant — now full-time quality control assistant for Miami Hurricanes; Cody Kennedy, offensive graduate assistant — Now offensive line coach at Tulane; Jay Valai, defensive quality control — now cornerbacks coach at Rutgers; Blaine Miller, defensive quality control — Now a graduate assistant at Colorado.
This concludes DawgNation’s Spring Football Analysis series. Following are the previous submissions:
SPRING FOOTBALL ANALYSIS
- Part I: With all challengers defeated, Georgia QB Jake Fromm ready to come into his own
- Part II: Competition intense to carry on Bulldogs’ rich tradition at center
- Part III: The options are many at offensive guard, and they’re good ones
- Part IV: Georgia will feature two of the best tackles in the business in 2019
- Part V: Charlie Woerner ready to step into the limelight at tight end
- Part VI: A huge group of receivers will compete to be rotation
- Part VII: D’Andre Swift will lead bid to uphold UGA’s rep as RBU
- Part VIII: Fan favorite PK Rodrigo Blankenship hopes to add to legend
- Part IX: P Jake Camarda seeks better control of that cannon leg
- Part X: Georgia defense has its ‘man in the middle’ in Jordan Davis
- Part XI: Bulldogs go big in their search for defensive ends
- Part XII: Senior LB Tae Crowder finally has his chance to shine
- Part XIII: Dawgs look to star-studded cast of OLBs for improved pass rush
- Part XIV: Georgia cornerbacks plan to pick up where Deandre Baker left off
- Part XV: Nothing guaranteed under new coach for Bulldogs’ ‘Triple Threat’ at safety