ATHENS — Everyone still associated with the Georgia football program – emphasis on still – returned home after Saturday’s game. Normally this would be a week to start preparations for next year.
Instead, many things are still on hold.
New head coach Kirby Smart still has to prepare Alabama’s defense for the national championship game on Jan. 11. The Crimson Tide practiced Sunday and will again Monday, but will be off Tuesday.
Bryan McClendon, who had been Georgia’s interim head coach for the past month – and by accounts did a great job, capped by earning a bowl win – is off to South Carolina for his new job. Also off the payroll at Georgia are assistants John Lilly, Rob Sale and Thomas Brown, who coached in the bowl even though their offices back in Athens were cleaned out.
Brown is off to coach Miami’s running backs, Sale will be Louisiana-Monroe’s running backs coach, and Lilly is weighing his opportunities, which may also include the NFL.
So who does that leave running the show in Athens over the next week?
“Kirby is, with help from those of us on campus,” athletics director Greg McGarity said.
Smart is indeed still assembling a staff, hiring three more on Sunday night, leaving presumably two more on-field assistant coaching jobs to fill, including defensive coordinator. If that job is going to an Alabama assistant, such as Mel Tucker or Tosh Lupoi, then it’s possible Smart wants to wait until after the national title game to make it official. One less distraction for the Crimson Tide to have. It’s also very possible Smart just doesn’t know yet who he will hire.
In any case, Smart can conduct business via the phone, as he told the AJC’s Jeff Schultz last week. As for anything that requires face-to-face contact, that’s where those still on campus can fill in.
Matters are helped by fact that the recruiting dead period lasts until Jan. 14. And classes at UGA do not resume until next Monday. So there is less actual work to be done at the Butts-Mehre than typical.
But preparation for recruiting does have to take place. Todd Hartley, who had been the recruiting coordinator, is off to Miami. Smart has hired Marshall Malchow for the same job. Malchow had been at Washington so he may have a bit of a transition on his hands, but Georgia does have other recruiting staffers in place, and people like Josh Lee, who is in charge of football operations, can help with day-to-day responsibilities.
As for offseason workouts, strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Hocke has not been officially told whether he’s being retained, or at least nothing has been officially announced. But with classes out this week it’s not likely that many official workouts would be necessary anyway. If players are around and do want to work out, the facilities at the Butts-Mehre will be open and available to them.
There are also the two holdover Georgia assistants: Linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. They can just return to their offices and get back to work, albeit with a bit more to deal with than normal.
And there are also the new assistant coaches: Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim Chaney, offensive line coach Sam Pittman, wide receivers coach James Coley, running backs coach Dell McGee, and Glenn Schumann (hired as a defensive assistant for an unspecified position.) Of course it’s not clear whether any or all of those five are already at work, or even in Athens yet. McGarity, when asked if any of them will be working in Athens this week, answered: “Am sure they will be.”