ATHENS – I’m back! Did I miss anything?
Before we get to that, let me first offer this: Moving sucks.
I just wanted to make that eloquent declaration on the occasion of my return to my full-time job. That – moving the contents of two houses into one and then cleaning up everything afterward – represented a full week’s worth of work plus overtime compressed into four back-breaking days. And I paid movers a bunch of money in the process!
So, overlooking the stacks of still unpacked boxes scattered about my new abode, it is indeed a wonderful thing to have that behind me and be in my new place. I’m happy to be back at a job that doesn’t involve lifting anything more heavy than some spirits occasionally.
Back to Georgia athletics. …
Kirby Smart completes coaching staff
A few things did in fact happen while I was away. Chief among them was Kirby Smart finally hired his final assistant coach. At least, we think bringing in Charlton Warren as defensive backs coach was Smart’s final hire. I guess there always could be more comings and goings, but it appears the 2019 coaching staff is now set.
What hasn’t been fully disclosed just yet is exactly who is going to be calling the shots on defense (aside from Kirby himself, of course). Notably, Smart hasn’t yet announced who will succeed Mel Tucker as defensive coordinator.
That the Bulldogs now are at the NCAA max of 10 assistant coaches is an indication that Dan Lanning likely is at least one part of that equation. That’s long thought to have been the case ever since Lanning turned down the same position with Tucker at Colorado in order to remain at Georgia. In the same way that Smart managed to keep James Coley in Athens and away from Texas A&M by making him the Bulldogs’ co-offensive coordinator, the expectation is that he will make Lanning at least co-defensive coordinator.
The question now is if there is, in fact, a “co” involved. If so, who gets the other one?
It could be Glenn Schumann, as was essentially the case for the Sugar Bowl. But it also could be Warren. One could see how a title might’ve been needed for Smart to lure Warren away from Florida and put into play his attempted recruiting coup of 4-star cornerback Kaiir Elam. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t expect Smart to show his cards until after national signing day (Feb. 6).
As for the hire of Warren himself, it appears to be a home run. Interestingly, Warren doesn’t have the Alabama/Smart ties that we’ve come to expect. But between Warren’s experience, the fact that he’s an Atlanta native and has long recruited the area and that it made an impact on rival Florida, I give it high marks all the way around.
As for the appointment of Todd Hartley as tight ends coach, that’s one that is not going to move the needle much with recruits necessarily or bring a lot of professional praise for Smart. But while he remains relatively young, Hartley has a ton of experience, knows his way around Georgia well and reportedly is a dogged recruiter. As a position coach, he’ll be tested in year one with the Bulldogs as that’s a position with very little depth and experience. Just getting through spring practice with only Charlie Woerner and John FitzPatrick will be a challenge.
It has been fascinating to watch the latest episode of “As the Quarterbacks Turn.” We’re clearly entering a new era of college football when you look at the quarterback movement just among the most elite programs.
To review, Justin Fields leaves Georgia to enroll at Ohio State, Tate Martell leaves Ohio State to land at Miami, Jalen Hurts leaves Alabama and goes to Oklahoma and Kelly Bryant (Clemson) and Shawn Robinson (TCU) leave their respective programs to go to Missouri.
And let’s not forget about this significant development: Jake Fromm remains with the Bulldogs. Not that the two-year starter ever seriously considered leaving UGA, but based on the climate and trends at the position, imagine if he had decided he was disrespected by Fields being force-fed into the rotation despite not doing anything in games to justify it?
I do believe Fromm suffers a lack of respect nationally and possibly regionally, as well. No, he’s not flashy or dominant in any one phase of the game, passing or running. But all he does is continually put the Bulldogs in the right play, throw the ball efficiently and, of course, win.
That’s why I think it’s ridiculous when I see one Las Vegas book post Fields with the same odds of winning the Heisman Trophy as Fromm (12 to 1). When I survey the aforementioned quarterback shuffle, I actually think Georgia made out quite well. I think Fromm will flourish in the role of unquestioned leader and mentor to fellow quarterbacks Dwan Mathis and Stetson Bennett. That comes natural to him.
I also expect Hurts to succeed at Oklahoma and Bryant might do all right at Missouri. Martrell to Miami and Fields to Ohio State feel like big gambles to me because there just isn’t a lot of live-game data to go on. But it’s all going to be some fascinating drama to observe in 2019.
About Georgia basketball
Let me first say this: If Mark Fox was still coach, the Bulldogs wouldn’t be 1-4 in conference play right now. They might even be near the top of the league. To start with, you’d have Ashton Hagans running the point. That in itself would be worth a few Ws to this point. But more importantly, the rest of the players already on the Georgia bench would fit into the system.
But that is not at all to say that Fox should still be the coach and not Tom Crean. Retrospectively, I agree that the Bulldogs’ time and patience with Fox had been duly exhausted. It was time for a change. And, to be sure, Crean represents a thorough change. Seismic, in fact.
So what you have now is personnel that, with the exception of Nicolas Claxton, does not at all match the style of play. That’s why I buy what Crean is selling when he preaches patience from the fan base about the down year. It’s not about this season. He has to implement his system and continue to train up his charges in the skills to run it, and it’s going to take a while to get the proper players to run it.
That’s why recruiting this year is of the utmost importance. In that regard, you can bet Crean is feeling the full weight of the Georgia basketball turnaround challenge. One of the big keys for Crean to that end is landing Atlanta’s Anthony “Ant Man” Edwards. Right now everybody has the Bulldogs leading for the 6-foot-5 guard, who’s ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in America. But he just got back from an official visit to Kentucky and his next stop is Kansas. He already visited UGA and Duke and North Carolina have been ringing his phone as well.
If Crean is to get this thing started the right way, he has to convince Edwards to stay home. You can bet Crean and his staff are working feverishly to do that. Football recruiting is fun to follow, for sure, but nothing compares to the impact a player or two of Edwards’ pedigree can have on a basketball program.
We’ll be following this developing story closely. Georgia fans should, too.