ATHENS — Tray Scott has become one of the most decorated defensive line coaches in the country. He’s seen four players he coached go in the first round of the last two NFL draft and has Georgia’s defensive line once again brimming with talent.
The head coach of Georgia’s Week 1 opponent isn’t all that surprised to see Scott’s success. Jason Simpson, head coach of UT-Martin, gave Scott his first on-field coaching job back in 2013.
“The guy is a tireless recruiter and he’s great at it and he gets a lot of recognition for that, but if you look at the evaluation of players at his position at Georgia, they’re developed and they’re coached and he did the same thing here,” Simpson said. “I’m very proud that Tray worked here with us. I still consider him a friend. We talk, and I think the world of him.”
Scott spent two seasons working with Simpson at UT-Martin before becoming North Carolina’s defensive line coach. He spent two seasons there before getting hired at Ole Miss in January of 2017. But he wouldn’t make it into the season with the Rebels, as he ultimately landed at Georgia later in that same offseason.
After seven years with the Georgia program, Scott is seen as one of the top position coaches in the country. As Simpson points out, Scott recruits and develops as well as anyone when it comes to the defensive line.
That wasn’t always the case at Georgia, as the Bulldogs hadn’t produced a first-round NFL draft pick on the defensive line since 2004 prior to Travon Walker going first overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Scott’s current boss, Kirby Smart, spoke highly of his defensive line coach. He credited legendary defensive line coach Pete Jenkins for helping him discover Scott. But Smart also appreciated that Scott got his start in coaching at a place like UT-Martin, where you don’t have all the bells and whistles.
“I had a lot of respect for the way Tray had worked his way up and earned it,” Smart said. “He’s done nothing but the same here.”
Players have long raved about Scott as a leader. Father-figure is a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to Scott.
He’s been able to develop all kinds of players into pros. While Walker and Jalen Carter were 5-star prospects, Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt were nowhere nearly as coveted as recruits.
But Scott knows which buttons to push to get the most out of his unit. Even with no obvious future first-round pick on this year’s defensive line, there’s still confidence in what this group of defensive linemen will be able to do.
That most likely comes from Scott.
“He’s been huge for me,” senior Zion Logue said. “He’s done things for me outside of football, just like a mental mindset type of thing. Just helped me attack my everyday life, just giving me knowledge, giving me tools just to be able to navigate my way through tough situations whether it’s school, life, football.
“He’s just, he’s been a great pillar of my life these past four or five years.”
The defensive line has been an unquestioned strength for Georgia in each of its past two title-winning seasons. Scott’s coaching is a big reason that has been the case. He also holds commitments from four defensive linemen in the 2024 recruiting cycle. And his work there certainly isn’t done yet, with high-priority targets LJ McCray and Aydin Breland still considering Georgia.
As Scott enters another season at Georgia, he does so with a defensive line that has chip on its shoulder. It’s a group that is eager to prove that can replace another dominant player in Carter.
Its first chance to do so comes on Saturday against a team Scott once coached for. Simpson knows Scott will have his players ready to go, as that was the case over a decade ago when Scott himself was coaching defensive linemen at UT-Martin.