Posted: 12:41 pm Friday, January 24th, 2014
By Chip Towers
ATHENS – Georgia coach Mark Richt created a lot of intrigue at the Jan. 13 news conference to introduce new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt when he said he’d made just one other phone call before learning of Pruitt’s mutual interest in the Bulldogs.
Most assumed that one call was to Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. It was not.
Turns out it was someone most Georgia fans have never heard of — NFL defensive backs coach Vance Joseph.
At the time, Joseph’s career was in limbo. He was defensive backs coach for the Houston Texans when head coach Gary Kubiak was fired in December. When defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was made interim head coach, Joseph took over the defense the final three weeks of the season. But the defensive staff was not retained when Bill O’Brien was hired as head coach in early January.
Joseph wasn’t in limbo long. He was hired by the Cincinnati Bengals to coach defensive backs on Jan. 14. But a few days earlier, Richt talked to him about the Bulldogs’ opening.
Joseph is just one of the interesting names that surfaced during the Georgia’s brief search for a successor for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. According to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via an open records request, the Bulldogs had at least four other candidates officially express interest in the job. And their range of experience varied greatly.
John Thompson, a longtime SEC defensive coordinator who most recently was interim head coach at Arkansas State, had a representative send in a cover letter and resume expressing interest in becoming the Bulldog’s defensive coordinator.
“He is a great fit for UGA Defense (sic) Coach … Former Georgia State DC … Knows the Recruiting Area … Experience as D1 Head Coach,” Ted Liberty wrote on Thompson’s behalf.
Thompson is 2-0 as an interim head coach with brief stints at East Carolina and Arkansas State. But he’s currently out of work since he was not retained by new Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson. Thompson has more than 30 years of coaching experience and has been a defensive coordinator at Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Georgia State under Bill Curry.
Another candidate who expressed written interest in the job was Bob Slowik. Slowik is a longtime NFL assistant and one-time defensive coordinator who most recently was linebackers coach for the Washington Redskins. Slowik was fired along with Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan. Ironically, he was replaced on the Redskins’ staff by Georgia linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.
The other two written applicants fall into the category of long shots. Rudy Griffin is a defensive line and strength and conditioning coach at Navarro College in Texas and Darrell Scott junior is defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Vicksburg High School in Mississippi.
Of course, sending out cover letters and resumes is not how most college coaches are hired, especially in a search that was resolved as quickly Georgia’s was for a defensive coordinator. The Bulldogs hired Pruitt, defensive coordinator for the national champion FSU Seminoles, 48 hours after Grantham officially tendered his resignation to go to Louisville.
“That thing was over before it started really,” Richt said. “It’s mostly done on the phone. A lot of times (assistant coaches) are talking other coaches they know and they’ll tell me about them. Even agents get my number somehow. But once we heard Jeremy was interested all the focus went there.”
In the meantime, Georgia still has three defensive assistant positions still open. Colquitt County coach Rush Propst has confirmed that one will go to South Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer, who will coach linebackers. However, UGA has yet to make a formal announcement regarding Sherrer’s hire.
The Bulldogs are still looking for a defensive line coach and either an outside linebackers coach and/or a special teams coordinator (which could be both). But indications are Georgia is not in a big hurry to fill those positions. Recruiting has continued with the assistance of graduate assistants Christian Robinson and Mike Macdonald.
Who might be the new assistants. If the defensive coordinator search is any indication, there’s no telling.