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Chip Towers

Georgia holds recruiting class together despite coaching turnover

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After Todd Grantham abruptly left Georgia to go to work for Bobby Petrino and the Bulldogs’ other defensive assistants soon followed with departures, several of the Bulldogs’ major recruiting prospects were left confused. These people were their primary contacts at UGA for the past year or so. Now they were gone. What were they to do?

To the Bulldogs’ credit, all of their previous commitments ended up signing with UGA on national signing day. But that’s as much a testament to the pragmatism of prospects such as Lorenzo Carter and Lamont Galliard as it was to Georgia’s dogged pursuit.

According to coachesbythenumbers.com, a website that tracks recruiting and advises prospects, if you signed to play college football at an Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I) in 2009, there is a 68 percent chance that you ended up playing for a new head coach, an 86 percent chance that you’re playing for a new offensive coordinator and an 88 percent chance that you’re playing for a new defensive coordinator.

The website offers another eye-opening stat: From 2009-12, only eight FBS programs (7 percent) had the same head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator all four years.

The point? Don’t sign with a school to play for a certain position coach or coordinator.

“I talk to our coaches about that all the time,” Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said. “The institution has to be a huge part of the process. Coaches, if they want to get better or move up, they’re probably going to leave. So at the end of the day you have to fall in love with where you’re going to go to school. That’s why we get professors involved, academic support, trainers, everybody.”

That said, Georgia plays up the fact that it has some longevity and coaching stability on its side. Not only is head coach the dean of SEC coaches with 14 years at UGA, but the Bulldogs have also had the same quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator that whole time. Mike Bobo has been with Richt the whole time and was promoted to take over coordination and play-calling duties in 2007.

With Pruitt’s hire last month, Georgia has had three defensive coordinators since 2010. And while Pruitt is credited with helping the Bulldogs land Carter and other high-profile defensive recruits, he downplayed his role in the process.

“Every kid that came here came because it’s Georgia and Mark Richt,” Pruitt said on Wednesday. “You never recruit to an assistant coach. You recruit to the university and the head coach. I think that’s the reason kids choose a school.”

Of course, the assistant coaches on any staff play a big role in the actual recruitment of prospects and play a tremendously important role in the process. They’re on the frontlines, as it were, and are the provide the primary conduit of communication. Obviously, Georgia’s assistant coaches are very good at recruiting.

In fact, according to the annual rankings compiled by 247Sports.com, Georgia currently has on its staff the last four national recruiters of the year. Running backs coach Bryan McClendon won that honor this year, Pruitt received the distinction while at FSU in 2012 and ’13 and Bobo was rated the country’s No. 1 recruiter in 2011.

Said McGarity: “You have to have a passion for it. You have to have a passion for the process, which includes identifying who the pieces are to your puzzle, establishing a relationship with the person and parents and guardians and you have to have relationships with the coaches. So you have to be a people person. If you’re not a people person you’ll really struggle in the profession, because so much of it is just based on relationships.”

It helps to have an established program and a strong reputation both for winning games and developing players.

“Georgia is the the state institution,” McGarity said. “Especially for kids in this state, they’ve seen the track of the kids that have gone on the make it in the NFL. That is a great story in itself, but we also have a high success rate when it comes to our graduates moving on into the profession world in some form or fashion. Some coaches are more gifted than others. It’s like different personalities. Some kids want to have a relationship with the head coach, first and foremost. The position coaches are important, but not as much so.”

Hence this little factoid, Georgia completed its recruiting class with one of its nine assistant coaches’ positions vacant. The Bulldogs finally announced the hiring of Mike Ekeler as linebackers coach late Thursday morning — the day AFTER national signing day.

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