Mark Richt is seen here reassuring Todd Gurley that the sun will in fact come up tomorrow. - Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports
There was really only one choice for today's theme music. Corny and obvious? It would be, if they weren't the house band for all of Athens for two decades before the last time the world was supposed to end. As a result, I think we're okay to include this with impunity:
The news of the day in Bulldog Nation (well, other than the fact that the Mayans apparently just thought that 5,125 years was long enough for a calendar) is Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach Rodney Garner's decision to leave Athens after 14 years to take the same job at Auburn. Garner of course played his collegiate ball in the Loveliest Little Village, so the move isn't that much of a surprise. There's also the fact that he's made noise about leaving for Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Coca-Cola, the Church of Michael Jackson, and Agnes Ritner Elementary School in 8 of the past 14 off seasons. The fact that he's making a lateral move (albeit to his alma mater) after such a long stay in Athens makes one wonder how hard Mark Richt tried to keep him. There were also the rumors of conflict with Todd Grantham. Be that as it may, Rodney Garner was a fixture on the Bulldog sideline for over a decade.
Garner's defection hurts Georgia most in recruiting. For one, Garner has a long history of successfully recruiting the Atlanta metro area. His retention in 1998 by Mark Richt helped set the table for recruiting a lot of the Bulldogs' best players from an area in which they had largely handed over primacy to Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Florida. Garner has also coached a whole lot of former and current NFL defensive linemen in his time in the Classic City.
He also would have been the position coach for two of the Bulldogs top remaining targets, defensive linemen Montravius Adams and Toby Johnson, and had reportedly developed a good relationship with linebacker prospect Reuben Foster, who recently decommitted from Auburn.
The upside is that Coach Grantham can now bring in a defensive line coach of his own choosing. I have a feeling that hire may be a guy who Grantham has worked with in the past, perhaps with the Dallas Cowboys or Cleveland Browns.
Some names you'll likely hear pop up include Irwinton native, former Bulldog, and Saints coach Travis Jones, and former Auburn lineman/current Tennessee Titans defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.
I don't think Jones will get hired. While he's a well-respected defensive coach, and served as Nick Sabsn's recruiting coordinator at LSU, he also had a part in a messy criminal investigation a couple of years ago. I just don't know that the University would clear him.
As for Rocker, I just don't know that the athletic association is willing to pay what would be required to get him to leave the NFL, especially after only one year with the Titans.
On the recruiting front, tight ends coach John Lilly was the recruiting coordinator at FSU for years, and program observers have speculated for years that Richt hired him with Garner's seemingly inevitable departure in mind. Bryan McClendon has also grown into an excellent recruiter, with strong ties in the Atlanta area as well.
Having those guys on staff allows Coaches Richt and Grantham to hire a competent position coach who can recruit, rather than a recruiter who can coach defensive line. If Georgia wins and develops players I'm not worried about us getting talented players to sign with the Bulldogs. Athens will always be a draw for college football players, as long as the Peach State remains talent-rich, the fans remain passionate, and the SEC remains the preeminent conference in the land. I'm worried about finding a guy who'll develop them once they arrive in Athens. Those guys can be harder to find and hold onto.
In summation, I'm not glad to see Coach Garner leaving. But I don't think he's irreplaceable. I think this also demonstrates the Auburn administration's continued fascination with bringing in members of the "Auburn Family" to be a part of the new football structure. Maybe that's what they need right now, maybe not. But that's clearly part of the M.O. Congratulations to Coach Garner on his homecoming. I'd like to thank him for all he's done for the Georgia program over the years. But we'll be okay. Until later . . .