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12 TAKEAWAYS: UGA’s Offseason Hires

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TaxSlayer Bowl - Georgia v Penn State Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

12 Takeaways UGA Offseason

  1. First off, let’s look at some numbers that might ease some worries in Bulldog Nation. Of all the offseason moves, the hire of Stacy Searels was the one UGA fans questioned most. Admittedly, I was unsure about the Searels hire before digging into it a bit further. At first glance, the traditional numbers are alarming.

SACKS ALLOWED PER GAME

2019: UNC- 119th (3.1) UGA- 6th (1.1)

2020: UNC- 104th (3.0) UGA- 47th (2.0)

2021: UNC- 128th (3.9) UGA- 7th (1.1)

2. Numbers without context can be misleading. By traditional numbers, UNC’s OL wasn’t great in pass protection. Sam Howell also created a ton of QB allowed pressures over the last 3 years. He had the 10th highest percentage of allowed pressures among FBS QB’s in 2021, and that pattern existed throughout his 3 years as a starter

PRESSURE TO SACK % BY STARTER

2019: UNC- Howell (25.2%) UGA- Fromm (17%)

2020: UNC- Howell (22.9%) UGA- Bennett (10%), Daniels (32.1%)

2021: UNC- Howell (31.8%) UGA- Bennett (14.9%)

PASS BLOCK GRADE BY OL

2021: UNC- 74.1, UGA- 75.6

QB ALLOWED PRESSURES

2021 Howell- 120 (27.5% of UNC’s total pressures)

2021 Bennett- 61 (13.1% of UGA’s total pressures)

3. Now let’s dig into line yards. Average Line Yards is a stat designed to separate the performance of an OL from its skill players. Its weight is as follows:

Average Line Yards

2021: UNC- 2.97 (16th), UGA- 3.06 (11th)

Passing Down Line Yards

2021: UNC- 3.67 (4th), UGA- 3.14 (35th)

Opportunity Rate is the % of carries (when four yards are available) that gain at least four yards i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job

Opportunity Rate

2021: UNC- 56.3% (5th), UGA- 54.6% (12th)

When Searels took over the UNC OL in 2019 his first unit was 64th nationally in Avg Line Yds, 78th in passing down line yards, and 30th in Opp. Rate. He oversaw some big improvements at UNC, and Howell ran for 826 yards in 2021 after having just 145 in 2020 and 36 in 2019. Assuming Searels is going to be in Athens for awhile, UGA is setup for a true dual-threat attack from the QB position

4. The other concern around the Searels hire is his recruiting history. As a lead recruiter, he only has one five-star OL prospect on his resume. The reality is that doesn’t matter as much as you think it does at UGA in 2022. UNC signed a five-star OT this past cycle. Searels just wasn’t the lead recruiter. The UGA program is a recruiting machine, and there are guys in the building like OL analyst Eddie Gordon that players and recruits already LOVE. Brent Key hadn’t signed 5-star prospects before Evan Neal. Kyle Flood hadn’t before pulling Latham and the Brockemeyer twins. UGA’s OL recruiting will be FINE.

5. What Georgia fans should be excited about is that the recent offensive hires have Todd Monken’s influence written all over them. Monken has always had a pull-heavy scheme in the run game, and as you can see in this clip, Searels has plenty of experience coaching to that philosophy.

Monken was a big part of the interview process with McClendon and was blown away by him. That’s a big endorsement from an OC who was a WR coach for much of his career. Alignment with Monken is a good sign for UGA’s offensive production

6. The hallmark of past Monken offenses was mastery of subtle details by the WR’s- downfield/edge blocking, secondary targets influencing defenders to help primaries get open, sharp reads of coverage on the same page with the QB. UGA started showing those signs in late 2021. 3 of Oregon’s top 7 graded run blockers in 2021 were WR’s. Aside from McConkey, UGA’s regular WR’s graded poorly. Expect improvement in the screen game and more opportunities for big runs when backs get through holes cleanly

7. Another reason to not fret too much over Searels recruiting ability is the other guys who were hired on this offseason. Adding Fran Brown, McClendon, and Bobo to a staff that already has Smart, McGee and Muschamp is silly. A common misconception by cfb fans is the idea that a position coach is the primary recruiter for every HS prospect who plays on that unit. Go look at the lists of all-time recruits who the coaches above were primary recruiters of

8. UGA fans should be familiar with what McClendon did in Athens last time around, landing Chubb, Michel, Marshall and Crowell at RB. What shouldn’t be glossed over is the fact he signed 2 of the top 8 WR’s in the 2021 class at Oregon. One came from CA and the other from MD. His time out West added recruiting ties in California and the DC area to the roots he already has in GA, FL and the rest of the Southeast

9. Brown was an extremely strong hire. In 2022’s class he landed two 4-star LB’s and a 4-star RB… AT RUTGERS. In just two years as a DB coach at Baylor he landed the Bears a 4-star prospect at OT, two 4-star QB’s, three 4-star DB’s, and a couple 4-star WR’s. He’s a recruiting ace on the highest level of anyone in CFB Brown also learned how to coach DB’s under Matt Rhule, serving as his DB’s coach for 6 seasons. That’s a big deal.

10. Brown’s secondary allowed just 157.4 yards passing per a game in his last year at Temple with Rhule in 2016. While with the Owls he went into Maryland and found a 5’9” 2-star DB named Tavon Young and a 5’10” 155 pound 2-star DB named Nate Hairston in the class of 2012. He developed Young into a 4th round pick in the 2016 draft and Hairston into a 5th rounder in 2017. The point? At a place like UGA, Brown is capable of taking guys with tons of natural ability and developing them into technically sound CB’s who have great jamming ability, stay in WR’s hip pockets while in phase, and find the ball in the air. With talents like Ringo, Singeltary, Everette, Humphrey, Lassiter and others there is no ceiling on what he can do.

11. Kirby Smart told you his general program philosophy in his postgame press conference in Jacksonville this year- “There’s no coach out there that can out-coach recruiting. I don’t care who you are. The best coach to ever play the game better be a good recruiter because no coaching is going to out-coach players.”

Now take a look at this map of where On3’ Top 300 players in the 2023 class hail from.

With Brown, McClendon, Searels and Muschamp on board Smart has assembled a staff with strong ties to TX, CA, FL, PA, DC, VA, MD, NC, AL & GA. The plan is clear if you dive deep enough. He built a wall around Georgia when he took the UGA job. Now he wants to take his championship ring and use it to open pipelines that will let him pluck the best players in each recruiting cycle from the most talent rich states in the country.

12. This staff has a wealth of experienced evaluators and developers, and it appears it’s full of coaches who are committed to staying and growing within the UGA program. If there is continuity within a staff that has this much recruiting reach then Georgia will be churning out title caliber teams almost every season.