l’m not seeing too many tears shed among Bulldog fans over the apparent impending departure of offensive line coach Stacy Searels for the same job at Texas.
Oh, sure, the timing could be better, coming just a couple of weeks before national signing day. And there’s the concern expressed by a few that Searels jumping ship is just one more sign that Mark Richt’s program is sinking fast.
But that latter view ignores the obvious fact that even if the Richt program wasn’t facing a likely do-or-die turning point next season, the Texas job would be somewhat better than a lateral move for Searels. Despite the Longhorns having suffered a losing season in 2010, that program mints money and is a choice spot for any coach. Of course, the chance of Searels being out of a job in Athens next year if Richt is fired adds to the attractiveness of a move to Austin at this point in his career.
It’s a little tougher to figure out why Mack Brown wants Searels. While his four years coaching the OL at LSU produced stellar results, his work at UGA has left most Dogs fans decidedly unimpressed. With injuries a major problem, Searels did get credit his first two seasons in Athens for cobbling together lines with three freshman starters as the Dogs finished with 11-2 and 10-3 records and Top 10 final rankings.
But the reportedly prickly Searels never seemed all that comfortable in Athens amid rumors he didn’t get along with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and others, and Georgia folks never really warmed up to him, at least in part because of his refusal most of the time to talk to the media.
And as the Dogs’ fortunes began to sink over the 2009 and 2010 seasons, with OL play an obvious deficiency, the suspicion grew in the Bulldog Nation that having offensive stars like Matt Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and Mohamed Massaquoi made Searels’ 2007 and 2008 lines look better than they really were. The past two years Searels’ lines badly underperformed most of the time, despite having veteran players, and the running game that Searels had been named coordinator of in 2009 foundered.
Perhaps Texas has concluded the problem with the Dogs’ linemen getting pushed around by opponents really was Georgia’s infamous strength and conditioning program and that the LSU years more accurately reflect what Searels can do. Time will tell.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see where Richt turns for a new OL coach. While an up-and-coming coach might jump at the chance to take over the OL job at Georgia, the tenuous nature of Richt’s own status in Athens might work against drawing an established heavy hitter. Let’s face it, anyone who takes the job is gambling.
The natural speculation has centered on a couple of former Georgia players with established credentials as offensive line coaches: Mac McWhorter and Hugh Nall.
McWhorter, ironically, is responsible for the opening at Texas, having just retired as the Longhorns’ OL coach amid a general staff house-cleaning that Brown has undertaken following a disappointing season just a year after playing in the national championship game. But since McWhorter’s “retirement” is only a little over a month old, he might be inclined to basically swap places with Searels.
If that’s the case, you could argue UGA would be getting the better end of the deal. While McWhorter was at UT, the offense ranked among the top 10 in total offense three times and in the top 30 seven times. It was also in the top six in scoring offense on five occasions and in the top 16 eight times. McWhorter also was named the 2008 Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.
If he were to take the job at Georgia, it would be his second go-round as the Dogs’ OL coach. He held that position, along with special teams coordinator and director of football operations, under Ray Goff. Interestingly, he also put in time at Georgia Tech under George O’Leary and ended up as the Jackets’ acting head coach for their bowl game after O’Leary left for his short-lived stint at Notre Dame.
As for Nall, he had a good run coaching the OL at Auburn under Tommy Tuberville but left coaching for an executive position in the trucking business after Tuberville was fired and reportedly is quite happy out of football. Giving up that gig for a potentially one-season stint in Athens might not seem like such a smart move.
Other names not associated with UGA are starting to surface, including former Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell, a veteran of offensive line work.
What do you think? Would you be happy with a Searels-for-McWhorter swap? Who else would you like to see Richt consider for the OL job?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg