Rx for Mark Richt: Try Smart first, then Ellis Johnson

Needed: A defensive coordinator who understands how defense must be played in the SEC.

First choice (and a no-brainer): Kirby Smart, the Georgia alum who coaches Alabama’s defense.

Problem: It’s not even a lateral move for Smart, Alabama being a demonstrably better program than Georgia. And Alabama can, as we know, outspend the Yankees to keep the guys it wants.

Possible bit of leverage: Nick Saban is a notoriously tough boss — the anti-Richt — and is still widely seen as the man behind Alabama’s D. Smart might want to strike out on his own.

Plan B: Ellis Johnson of South Carolina.

The new defensive coordinator should be:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Why him: He has done great work with lesser talent than Georgia’s, and he has coordinated defenses at Alabama and Mississippi State. And he did what a lot of folks can only dream of doing: He bailed out on Bobby Petrino after a month at Arkansas.

Why he might leave: No one knows how much longer Steve Spurrier will coach South Carolina, and even if Spurrier stays another five years it’s clear the Gamecocks will always hit a ceiling in the SEC East.

Possible roadblock: His contract runs through 2011.

Other names: Tommy Tuberville isn’t going to take an assistant’s job. Will Muschamp, another UGA grad, isn’t coming; being coach-in-waiting at Texas trumps being defensive coordinator at Georgia. Brian VanGorder seems happy in Flowery Branch, and it takes a lot to make BVG happy. Charlie Strong, formerly of South Carolina and now of Florida, is apt to become head coach at Louisville. And there seems no cause to promote Rodney Garner: Why bump up the lone holdover from a defensive staff Mark Richt just admitted was substandard?

The best guess: Smart stays in Tuscaloosa and Ellis Johnson moves to Athens.

Would that be an upgrade over Willie Martinez? No more than a suite at the Ritz-Carlton would be an upgrade over a room with two double beds at Motel 6.

707 comments Add your comment


December 3rd, 2009
12:22 am

What the heck…..First!


December 3rd, 2009
12:23 am

1st ((((((30-24))))))


December 3rd, 2009
12:24 am

i demand a recount!


December 3rd, 2009
12:26 am

i guess the dawg nation can rest peacefully tonight with the great news today


December 3rd, 2009
12:26 am

I think the best bet would be smart. Who could stand being in Satan’s shadow all the time. I bet it’s still hot as h*ll….LOL


December 3rd, 2009
12:27 am

The last statement you made was brutal…but true. LOL Mark!


December 3rd, 2009
12:29 am

Any coach would be an upgrade from Willie. Heck, I could practice calling plays on my PS3 playing Ncaa and do a better job than CWM. Happy days are ahead of us. Go Dawgs!

Ree Roe

December 3rd, 2009
12:29 am


I’d be thrilled with Ellis Johnson. Does he have any UGA ties & how realistic do you think it is that he comes to Athens?

Just for kicks: 30-24!

-REEcently Roe!

Michael G.

December 3rd, 2009
12:32 am

What about Bud Foster or Chuck Amato?


December 3rd, 2009
12:32 am

Would LOVE to see Smart come back to Athens as DC but I’m afraid you’re right about the Crimson Tide money situation. Maybe if they made him head coach in waiting? Richt has been here for a while now and although nobody’s in a hurry to see him go, maybe that’s the way of the college football world now. Just a thought. Anyway, Ellis Johnson would be much better than what we’ve been accustomed to here for a while if that doesn’t work out.

Just What The Doctor Ordered

December 3rd, 2009
12:37 am

NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!!

Mark Bradley

December 3rd, 2009
12:40 am

I’m not Chuck Amato fan. And I think Bud Foster will only leave to be a head coach.

some guy

December 3rd, 2009
12:45 am

maybe smart is just tired of winning all the time and wants to see what mediocrity it like… thats about your only chance of landing him. why would he or strong make a (downward) lateral move to go to uga?

Weaver D

December 3rd, 2009
12:46 am

Mark, why no mention of Dick Bumpas or Tyrone Nix? Both seem like great candidates that people often forget.

Tokyo Bravo

December 3rd, 2009
12:58 am

You’re kidding about Ellis Johnson, right? He’s not going to take another DC job just for the “privelege” of living in Athens, particularly as he’s a SC native.

And as to the crack about SC always “hitting a ceiling,” while history gives you plenty of ammunition for this argument, 9 returning starters on offense, and 8 on defense suggests this may be a very good team the next few years, particularly with some 23 of 44 on the two-deep currently underclassmen. I’d say that “ceiling” might be pretty high.

While Florida will still be formidable, they do have to replace Tebow and Spikes- no mean feat. Georgia will be breaking in a new QB and defensive coordinator, and Tennessee will still be coached by Lane Kiffin. If you ask me, the SEC East could prove to be very, very interesting next year.

mark louis

December 3rd, 2009
1:04 am

2 other names: John Tenuta and Mark Snyder (fmr. Ohio State DC, just fired as HC @ Marshall)


December 3rd, 2009
1:11 am

Mark, if Smart comes would we change to a 3-4?


December 3rd, 2009
1:12 am

Well, I think every coach wants to be back at their alma mater at some point. He played here, his wife played here, he’s coached here.Hell he could probably leave Bama after this season and be a head coach somewhere and make more money than he’s making under Saban now and I know he doesn’t want to be under saban forever so who knows.One thing’s for sure , he won’t be head coach in waiting under Saban. Maybe he’s ready to help rebuild the dog’s defense maybe for a little less money.I think he’s the best candidate

Innocent Bystander

December 3rd, 2009
1:20 am

Nice caption, Mark. Be careful with that joke… it’s an antique!

How about Dick Bumpas? I hope the dogs don’t look too much into him so that he’s around next year for Tech to hire!

Mark Bradley

December 3rd, 2009
1:21 am

Jon Tenuta is vastly overrated. Vastly.


December 3rd, 2009
1:25 am

Smart and Johnson won’t come to UGa. There are other guys around the nation that know defense and Richt is not a stupid man; he will find a capable guy.

As I have said throughout the season it’s not just the DC’s fault as many Dawg fans have prclaimed, some position coaches needed to be shown the door too. Richt was smart to clean house.

Geaux Tigers

Meanwhile...speaking of overrated

December 3rd, 2009
1:33 am

I refuse to join the unseemly chorus of those who claim the ACC title game has been devalued.

But Mark, since you seem to be burning the midnight oil, I must ask.

Now that the game has been relocated to a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, as part of the undercard of the Larry Holmes-Trevor Berbick rematch, is CPJ going to adjust his game plan for an indoor venue?

Meanwhile...speaking of overrated

December 3rd, 2009
1:39 am

Mark speaking things with a Tech connection being vastly overrated…

I for one refuse to engage in the unseemly talk of the ACC title game being somehow devalued.

But since you appear to be burning the midnight oil Mark, I must ask.

Now that the game has been relocated to a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, as part of the undercard for a Larry Holmes-Trevor Berbick rematch, will CPJ be adjusting his game plan to accommodate an indoor venue?


December 3rd, 2009
1:57 am

Four years ago Kirby Smart left LSU (coached by Nick Saban), where he was the defensive backs coach, to coach running backs at UGA. Why would Smart, an All-SEC safety, want to coach running backs? Because it’s UGA. His school. His wife’s school. I hear people saying he wouldn”t leave Bama for Georgia but what occurred four years ago says differently


December 3rd, 2009
2:05 am

Man you gotta throw some kind of bone to Rodney Garner, mabe not DC but you have to admitt ,dude can seal the deal with these prospects

Bill Martin

December 3rd, 2009
2:09 am

I just have one question. I’ve not seen anything about BoBo going .
We need an offence coach that can be loose enough to take a few chances,
be imaginative, be excited about his offense. In my humble opinion
BoBo couldn’t call his way out of a wet paper bag. He is totally out of every game i’ve seen him in. Lets hope C. R. cans him too.

Jon Tenuta

December 3rd, 2009
2:10 am

Hey Mark,
What do you mean I am overrated. Don’t you see what I’ve done at Notre Dame? I like to blitz on every down & distance and bring the heat with all 11 defensive players. Blitz, Blitz, Blitz!!!

Paul Johnson

December 3rd, 2009
2:11 am

Ill donkey punch mister john tenutar in the face

night cap

December 3rd, 2009
2:18 am

You cant donkey punch someone in the face dude….

Hands down DICK BUMPAS is the best realistic option we got. Go get him Richt.

Gravy Train

December 3rd, 2009
2:32 am

If I were CMR, which I am not, I would talk with Tony Dungy. Maybe Dungy says no, but as my little league coach used to preach: You can’t get a hit with the bat on your shoulders.
I think CMR and CTD share many similar philosophies concerning faith and the development of young men. He is the creator of the “Tampa 2″ and also knows how to dissect it. I doubt there would be many kids who wouldn’t want to play for CMR and CTD.

Maybe Dungy misses the teaching and coaching side of football and doesn’t want the extra stress that permiates from the NFL.

Never hurts to ask.

Ted Striker

December 3rd, 2009
2:34 am

What about Bobby Knight? We haven’t talked about him recently.


December 3rd, 2009
2:54 am

Mark Bradley, sir, you and Tony Barnhart simply amaze me.

You know nothing about football, and have proven it again and again through the years.

This latest, hire Ellis Johnson.

41 points.

Excuse me, we scored 41 points on Ellis Johnson this year.

Besides Arkansas, that is the most we racked up all year long.

Ellis Johnson played DE with The Citadel Bulldogs.

Ellis Johnson was 12-22 at The Citadel as Head Coach.

Since then, he has been the DC at first Missiissippi State and then South Carolina, not exactly the path of a Erk Russell.

He has ZERO NFL experience.

Please stay out of this Mark Bradley, lest you write more B.S. such as your Guarantee of what Tech would do to UGA Saturday night. You were wrong on that too. Why don’t you try owning up to that instead of making another fool of yourself on this college football topic.

His defensive style is a soft bend-don’t break that none of us UGA fans want to ever see again.


December 3rd, 2009
2:55 am

Mark Bradley, you don’t know anything about football.


December 3rd, 2009
3:05 am

Who wants to listen to any suggestion by a blogging fool!!?? Just shut up, Mark Bradley!


December 3rd, 2009
3:14 am

I enjoy the blogs Mark. Keep on coming.


December 3rd, 2009
3:18 am

OOPS! Gotta go. Coffee’s ready. Tenuta sounds about right.

Robert Nephew

December 3rd, 2009
3:22 am

You did not mention Kevin Steele, Clemson DC, who is a good coach and also a good recruiter.


December 3rd, 2009
3:38 am

Remember how CMR first hired Van Go, he had only seen him coach, and he was and is a great DC. If the choice is up to CMR he will likely go to lower lever program where the DC is outstanding and UGA will be a huge step up. I’d lover Kirby too, but he can’t make a lateral move at this point in his career. We need someone who wants to come to UGA, how about a real long shot and ask Pollock, no experience, but he played with his motor running full tilt every down, he is a Erk R waiting on the opportunity. We know we have done worse, and I can’t imagine a youngster no being impressed with him. Ok it would be outside the box but I like it more than any other likely hires>

Dawg Nation 14

December 3rd, 2009
3:39 am

How about Mickey Andrews if Kirby does not cme home?


December 3rd, 2009
4:28 am

Mark my words, no pun intented, CMR will move Rodney Garner up the ladder to DC.

Several reasons. 1) Garner definitely WANTS promotion, if its not at UGA then he’s gone 2) Richt will do this for damage control with recruits 3) Richt already supports hiring from within, he’s hinted at it before 4) Every single one of the players respect him and are influenced by him. 5) Richt knows what to expect from him and he’s comfortable with him.

If there were Vegas odds on this I’d bet the house….

Ostrich Racer

December 3rd, 2009
4:29 am

The real question is, who’s choosing — Richt, or Damon Evans? I can’t see Richt hiring Tuberville, knowing that he might be bringing in his own successor if the defense sures up, but Bobo’s offense doesn’t improve.

Tech sux

December 3rd, 2009
4:37 am

Pat Dye anyone?/??? hehehe

georgia coach

December 3rd, 2009
4:41 am

Mark, Just because Tenuta doesn’t mingle well with the press does not mean he is overrated. Don’t let his lack of affinity for sportswriters cloud your professional judgment. Foster has a lot of baggage that you wouldn’t want to see unpacked!!

Macon Dog in the Middle East

December 3rd, 2009
4:50 am

Hello Mark: You have asked: “And there seems no cause to promote Rodney Garner: Why bump up the lone holdover from a defensive staff Mark Richt just admitted was substandard?”

In one word: Recruiting! Hereinafter is an entry that I posted after a Jeff Shultz column, which followed the Kentucky debacle. Can you (or anyone else) shed any light on the likelihood of Garner returning to the putrid “Big Arnge” if Richt doesn’t promote him?

“I’m a long, long way from my beautiful Georgia, and few people over here will care that our vaunted, proud program has sunk to such a low level. I’m sick over it! Richt should remember that Phil Fulmer refused to fire his assistants. Lots of UT-Fulmer loyalists say now that he should have been dismissed several seasons ago. Remember that horrible whipping that Kiffin’s first team gave us a few weeks ago? Remember how Kiffin vowed NEVER to lose to Georgia? He may be counting on Richt’s mulish determination to keep Martinez.
If Richt does not fire Martinez immediately after the season and replace him with Rodney Garner, I fear that we will lose Garner, probably (back) to UT. I can’t bear the thought! I remember how Fulmer beat us like a drum, year after year, with so many of our own state’s better players!! Richt has won the recruiting wars because he has had Garner. Richt should promise Garner the Defensive Coordinator’s job NOW or resign.
Even way over here, I’ve heard the troubling rumor that contractual obligations will prevent Richt from firing any of his assistants! I don’t know any Bulldog fans who want Martinez to keep his job. I wonder if a majority still wants Richt to keep his own. I realize how successful and humble he has been, and he has made us proud. Still, this debacle makes me angry. The UT game and this one are simply inexcusable. We cannot tolerate this. The pronoun “we” includes Damon Evans. He has increased the contribution demands on season-ticket holders. With that money, he is being paid quite well to make tough decisions. So is Richt.”

Cali Dawg

December 3rd, 2009
5:10 am

Please no Muschamp! UGA torched his D at Auburn and Texas seems to win a lot of games 45-42. Seems like a lateral move to me…did I just compare Martinez to Muschamp???

'Bama 1

December 3rd, 2009
5:52 am

We have Kirby Smart at ‘Bama, ya’ll don’t. Don’t think Georgias pockets are deep enough to get him! Who wants to coach for a middle of the road S.E.C. team. Maybe after he gets a national championship ring he will. He sure as hell won’t get one at Georgia!


December 3rd, 2009
5:54 am

Whoever is hired as the new defensive CO had better be able to keep points off of the scoreboard because as long as Mike Bobo is the offensive CO the Dawgs aren’t going to score very many points, at all.

David Crisp

December 3rd, 2009
5:59 am

Hey Mark, How about the DC from TCU? Is he a possibility?


December 3rd, 2009
6:02 am

I like the recommendation from Gravy Train > Bring in Tony Dungy. His demeanor and personal beliefs are in-line with Richt’s, and he would bring immediate-impact respect to the DC position and from the players. Also, the families of recruits and the recruits themselves would be sold on UGA as soon as Dungy walked into their homes. Dungy is a no-brainer, but getting him here might be an uphill battle.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

December 3rd, 2009
6:05 am

Jo Lee Dunn!