Georgia’s defensive commitments are hanging with the Bulldogs in their protracted search for a defensive coordinator but they may not be able to hold on much longer.
Twelve of the Bulldogs’ 19 verbal commitments thus far are slated to play on the defensive side of the ball. The great majority of those made their pledges to Georgia back before the season started, when Willie Martinez was still defensive coordinator and John Jancek and Jon Fabris his assistants. In many cases they were personally recruited by one or all of those men.
Now Georgia is in its sixth week without a coordinator, secondary, defensive end or linebackers coach. And it’s unclear how much longer it might be before their replacements are hired as Alabama’s Kirby Smart turned down the Bulldogs’ latest overture on Monday. He’s at least the third coach to turn down the position after getting a substantial raise from his employer, joining Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster and LSU’s John Chavis. At least one other coach was contacted about the opening (Illinois’ Vic Koenning).
Remarkably, Georgia has lost only one commitment since Richt made the move in early December and it’s unclear whether Kissimmee-Osceola defensive end B.J. Butler was still holding a Bulldogs’ offer when he committed to Louisville this past weekend. These future Dogs’ have shown tremendous loyalty thus far.
“Yes, I’m still committed to Georgia,” Port St. Lucie linebacker Deon Rogers said Monday.”I’m just waiting to see who’s going to be coordinator and linebackers coach.”
Said Douglass defensive tackle Garrison Smith, an AJC Super 11 selection and longtime UGA commitment: “Coach Richt is going to make the best decision. I’m going to ride with whatever he does. He’s one of the best head coaches in college football. He knows what he is doing.”
That said, these prospects are still being recruited intensely and they are keeping their options open. Rogers just got back from an official visit to Cincinnati last weekend, has been to Ohio State and has visits scheduled for Louisville and Mississippi State.
And Alabama and other top-notch programs have never backed off of Smith, who just returned from San Antonio and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “I’m not going to throw any names out there, but yes, some other schools still want to talk,” Smith told the AJC’s Michael Carvell. “All I have to say is that I’m focused on Georgia.”
Others, such as Manning, S.C., defensive end Dexter Morant, are looking around specifically because of the coaching changes. He’s taking a visit to Clemson this weekend.
“If Jon Fabris and Willie Martinez were still at Georgia, I don’t think he’s taking his visit right now,” Manning High School coach Robert Briggs told Scout.com.
I posed a rhetorical question to Rogers. What would he do if Georgia’s coaching situation remained unresolved all the way the up to national signing day (Feb. 3)?
“Umm. I don’t know,” Rogers said. “That’s a good question; that’s a real good question. I’m not sure to tell you the truth. I like Georgia the most so that’d be tough.”
Rogers said he does have a backup plan but declined to specify exactly what that is. “I’d rather keep that to myself,” he said.
Other commitments, such as Walton defensive end Brandon Burrows, say they’re coming to Georgia no matter what happens. But that doesn’t mean he’s not concerned or disappointed.
“When I heard that Coach Smart was coming in I was really ecstatic because he recruited for Alabama and I really had a good time with him up there and he’s a good recruiter and coach,” Burrows said. “When I heard that he wasn’t coming I was pretty distraught because I thought he was going to be there. Now I just don’t know who’s coming to be our defensive coordinator.”
Burrows says he hears from Georgia’s coaches regularly and that allays his concerns.
“I have trust in Coach Richt,” he said. “I have a ton of faith in him that he’s going to pick the right one for us. I’m still going to sign with Georgia no matter what. I don’t think it presents a true picture of Georgia. I expected people to be jumping up and down for the job because it’s such a storied program. They just shot for one or two guys and didn’t get them. But I don’t expect it to be much longer.”
It can’t, right?