UGA FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
ATHENS – As expected, the University of Georgia on Monday announced contract extensions for head football coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
Richt, who has been the Bulldogs’ coach for 11 years, received a three-year extension that will pay him through the end of the 2016 season. Grantham, who just completed his second season at Georgia, had two years added to make his a three-year deal through the 2014 season.
“I’ve never really changed my stance on how I feel about Georgia from the first day I got the opportunity to be here,” Richt said during a news conference Monday at UGA’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. “My goal and my wife Katharyn’s goal was to build our life in Athens and raise our children here and finish my coaching career here. That thought has never changed for me.”
The deals – which essentially are new contracts – are expected to include modest salary increases, though UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity said financial terms are still being finalized.
“We’ve agreed upon [financial terms] but that’s sort of in the hands of the lawyers,” McGarity said. “We’ve agreed on the major parts. We met a couple of weeks ago and talked about it. So now we’re tweaking some things and it’s in the lawyers hands to work through some language and things like that. There’s really not a rush. Whenever it’s ready, it’s ready.”
Richt’s job was thought to be in jeopardy before last season, then the Bulldogs won 10 straight to finish 10-4. He is 106-38 in 11 seasons at UGA. He has won two SEC championships and won or shared five SEC East titles. His winning percentage of .736 is fourth best among active coaches.
Georgia finished fifth in the nation in total defense under Grantham’s leadership last season. Including suspended cornerbacks Sanders Commings and Branden Smith, the Bulldogs return 10 starters on that side of the ball for next season.
McGarity said no other contract extensions are currently planned for any other of Georgia’s assistants.
Mitchell moving to defense
Depth concerns due to attrition in the secondary solidified Richt’s decision to move star wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell to cornerback full time for spring practice.
Mitchell starred on the offensive side of the ball as a true freshman last season. He caught 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns despite missing four games with a hamstring string. But he was a four-star prospect as a defensive back at Valdosta High before coming to Georgia and volunteered to play on that side of the ball after the Bulldogs lost several defensive backs due to disciplinary problems and transfers.
Richt said he was not sure yet whether Mitchell will play both ways once the season starts
“Malcolm was going to play a big role at corner regardless of what happened with Branden [Smith],” Richt said. “Our goal is for him to help us on both sides of the ball. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the fall, whether he’ll go exclusively defensive back or not yet. But you can’t be in both meetings at the same time. So, early on, we’re going to have to have him help at corner.”
Richt said the coaches feel they can afford to move Mitchell because of the depth they have at wide receiver.
“We had to sit there and measure what’s going to happen if we take him out of the receiving corps,” Richt said. “Do we still have enough guys that can make plays? And I think we have enough guys that can make plays that we could make that move. . . . [Offensive coordinator Mike] Bobo and [receivers coach Tony] Ball weren’t thrilled about my decision to move him to defense, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Strength staff completed
Richt also completed his strength and conditioning staff before heading off on a trip with wife Katharyn to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. The Bulldogs hired John Thomas, head strength coach at Penn State for the last 20 years, as senior associate director. They also hired Sherman Armstrong, a “speed specialist” from VAST training academy in Tampa, as associate strength and conditioning coach.
Their additions give the Bulldogs five full-time members of the strength staff, joining director Joe Tereshinski and assistants Rex Bradberry and Tony Gilbert. Five is the maximum number allowed under new NCAA legislation that goes into effect in August.
Malcome impressing at tailback
Richt was asked if he had seen a growth in that maturity of tailback Isaiah Crowell during the offseason. But halfheartedly acknowledged he had but ended up praising rising sophomore Ken Malcome instead.
“I’m really seeing a lot of positives out Ken Malcome,” Richt said “The last couple of mat drills, he turned a corner, in my opinion. And talking to our academic people about his change of demeanor and maturity level, he comes in and takes care of his business. You don’t have to prod him along like you do a lot of freshmen. He’s turning the corner.”
As for Crowell, Richt said, “he’s definitely growing up. To say he’s there and he’s reached it and he understands completely all the work ethic and everything it takes to be great, I’d say he’s in the process of getting there like a lot of other guys that are freshmen. He’s just the one everybody watches closer than most.”
ETC. . . .
Richt said he has brought in several NFL coaches to meet with the Bulldogs about their special teams strategies and practices. He said they’ll devote more time to it during spring practice and that you can expect many more starters on special teams units. “I even told [quarterback] Aaron [Murray] he may be covering kicks.”. . . Richt said outside linebacker Sterling Bailey (ankle) and wide receiver Chris Conley (shoulder) will practice but be held out of contact during spring practice. . . . The G-Day Game has been set for April 14 at 3 p.m.