10 Things: Georgia’s Bryan McClendon preparing young backs to play yet again

TEN THINGS ABOUT BRYAN McCLENDON . . .

ATHENS – If you’ve been the running backs coach at Georgia for the last few years, you’re permitted to be a little frustrated at this point. But Bryan McClendon, who has held that position for the Bulldogs since 2009, insists he is not.

McClendon has weathered the storms that came with having Isaiah Crowell, Washaun Ealey and Caleb King under his supervision. But he insists he’s neither beaten down nor disillusioned by their tumultuous tenures in Georgia’s backfield. He chooses instead to focus on the positives he believes remain for the future.

Georgia's fourth-year running backs coach Bryan McClendon, here with a suspended Isaiah Crowell before the New Mexico State game this past season, has had his hands full keeping the Bulldogs' backs in line. (AJC photo)

Georgia's fourth-year running backs coach Bryan McClendon, here with a suspended Isaiah Crowell before the New Mexico State game this past season, has had his hands full keeping the Bulldogs' backs in line. (AJC photo)

“I tell people all the time, we’ve met our quota for headlines,” McClendon said with a laugh. “Hopefully anything else that is written about us will be in a positive regard. You do everything you can to stay in front of those guys and make that they understand the ramifications of any decision that make. They have to understand the scale that they’re on. You’re a tailback at the University of Georgia and that means something and they’ve got to understand that. We’ve still got some guys here that do.”

With Crowell’s dismissal on June 29, Georgia is now down to a redshirt sophomore, two true freshmen and a pair of former walkons at tailback. McClendon sat down with the AJC recently for an interview to continue our series profiling the Bulldogs’ assistant coaches.

1. Has had more than share of turmoil at tailback.

Since taking over as Georgia’s running backs coach for the 2009 season, McClendon has had five different tailbacks transfer or be dismissed for various reason in Dontavius Jackson, Washaun Ealey, Caleb King, Carlton Thomas and Crowell.

“It drives you crazy,” McClendon said. “They’re 18-year-old kids and anybody who has had an 18-year-old knows what that means. They look like men when they get here but they’re really just kids. So you’ve got to be kind of like a counselor. You’re not their buddy; you’ve got to be an authority over them. But they’ve got to know you care about them and they’ve got to know your love for them is not based on what they do on the field.”

2. Expert at breaking in young backs.

As a result of all the attrition, for the third time in four seasons McClendon is  getting a true freshman ready to play. Georgia signed two highly-touted prospects out of North Carolina in Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley.

“You have to look at things they already know and do that will transfer over well,” McClendon said. “The hardest thing about coaching young backs if you have to get them playing well without the ball. With the ball, a lot of things transfer over. Without the ball is where you win or lose ballgames. So you have to make sure they know what they’re doing and work with them.”

3. He prefers using multiple backs

McClendon believes you can never recruit enough talented tailbacks, and it goes beyond their ability to stay out of trouble off the field.

“ I have not seen one guy carry the load in this league yet, not since Herschel and Bo Jackson were playing,” McClendon said. “The one guy who came close to doing it was Marcus Lattimore and he hasn’t lasted a full season yet, and he’s a great player. You need more than one guy so they can take the load off each other and stay fresh. It definitely keeps you healthier.”

4. A Bulldog by birth

McClendon’s father, Willie, was an All-SEC running back at Georgia in the late 1970s and also coached running backs for the Bulldogs. So Georgia football has been a part of McClendon’s life for as long as he can remember. McClendon’s first recollection was attending a Georgia game when he was about 4 years old.

“My dad wanted everybody to sit in the stands because he had never sat in the stands at a Georgia game before,” McClendon said. “This was before he coached, right around when he had just finished up playing football in the NFL. I remember him teaching us the, ‘Go Dawgs, sic ‘em’ cheer. I don’t remember anything about that day, but I remember that.”

5. Being the son of a famous Bulldog

Bryan’s father is still considered one of Georgia’s greatest running backs of all time. Willie rushed for 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1978 and went on to play in the NFL. But Bryan had no idea his father was famous until the family moved to Athens in 1989 and Willie joined the staff of former UGA coach Ray Goff.

“I was old enough then to notice that people treated him differently,” Bryan said. “We would walk into a place and people would walk up and ask for his autograph and tell him they enjoyed watching him play stuff like that. My Dad has always been very humble. He never boasted one word about what he’s done our how good he was when he played.”

6. Everybody’s little brother

McClendon is the middle of three sons, all of whom played football. Big brother Brandon played at Georgia Southern and little brother Brent McClendon is currently a cornerback at Georgia State.

But growing up as the son of the Georgia running backs coach, Bryan felt like he had a bunch of big brothers. He talks about of wrestling with Rodney Hampton and Garrison Hearst and playing video games with Terrell Davis, Mack Strong and Larry Ware. He would play with them on UGA’s Woodruff Practice Fields and his father would have them over to the house for meals occasionally.

“I was everybody’s little brother,” he said. “I was always running and jumping on Garrison Hearst and playing video games and stuff with those guys. I had a lot of fun with them.That was obviously a an impressive group of guys my Dad he brought in and he coached them up well.

7. Always planned on following in father’s footsteps

A lot of coaches’ sons want to do something different when they grow up. McClendon can’t imagine himself doing anything else.

“I always knew I wanted to be a coach and I approached the game that way,” said McClendon, who played wide receiver at Georgia. “I always wanted to know the ‘why’ about things when I was playing. Coach [John] Eason used to say I watched as much film as he did. I tried to figure out how the defense was trying to attack us and understand the reasons behind the. But I always knew wanted to be a coach at any level. Obviously I love being back here because Georgia runs through my veins.”

8. He briefly considered with a law career

For a brief time after his seven-week NFL career, McClendon thought about going to law school and possibly becoming a sports agent. In fact, he worked at a malpractice lawfirm in Atlanta to learn the ropes. It was the first job he held that was conducted in an office s

“That was my first real job,” McClendon said. “They taught me how to do things and how go about things in an office setting. But it drove me crazy. I’d get up from my desk every day at 2:30 and go outside to walk a lap around building. I had to get out of there. I just couldn’t see how people did that all day. Once I got my lap, I’d come back in and I could finish my day. It was definitely not for me.”

9. Known his wife most of his life

McClendon and his wife Amber actually have known each other since attending Young Middle School and Mays High School in Southwest Atlanta. But they didn’t actually date until after McClendon was attending Georgia on a football scholarship. Amber graduated from Clark Atlanta College and got a masters in social work at UGA. They married on Sept. 2, 2006.

“I was with the Chicago Bears,” McClendon said. “We had just found out I made the team. I was probably the 53rd out of the 53 guys that made the team. I had to go ask the Coach Lovie [Smith] if I could have the weekend off to get married. I flew into Atlanta on Friday, we got married on Saturday and Sunday I had to be back up there. We had to play Green Bay.”

10. A father to “Bam-Bam” and Brooke

Like every other Georgia coach, McClendon has to juggle the responsibilities of being a husband and father with the demands of being a coach. He has a 5-year-old boy, Bryan, who goes by “Bam-Bam” and a little girl named Brooke, born this past December. That’s even more challenging with a working wife. Amber is a program supervisor at the Athens’ non-profit Families 4 Change.

“It’s not easy,” McClendon said. “Right now it’s just us and we’re making it work. We have to utilize daycare and school and things like that. But Amber gets the trophy. I don’t know how she does it and looks as good as she does. When I’m with them they beat me down. They wear Daddy out.”

60 comments Add your comment

CLT Dawg

July 23rd, 2012
5:32 pm

way to go bryan

Gutrake

July 23rd, 2012
5:51 pm

Thank you for being a loyal DGD! I wish we could transfer your way of thinking to EVERY young man that comes to UGA. Fathers are sorely missed in our day and age…you’re a fine surrogate!

Russell Hall

July 23rd, 2012
5:51 pm

Bryan is a Damn Good Dawg!

McDawg

July 23rd, 2012
5:56 pm

way more concerned about OL and recruiting for 2013

will K. Houston be eligible this year–where is the beef 2013?

Larry, Larry, Larry

Hines Ward

July 23rd, 2012
5:57 pm

That’s my dawg!

JB

July 23rd, 2012
5:58 pm

Dawgs have had their share of bust at RB the last 3-4 years. We are due. I’m hoping these two young men from N. Carolina are the real deal, talent wise and good citizen wise.

CJ

July 23rd, 2012
6:14 pm

Man, we’ve lost our best 2 running backs, both of the last 2 seasons. We lost Ealey & King in 2011, and then Thomas & Crowell in 2012.

King should have been given more tutoring help for his academic challenges, this was preventable. Crowell is the only one who everything was tried, and Crowell couldn’t stay out of legal trouble.

Thomas & Ealey left because they didn’t feel they were getting as many reps as they’d earned on the field. Both transfers could have been prevented with a more fair distribution of reps for these 2 top producers who earned more reps than the rest. Ealey ran for over 6 yards carry and over 1000 yards this year with his new school and willbe going 1st round in the NFL draft next year, we really let a great back slip away due to McClenson’s non-merit based rotation philosophy. Thomas got over 8 yards per carry against Auburn compared to Crowell’s 5 ypc, yet Crowell for 75% more carries in that game. And 2.9 yards per carry back Samuel, got more carries, than 4.95 yards per carry Thomas. No wonder Thomas transferred.

I’ve always felt UGA doesn’t really look for running backs, it’s more like tight ends back there, I thought when Figgins was converted from tight end to fullback, and only got a few pass receptions all season, it showed me what McClendon and Bobo and Richt want, is passblocker tight end types to block for Murray, they don’t really want guys who run for 5+ ypc, and score a lot of td’s, as evidenced by the way that Ealey and Thomas were rotated.

I remember when Ealey was outproducing King 5 to 1 in td’s, and McClendon was rotating them??? Same for Thomas’ 4.95 yards per carry vs. Samuel’s 2.9 ypc????

Richt’s best seasons at UGA where when we went with a 1 back system, Moreno in 2007.

richt’s record is 44-4 when he gets A 100 YARD RUSHER, but McClendon rotate great backs, with horrible backs, so no one ever gets 100 yards, and the run game struggles.

Rush game has finished 7th-12th in the SEC the last 4 years.

CJ

July 23rd, 2012
6:19 pm

I would just recruit tight ends or linebackers, and convert them to running back, using the “you’ll get more playing time” excuse. I know McClendon’s already done that with Samuel and Figgins, but he needs to just recruit 2 extra tight ends, and 2 extra linebackers, since 3 or 4 will end up as “running backs” anyways. Let’s face it, McClendon wants passblockers, not running backs.

RHall55

July 23rd, 2012
6:24 pm

A lot of praises in the comments above….but doesn’t excuse passing over other RB’s who would have loved to come to UGA and worked their tails off DJ Adams, went to Maryland, Josh Clemons, went to KY and lead them in rushing last year (his dad played for UGA) and possibly, Ty Dye, who just committed to Clemson…..until UGA wins a NC, I will not give these (staff) guys a pass….too much in-state talent being missed on and plenty of talent in the surrounding areas to supplement the recruiting…..sorry, but I’ve heard about lazy recruiting practices by UGA from local H/S Coaches!! C’mon Guys do your job!!!

CJ

July 23rd, 2012
6:26 pm

Bama, LSU, and Florida are pumping out 5+ to 7+ yard per carry backs, McClendon is not.

Alabama had 3 backs get over 6 yards per carry
LSU had 3 get over 5.5 ypc
Florida had 2 get over 5.3 ypc
UGA: ?

THE Dixie Redcoat Band

July 23rd, 2012
6:27 pm

Still wouldn’t hurt for him to have a man to man talk with these “characters’ he’s coaching.

1953dawg

July 23rd, 2012
6:33 pm

McClendon is part of the problem. He has no clue what he is doing, and none of the backs he has coached ever got better from year to year. They all get worse, and McClendon is just another assistant coach Richt has hired that has been a total failure. But i guess that is what you get when you hire a coach that played W.R.in college and make him your running backs coach. Here’s a clue as to what a wonderful coach he is. How many teams have come after him and tried to hire him away from UGA. The answer is ZERO!! Just like all the other coaches on UGA’s staff with the exception of Grantham. The sign of a good head coach is how many assistant coaches under him get hired by other teams, and how many of them become successful in the coaching profession. After 12 seasons, only one has been a semi success, that would be VanGorder. But can’t really say being a D.C.at Auburn would be considered a success. Richt and his coaches are the problem at UGA, they have proven over and over again that they can’t coach against top tier SEC coaching staffs. They can’t make adjustments during the games, and they can’t design an effective game plan prior to the game. This staff gets embarrassed and out coached by ever ranked team they play against, yet there are no changes by the biggest problem of all, Richt.

Joey

July 23rd, 2012
6:33 pm

If a RB at UGA can keep his nose clean, attend all practices and team meetings, AND run the ball more than 2 times in a row before raising his hand for a replacement, I expect he could get plenty of carries in games, even with this coaching staff.

See: Knowshon Moreno.

Relocated Dawg

July 23rd, 2012
6:49 pm

whoever said Ealey is a first round draft pic is on some good dope

CJ

July 23rd, 2012
6:51 pm

All the other backs got hurt in 2007, that’s why Moreno got 250 carries, didn’t go with best back in 2008, 2009, 2010, or 2011, 2007 was just due to a rash of injuries, but, it resulted in Richt’s best season at UGA, finished #2 in nation.

CJ

July 23rd, 2012
7:01 pm

I like the way Alabama, LSU and Florida do things, if you can either score or get a high yards per carry average, you’ll get tons of reps.

Passblocking is a plus, but not the key thing these teams look for in a RUNNING BACK.

If you want passblockers, convert offensive linemen to running back.

But if you want RUNNING BACKS, REWARD them for productivity with MORE CARRIES.

Too bad McClendon doesn’t run a meritocracy. That’s why the top producers keep transferring out.

Joey

July 23rd, 2012
7:05 pm

Knowshon wasn’t the “best back” in ‘08?

Since him, it’s been a crap shoot – with at least 4 backs showing great potential, only to get in trouble (suspension) or injured for games at a time.

Rick James

July 23rd, 2012
7:07 pm

Bryan is also the grandson of the late Alonzo Crim who once headed the Atlanta School Board.

Fidlin1

July 23rd, 2012
7:14 pm

What Running back coming out of High School would not want to enjoy the College experience and know when it was over they’d be ready to play in the NFL. Bryans bleeds Red& Black and is going to be at UGA for a long time.Start lining up class of ‘13 & ‘14.

CJ

July 23rd, 2012
7:15 pm

Herschel got 1000 carries. He didn’t get injured enough to miss a game.

In 1980, Herschel Walker got 1000+ yards. Dooley finished #1.

In 2002, Musa got 1000 yards, Richt finished #2.

In 2007, Moreno got 1000 yards, Richt finished #2.

Feed your best back.

Quit living in fear of injury.

Get some courage.

CJ

July 23rd, 2012
7:22 pm

What’s the best way to learn to passblock?

Rotate with 5 guys, or get all the reps?

Bernie Matt

July 23rd, 2012
7:25 pm

McClendon isn’t calling any plays! If you have a problem with the ypc’s of the rb, you need to talk the the real boob on the staff. HIS NAME IS MIKE BOBO! Everyone knows most great rb’s get most of their yards in the 4th quarter when they are either milking the clock or going on a long drive to win. Now, if you can’t recall UGA in these situations in recent memory, THAT AIN’T THE RB COACH FAULT!

big dawg

July 23rd, 2012
7:54 pm

Good article. It appears that Bryan has already won with a strong family unit.

AltamahaDawg

July 23rd, 2012
8:00 pm

Neither. The best (only) way to learn to pass protect is running drills during the week.

GUTRAKE

July 23rd, 2012
8:08 pm

The majority of you guys are clueless and delusional. Stick with your video games and weekly allowances (in the real world its called welfare…)

columbus

July 23rd, 2012
8:28 pm

Lighten up McDawg LOL. UGA will do the best they can do I assure you. Guys will come or they wont. Personally I think the OL will be great in 2013 with a couple more recuits and a JUCO or 2. Some Penn ST linemen and recruits might want to SERIOUSLY look at UGA too. A couple on the roster could come in and play immediately. Gotta go somewhere, might as well come here. You know?! Im sure we are all over that. Maybe we will get one or 2… We certainly got scholarships available many top teams dont have immediately available….

AdMan

July 23rd, 2012
8:57 pm

CJ…you are really full of sh-t aren’t you? We’re laughing our ass’es off reading your post….you don’t know the first thing about running backs…LOLLOLLOL

Concerned

July 23rd, 2012
9:28 pm

You have to be kidding me that the AJC would waste time, money, and talent on wrting about a coach who is about on his last leg. What a joke!

Contractor

July 23rd, 2012
9:36 pm

Love the fact that he is a true Georgia Bulldog, but he needs to find a way to be more of a presence in the lives of his position players. Make them think about you before they go out and act up, make them think of the consequences before they even think about making a stupid decision, sit them down and lay the law down before they even get the opportunity to screw up. I have no doubt that he has probably done these things to an extent, but he needs to sink his teeth in and get these kids to understand their futures are at stake and not to waste it on a Friday night mistake.

Neutral

July 23rd, 2012
9:43 pm

@AdMan
You are soooooooo correct. CJ is a total knucklehead and doesn’t have the slightest clue as to what he is talking about. I especially liked his observation that UGa doesn’t recruit running backs. I guess getting the #1 TB in the country the past 2 years is a sign of not recruiting running backs!!!

Neutral

July 23rd, 2012
9:55 pm

I think we have a new breed of TBs at UGa. Samuel is an incredible guy who is an “A” student. KM has a 4.3 GPA and 4.25 forty. Hopefully these guys along with Gurley and Boo will turn around our TB woes. NOTE: all of the troublemakers like Caleb, IC, etc. were very poor students and barely qualified academically. The new guys literally have double the GPAs of the meatheads. I like what I’m seeing with the new talent. GO Dawgs!!!

LogicalUS

July 23rd, 2012
10:56 pm

Did Crowell ever learn how to block or any of the plays?

Perhaps having a former mediocre WR as the runningbacks coach is not the best idea???

Why does a program like UGA have such a huge problem with getting better coaches?

Dawg Dawg Dawg

July 24th, 2012
1:33 am

With all due respect, being a tailback at Georgia USED to mean something. I think the magic has worn off since 2009. What’s the coaching staff going to do about it? You guys are using up a lot of good will.

Dawg Dawg Dawg

July 24th, 2012
1:36 am

July 23rd, 2012
6:33 pm

McClendon is part of the problem. He has no clue what he is doing, and none of the backs he has coached ever got better from year to year. They all get worse, and McClendon is just another assistant coach Richt has hired that has been a total failure. But i guess that is what you get when you hire a coach that played W.R.in college and make him your running backs coach. Here’s a clue as to what a wonderful coach he is. How many teams have come after him and tried to hire him away from UGA. The answer is ZERO!! Just like all the other coaches on UGA’s staff with the exception of Grantham. The sign of a good head coach is how many assistant coaches under him get hired by other teams, and how many of them become successful in the coaching profession. After 12 seasons, only one has been a semi success, that would be VanGorder. But can’t really say being a D.C.at Auburn would be considered a success. Richt and his coaches are the problem at UGA, they have proven over and over again that they can’t coach against top tier SEC coaching staffs. They can’t make adjustments during the games, and they can’t design an effective game plan prior to the game. This staff gets embarrassed and out coached by ever ranked team they play against, yet there are no changes by the biggest problem of all, Richt.

Amen, 1953dawg!

Lagdawg

July 24th, 2012
5:18 am

How about hiring a real RB and WR Coach. Loyalty to former players is great, if they can get the job done. I personally think that Hines Ward would make a great WR Coach and recruiter and for a RB Coach, CMR needs to hire one. Offense should be more stable and it is not and that stems from lack of a qualified OC and the rest of the O staff. the only solid piece is the TE Coach and he is slacking on bringing in another TE for the 2013 class. Some SEC schools have garnered two commits from top TE and UGA has none. With at least 33 scholorships available the talent level should be higher and stop settling for mediocre players. USC only has 15 schollys available and look at the talent they are bringing in. That comes from having solid recruiters and a very capable coaching staff.

DaculaDawg

July 24th, 2012
7:30 am

Amen, Dawg Dawg Dawg, UGA is playing in the majors with a minor league coaching staff–except for CTG.

I know it HURTS

July 24th, 2012
9:05 am

Saban’s full schedule for Tuesday is as follows:

10:20 a.m. – SportsCenter (live)
10:30 a.m. – Twitter chat
10:45 a.m. – The Herd
11 a.m. – GameDay Radio
11:10 a.m. – College Football Podcast
11:35 a.m. – Playbook
11:50 a.m. – @ESPNCFB Questions
12:05 p.m. – ESPNU
12:30 p.m. – Scott Van Pelt Radio Show
12:50 p.m. – SEC Storied
1:20 p.m. – ESPN.com chat
1:45 p.m. – Doug Gottlieb Radio Show
2:30 p.m. – College Football Live
2:40 p.m. – SportsCenter Tonight Radio

Nick

July 24th, 2012
9:10 am

Does anyone at this paper proof read their stuff? This is like reading a middle school aged child’s’ homework…

Holy Guacamole

July 24th, 2012
9:18 am

Well, according to some on this blog, CTG shouldn’t be a DC because he played on the offensive line at VT. What a bunch of know nothings.

bitter vince dooley

July 24th, 2012
9:34 am

Like ive said before————a bad apple thang, cancer type———–and why was this behaviour

tollerated???????????????????——-I.C. would have been run into the ground by dooly 1980

coaching staff————–Coach’s are critical at best————BAD HIRES

bitter vince dooley

July 24th, 2012
9:48 am

NCAA IS ON A WITCH HUNT —-SIMILAR TO THE NAACP, 60 MILLION EXTORTION FEE

——————–IT ALWAYS BOILS DOWN TO MONEY

————–ALLBURN WILL BE NEXT

Falcon Dawg

July 24th, 2012
9:55 am

I actually have to agree with CJ on this. It has to be a coach that teaches RB’s “at any moment you feel the slightest bit of pain tap you head and sprint off the field” . All that does is enable weakness!! Lead by example, act tough and they will be tough!

MattinATL

July 24th, 2012
10:08 am

“With Crowell’s dismissal on June 29, Georgia is now down to a redshirt sophomore, two true freshmen and a pair of former walkons at tailback.” Everyone keeps forgetting about Samuel

Truth Hurts

July 24th, 2012
10:14 am

@CJ

I’m sure you have heard this before, but you are a fool.

fan

July 24th, 2012
10:19 am

uga has gone as far as possible with this staff. occasional sec east and title if we are lucky. never a NC. support this financially and nothing changes.

southgadawg

July 24th, 2012
10:54 am

I have a question toanyone out there. Why is there not more former Dawg players coaching for Richt? There are a few in coaching and doing quiet well but not for the UGA. I like McClendons RED and Black loyalty. Once a Dawg always a Dawg. This is something some players dont understand. If you conduct yourself with prideand loyalty to UGA ,their fan base(true fans) will always be loyal to you

Holy Guacamole

July 24th, 2012
11:13 am

@southgadawg

Not many on this blog are UGA fans. You can tell by their comments.

Butter Bean Floyd

July 24th, 2012
12:43 pm

Still not impressed with this coahing staff at all. McClendon hasnt shownn me anthing as well except for nurse maiding a bunch of rogues. Until Richt gets it done the Right way and not backing himself , UGA into the SECCG and also not getiing clobbered by the big boys, I aint buying it.

Holy Guacamole

July 24th, 2012
1:09 pm

The UGA problems are common to all programs and society in general. UGA has higher standards so the bad actors are going to stand out that much further. And, perception wise, UGA gets a lot of help from the AJC. If the bloggers on here are so unhappy with the program, coaches and the administration, they probably should find another team to root for.

Faithful Dawg 86

July 24th, 2012
1:10 pm

CJ: You’re an idiot (in addition to your clearly ignorant comments about coaching, the Bulldogs, running backs, etc. you think King should have been given more academic help?? Do you have any idea how much assistance is available, and even mandatory, for these guys? What do you want them to do? Go to class for him, take his tests, write his papers? I Know it Hurts: Why do you think we care? Dawg Dawg Dawg: Why are you wasting time just repeating verbatim what someone else already said? Butter Bean: I can’t even understand you; clearly you did not attend UGA. We have a good team and a good staff, now unless you have something constructive and interesting to say, shut the h*ll up, go back to your video games, and let them do their jobs.