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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Practice Notes: Garner Mum on Future

After three defensive coaches were let go two weeks ago, many fans have been waiting for the last member of the staff to head in another direction, too.

That won’t be the case in the short-term, defensive line coach Rodney Garner said, and that’s a message he has preached to his team.

“I told the guys (Saturday), I’m 100 percent committed to us being successful in that game on the 28th, I’m 100 percent bought in, and I’m asking them to be the same way,” Garner said. “There’s a lot of things we can’t control. We can’t control what happened with the staff. We can’t control the bowl game. We can’t control the opponent. But we can control our emotion and how we go into that bowl game. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”

Beyond that, Garner wasn’t offering up too many details on his future.

Asked if he had been approached by other teams about potential jobs, Garner said he was only focused on Georgia’s bowl game.

Asked if he was interested in the Bulldogs’ vacant defensive coordinator job, Garner said he had faith in Mark Richt to make the right decision on a replacement for Willie Martinez.

Asked if he wanted an opportunity to be a defensive coordinator somewhere, Garner offered a firm yes, but provided little context to go with it.

“At some point, obviously if you’re in this business, you’re always looking for upward mobility,” he said. “But I’m not sitting here with a timetable saying it’s got to happen now. It’s not that type of scenario. I have faith that Coach Richt is going to do what he feels is best for this program. He’s been very good to me, very good to my family, so I’ve got the utmost faith in him that he knows what he’s doing.”

With the dismissal of Martinez, linebackers coach John Jancek and ends coach Jon Fabris, Garner remains the lone holdover on the defensive staff and a crucial cornerstone to Georgia’s recruiting efforts.

He said he understands the rumors swirling about his own future, but he said staying at Georgia remains the goal – for now.

“Obviously you plan on it,” Garner said. “People ask questions and all that, but you can only try to control the things you can control, and you play the cards you’re dealt.”


The changes to the defensive coaching staff will certainly have an effect on bowl preparation and recruiting, but they could also help shift the decisions of the two Bulldogs most likely to leave school a year early to enter the NFL draft.

Linebacker Rennie Curran and safety Reshad Jones both are considering making the move to the NFL, and both admitted that losing their coaches could push them in that direction.

“It’s huge,” Curran said. “Those are the things you think about scheme-wise and how you’re going to fit in, the coaches coming in and his mentality. But that’s something I’m going to worry about later on. Right now is just to win this bowl game and finish up strong.”

Jones has a similar plan, but said the loss of Martinez will certainly factor into his ultimate decision.

“I haven’t really looked at it like that, but it will have a little effect,” Jones said. “I’ll probably sit down after the bowl and put everything together and clear my head and see how things go.”

Of course, as much as Martinez and Jancek’s loss will be weighed by Jones and Curran, the new coaching staff could also play a role, and that’s information Jones is eagerly awaiting.

“I haven’t heard yet,” Jones said of potential replacements on the coaching staff. “I do want to know that information, but I’m basically focused on the bowl game and I’ll make my decision after that.”


While fans, recruits and even potential candidates are waiting with bated breath for Richt to announce the replacement for Martinez at defensive coordinator, there isn’t much more information floating through the halls of Georgia’s athletics offices either.

Players and coaches got peppered with questions after Saturday’s first bowl practice, but when asked if they had heard any details on names or a timeline, the answer was the same.
“Definitely not,” Curran said. “I just know Coach Richt is going to make the best decision possible.”

Even Garner said he hasn’t been a part of any discussions – and that’s fine with him.

“There’s a lot of interest and I’m sure (Richt) is just trying to go through it and see where he’s at with it,” Garner said. “My focus has been out on the road recruiting and also making sure I’m putting in the time enough to be in the office to get a feel for Texas A&M and what they’re doing. All our energy is there. For him, he’s having to deal with everything. I really don’t know where he is in the process but I’ve got confidence that he’s going to do a great job and be very thorough.”


Through much of the recruiting season, Georgia had taken a soft approach to signing another quarterback after the Bulldogs landed two Elite 11 passers a year ago. But that philosophy has changed in recent weeks, Garner said.

“Originally we thought we weren’t and then we re-evaluated the situation and decided it might be in our best interest to pursue one,” he said. “So I think we’re leaning toward that right now.”

The popular perception on why Georgia had a change of heart is that sophomore Logan Gray is planning a position change from quarterback to wide receiver, but while Garner admitted that was a possibility, he said the final decision hasn’t been made.

“I’m sure being in the program as long as he has, if (Gray) feels like he’s not going to be the guy, he may want to move to another position because he’s a very talented guy,” Garner said. “But that’s going to be a decision that Logan and his family will make. We’re going to give him every opportunity, but if he chooses that he’d like to move to another (position) I think Coach Richt will allow that.”


With three of Georgia’s four defensive coaches gone, it was Garner – the lone holdover – who addressed the defense before Saturday’s practice.

“Coach Garner urged us to have fun, that we can still do great things as a defense and that we will if we come in every day, be businesslike, be professional and get things done,” Curran said.

While Garner downplayed his role, saying it was a team effort, Curran said it was clear that Garner was taking on a leadership role.

“He’s the one guy left on defense, so I guess he has to stand in that leadership role defensively, and he’s doing a good job of it,” Curran said. “We all look up to him, he’s a well-respected coach, and he’s doing a great job. We’re not worried about anything but winning this game.”


-- With the departures of special teams coaches Jancek and Fabris, tight ends coach John Lilly has taken over as coordinator of meetings on speBoldcial teams and the duties for kickoffs, punt returns and FG blocks have been redistributed throughout the staff.

-- Punter Drew Butler was named to the Football Writers Association's All-America team.


Anonymous said...

With all the attention toward Kirby Smart, I don't think many people in the media have considered Richt may be giving Garner a test run in Shreveport. It will be interesting after the game to find out who is calling the defensive alignments and adjustments.

Kirby Smart would be great, but if he's as good as advertised, count on a 1-3 year stint at most. If I'm Richt, I have to consider that possibility of hiring a guy that is ready to be a HC.

A_Phiz said...


I just tell u guys what I hear and I'm not saying it's always right but word is that MR. Smart was in the building yesterday at UGA.

That's from Pollack's twitter....any word on if this is true?

Anonymous said...

Ray Goff was Recruiting Coordinator at UGA. IMO he was one of the best, if not THE best, recruitors in UGA history. But then a terrible decision was made -- he was pulled out of his element and made HC.

I see Garner in the same light. Great recruiter, but would not bring to the table what UGA needs as a DC.

Even if Kirby Smart came to UGA for only a couple of years that's a couple of years of defensive surpremacy in the SEC that we will have.

Any coach UGA hires is potentially only there a couple of years if that coach is great. This is true of any major football program.

But as a HC you have to make decisions to assemble the very best tools you have available for putting forth the best team possible.

So I say go for Coach Smart.

I truly hope that all of the chatter linking him to coming is legitimate and not just fan wishful thinking.

David Hale said...

Smart had been in Atlanta for the HS playoffs with Coach Bobo and, from what I'm told, made a friendly trip back to Athens with him. Can't say no official business took place, but from what I was told, this was just a friendly visit.

The Watch Dawg said...

Maybe he's mixing business with pleasure???

A friendly visit. Perfect cover. What's really going on is that Bobo was in on a cloak and dagger mission to get Kirby into CMR's office where he and Rodney Garner could break Kirby's spirit and get him to accept the DC job. I can't believe you don't see it, David. It's all so clear.

Carter said...

I am hoping that our next DC can transition us over to a base 3-4 defense. Obviously such a scheme works best when you have a space-eater at nose guard, heavier than average ends, and larger, pass-rushing outside linebackers.

Rennie is more suited to playing outside in a 4-3, and that’s what he will play in whenever he goes pro. That being said, I really hope he stays.

Even if we move towards adopting a 3-4 look, we will likely only be able to use it half the time until we recruit the type of personnel needed.

Next year we could have a 3-4 with Geathers at nose, Dobbs and Kiante at end, with Tyson and Abry in the rotation at both tackle and end. That way we could move Houston and Washington to OLB where both could easily rack-up double digit sacks.