No hard feelings

Fifth time’s the charm, I guess.

In the end, Rodney Garner felt like he could no longer ignore his alma mater’s calls for help.

Garner, Georgia’s assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach for the past 12 years, accepted an offer to handle the same jobs at Auburn, where he played offensive line and started his coaching career. He will also receive a significant salary increase from the $300,000 a year he earned with the Bulldogs.

I confess I got fooled by the Tracy Rocker stories.  I didn’t see where there was a place for Coach Garner on the Plains, especially after Malzahn announced he was bringing his offensive line coach at Arkansas State with him.  It turns out that Malzahn was saving a place at the table for Georgia’s longest-serving assistant coach.

There’s a lot of honor in that service.  Garner deserves our gratitude for holding things together during the transition from Donnan to Richt.  He’s been an excellent recruiter and he’s got plenty of NFL defensive linemen to show for his ability to develop players as a position coach.

That doesn’t mean it’s been a one-way street for him in Athens.  Richt has been steadfast in his support – just ask any of his defensive coordinators about that.  Garner’s many previous passes at job offers from other schools haven’t merely been tolerated, but essentially supported by Richt as a means of getting better financial terms from the bean counters at Butts-Mehre.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’m not going to fault someone for his ambitions and Garner’s no exception to that rule.

But I agree with Groo that something feels different this time around.

It’s a lateral move in terms of job titles, but it might’ve just been time for both parties to go their separate ways. Georgia didn’t seem to put up as much of a fight as they did in 2009 when Lane Kiffin tried to pry Garner to Knoxville.

And while Garner is totally gracious about the defensive staff he’s leaving, it sure doesn’t sound like Todd Grantham is going to let any dust gather in Garner’s former office.

In a text to UGASports.com, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he will be the person responsible for hiring Garner’s replacement, and that the hire will be for a new defensive line coach.

Grantham said he will not assume the duties of coaching the Bulldog defensive line and will hire a coach solely to coach that position. He said coaches from “all levels” will be considered for the job and there is no timetable on when the hire might be made.

“It will be a good hire, just like Kirk (Olivadotti) and Scott (Lakatos),” Grantham said.

So what conclusions should we draw from this?

  • Richt feels pretty good about how Georgia recruits.  If there’s anything remarkable about this move, it’s the timing, as we’re within sixty days of signing day.  And yet there were no signs of a panic to keep Garner’s departure from happening.  That tells me that Bobo and Grantham are doing fine on the recruit chasing side of the fence and that the Daryl Jones hire has been a success.  It probably doesn’t hurt that in John Lilly, Richt’s already got a coach on staff who’s got plenty of successful experience as a recruiting coordinator.
  • Garner is quick to say his decision wasn’t motivated by money, but you’ll have to excuse me if I’m skeptical about that.  It’s a lateral hire.  He’s going to a place with two defensive co-coordinators and a head coach who’s an offensive guru with an offensive coordinator on staff.  He won’t be moving up any time soon there.  Sure, he can say it’s about going home, but it’s not like Mama hasn’t called him before only to be turned down.  I will be very interested in seeing the terms of the contract he’s signed, because I think it will give us some indication of how far McGarity is willing to go with jobs below the coordinator level.  (In fact, I suspect it will be very interesting to compare Garner’s deal with Bobo’s next contract.)
  • It will be worth watching how the dynamics of in state recruiting play out in the wake of this.  Tennessee, you may recall, did well recruiting in Georgia while Garner was on staff there and not so well after his departure.  Obviously, it’s not the same situation now, but seeing who gets kids out of places like, say, Carver Columbus in the next few years should make for some interesting discussions.
  • Okay, one snarky observation:  at least Garner won’t have bowl preparation to interfere with recruiting for the next couple of weeks.

And to think some of you believe that nobody wants any of Richt’s assistants.

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UPDATE:  I did find one somewhat sour note in this Emerson column.

Grantham and Garner got along publicly and there weren’t any major fissures reported behind the scenes. But sources have said the two occasionally butted heads over recruiting, whether that means offering certain recruits, or the timing of doing so.

Interesting.  Wonder if this was one of those cases.

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51 Comments

Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Georgia Football, Recruiting

51 responses to “No hard feelings

  1. Dawgfan Will

    Concerning your second bullet: Perhaps one of the factors at work here is Garner’s age. I realize he’s only, what, 45 or so, but he’s been stuck at the same level for a long time while other, younger, coaches have been moving up the ladder. Maybe he just figures that, if he’s not going to get a shot a DC, he might as well do what he’s doing for his alma mater.

    Or maybe, as Lonestar put it, he’s not just doing it money; he’s doing it for a shit-load of money.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      The other thing….while everyone in the world seems to think that Auburn will be down for a good while let me voice the opposite view. Most of the O was recruited during the time Malzahn was OC and specifically for his offense. The Auburn D really wasn’t THAT bad last season–the O just couldn’t move the ball at all or stay on the field. Look for the Barners to bounce right back with a winning season next year and then be a contender for the SEC West the following year a la FU in the East this season.

      • stoopnagle

        They’ve recruited well and were really young last year. I don’t think they’re going to suck forever, but I hope so.

  2. heyberto

    Thanks Rodney, you will be missed. I am a little puzzled by it, maybe he was just ready for a change after 15 years or so, and AU, with the right staff is the only lateral move he’d really make.. Either way, I wish him well when he’s not facing us or when he’s recruiting guys we’re not. Helluva guy.

  3. CrawforDawg

    I too, wish him well. He gave us many years of commendable service. Now, having said that, my excitement level will continue to rise as I await Todd Grantham’s selection as his replacement. We may lose a few recruits but we won’t lose a beat. Go Dawgs!

  4. ScoutDawg

    NO mention or thanks to CMR in his statement AT ALL. Strange.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      “Not so fast my friend.”
      “It’s difficult because you’re going to a rival school,” Garner said. “Mark has been very good to me and I want people to know that. People need to recognize the body of work that Mark has done here. Here’s a guy who has been at Georgia 12 years and he’s gone to the (SEC) championship game five times. Prior to him coming there, they’d never been to that game. I look at what he’s done there for 12 years, the way he’s done it, the way he’s won with class and integrity, and he’s just been a great guy to work for. So it’s hard leaving him.”

      • ScoutDawg

        Thanks for setting me straight, that is a great statement from him showing a lot of class. Remarkable in a barner.

      • Dawgfan Will

        I wish Garner no ill will whatsoever, but considering the situation he is leaving vs. the situation he is entering, I think he may come to regret his decision.

  5. Stoopnagle

    Below co-ordinator level? But RG was a coordinator, right?

    • He has exactly the same titles at Auburn that he had at Georgia.

      • DawgPhan

        wasnt he co-head coach or something like that here?

      • stoopnagle

        Yeah, I get that, but I thought that recruiting co-ordinator was a co-ordinator position. I have a vague memory of an article during the off-season which stated Richt views the recruiting co-ordinator position on level with offensive/defensive co-ordinators.

        So, then, RG’s contract at AU won’t really tell us anything about where McGarity will go on a non-co-ordinator position. Unless I’m wrong and there’s only two co-ordinators and recruiting co-ord is just an empty title.

  6. Uglydawg

    Remember a while back when Hines Ward expressed intrest at helpling Georgia? Man, if there was some way to get him on the recruiting trail.

  7. Brandon

    This ain’t good, Auburn historically is the out of state school that is best suited to poach in state talent because they are in the SEC and sit right on our border, one ill turn deserves another plainsmen, hope we get a good replacement and I have no inside info but after losing his position coach now I suppose any chance (to the extent their ever was any) of Kwame Geathers returning for next year is gone.

  8. fuelk2

    Senator, you willing to rank him as a recruiter relative to our other staff members now that he’s gone?

    • I’m not an insider, but I’d say his body of work stands up as well as anyone’s has in Athens.

      • fuelk2

        I agree with you in that he’s done some great things in his time in Athens and should be respected for that. I just get the inclination that the Bobo’s, Lilly’s, and Grantham’s of the world might be moving the needle a bit more these days. I think CRG might have been more valuable during the time that CVG was here because my understanding was that recruiting wasn’t exactly his thing.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          +1. Other than recruiting I felt that Garner was …well…meh as a DL coach. There are better DL coaches out there and, on balance, this will hopefully work out as a plus for the Dawgs.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      I don’t know where the Senator would place him, I would say 4th when he left. He was the reason Fulmer pooched so many out of Atlanta and why uT tried to snag him in 2009. CRG made a few jet trips to Knoxvegas but said no. Lateral move….. takes advantage of the assistant coach $$$$ arms race and triples his salary. He outlasted Porntache but not CTG. Can’t blame CTG for wanting his own DL coach. I would think that if Georgia felt like they needed him they would have found a way to keep him.

  9. zdawg15

    That should open a spot for Hines.

  10. Mudcat's Impala....

    CMR & CTG will reach out to former Bulldog & ‘94 permanent “D”team captain Travis Jones. He’s coached DL in the NFL for 8 years & is supposedly currently unhappy on NoLa…. Bring Travis home CMR…

  11. Ubiquitous Ga Alum

    Kind of think there are 3-4 good reasons why Garner bolted … as opposed to 4-3 reasons

    Line coaches look brilliant when they have a Clowney, Pollack, etc speed rushing off the edge and hammering the QB … Linebacker coaches look brilliant when they have a Jarvis Jones or Jordan Jenkins doing it.

  12. JaxDawg

    Thank you and goodbye. Time for new blood. It’s not like Auburn hasn’t made a living recruiting West GA in the past, been doing it for 50 years. Big deal. Great programs move on, I believe we will, and soon.

  13. Go Dawgs!

    Well, crap.

    Who knows, maybe y’all are right and Garner is better suited to the 4-3 and we’ll recruit just fine without him. We’ll see. All I know is that McGarity had better be watching. Our rivals are paying more and more money to assistant coaches and Georgia has to be willing to come off of some of its bank roll to attract and retain top level coaching talent.

    • Otto

      Relax it isn’t the end of the world.

      I’m not worried about recruiting, sure a recruit or 2 may stray. CMR & CTG have contacts to land another good hire. The system on the D side of the ball is working well. Some say Garner didn’t fit the 3-4 well others say he did. Either way I thank him for his work and his recruits. Kids will come to a system that is working especially to a town like Athens with a team in a power conference.

  14. Bulldog Joe

    Enjoyed having him here. He held things together during the last head coaching change and is a big reason why the 2002 SEC flag flies at Sanford Stadium.

    But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

  15. Ginny

    Excited to see who Grantham goes after and how our defense will look with all Grantham hires.

  16. Macallanlover

    Ditto to what most have said here, I appreciate what CRG did in his time in Athens, he was a valuable asset early in Richt’s tenure but we are well positioned now to keep things moving forward with, or without him. If he feels he has a batter situation awaiting in Auburn, I have no problems with his decision. Except for anything that hurts the Dawgs, I wish him well. I now look forward to seeing what Grantham does to bring in someone who can add to the DL’s performanace. I am confident our recruiting is in good hands now and we are no longer dependent on any one man assistant coach to get us in the doors.

    • Cojones

      I think you hit the nail on the head about dependency on one asst coach. We already have hired a recruiting coordinator or such in an admin position, haven’t we?

  17. WF dawg

    Who’s going to host Thanksgiving dinner now?

  18. AlphaDawg

    Does his new position come with a towel and hat?

  19. Really glad to see him gone. Comments and scuttlebutt that have come out always made it sound like he was a serious cancer in the program.

    Also, our D-line has really underperformed for a long time.

    Time to get someone more talented and better with the 3-4 in there.

  20. Just curious. Is there a code of honor ( a veritable “noncompete clause) that precludes a transferring coach from poaching recruits? Or is it a tiger eat dawg world?

    • The Lone Stranger

      All questions of tact and “gentleman’s agreements” should henceforth be forwarded to the esteemed Bret Bielema in care of Hogs Central, Fayetteville Chapter.