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.
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.