ATHENS — If Mark Richt had hired half the coaches that have been rumored to be heading to Georgia in the past month, he would have put together quite the all-star staff.
Instead, December has come and gone and Bulldogs fans are no closer to learning the identity of Georgia’s new defensive coordinator after yet another semi-public dalliance with a high-profile coach.
“I’m not taking any pleasure at all in what people might be going through out there, but the only comment I’ll make on that is that, when I do have that decision made and it’s ready for public consumption, we’ll let everybody know,” Richt said when quizzed about the latest rumors involving LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. “But my goal is to get the right man for the job.”
Rumors spread quickly throughout the week that Chavis was mulling an offer from Georgia, a rumor he did little to deny Wednesday, but by Thursday he appeared close to a new deal with the Tigers to stay at LSU.
That’s becoming a tired storyline for Bulldogs fans, who watched as Bud Foster entertained a potential move to Georgia before signing a new deal at Virginia Tech, while Vic Koenning departed Kansas State, but not for Athens. He turned down an offer from Georgia and took a job at Illinois instead.
Meanwhile numerous other names — from Alabama’s Kirby Smart to NFL assistants like Dallas’ Todd Grantham — have been circulated as possible candidates, but little in the way of substantive information has been revealed — particularly from Richt.
“The bottom line is that I’m not going to make any comments until the job is done,” he said.
At this point, the one candidate Richt was willing to discuss on the record is current defensive tackles coach Rodney Garner, and that was simply to state that Garner wouldn’t be a candidate for the job.
“Rodney is not a candidate for the job, and he knows that,” Richt said in one of his few definitive statements during Thursday’s season wrap-up teleconference with media members. “We’re just still in the search.”
Garner handled the majority of the defensive coaching responsibilities this month with Georgia working shorthanded to prepare for its bowl game against Texas A&M. While the defense did allow a whopping 471 yards to the Aggies, the Bulldogs still cruised as A&M failed to capitalize with touchdowns.
After the game, Garner didn’t discuss his future but he did suggest that recruiting and the decisions of several Georgia juniors about their potential NFL future would take top billing in the coming weeks.
On those fronts, both Richt and Garner are encouraging everyone to remain patient. Garner said he spoke with safety Reshad Jones at length about waiting to see who was hired as defensive coordinator before deciding whether to enter the NFL draft, and linebacker Rennie Curran suggested he planned to do the same.
As far as recruiting, the NCAA’s current dead period has prevented significant contact between Richt and any Georgia recruits, but when contact can be made again next week, Richt said it will likely be him in some living rooms rather than a new defensive coordinator. That’s a slight departure from his previous statements in which he said he expected a hire to be made by the first week in January.
“It may not be until after the second dead period that we get our new coach and coaches out and into homes,” Richt said. “But there’ll be plenty of time to get into those homes and we’re just hoping that those young men will continue to be patient and know that my goal is to make a decision that will really affect them throughout their time at Georgia, so I want to make sure we’re doing our best job in that regard.”