Georgia keeps top coaches, looks to get stronger and faster

semerson@macon.comMarch 13, 2012 

Georgia’s football coaching staff did not get a makeover this offseason. Instead, its two most important members are getting new contracts, and one uncelebrated but critical area is getting firmed up.

Head coach Mark Richt is receiving a three-year extension, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is having two years added to his deal, UGA announced Monday. That means Richt will be signed through 2016 and Grantham through 2014.

The other details were not announced, but athletics director Greg McGarity said he wanted to make news of the extensions public.

“That’s what everybody was concerned about. We just wanted to get it out before spring practice,” McGarity said.

As for the other details, McGarity said, “We’re tweaking a lot of the information. New terminology in the contract. We’re just tweaking a few things, and once that becomes something in writing, we’ll announce that.”

McGarity said that could be a matter of weeks or months, and they weren’t in any rush.

Grantham was signed to a three-year, $750,000 deal when he was hired. Richt is being paid a base salary of $2.81 million, with additional incentives.

Richt entered last season on the proverbial hot seat after the program’s first losing season in 14 years. But the Bulldogs won the SEC East and went 10-4, and after the regular season McGarity made it official that he wanted Richt to return.

“I’ve never really changed my stance on how I feel about being at Georgia from the first day I got here,” said Richt, who will be entering his 12th season in the job. “Any guy we’re recruiting right now will (know I’ll be the coach) -- four is the most they think they’ll be around, and a lot of them think they’ll be gone in three.”

Grantham’s presence is arguably a big part of the reason Richt was able to stick around. Two years after being hired, the fiery assistant had the Bulldogs defense ranked in the top five nationally.

“Todd has done an outstanding job with our defense, and I know our staff and players look forward to his continuing leadership on that side of the ball,” Richt said in a statement.

Meantime, Richt also announced two hires to the strength and conditioning staff.

John Thomas, who spent the past two decades running Penn State’s strength program, has been hired at UGA. Thomas will work with current strength and conditioning coordinator Joe Tereshinski.

Thomas’ official title is senior associate director of strength and conditioning. While at Penn State, serving under Joe Paterno, Thomas was named the 1997 national strength and conditioning coach of the year.

“Coach T is kind of a strength, explosive, endurance guy. And John is a little bit more of a high-intensity training kind of guy,” Richt said.

Georgia also announced that it has hired a speed coach: Sherman Armstrong, who was a four-time track All-American at Illinois, as well as a two-time Olympic finalist in the 400-meter hurdles.

Armstrong started at UGA about a week ago. He had been running Vast Sports Performance, a speed training company he founded in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area.

“One of the things we really felt like we needed to bolster within our strength and conditioning program is the element of speed,” Richt said. “Now our players are going to have one of the best in the country in that regard to be in there in-house all the time training these guys. He’s already been here a week or so. The guys are kind of buzzing about the excitement ... We feel with the diversity of this strength staff we’re going to be able to fill every need.”

There were openings on the staff after Keith Gray left for the Philadelphia Eagles and Thomas Brown left to become an assistant coach at Chattanooga. John Kasay Sr., who had been with the staff on a part-time role, also left.

Former Georgia player Tony Gilbert remains on the strength staff.

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