CHARLOTTE – There was still a lot of noise during the end of the Georgia football team’s practice here on Friday. It was just missing one prominent voice, one which had been a constant presence for 14 years.
The Bulldogs have begun life after Mike Bobo this week at their bowl practices. Their former offensive coordinator took the Colorado State job on Monday, and days later the team is practicing with Bobo’s gameplan – but not Bobo.
“It’s definitely weird,” quarterback Hutson Mason said, adding with a smile: “Maybe a tad bit more quiet.”
Bobo’s absence isn’t the only weird thing. So is the presence of offensive line coach Will Friend, who is continuing in his job through the bowl, then joining Bobo as his offensive coordinator.
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Georgia’s assistant coaches are not being made available for interviews. Friend did come over and say goodbye to a reporter after practice ended on Friday.
Otherwise, head coach Mark Richt is trying to downplay the coaching talk and focus on the matchup with Louisville. Still, Richt had to admit that the search for a new offensive coordinator wasn’t far from his mind.
“There’s a little bit of that going through my brain right now,” he said after Friday’s practice. “But if I get too involved in that and not involved with what’s happening here, I don’t think it’s wise. But you can’t help but have, you know, messages come to you, and thoughts will go through my mind as I’ve got my head on the pillow, whether it’s going to bed or waking up. But then you’ve gotta get on track and make sure we’re doing what we need to do for this ballgame.”
For that reason, Georgia isn’t anywhere close to hiring Bobo’s replacement. It has decided that John Lilly, the tight ends coach, will call plays in Monday’s bowl game. Richt declined to discuss whether the game was any kind of job interview for Lilly, who has never been an offensive coordinator, but has been with the program since 2008.
In Georgia’s spring games it has been Lilly calling the offensive plays for the team that Bobo didn’t coach. So this won’t exactly be new to him.
Mason referred to Lilly as “quarterback-friendly.” Lilly, being a tight ends coach, is also familiar with running and passing blocking schemes, which fit into the decision, opined Mason.
“I think you’ll find a lot of guys will enjoy playing for Lilly. They love him,” Mason said. “This is a great opportunity for him and for us, and I think guys are gonna go play their butts off for him.”
Meanwhile, Bobo’s old duties as quarterbacks coach are being split by Doug Saylor, a graduate assistant, and Richt, who was the quarterbacks coach for more than a decade at Florida State before coming to Georgia in 2001.
“I’ll be there real close,” Richt said of the quarterback meeting room.
There is a bit more stability with the offensive line, thanks to Friend’s continued presence. Senior center David Andrews, who was the only lineman made available to the media on Friday, said his unit wouldn’t tune out Friend just because he’s on his way out.
“We’re real close. So we’re not gonna do that to each other,” Andrews said. “We know coach Friend wants what’s best for us. And wants us to win this football game. So he’s still out there coaching us, and we’re still out there being players and learning, and keep getting better.”
Richt and Bobo worked together for 14 years. But Richt said the sudden departure of his offensive coordinator calls for continuity in the short term.
“We run the same practice, the same scripts,” Richt said. “Mike not being here is definitely different, for sure. But we’ve got very capable coaches taking care of business right now. Very happy for Mike and his opportunity. But it’s time for us to make sure we take care of our business.
“He’s taking care of his business in Colorado, we’re taking care of ours.”