ATHENS — It’s a measure of the situation that Brian Schottenheimer inherits that his job interview didn’t just include his future boss. It also included some of his future employees.
The offense of the Georgia football team is in pretty good shape, which is why the coordinator job was open. So in replacing Mike Bobo, who got the head coaching job at Colorado State, Georgia was looking for someone qualified enough to not mess it all up.
Schottenheimer passed the test in his interview Tuesday, winning over head coach Mark Richt and apparently, the three remaining offensive assistants. And when the new offensive coordinator was introduced to the media Friday, he made it clear that he doesn’t want to change a whole lot.
“It’s about sustaining that success. That’s the goal; that’s the objective,” Schottenheiemer said of a Georgia offense that led the SEC in scoring average this past season and has set program records during the past three seasons. “The good thing about me is I’m coming into a situation where there’s a bunch of really good coaches on the staff.
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“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. I think philosophically, that’s one of the things Coach and I see in this program. We see things the same way, the pro-style offense. We’re going to run the football. Obviously, that’s a big part of what we’re doing. It was really kind of an easy fit, an exciting fit because not a lot of teams in college football are doing it that way.”
Richt, who said two weeks ago that nothing much will change schematically, was looking for someone with a pro-style background. There aren’t many of those left at the college level, he pointed out Friday. Luckily there are at the NFL level, where Schottenheimer has been calling plays for nine years.
Richt said only one other candidate was interviewed in person. He didn’t name him, but former Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was widely reported to be a candidate. There were phone conversations with a few other candidates, Richt said. Schottenheimer’s name first “surfaced,” according to Richt, while the team was at bowl practice in Charlotte, North Carolina, through a third-party contact.
Schottenheimer’s experience in the NFL was one aspect (Richt didn’t sound worried about St. Louis’ offensive numbers in recent years, when starting quarterback Sam Bradford was hurt). But when Richt and Schottenheimer talked Tuesday, in an interview that lasted about four or five hours, they bonded through their shared offensive philosophies.
“Just really having a guy who was again very similar in thought, similar in scheme, similar in philosophy,” Richt said. “We run a pro-style attack, and a lot of teams across the country are spreading and doing a lot of zone read with quarterback run and protecting certain ways. That’s just not really been what we’re about. We’re still very serious about running the ball a certain way and having the diversity in the passing game to be as sophisticated as anybody in the country with our protections and with our route concepts.”
Why did Schottenheimer leave the NFL for Georgia? He’s getting a three-year contract that a source said is worth well more than $1 million annually. But Schottenheimer said he had long wanted to get into the SEC, having played quarterback at Florida. He talked with Nick Saban three years ago about the offensive coordinator job at Alabama but elected to take the job in St. Louis. He interviewed for the Vanderbilt head coaching job last year, which he didn’t get.
“This is a place (Georgia) I had obviously been monitoring,” Schottenheimer said. “You see a guy like Mike gets a chance to move on, and it was something that certainly as I’ve been watching college football and watching guys compete against Coach Richt and when I was at Florida.”
Richt said the “guts” of Georgia’s offense will stay the same, although there could always be changes via Schottenheimer’s own expertise. There will still be some minor concept changes, but Richt hopes for those to generally be improvements, rather than messing up the continuity.
In fact, while Richt was open to changing the offensive terminology, Schottenheimer was more open to adapting to the terminology Georgia has used.
“He felt like maybe it was easier for one person to learn it than 60,” Richt said.
Then there’s the recruiting adjustment. Schottenheimer, 41, last worked in college in 1999, and as he noted, the process and technology of recruiting have changed a lot since then. Richt said he is comfortable that Schottenheimer’s personality will help. Schottenheimer spent Thursday night talking to a few offensive recruits over the phone, and he already has passed his NCAA required test.
“Recruiting is obviously the biggest difference. Football is football,” Schottenheimer said. “The recruiting part of it I’m really excited about. I mean, really excited about.”
There’s also work to do with the players he inherits. Schottenheimer met quarterback Brice Ramsey just a short time before Friday’s news conference. Asked about the quarterbacks, Schottenheimer preferred to wait until he has had more time to study them.
He did hear this week from someone else of interest as Bobo texted him, the former coach reaching out to the new one.
“It shows the type of person he is, saying, ‘Good luck. You’ll love it over there,’ ” Schottenheimer said. “Again, getting to know the guys has been great, and I look forward to those being long and meaningful relationships.”