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Kirby Smart knows coaching change is inevitable in Georgia
Within hours of winning a national championship, a hoarse Kirby Smart was talking to Rece Davis. He wasn’t talking about Kelee Ringo’s interception or Adonai Mitchell’s touchdown pass.
He spoke gravely about his growing concerns about the sport of college football. And while he didn’t mention Matt Luke by name, after the Georgia offensive line coach quit this week to spend more time with his family, Smart’s comments seem to hint at the decision. taken by Luke.
“It worries me, I’m going to be very honest with you, where college football is going,” Smart told Davis. “The first concern I have is that the best leaders and the best men to run it and organize it are leaving. Because you said relentless, the best coaches are going to the NFL because they spend more time with their family. They don’t want to be part of NIL, portal, constant recruiting. Go live it and see how long you want to do it.
“It’s not what it used to be. I see coaches left and right who have come out of this game and are done. Great leaders, they don’t want to be part of it. This worries me for the future of it.
For Luke, he spent two years in Georgia, then more than 20 seasons at Ole Miss, Tennessee, Duke and Murray State. He rose straight from the game and into the coaching ranks. He had been sentenced to life in sport.
But with all the rapid changes in college football, even since Luke’s arrival in Athens, work is weighing on you and your family. On several occasions this season, Smart has spoken openly about the sacrifices he and his fellow assistants have made with their own families in order to help recruit the next wave of Bulldogs.
Related: Matt Luke resignation signs times, demanding nature of Kirby Smart’s Georgia program
Add in new name, image and likeness laws and the ability for every varsity athlete to transfer at least once and roster management becomes much more difficult. That’s before you take into account the excellence that victory in a championship requires.
Georgia has lost four assistant coaches this offseason. Dan Lanning was hired to lead his program in Oregon. Luke resigned as Georgia offensive line coach to be with his family.
“Last, and most importantly, I want to thank my wife Ashley, my sons Harrison and Cooper, and my entire family for their love and support over the years,” Luke said in a statement upon his departure. “The opportunity for us to be together excites me more about this next chapter in our lives.”
Cortez Hankton accepted the wide receiver position at LSU and Jahmile Addae is now the defensive backs coach at Miami. Both of these coaches had various reasons for leaving, but it’s worth pointing out that both coaches are moving closer to where they grew up. Hankton is originally from Louisiana and has many ties to the state, while the same goes for Addae and South Florida.
The coaching hires Georgia has made this offseason also reflect that same philosophy in some ways. Bryan McClendon and Mike Bobo are coached across the country, but Georgia’s two most high-profile hires bring the two assistants back to where they used to play and also coach.
This amount of turnover is the prize that comes with winning a championship. Players are moving on — Georgia is sending a record 14 players to the NFL next week — and coaches are getting bigger jobs. Alabama deals with it every offseason. Now Georgia is doing the same.
So how are Smart and Georgia adapting to these new circumstances impacting the program and the players?
Related: How Georgia football juggles the challenges of modern recruitment
“I think we are constantly evolving. I can’t say that we have changed from this year to last year. I just think it’s subtle,” Smart said. “The way things are going, you’re going to have to keep doing it.”
Smart spent much of his National Signing Day press conference talking about the importance of the fit. With the first 18 registered in college football, it’s clear that Georgia is looking for a specific type of person, in addition to talented players.
The same can be said when it comes to coaches. Both Fran Brown and Chidrea Uzo-Diribie are excellent recruiters. It’s the name of the game in college football. Moreover, both are younger in terms of age and numbers to develop in Georgia over the next few years. They won’t be in and out and on the next job.
While it’s understandable that one might be concerned about this level of change within the coaching staff, it’s also worth remembering which coaches ended up staying on the staff. Running backs coach Dell McGee and inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann will return for their seventh season with the program. They are the only two original on-field assistants from Smart’s first team who are still on the team.
Defensive line coach Tray Scott is also returning for Georgia, making it his sixth season in Athens. Todd Hartley, a tight ends coach who, like McClendon and Bobo, graduated from the University of Georgia, will be back for his fourth season.