Kirby Smart looks to keep UGA going with four new coaches

To exploreNolan Smith remains one of the most active Georgia Bulldogs

The new guys replace coaches who left to seek opportunities elsewhere following Georgia’s run to the 2021 national championship. Defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach Dan Lanning became Oregon’s head coach; passing game coordinator/receivers coach Cortez Hankton held the same position at LSU; defensive backfield coach Jahmile Addae is now in Miami; and associate head coach/offensive line coach Matt Luke retired.

In most cases, the moves were expected. In Luke’s case, that was not the case.

It’s the biggest change that Smart, now entering his seventh season as Georgia coach, has absorbed. He’s changed every year, with a previous record of three coaches leaving after the 2019 season. Running backs coach Dell McGee is the only assistant who has always been with Smart.

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Either way, the Bulldogs have to deal with the cards that have been dealt to them. So far, Smart has done a good job.

Here is a brief overview of the new faces:

  • Fran Brown, DB Coach: Football insiders claim Brown was a home run hire. Considered a quick prospect in the coaching ranks, Brown coached at Temple and Baylor before joining Greg Schiano’s Rutgers staff in 2020. The Scarlet Knights recorded their highest number of takeaways since 2012 this first season and have produced four All-Big Ten DBs since then. His recruiting presence in the Northeast, where Georgia has increasingly done business, is expected to be significant.
  • Passing Game Coordinator/WR Coach Bryan McClendon: If trading Addae to Miami for McClendon to come to Georgia was considered a trade, then the Bulldogs got the better end of the deal, and by a big margin. At this point in his career, McClendon’s acumen as an offensive coach caught up with his reputation as an elite scout. He was offensive co-coordinator under Mario Cristobal in Miami. Todd Monken will continue to call offensive shots for the Dogs, but McClendon’s contribution – coupled with his expertise working with the wide – should greatly benefit the Bulldogs.
  • Offensive line coach Stacy Searels: It will take some time to gauge the effect of Luke’s sudden departure. The former Ole Miss head coach did a fantastic job guiding an injury-hit offensive line to the national championship. But Smart couldn’t have found a more experienced and capable replacement in a short time like he did at Searels. A 30-year veteran as a coach, Searels has produced 25 offensive linemen in the NFL, including 11 NFL draft picks. A former Auburn player whose previous workouts include Georgia, LSU, Texas, North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech, he’s a familiar face in Southern recruiting and knows his way around. With the Bulldogs, he inherits arguably the best group he has ever coached.
  • Outside linebackers coach Chidera Uzo-Diribe: It is unfair to compare Uzo-Diribe to the coach he replaces. Lanning’s seven-year rise from graduate assistant to coordinator to Power Five head coach may be unprecedented. But Uzo-Diribe also came out of nowhere at the top level of college football. Just four years ago, the former Colorado star passer was a graduate assistant at Kansas. Since then, he has been a full-time assistant at SMU, TCU and now UGA. The youngest member of the Georgia staff at 29, Uzo-Diribe will bring a youthful enthusiasm and energy to the job that the players are sure to identify with. Whether he’s a Lanning-level X-and-O genius remains to be seen.

Of course, the most profound change to Georgia’s coaching staff will be the promotion of Will Muschamp to co-defensive coordinator. A two-time head coach and career coordinator, Muschamp’s considerable presence was felt last year as he rose from analyst to on-field assistant within months.

“I think when you have continuity and people understand what the expectations are, it helps in a lot of areas. I think it helps with recruiting. I think it helps in relations with the players. I think it helps with knowing the system.”

– Alabama Coach Nick Saban

Although he was technically replacing Scott Cochran as special teams coordinator, “Coach Boom” often overtook Lanning’s defensive groups with loud off-the-cuff interjections. With Muschamp sharing the coordinator title with inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann, it’s hard to imagine anyone wielding more influence on defense than him.

His only rival in this department will likely be Smart himself.

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