This time last year, Georgia‚Äôs football staff had to recruit against the backdrop of swirling speculation about the future of coach Mark Richt.
Now, after a 10-win season that included a trip to the Southeastern Conference Championship game, tight ends coach John Lilly made sure that prospects the Bulldogs were targeting knew not only that was Richt back but so was his entire staff.
He printed out an online story found at coachingsearch.com to share that Georgia was one of only 16 coaching staffs in the Football Bowl Subdivision that returned all nine assistants from last year.
‚ÄúGuys get so hung up on, ‚ÄòI want to go play for this coach,‚Äô‚Äù Lilly said.
The last time Georgia‚Äôs staff returned intact was 2004 after another trip to the SEC title game.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs good,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs just good; it‚Äôs comforting to know that everybody knows what they‚Äôre doing. You go in the staff meetings and you don‚Äôt have to re-explain much philosophically. We had our hideaway (preseason meeting) and we talked about everything just to remind ourselves what we‚Äôre about, what we‚Äôre doing and why we‚Äôre doing it. It‚Äôs nice when you don‚Äôt have to sit there and explain everything even to just one guy. It changes the dynamic of the meeting.‚Äù
Georgia had to replace two coaches following a 6-7 season in 2010 when offensive line coach Stacy Searels left for Texas and inside linebackers coach Warren Belin took a job with the NFL‚Äôs Carolina Panthers. Will Friend came from the University of Alabama-Birmingham to replace Searels, and Kirk Olivadotti left the Washington Redskins to take over for Belin.
The year before that, Richt fired his entire defensive staff except for defensive line coach Rodney Garner.
This year, Georgia and Mississippi State are the only staffs in the SEC without some turnover.
‚ÄúEverybody‚Äôs kind of on the same wavelength,‚Äù Lilly said. ‚ÄúOffensively, we have a room of guys that everybody has different ideas, but at the end of the day, the same philosophy in how to be successful. Obviously, Coach Richt as the head coach sets the tone and Mike (Bobo) as the offensive coordinator sets the tone offensively. The tight ends are getting that message from me. The longer you‚Äôre together, the more that room is together. I think Will came in last year and I think it was a pretty seamless transition from Stacy to him. Both are really good coaches, good guys and believe the same thing we believe ‚Äî you‚Äôve got to be physical in this league, you‚Äôve got to be able to run the football, you‚Äôve got to be balanced, you‚Äôve got to figure out ways to get your playmakers the ball.‚Äù
The lack of staff movement came during an offseason that saw Richt agree to a new deal that keeps him under contract through 2016, which could provide a measure of security to his staff.
‚ÄúI hope so,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs what I‚Äôve always been able to have at my time at Georgia. I think when they know what my intentions are as far as where I want to be, I think it helps.‚Äù
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham also got two years added to his deal and a $75,000 raise.
‚ÄúI think that continuity is really critical,‚Äù Grantham said.
He played and coached at Virginia Tech, where Frank Beamer had little turnover on his staff.
‚ÄúI think continuity in your program allows you to continue to improve and have success,‚Äù Grantham said.
For the first time in their careers, inside linebackers Mike Gilliard and Christian Robinson go into a season with the same position coach they had the previous year.
They were coached by John Jancek as freshmen, Belin as sophomores and Olivadotti as juniors and now seniors.
‚ÄúWe have a great relationship,‚Äù Gilliard said. ‚ÄúEvery time I have a problem with the defense, he just calls me to talk about it and correct me. This is the first year I‚Äôve had a position coach back to back. I‚Äôm definitely blessed to have coach O as my position coach.‚Äù
Running backs coach Bryan McClendon said he senses more camaraderie with the coaches and believes staff continuity played a part in all but one underclassman who considered the NFL choosing to return this season.
‚ÄúI think it did have a direct correlation to a lot of those kids staying,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúNot many coaches jumped ship or got out or went and found something better. They stayed here and then the kids saw that and that trickled down to those guys. When you have all around stability with your program then that helps, too.‚Äù