Texas hired offensive line coach Stacy Searels away from Georgia on Thursday to take over the same position on the Longhorns’ staff.
The announcement came a day after Searels and his wife flew on a private plane from Athens to Austin.
“Georgia was a very tough place to leave, but Texas is one of those few places that I knew if they called, I had to look into it,” Searels said in a statement. “At the end of the day, the opportunity here was just too much to pass up.”
Now Georgia coach Mark Richt has an opening on his staff with signing day just 12 days away on Feb. 2. Georgia has five non-binding offensive line commitments, including offensive tackle Zach DeBell from Tarpon Springs, Fla.
Richt, running backs coach Bryan McClendon and inside linebackers coach Warren Belin visited DeBell at his house Thursday for at least two hours, he said.
DeBell said Richt expects to hire Searels’ replacement “soon” – before signing day.
“I just hopes he picks as good of a coach as the last one,” DeBell said. “I’m still committed to Georgia, but the door is cracked open. The door is not all the way closed.”
DeBell said some schools e-mailed him since Searels’ traveled to Texas on Wednesday.
He did not want to name them, but DeBell picked Georgia over Tennessee and South Carolina in July
Searels was Georgia’s offensive line coach for four seasons. He was given the title of running game coordinator in 2009.
“When you’re in this profession, you want to coach at the highest level,” Searels said. “From afar, I had always been interested in The University of Texas because I thought it was one of the premier jobs in the country. You can win a championship, you have great leadership, great players, a great pool of talent to recruit from, and I think there’s no reason you can’t win and win big at Texas, and I want to be a part of that.”
DeBell called Searels’ decision to leave “disappointing, but I totally understand why he left. I understand and I respect it.”
Texas coach Mack Brown said he had admired Searels’ work for many years when he coached previously at LSU and Appalachian State. He said he received strong recommendations about Searels from former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and Arthur Johnson, who is leaving Georgia as associate athletic director to return to Texas to work as an administrator with the football program.
“I am really excited about Stacy joining our staff,” Brown said.
“When coach Brown called, I was thrilled to hear from him,” Searels said. “His record speaks for itself, but he’s coached at some places where I’ve coached. He was at Appalachian State, and I spent seven years there, so I’ve heard stories about coach Brown for years. I knew he was a great coach.
“I’ve watched him throughout his career, and I’ve seen what he’s done here at Texas,” Searels continued. “In visiting with him, he’s got a great plan for this program. He’s a great leader, and I think he’s going to get everybody focused and going in the right direction, and the future’s going to be bright. I’m so happy he asked me to be a part of this, and I’m ready to get started.”
Searels was tied for the third-highest-paid assistant on the Georgia staff, earning $290,000, behind only coordinators Todd Grantham and Mike Bobo. That doesn’t include a bowl bonus this year worth $19,400. A retention bonus of $45,000 would have kicked in if he stayed through February 2012.
Georgia’s offensive line was viewed as having underperformed during stretches of Searels’ time at Georgia. The Bulldogs finished 10th in the Southeastern Conference in rushing this year despite having a veteran offensive line.
This is the first change on Richt’s coaching staff since the end of the Bulldogs’ 6-7 season. Richt announced a shakeup atop his strength and conditioning program prior to the Liberty Bowl when he named Joe Tereshinski as director.
“Probably the biggest thing to overcome is leaving the players,” Searels said. “You build a relationship with them, they’re good kids, they work hard, they’re outstanding people, and I love every one of them. That was the hardest thing – to leave them. I can’t say enough good things about Georgia. I think they have a bright future, and it was awesome to work there.”
NOTE: Eight Georgia football players have been invited to take part in the NFL scouting combine next month. Offensive linemen Clint Boling and Josh Davis, fullback Shaun Chapas, receiver A.J. Green, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, linebackers Justin Houston and Akeem Dent and cornerback Vance Cuff will work out and interview with representatives from NFL teams in Indianapolis. The combine is Feb. 23 to March 1.