Kevin Creasy, the coach at powerhouse Oakland High in Murfreesboro, Tenn., welcomed an unlikely visitor Monday morning.
It’s not that Creasy does not know Georgia Tech inside linebackers coach Andy McCollum, who has been the Yellow Jackets’ recruiter for middle and west Tennessee, among other regions. The two have a strong relationship and Tech’s roster has two of his former players, safety Kaleb Oliver and defensive lineman Justice Dingle.
However, McCollum is a coach without a known future at Tech. With Paul Johnson stepping down, there’s no guarantee that a new coach will retain McCollum or any of his nine fellow assistants. But, during a critical recruiting period, they continue to stay on the road visiting high schools, making home visits and watching playoff games.
“That’s what’s pretty impressive about guys from Georgia Tech being out on the road,” Creasy told the AJC. “Because a lot of times, guys will be running to find a job themselves. A lot of times, you’re not guaranteed a job, so the last thing they’re probably doing is recruiting, especially for someone else.”
Creasy said it isn’t the norm for assistant coaches to continue to recruit after a job change with the head coach.
“You see it occasionally, and then usually it’s the guys that really want to stick around the university where they’re at,” he said.
The compensation for coaches at this level is quite good – the lowest salary among the 10 assistants is about $185,000. But the job security can be fleeting, as it has become this winter for Johnson’s staff.
“I bet it’s tough recruiting when there’s some big questions unanswered,” Creasy said. “(McCollum) is like, yeah, but we have a great product. We have a great school.”
Three of the defensive staff – defensive coordinator Nate Woody, defensive line coach Jerome Riase and safeties coach Shiel Wood – came to Tech last offseason presumably not expecting to have to be looking for work in a year’s time.
Beyond the coaches, non-coaching staff also are facing uncertainty. It’s not uncommon for a new coach to make significant personnel changes throughout the program.
Further, there have been 18 head-coaching changes at the FBS level as of Tuesday afternoon. If that number were to be hold would be the fewest since 2014. Jobs are finite and the pool of coaches looking for work or advancement is immense. All the more reason to start hustling for a new job, but any job searches are being balanced with recruiting.
“I think it’s keep doing what you’re doing, but we’re totally understanding of the situation,” athletic director Todd Stansbury told the AJC, describing expectations for the assistants. “Ultimately, we want them to stay focused on recruiting and preparing for the bowl game, but we understand that there’s a lot of things up in the air and they obviously are concerned for themselves and their families.”
The coaches’ commitment appears to be serving Tech well.
Tech has 16 prospects committed for the 2019 signing class and is not believed to have lost any. Often, prospects committed to a school that undergoes a coaching change will withdraw the commitment, given that so much of a player’s decision to commit is based on the relationship with the coaching staff. In fact, Tech actually received its most recent commitment after Johnson’s decision became public – safety Briton Allen from Orlando, Fla.
“The school kind of recruits the school,” Johnson said. “I would expect that most of those kids will come here that are committed. There might be one or two that change their mind.”
The early signing period begins Dec. 19. Recruits will begin coming this weekend for official visits. The hope is that a new coach will be hired before then, giving the new coach and the committed players a chance to determine the best course for both sides.
“It’s easy to sell Georgia Tech, and (McCollum) feels confident that the AD will make a hire really soon,” Creasy said.
After his hire in December 2007, Johnson retained three assistants from Chan Gailey’s staff – defensive position coaches Charles Kelly, Brian Jean-Mary and Giff Smith.
“It’s like I told our staff when I talked to them, they need to continue to do their job and work,” Johnson said. “I mean, they’re under contract till July. Who knows? If they continue to work, do a good job, whoever takes the job, whoever comes in here may end up keeping them.”