Georgia recruited strong despite coaching turnover

Georgia finally hired its fourth and final defensive assistant coach Thursday. It’s notable that it came a day after the Bulldogs completed a recruiting class ranked in the top 10 nationally.

Georgia announced Thursday it had hired Mike Ekeler, most recently of USC, to coach its inside linebackers. The Bulldogs’ other three hires — Jeremy Pruitt as defensive coordinator and secondary coach, Kevin Sherrer as strongside linebackers, star and nickel-back coach and Tracy Rocker as defensive line and weakside linebackers coach — all came during the critical portion of recruiting in mid-January.

But the fact that none of the Bulldogs’ major defensive recruits wavered is a testament to the efforts of coach Mark Richt and his remaining staff and to the pragmatism of high-profile recruits such as Lorenzo Carter and Lamont Gaillard.

“Every kid that came here came because it’s Georgia and Mark Richt,” said Pruitt, who downplayed the credit he received for saving the Bulldogs’ class. “You never recruit to an assistant coach. You recruit to the university and the head coach. I think that’s the reason kids choose a school.”

That’s a wise strategy. According to, a website that tracks recruiting and advises prospects, if a prospect signed to play college football at an FBS school in 2009, there is a 68 percent chance he ended up playing for a new head coach, an 86 percent chance he played for a new offensive coordinator and an 88 percent chance that he played for a new defensive coordinator.

The website offers another eye-opening stat: From 2009-12, only eight FBS programs (7 percent) had the same head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator all four years.

The point? Don’t sign with a school to play for a certain position coach or coordinator.

“The institution has to be a huge part of the process,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “Coaches, if they want to get better or move up, they’re probably going to leave. So at the end of the day you have to fall in love with where you’re going to go to school. That’s why we get professors involved, academic support, trainers, everybody.”

Georgia plays up the longevity it has on the staff. Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have been together on the staff all 14 years. Conversely, Georgia has had three defensive coordinators since 2010. Defensive line coach Chris Wilson, who just left UGA for USC, is on his 13th job in 22 years.

That is not to say assistant coaches aren’t important. They play a huge role on the front lines of the recruiting process, building the initial relationships and providing the primary conduit of communication. And Georgia’s assistant coaches are very good at recruiting.

According to the annual rankings compiled by, released Thursday, Georgia currently has on its staff the past four national recruiters of the year. Running backs coach Bryan McClendon won that honor this year, while Pruitt won it at FSU in 2012 and ’13 and Bobo was rated the country’s No. 1 recruiter in 2011.

“You have to have a passion for the process,” McGarity said. “That includes identifying who the pieces are to your puzzle, establishing a relationship with the person and parents and guardians and you have to have relationships with the coaches. So you have to be a people person. If you’re not a people person you’ll really struggle in the profession, because so much of it is just based on relationships.”