Georgia football raids rivals for two assistant coaches

Then-Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley met with media members pre-Sugar Bowl on Sunday, December 29, 2019, in New Orleans.  Curtis Compton/

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Then-Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley met with media members pre-Sugar Bowl on Sunday, December 29, 2019, in New Orleans. Curtis Compton/

ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart appears to have addressed the latest openings on his coaching staff by raiding the staffs of two of the Bulldogs’ rivals.

James Coley served as wide receivers coach at South Carolina for just 45 days before Smart convinced him to return to Georgia to coach in the same capacity. Coley, 50, was an original member of Smart’s first staff in 2016 and rose through the ranks to offensive coordinator before a demotion after the 2019 season led him to Texas A&M. Contract terms stipulate that Coley will owe South Carolina a buyout of $450,000, according to the State newspaper.

On Sunday, Smart hired Georgia Tech assistant coach Josh Crawford as running backs coach. Smart had interviewed Crawford for his receivers’ position last week but went back to him as a backfield coach after Dell McGee accepted Georgia State’s head coaching job.

“We are excited to have Coley and his family back in Athens,” Smart said in a statement Monday.  “He is a tremendous teacher and leader of young men. His previous experience on our staff will make this a seamless transition. As for Josh, I’ve had the pleasure of observing his career unfold over the years and have been consistently impressed. His hard work and the significant impact he’s had coaching football in our state have earned him this opportunity.”

Coley and Crawford are the third and fourth assistant coach acquisitions Smart has made during the 2024 offseason. He hired Travaris Robinson from Alabama to replace Will Muschamp as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach and Donte Williams from USC to succeed Fran Brown as cornerbacks coach. Brown was appointed head coach of Syracuse in December.

Coley succeeds Bryan McClendon, who left the Bulldogs after two seasons to become receivers coach for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coley had been at Texas A&M since 2020 but found himself out of work after Jimbo Fisher was fired as head coach.

Coley came to UGA from Miami to coach receivers for Smart in 2016. A Miami native, he quickly validated his reputation as an exceptional recruiter. But after being appointed Georgia’s offensive coordinator in 2019, the Bulldogs’ offensive production dipped to just over 30 points per game. Following his demotion to tight ends coach, Coley joined the Aggies.

Crawford was a somewhat unexpected hired as a running backs coach. Receivers have been his specialty in the college ranks. A long-time high school assistant coach in the state, Crawford coached receivers at Western Kentucky and for the Yellow Jackets. However, he played running back at Morehouse before earning masters degrees at Georgia (2012) and Valdosta State (2020). As a high school coach, Crawford worked at Colquitt County, Valdosta, Lee County, Jefferson County and Greater Atlanta Christian. He has been an offensive coordinator at both the high school and collegiate level.