Kirby Smart: Staff continuity key to Georgia’s recent success

Georgia Bulldogs co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann coaches during their game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field, Saturday, November 19, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky. Georgia won 16-6. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia Bulldogs co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann coaches during their game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field, Saturday, November 19, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky. Georgia won 16-6. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

ATHENS — Georgia opens preseason camp Thursday.

Officially. Most of the Bulldogs have been together since early June, working out at least five days a week, practicing under coach supervision for eight hours a week and doing all they want together on a volunteer basis all summer.

Medical screenings, conditioning tests and meetings all are being conducted early next week. But Thursday is the first day that the Dogs will be put under the paces on Woodruff Practice Fields under the watchful eye of the entire coaching staff, team videographers and, at least for a brief time, media.

That will be Practice 1 of the maximum 25 that NCAA rules allows a month ahead of the first game. Georgia opens the season at home against Tennessee-Martin on Sept. 2 (6 p.m., SEC Network+).

The first couple of practices are considered “acclimation workouts” and will be conducted with no pads other than helmets. The Bulldogs will start hitting by Monday, if not sooner. The NCAA allows 18 “contact practices” in advance of the opener.

Much changed and a lot has stayed the same since Georgia wrapped up its second consecutive national championship and first undefeated season in 43 years Jan. 9. A point of pride for coach Kirby Smart espoused often at SEC Media Days on July 18 was the fact that every one of the Bulldogs’ 10 on-field assistant coaches this season was with the team last year.

“Tell me the last time a national championship team can say that,” Smart said. “The same strength-and-conditioning coach, Scott Sinclair; the same player-development coach, Jonas Jennings; and the same athletic trainer, Ron Courson, has been at our place the entire time I’ve been there. We have 26 UGA grads on our staff. Retention for us is the key to sustaining success.”

Indeed, that is unusual for a national champion, much less one that has won two back-to-back. Of course, that fact comes with the caveat that Mike Bobo’s role is new. He moves into the full-time role of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach a year after serving the Bulldogs in an offensive quality-control capacity.

todd monken-georgia football-offensive coordinator-nfl

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Bobo, of course, replaces Todd Monken, who left UGA to return to the NFL as offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. So, technically, Georgia is having to break in a new coordinator for the second consecutive season. But, like last season, when the Bulldogs simply elevated the roles of Glenn Schumann and Will Muschamp on defense, Bobo similarly will be coming out of the same daily coaching meetings and speaking the same language schematically that the players and staff were previously.

Keeping Schumann on this year’s staff proved to be a challenge for Smart. Like his predecessor Dan Lanning was after the 2021 season, Schumann was inundated with opportunities in the wake of the Bulldogs’ championship season. Most notable among those was a chance to become the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator.

Accordingly, Schumann received not one but two raises since last season. He now is one of the highest-paid DCs in college football with a salary of $1.9 million, up from $805,000 the previous year.

Schumann followed Smart to Athens from Alabama, where he assisted Smart as a defensive analyst, then a quality-control specialist.

“I rely heavily on Glenn for input on practice schedules, defensive design, thinking outside the box,” Smart said. “When I think of who can I ask on my staff that understands what we want and what we need, Glenn Schumann is that guy. He’s very talented.”

Schumann also coaches inside linebackers as a position group. Not only has he produced two Butkus Award winners and a slew of NFL prospects, but he just helped the Bulldogs gain the commitment of the No. 1 linebacker prospect in the 247Sports Composite for the class of 2024, Justin Williams of Conroe, Texas.

While there hasn’t been much change among Georgia’s on-field assistants, there has been a lot of movement within the support staff.

The Bulldogs added some high-profile coaches to the quality-control staff that will work in support of Bobo. They include two former Power 5 offensive coordinators in 63-year-old Darrell Dickey, most recently of Texas A&M, and Brandon Streeter, 46, who comes from Clemson. Each was retained in March for $70,000 salaries.

In addition to Bobo, that means there will be a lot of new voices in Georgia’s offensive meetings for quarterbacks Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton to listen to. It’s a new input for Smart, as well, though he downplays it.

“I don’t get much into the design of plays or go over there and say, ‘we need to run this,’” Smart said. “When I interviewed Todd Monken when he first came, he said, ‘I just want to be clear, are you suggesting it or are you demanding it?’ He said, ‘that’s the only issue I’ve ever had with a defensive coach.’ I thought that was good advice.”

In addition to replacing quarterback Stetson Bennett, Georgia’s offense will be looking for a new No. 1 running back as well as new starters at both tackle positions. But having All-American tight end Brock Bowers back in the fold should ease the transition for everybody involved.

No matter what, Bowers will continue to get the football.

“It’s been a pretty seamless transition,” Bowers said of the coaching change. “Coach Bobo brings a lot of the same offensive stuff to the table as coach Monken did. I’m sure he’ll be throwing in a few wrinkles here and there, but most of it’s the same.”

In all, there have been 10 hires into football support roles since the beginning of the year, while eight others resigned. Georgia also added Manrey Saint-Amour and Garrett Murphy to its quality-control group, Will Myers as director of player personnel, Lejaque Martin as player-development coordinator, Jenna Tomalski to mental-health performance and K.J. Florence and Markell Clark to the strength-and-conditioning staff.

According to a national survey by USA Today in December, the Bulldogs were spending close to $5 million a year on support staff. That does not include the $20 million that comprises the annual pay of Smart and his 10 on-field assistants.

“Again, retention is the key to sustaining success,” Smart said. “We can’t do that without a supportive administration, and we sure as hell can’t do that without a great culture of people wanting to be part of our program and pouring into our kids.”