ATHENS, Ga. - The Bulldogs have unveiled all of the duties each football coach through the upcoming season. Spoiler: you won't find "special teams coordinator" among the titles.
Though head coach Mark Richt did mention there would be some tweaking of the structure of his coaching staff once everyone was officially on board, the changes have naturally been more on the defensive side of the ball than anywhere else, whereas special teams remains basically unchanged.
In addition to calling plays, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will coach the defensive backs, which he also did while an assistant coach at Alabama. Former Tennessee Titans assistant Tracy Rocker will assume the title of defensive line coach, and the recently hired Mike Ekeler will coach the inside linebackers.
But it's the specifics that are interesting: Rocker will coach all three positions along the line (weak end, strong end and nose guard) as well as the "will" or weak-side linebacker position, which often acts as a designated pass rusher in the 3-4 scheme.
“We’re going to make it more of a front-four situation with coach Rocker,” Richt said. “What we have on that will linebacker position has really been a rush guy. He did a two-point stance. A lot of people put that guy in a three-point stance. But it’s very natural to have him take on that fourth guy.”
Without a doubt, Rocker brings an excellent veteran coaching and recruiting presence to the Bulldogs. Moreover, much of that experience (Auburn from 2009-11, Ole Miss and Arkansas before that) has come in the all-powerful SEC, and he'll have his share of young talent to work with and mold in signees Lorenzo Carter and Lamont Gaillard.
Ekeler will coach the two inside linebacker positions - the same title he held at Southern California last season. He will also be responsible for the team's kickoff, punting and field goal units on special teams, while tight ends coach John Lilly will retain a significant role on with both kickoff and punt return units.
In essence, the special teams duties are not all that different from last season when Lilly and former assistant Kirk Olivadotti split responsibilities, and it likely leaves more than a few skeptical if Georgia can put a thoroughly atrocious year on special teams in the rearview.
And then there's Kevin Sherrer, a former assistant at Hoover High School under Pruitt, who will coach the "sam" linebackers as well as the "star" linebacker position, which essentially functions as a nickelback on passing downs.
Additionally, running backs coach Bryan McClendon, honored as National Recruiter of the Year by 247sports and Scout.com for his efforts on the trail, was given the title of recruiting coordinator.
"This restructuring I believe will give us the best chance to win from a recruiting and special teams standpoint," Richt said. "Our recruiting effort will be strengthened and our special teams will be improved as well."
The shakeup on defense sounds intriguing, with Sherrer's duties particularly standing out as unorthodox. He noted that he's coached multiple positions in the past and may serve as an effective catch-all for the staff in the upcoming season. The hardest part, then, may be evaluating the plethora of young talent on the Bulldogs defense, which loses only one starter (Garrison Smith) from the previous season.
And the future of safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, again suspended for the start of the season because of a marijuana-related drug violation, will rest largely in Sherrer's hands.
“You’ve got to go in and see who these guys are. What their skill set is, what their personality is, and you kind of have to pull all of that together because every guy learns different. Coach Pruitt’s scheme, it’ll be multiple enough to where they can fit it around what they do best,” Sherrer said. “There may be guys playing that didn’t play in the past."
Indeed, players such as Harvey-Clemons or converted safety Tramel Terry may not find themselves in the same spots or with the same favor after the new coaching staff evaluates them. Following the team through spring practices could produce some interesting revelations on defense, to say the least.