Georgia's Top Five Candidates to Be the Next Defensive Coordinator
It has actually happened! Many fans questioned if Mark Richt would ever fire his best friend, Willie Martinez, because of their close relationship.
You might think it was the right decision, you might even think it is the wrong decision, but as of today it is the final decision.
For true Georgia Bulldog fans, it has always been easy to visualize Vince Dooley’s dominating defenses, the Junkyard Dawgs, if we close our eyes.
For the younger fans, they don’t have to think back very far to remember Brian VanGorder’s version, which only gave up 30-plus points once, and that was to the eventual national champions that season.
However, with each passing game it got a little bit more difficult to remember the good old days.
The last few years have been far removed from the days of dominating defenses. In fact, 30-plus-point games from the opposition had become the norm.
Bottom line, UGA needs a defensive coordinator who can make an instant impact. With A.J. Green NFL draft-eligible after next season, the window of opportunity will get much smaller.
I have compiled a list of five candidates I believe the University of Georgia should hire. There are three popular names you will not see on this list.
You will not see Tommy Tuberville on my list because he had already told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he has no intention of being a coordinator earlier this year.
You will not see Will Muschamp. If he refuted rumors of the head coaching job at Notre Dame, he is not coming to UGA to be a defensive coordinator. He seems to be the coach-in-waiting at Texas, and he is perfectly content despite being a UGA graduate.
Lastly, I did not add Brian VanGorder. Yes, he was great at UGA prior to Martinez. However, he is now a defensive coordinator in the NFL, and I do not think he is leaving that for a college job he had already left.
If either of these three would take it, I would want Richt to jump on it as soon as possible. However, chances are less than five percent that any of these coaches accept the position.
As a result, here is my list of realistic candidates.
5. Ron Vanderlinden
While I am against hiring an inexperienced defensive coordinator, Ron Vanderlinden might be the exception.
As linebackers coach for Penn State he has mentored some of the top linebackers in the nation. He has been the main ingredient in developing several All-Americans over the past nine years.
You have to believe with Vanderlinden as our defensive coordinator, the days of multiple missed tackles on one play will come to an end. His strengths seem to match the weaknesses of the UGA players.
For the last few years we have had the speed to get to the right places, but not the fundamentals to make the play. Vanderlinden could quickly fix that problem.
I believe that Vanderlinden is going to be a great defensive coordinator one day. However, we should only hire him if the other four do not accept the position.
4. Ron Zook
While it is not clear if Ron Zook will be fired this season as head coach of the University of Illinois, it is clear he could be a great addition to the UGA staff.
To understand his potential as a defensive coordinator, you have to forget his last eight years as a head coach.
Some coaches are born to be lifelong coordinators; others are better fit to be head coaches. Zook should have been a lifelong coordinator.
The greatness of Ron Zook as a defensive coordinator is debatable. Following the 1993 season, Zook was demoted from being defensive coordinator. However, two seasons later he was reassigned by Steve Spurrier as defensive coordinator once again.
He also served as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, and that speaks volumes.
Regardless, he would clearly be a huge step up from our current staff. He would also fill a recruiting void that is going to be present when Rodney Gardner does not get the promotion he desires.
It should also be said that he is more than a recruiter. If he wasn’t, then why did the Saints hire him as defensive coordinator?
Plus, there has to be some level of desire for him to come back to the SEC and defeat the team that fired him, the University of Florida.
3. Kirby Smart
Coach Kirby Smart is a UGA graduate who has served as the defensive coordinator for the University of Alabama for the past two seasons. During that time, Alabama has been among the toughest defenses in the nation.
Smart is a fan favorite to led Georgia’s defense back to SEC dominance. However, there are legit questions that must be asked about how successful he would be at the University of Georgia. These questions are the reason that he is not higher on my list.
The first question is how much of the Tide's defensive success has been Nick Saban’s doing and how much is because of Smart? This is a valid question. However, the same questions were purposed about Will Muschamp, and that has worked out pretty well.
Also, Saban has taken Smart everywhere he has gone (LSU, NFL, Alabama). Saban is not known as a loyal guy, so he must see something great in Coach Smart.
The second question is has he burned any bridges? It has been rumored that he and Mark Richt do not have a great relationship because of recruiting tactics that Smart used in the past against UGA.
However, Richt knows he is on the hot seat this coming season, and he cannot risk another mediocre season. As a result, he would have to swallow his pride if these rumors are factual.
2. Tyrone Nix
Tyrone Nix might be the most underrated defensive coordinator in all of college football. He would bring an aggressive and instant turnaround to the University of Georgia.
At every college he has served as coordinator (Southern Miss, South Carolina, Ole Miss), the defense made dramatic improvements in his first season.
He has done this with nowhere near the athletes that he would have at UGA. He is also a great recruiter who has spent the last 12 years recruiting in Missippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Nix has heard his name mentioned as a future head coach for several years. However, it has yet to happen, but he might see the UGA job as the job that helps him break through.
With Nix, the days of 10-yard cushions are over. A Nix-led defense will always be the aggressor. He coaches to win while others coach not to lose.
1. Dick Bumpas
The coaching search for UGA should be simple. Find a big moving truck and a blank check and show up at coach Dick Bumpas’ house. He is the best defensive coordinator in the nation, and Mark Richt had better move fast.
Does anyone doubt that UGA has better athletes on their roster than TCU? No. Does anyone think UGA has a better defense than TCU? No. The difference is Dick Bumpas. TCU might be the best team in the nation, and it is because of him.
He has made a living out of taking inferior talent and shutting down high-powered offenses. Imagine what he could do with a UGA roster.
When you watch TCU play, you see a team that plays smart, fast, and finishes the drill! When is the last time you have heard that said of a UGA defense?