Coach Mark Richt of Georgia has nabbed a big-time offensive recruit just one day after Christmas. The Georgia staff was in a heated battle with newly appointed Gene Chizik's staff at Auburn for the prized lineman out of Rome, Ga.
In the end, Stacy Searels decided to stay in Athens.
No doubt, the two schools will battle over coveted high school talent for many years to come. But with National Signing Day still over a month away, no news was more welcome to Dawg fans than the words Richt uttered before taking the field in Orlando for his team's first Florida-based Capital One Bowl practice at Olympia High School.
"From what he’s told me, he plans on staying at Georgia, so we’re excited about that,” Richt said of his second-year offensive line coach.
Searels had been immediately sought after by Chizik, once he was named head man at Auburn. Searels played at Auburn and is widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the game.
This season alone, Searels was forced to "break in" young, raw talent as Georgia faced injuries and inexperience before they even took the field for their 2008 season. Left tackle, the most important position on his line, saw season-ending injuries to Trinton Sturdivant and Vince Vance.
Despite the seemingly constant reshuffling, Georgia's line was able to help offensive stars Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno to standout seasons. Stafford leads the league in passing, and Moreno is second in rushing.
Another of Richt's staff actually interviewed for the head position at Auburn. Rodney Garner, also an Auburn alum, is Georgia's defensive line coach and was not considered for an assistant position at Auburn.
As Auburn began and concluded their head coaching search, Georgia fans grew increasingly concerned that Richt would be interviewing candidates to fill positions early in the off-season.
The fact that Georgia was able to retain both Auburn graduates on staff is a testament to the stability that Mark Richt has brought to Georgia.
It can't be easy to say no when your alma mater comes calling for help. But Dawg fans are certainly glad Coach Searels did.