Why Mark Richt and Georgia Are Killing It This Offseason

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterFebruary 17, 2015

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

From rumors of head coach Mark Richt's retirement, to the nation's top overall player, to an increased dedication from the administration to the football program, it's been an eventful offseason for the Georgia Bulldogs.

For the most part, those events have been positive.

The momentum continued on Monday, when the school announced that former Bulldog running back Thomas Brown will take over as Richt's new running backs coach, after a successful stint in the same role with Wisconsin. Bryan McClendon will shift his role from running backs coach to wide receivers coach—a position he played at Georgia—and become the team's passing game coordinator.

Richt commented on the moves in a release:

It brings back a great Bulldog running back in Thomas who has NFL playing experience and has had success as a college coach at multiple schools. He also inherits a position that has been built to an elite level by Bryan. And it gives Bryan the opportunity to return to coaching the position he played and the one where he cut his teeth serving as a graduate assistant under wide receiver coach John Eason here at UGA.

Brown, a Tucker, Georgia native, has ties to the region, helped reel in three 4-star commits in Wisconsin's recent class and will allow Richt to shift he and McClendon to positional responsibilities they're both familiar with from their playing days. 

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Brown was successful last season helping lead Melvin Gordon to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, and he has a Ferrari to work with in Athens, as Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com notes.

Radi Nabulsi @RadiNabulsi

Thomas Brown coached a tailback that put up 2587 (M.Gordon) yards last year. Imagine what he will do with Nick Chubb. http://t.co/sSrfMyXX9F

It's just the latest in a series of events that have generated momentum within the Georgia football program:

Recruiting Success

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtGrant Halverson/Getty Images

For the most part, Georgia—which finished sixth in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings—didn't make a whole lot of noise on national signing day.

Just the way Richt likes it.

Georgia entered the day with a top-flight class that included the nation's No. 1 overall player in defensive tackle Trent Thompson, seven early enrollees including three defensive linemen and Terry Godwin, the nation's top-ranked athlete. 

Not only did Georgia hang on to Godwin after a late push by Auburn, but it also found a new present under the tree long after college football's offseason holiday, when 4-star linebacker Roquan Smith signed a financial aid agreement with Georgia more than a week after committing to UCLA on national signing day.

Richt's 2015 haul wasn't the talk of national signing day, due in large part to the fact that, save for the uncertainty surrounding Godwin and Smith, the hay was already in the barn.

The new coaching moves are going to further solidify Georgia's recruiting prowess.

The move of McClendon to a coaching position he's more comfortable with and the presence of Brown on the staff as the running backs coach has already made a splash among prospects in the class of 2016.

Trent Smallwood @SmallwoodTrent

#Bama 5-star WR commit Demetris Robertson on #UGA coaching moves: "Man, those are some smart moves right there." @ReuseRecruiting

Trent Smallwood @SmallwoodTrent

#AU 5-star WR commit Nate Craig on #UGA coaching moves today: "That's a big move, McClendon recruits me and now he's the WR coach."

Paul Maharry @pmaharry

Talk about a heck of an offensive coaching staff, recruiting wise might be the best in the country. John Lilly, Thomas Brown, and BMac. Wow.

Sure, Georgia suffers from an inexplicable loss that keeps it out of the national picture seemingly every season, but the talent that flocks to Athens every year keeps it competitive year in and year out in the SEC East.

That's not going to change anytime soon.

Increase in Staff Salaries

Georgia OC Brian Schottenheimer
Georgia OC Brian SchottenheimerUSA TODAY Sports

The hire of Brian Schottenheimer as Georgia's offensive coordinator after Mike Bobo took the Colorado State head coach job remains puzzling, considering his offenses finished better than 20th in the NFL just once since 2009.

What isn't puzzling, though, is the increased dedication Georgia has shown to paying its assistants fair market value.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt got a $450,000 per year bump to $1.3 million, according to Seth Emerson of Macon.com. Richt got an $800,000 per year raise that pays him $4 million annually (which is middle of the pack in the SEC) and Schottenheimer stepped in to a $950,000 annual salary, according to Emerson. That's $372,000 more per year than Bobo, who was wildly successful, was making as Georgia's offensive coordinator last year, according to the USA Today assistant coaching salary database.

Georgia DC Jeremy Pruitt
Georgia DC Jeremy PruittUSA TODAY Sports

It's crazy that all it took was a "silly little retirement rumor," which Richt was asked about in the press conference following the Belk Bowl win over Louisville, to get Georgia's staff to a competitive financial level with the rest of the SEC.

That has created a sense of stability within the program, which is something that trickles down to current players and high school prospects who now know that massive staff changes aren't as likely now as they were just two months ago.


A hot-button issue for Richt over the last decade has been the absence of an indoor practice facility, which are common around the SEC.

That could be changing soon.

According to Emerson, the plans for the new facility are coming along quickly, and a site—near the existing football complex—could be approved as early as Tuesday. 

It's amazing how quickly the ball can get rolling when a head coach uses his leverage to get what he wants and a rival—in this case Florida—fast tracks an indoor practice facility of its own.

Of course, a slight nudge from Pruitt late in the season didn't hurt the push.

I've been on the other side when you recruit against Georgia, and when you don't practice you don't get better, so that hurts player development. The reason I came up here (to meet the media) is because we're fixing to take care of that. And this is gonna be the last football team at Georgia that's gonna have days where they don't get better because of not having an indoor facility. Because I know our folks upstairs are gonna get it done.

It's clear that Richt and his staff have taken the initiative to bring Georgia back up to a competitive level after slowly falling behind over the last few years, and that starts with the new indoor facility and a bigger budget for assistant coaches.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtChuck Burton/Associated Press

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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