Georgia Football

What We Are Hearing

April 11, 2018
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ATHENS - In late February, Kirby Smart, Nick Saban, Dan Mullen, Willie Taggart, Gus Malzahn, Jeremy Pruitt and a few more college head and assistant coaches gathered for the Minority Coaches Association of Georgia Football Coaches Conference near the airport in Atlanta. 

Kirby was set to present just after lunch on Friday, but the former Georgia player and his staff spent much of the conference making sure their ties to coaches in the state. The event shed some light into the reason why the Bulldogs have been so successful recruiting of late. 

“Almost all of UGA coaches were here late working the crowd,” one observer said Thursday night. “These guys never rest.”

The same person said that although Alabama, Florida and Tennessee’s head coaches presented to the convention, none of those coaches were at the event to rub elbows with the crowd.

“There are zero Alabama coaches here,” they pointed out. “Zero from Tennessee and Florida. Dan Mullen spoke at 8 and left.”

Kirby and crew weren’t leaving. They arrived the day before the UGA coach was to present, and worked the room. 

This is a critical thing to point out. It might not seem like a big deal that the home-state institution was making certain that it was visible at the event, but it really is. The essence of recruiting is the relationships built along the recruiting path. 

For instance: Why did Cade Mays end up signing with Georgia over Tennessee, Clemson and whoever else? Pretty much Sam Pittman formed a relationship with Mays and had that relationship to lean on when times got tough for Mays after the Vols made a coaching change. 

“We try to develop the best relationships we can,” Pittman said of recruiting just before the Rose Bowl Game. “We tell the parents: ‘If your son can make a B, and he makes a C, we are not going to be satisfied with that.’”

Pittman and UGA weren’t the last group standing for Mays after the Vols made a change. Nothing had changed at Clemson, either, but Georgia beat the Tigers out late for the Knoxville native. Georgia, specifically Pittman, did the work to be in position with Mays, and took advantage of it when Tennessee was no longer a real threat (Jeremy Pruitt and Phillip Fulmer’s in-home visit didn’t hurt Georgia’s chances in the end, either, from what I understand). 

Often recruits can slip through the cracks. A player here or a player there can go another way. It happens. This is life. This is recruiting. But what Kirby and company do with their socializing efforts at events like the Minority Coaches Association of Georgia Football Coaches Conference in February are critical in developing the relationships critical for getting the information needed to make decisions during, and at the end of the recruiting process. 

These guys aren’t guessing. They know - and that’s because they, frankly, seem to be outworking a lot of folks on the trail. If the February event is any measure that’s what’s going on. Believe it or not, there are times when being at the bar talking is very much business. 

Georgia being there the entire time reminded of a spring jamboree north of Jacksonville in 2011. I ran into Mike Bobo on the recruiting trail when he was recruiting Brice Ramsey, Derrick Henry and John Theus, who were all in the same place at the same time - a rarity in the recruiting world. It was an important event even though it might not have seemed that way to the fans in the stands or the other kids playing during the scrimmage. 

I asked Bobo if he had driven of flown to the event. He said he was driving. It was getting late. 

“When are you leaving,” I asked. 

“We aren’t leaving until Florida leaves,” he said smiling, but not joking. 

Eventually the Gator coaches left. A few years later Florida didn’t sign any of them. An anecdotal story, but you get the point.

Can it be a surprise that Kirby and company are cleaning up in recruiting? Perhaps their success is compounded by situations at other schools. Putting it simply: Kirby and company don’t have to wait for the other guys to leave if they don’t show up in the first place.

Speaking of Pittman, I was talking with an SEC assistant about the UGA offensive line coach. He offered the simple complement: “(Pittman) seems like a completely normal person.” 

“Normal” isn't used often when describing college football coaches. A former UGA letterman added after the OL coach turned down other programs in the offseason: “That’s the thing - he doesn’t want to leave.”

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