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College
Mel Tucker ready for new challenge after doing some excellent work as Georgia’s D-coordinator
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Mel Tucker ready for new challenge after doing some excellent work as Georgia’s D-coordinator

Mel Tucker ready for new challenge after doing some excellent work as Georgia’s D-coordinator

Mel Tucker ready for new challenge after doing some excellent work as Georgia’s D-coordinator

Georgia football-Towers Take-Mel Tucker did excellent work at Georgia-Georgia Bulldogs-Colorado Buffalos

ATHENS — I first met Mel Tucker in 2015. At the time he was secondary coach at Alabama.

I’d gone out to Phoenix cover the Alabama-Clemson national championship game because Kirby Smart had been appointed Georgia’s new head coach and he was still the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator. There were rumblings that Smart was going to bring the Bama DBs coach with him to Georgia as his defensive coordinator and, at the time I knew very little about him.

I learned a lot in those next few days (among them that Tucker prefers to communicate via email rather than text or phone call). It didn’t take long to realize that the Bulldogs and Smart were very fortunate to have Tucker joining them in Athens.

Everybody I talked to, from the NFL to the college ranks, raved about the abilities of this relatively young coach. He was 42 at the time. Now he’s 46 and he just landed his first head coaching job. That it’s in a Power 5 job in the Colorado Buffaloes tells you the level of respect this man carries in the business.

I still see the Pac-12 and West Coast region a bit of an odd fit, just because it doesn’t fall into Tucker’s professional footprint. But, as they say, coaching is coaching, regardless of where it’s being done. With that in mind, I firmly expect Tucker to have great success.

He sure did as Smart’s right-hand man at Georgia and Alabama. I could cite stat after defensive stat, but the bottom line comes down to Tucker fielding top 20 overall defenses every year he was with the Bulldogs. That was the case again this season as Tucker was charged with rebuilding a defense that had lost seven starters to graduation and/or the NFL.

Not the least of that rebuild was having to be done in the defensive backfield, where Tucker also served as position coach. Three-fifths of the group that helped Georgia make to the National Championship Game was having to be replaced. And the new guys were going to have to come from a pool of talented but young players, many of whom Tucker had a hand in recruiting. The Bulldogs signed 12 DBS in the last two recruiting classes. They started a freshman at one cornerback all season, and sent in first-year players with every rotation.

With that group, the Bulldogs were able to finish the season with the nation’s 15th-ranked pass defense, allowing just 180.5 yards per game.

“We always want to play great defense here regardless of who the players are,” Tucker said during Georgia’s preseason camp. “There are always going to be changes, there are always going to be new players step in and great players leave so that’s our job to get them ready. That’s why we’ve recruited well and we expect these guys to step in and play great defense for us.”

The knock on Tucker as he heads out to Boulder was that this wasn’t really his defense at Georgia, that it was just Smart’s and Tucker was merely a buffer between the fiery head coach and the players.

Smart shot down such a notion whenever he got the chance.

“Mel’s a great leader,” Smart said heading into this season. “He commands great respect. Players really follow Mel’s lead. He does a tremendous job of game-planning, X-and-O-ing, calling the game. But more important than that, he’s a very loyal soldier that helps guys out. If guys are struggling or their confidence is struggling, he’s able to go to pep them up. They follow his lead.”

Georgia fans love watching those hype videos that the football program produces and, to be sure, no school does a better job with that. But one of the voices that often could be heard on those was Tucker’s. He is an incredible motivator and always knew just what to say to his charges when he needed to get more or something different out of them.

With his resume, it was just a matter of time before Georgia lost Tucker to a head coaching job somewhere. Truthfully, it’s the primary reason he came back to the college ranks. He’d already had success — and failure — at the highest level in pro back. He was a defensive coordinator by age 36 in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and went 2-3 as the interim head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When he was fired as defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears in 2014, he called Nick Saban, who’d hired him in 2000 as LSU’s DBs coach, to talk about re-tracking his career through the college ranks. Saban, no stranger to coaching talented, brought him in and found a way to fit him up with Smart.

Obviously, those two have been a tight and successful duo. But it was time for Tucker to break back out and carve his own path. And he’s certainly doing that at Colorado. The Buffaloes, who parted ways with offensive guru Mike MacIntyre after 11 games this season, were looking for a defensive-minded coach who could lift them out of the mediocrity, like finishing 54th in total defense this year.

That part, Tucker should have covered. This is a guy who was named co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State just five years after becoming a college assistant coach. No, spearheading recruiting and getting players out of California and Texas will be the new challenge for Tucker.

Had Georgia defeated Alabama and gotten into the College Football Playoff a second straight year, I suspect Tucker would have stayed with the Bulldogs like Smart did with Alabama and try to do both jobs. But with the national championship now out of Georgia’s reach, I suspect Tucker will head onto Colorado to put all his energy into this rebuild.

He’s going to be missed by the Bulldogs, for sure. But for his work in Athens and achieving a life’s goal of becoming head coach, Tucker deserves nothing but applause he his moves on to the next thing.

The post Mel Tucker ready for new challenge after doing some excellent work as Georgia’s D-coordinator appeared first on DawgNation.

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Local News

  • The 2019 Alumni Weekend is underway at UGA: activities that began Thursday continue today and tomorrow at the University of Georgia. From the University of Georgia master calendar… The UGA Alumni Association wants to welcome alumni back to Athens and make them feel like students again. Come back to campus, relive the glory days with friends and loved ones, and experience what it's like to be a student in Athens today.Registration covers: * Thursday: Orientation Dinner with President Jere W. Morehead * Friday: Classes, meals, reception at Wall & Broad and TEDxUGA * Saturday: Commencement Brunch The University of Georgia’s curriculum committee meets today: it’s a 3:30 session at New College on Herty Drive in Athens. 
  • Georgia track and field’s Elija Godwin has been named the Southeastern Conference Men’s Freshman of the Week following his performance at the Yellow Jacket Invitational, according to a league announcement.   Godwin, a native of Covington, Ga., and graduate of Newton High School, is the Bulldogs’ first outdoor weekly award winner following the first collegiate outdoor meet of his career.   Godwin clocked a career best 10.47 into -0.4 wind to be the top 100-meter dash finisher in the 33-man field. This finish ranks No. 13 nationally (No. 8 nationally for wind-legal times under 2.0 meters/second), makes him the No. 4 freshman nationally and the No. 3 SEC performer in 2019. He returned to win the 200m with a 20.90, which is his fastest time of 2019 and second best of his career, to move to No. 3 nationally (No. 2 for wind-legal times) as the country’s top freshman and No. 2 competitor from the SEC.   Georgia trains through the coming weekend before splitting squads to the Florida Relays (March 28-30) and Raleigh Relays (March 29-30).
  • Barrow County Commissioners meet in a special session today: they’re scheduled to vote on a proposal that would place an ambulance station at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow in Winder. It’s a plan to end a dispute between the Barrow County government and the city of Winder over who provides ambulance service inside the Winder city limits. This morning’s Commission meeting is set for 8:15 in Winder.  The Franklin County School Board is sending to the Georgia School Superintendent’s Association the list of 32 candidates who have applied to be the next school superintendent in Carnesville. The Board is looking to replace Wayne Randall, who will retire at the end of the current school year. Randall was told by the Board that his contract would not be renewed.  The Hall County city of Oakwood is getting a new top cop: Tim Hatch is now the police chief in St. Mary’s; he’ll take over in Oakwood, replacing former Chief Randall Moon, who retired last month. Hatch’s resume’ includes time on the force with the University of Georgia campus police department and the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. 
  • The Georgia football team held its second practice of spring drills on Thursday on the Woodruff Practice Fields.   The Bulldogs practiced for approximately two hours in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. The practice was No. 2 of what is expected to be 15 during the spring, which will culminate with the annual G-Day Game on Saturday, April 20. The Bulldogs will return to the practice fields on Saturday.   Senior Charlie Woerner was asked how the transition is going for the tight ends with him as the elder statesman following the departures of Isaac Nauta and Jackson Harris and with the addition of new tight ends coach Todd Hartley.   “Things have started well,” Woerner said. “Day 2 is done, and we’re looking as good as we can two days in. I think we’re pretty far ahead on our installs. It’s a lot different (in the tight ends room), but it’s fine. We have a really good group, a lot of good guys in the room. It feels like it’s my time and I’m ready to have a big year, but I don’t feel any pressure. All I can do is my best for this team.”   Junior Jeremiah Holloman also finds himself in a potential leadership role on and off the field among the receivers since the Bulldogs said goodbye to the likes of Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, and Ahkil Crumpton.   “I feel like our whole room can step in and contribute,” Holloman said. “We have guys just waiting for a chance. I stepped in last year and made an impact (with 24 catches for 418 yards and five touchdowns), and we have plenty of guys like that. We have a load of guys capable of going out there and competing and making plays.”   On Wednesday, all 32 NFL teams were in attendance as the Bulldogs eligible for next month’s draft participated in Pro Day drills.   The G-Day Game is slated for Saturday, April 20, at 2 p.m. at Sanford Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
  • From the Athens-Clarke County government website... The Athens-Clarke County Fire and Emergency Services Department will celebrate the arrival of their new Engine 25 with a traditional “push-in” ceremony to place the equipment into service at Fire Station #5 at 1090 Whit Davis Road on Friday, March 22 at 3:00 p.m. Engine 25 will replace a 19-year old model that will move into reserve status for the community. The 2018 E-One Cyclone Engine cost approximately $650,000 fully equipped. Some of its features include a modern thermal imaging for search and rescue, a 1250 gallon per minute pump and a 780 gallon water tank, an emission system that meets current regulations, and wireless headsets with an intercom system for Fire and Emergency Services personnel with connectivity to the 911 radio system. Due to this station’s location that serves rural portions of the territory with fewer streetlights, Engine 25 also has LED headlight technology and lights in the front and above the side doors to supplement the two telescoping scene lights. The public is invited to attend the 'push-in' ceremony, which will feature brief remarks, the 'push-in' of Engine 25, and refreshments. For more information, contact the ACC Fire and Emergency Services Department at 706-613-3360.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia football practice No. 2 is in the books, the Bulldogs still working to establish a new identity and new leaders. There weren’t many clues in the open portion of practice on Thursday, but Kirby Smart will talk on Saturday and provide more insight into how he sees the Bulldogs developing. The early sentiment is this UGA team could throw the ball more, but it won’t come at the expense of being able to run the football. DawgNation reporters give their early takes on how Georgia is evolving in what will be Smart’s fourth season at the helm. Mike Griffith & Chip Towers   Georgia football practice headlines Kirby Smart sheds light on James Coley’s ‘balanced’ philosophy J.R. Reed puts NFL dreams on hold for title run Georgia football injury updates, Zamir White status James Coley ‘likes to throw more’ than Jim Chaney Offensive line, Brian Herrien look the part Complete Georgia early enrollee roster numbers   The post WATCH: DawgNation observations from Georgia football spring practice No. 2 appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — The qualifier remains that “Georgia is going to be Georgia,” but it’s starting to sound more and like the Bulldogs are going to throw the football more in 2019. The Georgia players are all excited about James Coley taking over the offense from Jim Chaney. The consensus is that more of the playbook will be used, and more balls will fly through the air. The Bulldogs had the heaviest run ratio of any non-option team in 2017, and last season Georgia lead the SEC in rushing. But Coley could be a game-changer calling plays. “His first instinct would be to throw,” Bulldogs senior tight end Charlie Woerner said Thursday. “Just knowing him, every G-Day game (Coley) is the offensive coordinator on one team, and Chaney is the other, and you look at the stats and it’s a lot more pass-heavy on Coach Coley’s team than Chaney’s. “Chaney is just a little more old-school running the ball, which I didn’t mind that either, but (Coley) likes to throw more than Chaney.” Junior receiver J.J. Holloman agreed following Thursday’s practice. “I’m confident that he will throw the ball a lot more, and we’ll have more explosive plays to look forward to,” said Holloman, UGA’s leading returning receiver. Junior tailback D’Andre Swift is a returning 1,000-yard rusher and the Georgia offensive line is a powerful group capable or road-grading most any opponent. But Swift is also adept at catching the football out of the backfield, and that offensive line is talented in pass protection. Perhaps most importantly, Jake Fromm is a third-year starting quarterback, and Holloman said that factors in as much as Coley. “It’s a mix of both, (Fromm) having all the experience he has,’ Holloman said, “and Coley opening the playbook and making a lot of things happen.” Mecole Hardman is headed to the NFL, but the speedy junior receiver said he, too, expects more passing in the UGA offense. RELATED: NFL WR steal could be Georgia’s biggest loss “Probably a little more passing, I think Coley will bring a title bit more of that,” Hardman said after his pro day workout on Wednesday. “But they definitely are going to run the ball. “You got Swift back, Zamir (White) coming back from injury , (James) Cook here, and they just signed another running back, so it’s going to be a similar offense, we’ll play our brand of football, but probably a little bit more finesse, a little bit more passing there was well. I’m excited for Coley, I know he’s gong to do big things.” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday the updated definition of “balance” has less to do with run-pass ratio and more to do with the ability to do both effectively. “People think balance means 50/50 — balance is not 50/50,” Smart said. “Balance is being able to run the ball when you have to run the ball and being able to throw the ball when you have to throw the ball. “So can you do both? Yes, you can be successful at both. That might be 70-30 one game and then 30-70 the other way the next game.” Georgia TE Charlie Woerner   The post Georgia TE Charlie Woerner: James Coley ‘likes to throw more than (Jim) Chaney’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia has updated its roster to include all of the early enrollees football numbers with the Bulldogs this spring. The numbers are as follows: 2 QB D’Wan Mathis 4 LB Nolan Smith 7 DB Tyrique Stevenson 11 LB Jermaine Johnson 12 LB Rian Davis 13 QB Stetson Bennett 14 DB DJ Daniel 15 LB Trezmen Marshall 16 DB Lewis Cine 17 LB Nakobe Dean 60 OL Clay Webb 70 OL Warren McClendon 88 TE Ryland Goede 90 DL Tramel Walthour To recap, there were also number changes since last season: RB James Cook: No. 4, previously No. 6 WR Matt Landers: No. 5, previously No. 15 S Otis Reese: No. 6, previously No. 17 CB Divaad Wilson: No. 8, previously No. 16 OLB Azeez Ojulari: No. 13, previously No. 38 OLB Adam Anderson: No. 19. previously was No. 56 The post Complete Georgia football early enrollee roster numbers appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia redshirt junior Ben Cleveland was back running with the first team at right guard during Thursday’s limited media window of observation. The Bulldogs’ offensive linemen looked to have noticeably better body builds than their counterparts on defense, more than one of which appeared to have a weighty issue. Indeed, there’s a reason why some believe Georgia has the best O-Line in the country. As expected, the players working first team were: LT Andrew Thomas, LG Solomon Kindley, C Trey Hill, RG Cleveland, RT Isaiah Wilson. If there was a surprise in the depth chart, it was seeing Jamaree Salyer working as the backup right tackle with Cade Mays tucked inside at right guard. Offensive line coach is likely doing that to build depth at tackle, as Mays would surely be the first man in at either of the offensive tackle positions should a starter go down. Clay Webb appeared to be the No. 2 center, while Justin Shaffer was No. 2 at left guard and D’Marcus Hayes was No. 2 at left tackle for the purposes of drills. RB observations The most impressive physical transformation appeared to be Brian Herrien, who looked every bit the part of the power back Georgia will need him to be. Herrien, the most impressive UGA back in the Sugar Bowl, is listed at 6-foot, 210 pounds but looked bigger. D’Andre Swift was running at the front of all the drills, while James Cook was No. 3 behind Herrien. DB observations New Georgia secondary coach Charlton Warren very loud and frenetic, chastising cornerbacks for “wasting too much time” when the next ups weren’t ready to go in drills. “We’ve got 8 minutes to get better, men!” he yelled. “Eight minutes. Now quit wasting time!” Junior Ameer Speed continues to work with cornerbacks. He had a cast on his left hand but it did not seem limit him at all. Former UGA QB in attendance Former Georgia QB Faton Bauta, now an assistant at Monmouth, was among coaches observing Thursday’s practice. The post Georgia offensive line looks the part, Brian Herrien built for power game appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart has said before he doesn’t think there are many secrets in college football. That’s probably why Smart opened up Tuesday practice to the Oregon coaching staff, according to OregonLive.com. The Ducks’ staff, led by former Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal, was in Tuscaloosa on Monday and Athens, Ga., on Tuesday to watch practice and visit with staff members. Smart was at Alabama as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator for three seasons while Cristobal was there serving as the line coach. Georgia places heavy restrictions on the media presence at practice, even while opening up practice for the well-trained eyes of staff members they might ultimately face in the College Football Playoff or in a bowl game. That’s what happened in the Sugar Bowl, as Smart allowed Texas coach Tom Herman and his staff to attend the Bulldogs’ spring practices last year. “We took a trip out there this spring just to pick brains and talk shop a little bit,” Herman said leading up to the Longhorns’ 28-21 victory. Herman said when the Sugar Bowl matchup was announced that he didn’t see the Georgia run game as “anything too formidable.” The confident Texas coach proved correct against what was the SEC’s top rushing offense. The Bulldogs rushed for just   72 yards on 30 attempts after averaging 259.8 yards per game. Smart said his new offensive coordinator, James Coley, has been working to improve the offense and talked with other coaches. Chances are, Coley spoke with Cristobal about what the Ducks do on offense in addition to visiting other programs that Smart chose not to name. “We’ve been working on us and saying, okay, what can we do better, and I think James brings a lot of that to the table,” Smart said on Tuesday. “They’ve gone and visited with a lot of people to get new ideas.” The post One year after opening practice to Texas, Georgia allows Oregon to observe appeared first on DawgNation.