The departure of offensive line coach Stacy Searels to Texas is official. The timing isn’t the best – coaches are full on into recruiting mode. In the meantime, the staff has to work to keep the commitments of five offensive line prospects. Most, if not all, seem to be firm in their commitment, but you can be certain that they’ll be hearing from the competition.
I can understand the perception of this news as rats-off-a-sinking-ship, but Georgia still doesn’t have a lot of voluntary turnover relative to its peers. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s the first lateral move by a Georgia assistant under Richt. One guy leaving for a lot more money isn’t a sign to man the lifeboats.
The reaction has ranged from indifference to don’t-let-the-door-hit-ya . You’re not finding many tears shed over Searels’ departure, and in a way that’s more than a little sad. No one blames him for the disappointing 2010 season, certainly not in the way that the defensive coaches took the fall for 2009. But, yes, there was a lot of head-scratching going on over the performance of the offensive line of which a lot more was expected.
I won’t deny anyone their opportunity to think that this isn’t bad news for Georgia. The line did underperform last season. If you want to put that on the position coach, fine – it makes sense. This was also a line with some real issues and injuries that affected their play. There are a few things keeping me from joining those offering to help Searels pack.
First, if you believe some of the scuttlebutt out there, Searels was one of the first to blow the whistle on slippage in Georgia’s conditioning program. Searels, if you recall, was one of the first big external hires by Mark Richt. There had been some shuffling at running backs coach, and the underwhelming John Jancek was brought in following the departure of Brian VanGorder. But in large part the staff had remained intact. That’s good in terms of continuity and synergy, but there are always the temptations of complacency and insular thinking for a group kept together that long. For the first six years under Richt, there hadn’t been a strong outside perspective brought into the program. Searels was just that, and I hope that we’re not losing that challenging perspective.
I think four years later people have a vague sense of what Searels inherited, but let’s recap exactly what the offensive line looked like entering the 2007 season:
LT 77 Trinton Sturdivant 6-5, 286, Fr.
72 Vince Vance 6-8, 330, So.
LG 63 Chris Davis 6-4, 292, RFr.
54 Tanner Strickland 6-5, 318, Fr.
C 75 Fernando Velasco 6-4, 328, Sr.
74 Kevin Perez 6-3, 274, RFr.
64 Ian Smith 6-3, 295, So..
RG 70 Scott Havercamp 6-4, 310, Jr.
78 Josh Davis 6-6, 293, RFr.
73 Micky White 6-3, 320, RFr.
RT 67 Chester Adams 6-4, 330, Jr.
79 Justin Anderson 6-5, 335, Fr.
The biggest change on that line came as Havercamp washed out and Clint Boling came along quicker than expected. Searels earned his reputation as a miracle worker who pieced together a line starting three freshmen. Georgia, behind that line, was able to win 11 games, finish #2 in the nation, and produce the single best individual rushing performance from a Dawg since Herschel Walker.
The situation was even more dire in 2008 when Vance became the single upperclassmen on the line. Sturdivant was out with his first knee injury, and Searels’ spent most of the season rotating players just to fill the gaps. Kiante Tripp was even brought over from the defensive line to provide whatever he could at tackle. The results weren’t as great as they were in 2007, but Georgia still won ten games, and both run and pass blocking were good enough to launch the pro careers of Stafford and Moreno.
In a way, Searels earns a grade of “incomplete” for his time in Athens. This season saw only the first big turnover in the line he began constructing in 2007. The 2010 edition was disappointing, but the 2011 version also has a lot going for it now that Sturdivant and Glenn are coming back. Searels did enough just to get Georgia a funtioning line to begin with, and he also did a lot to make sure it’s a long time before the Bulldogs have to face the nightmare scenario of 2007 again.