Rodney Garner, Georgia's defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, has turned down an offer to return to the Tennessee Vols coaching staff. Garner came to Georgia from Tennessee in 1998, and he was instrumental in Jim Donnan's retooling of the Georgia talent base. He was also critically important in holding together the 2001 recruiting class after the Donnan to Richt transition. The seniors from that transitional class went 42-10 for the Dawgs.
There were numerous rumors floating around about what type of role Garner would have on the UT staff. One version had Garner taking on the job of "Running Game Coordinator" for the Vol offense with position responsibilities at RB, TE and/or OT. In that scenario, another position coach would've been responsible for the passing game coordination while Lane Kiffin called the plays. That three headed monster is somewhat similar to what Oklahoma State has done with their offense. It also sounds like a convoluted mess.
(Update: Towers confirms the job title)
Over the past several years, Richt had proactively and strategically moved to put reduce Georgia's risk of losing a key recruiter like Garner. Most recently, John Lilly was named Tight Ends coach for the Dawgs prior to the 2008 season. Lilly spent 10 years on the FSU coaching staff much of that as their recruiting coordinator. Lilly appears to be the defacto "Recruiting Coordinator in Waiting" for the Dawgs.
Georgia has also upgraded its recruiters vs the initial Richt coaching staff of 2001 and 2002. For instance, Stacy Searels apppears to be a quantum leap forward in talent evaluation and recruiting effort vs. Neil Callaway. The stabilty of the Georgia staff has also helped. Five of Georgia's nine assistant coaches have been with Richt for his entire 8 year tenure. As a good sales manager will tell you, there's no substitute for time in territory for building relationships and trust among your customers and partners (in this case High School coaches).
Losing Garner wouldn't have been the devastating body blow to recruiting in 2009 as it would've been in 3, 5 or 8 years ago. But it wouldn't have been painless either. It is a good thing to keep him.
For the record, I do NOT begrudge Rodney Garner for looking at other offers. Two weeks ago, Garner was a little underpaid versus the open market value for a man of his unique skill set. Just two weeks later, with UT and Auburn spending money like drunken sailors on shore leave, he was significantly under paid. Kudos to Richt and Damon for being creative and working hard to keep a key hire.
And for those questioning RG's loyalty to UGA. If he turned down a "running game coordinator" job title promotion that involved more money and less recruiting responsibilities to stick at UGA, how is that disloyal?
-- Garner to remain with Bulldogs - Georgiadogs.com