MOBILE, Ala. – It appears to be only a matter of time before Georgia introduces John Lilly as its new tight ends coach.
One of his former co-workers at Florida State said Mark Richt’s staff is getting a very good position coach in Lilly, but it’s his ability as a recruiter that puts him above the rest.
“I’m gonna miss him,” said FSU defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator Jody Allen. “He’s a good buddy of mine as well as being a good football coach. But from a recruiting standpoint, he’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
Lilly and Allen have worked together on Bobby Bowden’s coaching staff since Allen joined the staff as a graduate assistant in 2000. In that time, it was a common occurrence for Lilly – the Seminoles’ tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator – to reel in elite recruiting classes. Four of his last six signing classes were rated among the nation’s top four.
“It’s a combination of his creativity as a recruiter and he’s good at finding ways to sell ‘em,” Allen said. “He’s relentless in his effort with it. He’s gotten some big-time guys that people thought we had no chance at. Year after year it seems like he pulls one out that everybody was done giving up on.”
Lilly started at FSU in 1995 as the team videographer before spending the next two seasons as a graduate assistant and coming on staff as tight ends coach in 1998. This was the 13th season Lilly has been a member of the FSU staff.
But with Bowden,78, nearing the end of his coaching career, Lilly’s time at FSU is also at an end. The Tallahassee Democrat reported earlier this week that Lilly had left the staff – most likely to join Richt and two other former FSU co-workers, receivers coach John Eason and strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger – at Georgia.
“(Georgia fans) should be ecstatic about him,” Allen said. “It’s a great hire for the University of Georgia.”
Allen took a break from recruiting to stop by Wednesday’s Senior Bowl practices with former FSU co-worker Billy Sexton. Both men’s names had been tossed around as possible Georgia job candidates after David Johnson left Georgia’s staff to return to his alma mater, West Virginia, but Allen said he was never in the hunt for the job and never spoke about it with Richt.
Lilly on the other hand still has a close relationship with Georgia’s head coach after getting his start under Bowden in 1995 when Richt was still a Seminoles assistant.
“He’s as real a Christian as I’ve ever met. He and coach Richt, I think that’s one of many reasons that they’ve maintained such closeness over the years,” Allen said. “He’s helped me a bunch in all aspects –football and my (Christian) walk as well. I’m sorry to lose him as a working compadre, but he’ll always be a friend of mine.”