ATHENS, Ga. — The title was a reward for linebackers coach John Jancek, who was named Georgia’s co-defensive coordinator Tuesday, but head coach Mark Richt wants to make one thing clear: Willie Martinez still is calling the shots on defense.
Jancek was given the promotion following his decision to turn down the defensive coordinator job at South Florida, but Richt said Wednesday that the move won’t change the way the Bulldogs prepare or execute their defensive game plan.
“It’s not like two co-coordinators are on an equal basis,” Richt said. “Willie is the tip of the spear, so to speak. He’s where the buck stops, and he’s the leader of the group.”
That doesn’t mean Jancek won’t have an impact on the team’s defensive philosophy. In fact, Richt said that had been the case all along.
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“This is really a situation where his role is not going to change a whole lot, because he really has been very involved in our game planning with coach Martinez,” Richt said. “He’s been having an awful lot of input over the years.”
Before the promotion, Jancek was the second-lowest paid assistant on the Bulldogs’ staff. Richt declined to say whether the new title comes with a salary increase for Jancek.
Richt said the continuity on his staff has been an asset in game planning and recruiting.
Defensive line coach Rodney Garner and offensive line coach Stacy Searels turned down other jobs this offseason as well.
“It’s tough to be good,” Richt said. “It’s tough to get anything going when your kids are constantly having to learn a whole new coaching staff or a whole new philosophy or a whole new way of calling a defense or blocking scheme. To be able to continue to keep the same staff, especially when they are as good as the one we have, it’s fantastic.”
Following Georgia’s 2008 season, Richt famously said he would go to Poland to find a player who could boot kickoffs out of the end zone, adding that he was holding a scholarship in his pocket for the right player.
Now, less than two weeks from the start of spring practice, Georgia’s crew of kickers doesn’t look a whole lot different than it did last year, and the role of kick-off specialist remains one of the team’s more intriguing mysteries.
“That probably is the biggest question is kickoffs,” Richt said. “We never really found an answer last season.”
Freshman Blair Walsh handled most of the kickoff duties a year ago, but struggled mightily at times. Walk-ons Jamie Lindley and Andrew Jensen will be in the mix for the job when spring practice begins, but Richt said a year of seasoning might help Walsh nail down the job for good.
“Some of (his struggles) could have been that Blair was doing his thing at the college level and maybe getting a little leg weary as the season went on,” Richt said. “I think he probably learned some things about staying fresh throughout the year, and hopefully his leg will have the pop to be a kickoff man.”
There still is the possibility that a mystery candidate could earn the job, Richt said, and he isn’t likely to know for sure for a few more months.
“It’s not always finished as far as who may come to your program through the walk-on role,” Richt said. “Most of our best kickoff men have been walk-ons, so I’m sure there are some other guys out there who will come in and try to put their name into the hat.”
Of the almost two dozen players who will miss some or all of spring practice due to injuries, all but one should be ready to go by the start of the preseason, Richt said.
Offensive tackle Josh Davis injured his shoulder in Georgia’s bowl game and underwent surgery following the season. It now appears he will need a second procedure.
“Everybody else we feel will have at least two months of full-speed action to get strong and get in the kind of shape it would take to get into camp,” Richt said. “That’s not to say some guys wouldn’t have some limitations. We might have guys that are one-a-day guys instead of two-a-days, but all those guys will be working.”
Call out to fans
Georgia’s G-Day game will be available to football fans nationwide with ESPN broadcasting the annual spring scrimmage for the first time, but Richt wants as many fans as possible to take in the festivities in person.
Richt said the school will not charge admission for the game, which is scheduled for April 11, in hopes that fans will pack Sanford Stadium and put on a good show for the TV viewers around the country.
“We’re hoping that all the fans, there’s nothing to keep them from coming and filling up the stands and having a great sight for the nation to see when we play between the hedges,” Richt said.