That’s Georgia’s new defensive coordinator.
He’s got a reputation for transforming defensive backs into something special and he has a good working relationship with Kirby Smart.
The hire of Tucker wasn’t surprising. He was the natural choice given Smart’s available options: Smart chose not to retain Jeremy Pruitt, Tucker’s status was up in the air with Pruitt coming in to replace Smart, and Georgia had a vacancy thanks to the aforementioned departure of Pruitt.
Boom …everything set up perfectly.
That said, as with every hire I’ve seen Smart make thus far, it’s producing a mixed bag of responses.
While the majority are happy to see the final piece of the puzzle slot into place, others are less impressed.
The latter group question Tucker’s readiness or ability to do the job well. His last stint as a defensive coordinator wasn’t exactly anything to brag about and they fear a repeat performance in Athens. Bottom line, they question whether he’s good enough, and wonder if Smart could have done better with more time to look around.
Let me stop for a moment and say it’s funny that anyone feels they have an idea what’s “good enough” for Georgia where a coach is concerned.
I mean, not to be glib (as Tom Cruise might say), but we ran one of the winningest coaches, over the last decade, out of Athens on a rail. The concept of “good enough” is getting tougher to understand and harder to navigate.
But, I digress.
Truthfully, I don’t have one concern about Tucker as a coach or a defensive coordinator.
Despite what you’ll read, or hear, about his stint in Chicago, he’s had enough success–at both levels–that I’m secure in his ability to run a defense.
If anything, I was worried about him as a recruiter because, where the offensive side has strategically been stocked full of guys that can bring home the bacon for offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s recruiting deficiencies, I don’t know that we can expect Kevin Sherrer and Glen Schumann to do the same for Tucker.
If there was a concern for me at all, that was the one.
I have no question he can coach.
None at all.
Now, have you noticed I said “was”concerned? Hard to miss right?
Well, the fact is, Tucker can recruit. He’s always had the ability to do so. Part of the reputation he built as a college coach came as a result of him being a boss on the recruiting trail.
Tucker’s coaching career began in 1997 when he was hired as a graduate assistant by Saban at Michigan State. He also was on Saban’s staff at LSU in 2000 before heading to Ohio State for a four-year run under Jim Tressel that included a national title for the Buckeyes in 2002.
“Saban told me he was the best recruiter he ever had,” Alvarez said of Tucker. “And one of the things Tressel told me is Ohio State would not want Mel Tucker recruiting for another Big Ten school.” (Jim Polzin, Madison.com)
That ain’t no old article (September 2015) about a young grad assistant named “Mel Tucker”. That’s pretty darn recent.
If you know Smart’s reputation as a recruiter, then you know for Saban to say Tucker’s the “best he ever had” isn’t just lip service. It says a lot.
I ain’t worried. Tucker’s going to be fine.
And for those that have reservations about his longevity, given the NFL might call again in the near future, I advise you to look closely at the staff Smart has built. That’s an issue with Shane Beamer, Dell McGee, and James Coley. All could decide to leave in a season or two for another job.
Kirby ain’t hiring scrubs, he’s hiring studs and, NEWS FLASH … if Pruitt had been invited to stay, a year (maybe two) is all he’s likely to have given as well.
Sure, Smart could have gone after a young coach on the rise, but the fanbase is antsy and, whether most will cop to it or not, they’re expecting a playoff appearance within three years. They don’t wanna wait on some young buck to find his footing.
Again …remember when I mentioned the concept of “good enough”? Smart has a timetable for success, and it’s going to be shorter than Richt’s because most believe Georgia is very close to being a champion.
The firing of Richt basically implied Georgia was at a hump it needed to get over. Smart, presumably, is the coach to get Georgia over it. He’s built his staff based on succeeding now, not later. You can’t do that if you’re scared to hire the types of folks others might come calling on sooner rather than later.
Money is always out there, and there’s always a new coaching carousel getting set to turn. So, don’t bother losing sleep over the potential of a guy bolting. It’s a waste of time.
Truthfully, I suspect Tucker will hang around at least a couple of years. And, if Georgia is on the roll everyone hopes they’ll be on at the end of that time frame,it won’t be hard finding a replacement should he decide to go elsewhere.
Mel Tucker is the new defensive coordinator.
He’s the final piece of the puzzle …and I believe he’ll fit just fine.