Mike Bobo’s second run with Georgia football is a continuation of his path


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ATHENS, Ga. — It started with some fun. Mike Bobo walked to the podium, smiled and nodded at a few of the familiar faces and then fielded the first question: How has Hutson Mason looked at quarterback and … oh sorry, force of habit.

Bobo laughed. Then the serious question was asked, and the rest of the way, while he briefly name-checked the writers he knew from long ago and compared the work habits of a current Georgia Bulldogs star (Brock Bowers) to one he coached previously (Nick Chubb), the takeaway was Bobo was less sentimental and more practical.

This is not nine years ago. The second era of Bobo as Georgia’s offensive coordinator, however long it lasts, is not about repeating the first one. It’s not about repudiating it either. The Mike Bobo who spoke on Thursday sounded like the person he was a decade ago — informative, insightful and fairly honest — but the things he said were different because circumstances are different. He is not trying to take Georgia to the mountaintop. He’s trying to keep it there, after following Todd Monken, who was a huge reason the Bulldogs got there.

To be fair, Bobo left in the glow of personal success eight years ago: Georgia’s offense set a program record for scoring, while not having near the talent he now inherits. But Bobo’s time away could have gone better: He was fired after five years at Colorado State, where the offense was good but the defense inconsistent, then he spent two years as the offensive coordinator at South Carolina and one at Auburn, not lasting a full season at the latter. That was when he came home, offered the chance to be a high-profile analyst to Monken, which Bobo presented not as coming home or coming to work for his close friend Kirby Smart or even as a career move.

“After Auburn, I had opportunities to go other places. But I wanted to go somewhere where I could continue learning as a coach,” Bobo said. “I even tell recruits you want to go somewhere you can develop. And I came here last year to try to get developed more as a coach. And it was a real learning curve. Those guys took me in. It was very, very positive.

“I didn’t come here last year to be the offensive coordinator. I came here to learn and continue my growth as a coach. It just happened to work out that way.”

Mike Bobo, right, works with quarterback Carson Beck during a Georgia practice. (Tony Walsh / Georgia Athletics)

And so here he is. He’s back. And the curiosity many have is how he has changed. What did he learn from Monken? The perception is that Monken was a more spread-oriented coach with Air Raid elements, a coach who truly opened up the stagnant Georgia offense. And the perception is Bobo was a more traditional pro-style coach.

But what did Bobo add to his toolbox as a play-caller while working with Monken the past year?

“We all have a body of plays, and they’re all very similar when you look at offenses,” Bobo said. “Some might focus more on a balance pro style, like us; some might be more spread. We have elements of all that, and I’d like to think I’ve had elements of all that in all my offenses in the past. I would think the No. 1 thing is probably more movement, more shifts and motions to disguise formations and get guys in matchups that are more beneficial to our offense. (Monken) really did an outstanding job with that.”

People around the program have said since Monken left for the Baltimore Ravens and Bobo was named his replacement — the announcements came within minutes of each other — that not much would change. Tight ends coach Todd Hartley, who has worked for both, said this week: “I don’t think much is going to change. … Whether it’s Coach Monken calling the plays or Coach Bobo calling plays, Coach Smart wants it one way, and that’s the way we’re going to do it.”

The natural question being what is that one way. Smart, speaking last month, painted it more in general terms.

“I’m more involved with what the defense does and telling the offensive staff what hurts that,” Smart said. “I don’t get much into the design of (offensive) plays. I don’t go over and say, ‘We better run this.’”



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Then Smart brought up his first sit-down with Monken, after the 2019 season. Smart recounted what Monken said at one point: “I just want to be clear: Are you suggesting it, or are you demanding it? That’s the only issue I’ve ever had with a defensive coach.”

Smart remembered his reaction, which harkened back to his own experience as an assistant coach:  “I thought that was good advice. Because I sat through a lot of defensive meetings under my last boss, where we didn’t know if it was being suggested or demanded. And I thought that was good by Todd. So I knew if I was going to bring this up I better be clear. Am I saying that it has to be in, or am I saying you should look into it? And I’ve done both in my career. I’ve said: ‘I want to do this, because I think it makes our team better and I want this play in, whether you want it or not.’ But I’ve also done it where (I’ve said): ‘Hey go take a look at this because I think it’s giving us problems, but I think you can look at it as only as a suggestion.’

“So again, I don’t get involved in the scheme part, I get involved in who’s repping, where are we repping them, what’s the plan if he’s not there, what’s our plan if they do this. Not design of plays.”



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That will be Bobo’s department. And he should have an even better understanding of what Smart wants. The two have been close friends since the mid-1990s, and both have been in the coaching business since they graduated from Georgia. They barely have worked together: Both were position coaches on Georgia’s staff in 2005 and then last year. But they are philosophically aligned, meaning they want an offense versatile enough to win via the run or the pass. That’s what Monken’s offenses excelled at the past two years.

Bobo is keeping as much the same as he can, especially the terminology. But things would have looked differently this season even if Monken stayed, as Bobo pointed out, simply because of the personnel: Stetson Bennett is not the quarterback and Darnell Washington is not at tight end.

“You might see some changes if our identity changes of who we are offensively and what we’re gotta do,” Bobo said “We don’t have a guy that could possibly extend plays as well. We’ve got two of those guys that can, but Stetson had elite quickness to get yourself out of trouble. We don’t have a 6-7, 285-pound tight end. So I think you’ll see some different things there. And it might have been a little different anyway no matter who’s standing up here.”

Perhaps the biggest reason to feel optimistic about Bobo: There’s more talent now than his first go around. Yes, he had A.J. Green, Matthew Stafford and other future NFL players. But the overall talent is so strong on both sides of the ball. Bobo should have more talent on his side of the ball — especially on the offensive line — and there was never a consistently great defense during Bobo’s first tenure, which should take some pressure off his unit.

“They’ve done a great job of recruiting around here. There’s always been good players at the University of Georgia, but Coach has done a great job of building depth at all the positions,” Bobo said, not just meaning that the backups are good but that the depth allows everyone on the roster to develop better. “That would be the No. 1 thing for me, the depth that is here now, and the development, and Coach Smart does a great job of having a plan and developing these guys.”

So much is different from when Bobo left. The talent level. The financial support from the administration. The two national championship trophies. When Bobo departed for Colorado State, there was a growing cloud over the program about Mark Richt’s future: When will Georgia finally fulfill its potential?

Now, as Bobo has come full circle, he presented it as a continuation of his own journey.

“I think I have the same edge that I’ve always had,” Bobo said. “For whatever reason those (other jobs) didn’t work out, and when those things don’t work out, you look at yourself in the mirror. You don’t point fingers or make excuses; they didn’t work out. I’m coming here with the mindset that I’m doing everything possible to help us be successful at the University of Georgia. That’s my edge as an offensive coach. It’s not, ‘This didn’t work last time in this situation, I’ve gotta prove myself this time.’

“I always tell players there are going to be moments where we’re going to be failures. You’ve got to get yourself back on your feet because what’s on the other side of failure is success. And keep putting yourself out there. We know this job has pressure. There’s pressure that comes from this job. I’ve sat in this chair, I understand those pressures. I think I’m older and have more experience now to handle those pressures and focus on our football team, especially our offense, which I’m in charge of, and getting them ready to practice on a daily basis and get them ready to play on Saturdays.”

(Top photo: Tony Walsh / Georgia Athletics)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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