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UGA offensive line coach lets his work do the talking.


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UGA offensive line coach lets his work do the talking

By CHIP TOWERS

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Athens — This is the unauthorized story of Stacy Searels.

You won’t hear from Searels, who is Georgia’s offensive line coach. Why? Because Searels doesn’t talk to the media. He hasn’t since he went to work for Nick Saban at LSU in 2003. Saban doesn’t allow his assistants to be interviewed by the press. Something about information control.

But apparently Searels likes it that way. So he decided that “no comment” was enough when he came to Georgia in 2007 to work for coach Mark Richt, even though Richt doesn’t have a similar policy.

But we don’t know why because, as we’ve said, Searels won’t say. Searels declined two interview requests for this story. He’s declined countless other requests for countless other stories.

Searels’ wife Patricia also declined to be interviewed. “His communication rules extend to family as well,” Patricia, reached by telephone at their Bogart home, said with a polite giggle.

Attempts to reach his young daughters and the family dog also were unsuccessful.

Searels is probably too busy to talk this year anyway. In many ways, he is handling an even greater challenge than he did last season. After losing freshman All-American Trinton Sturdivant to a season-ending injury at left tackle last week, the Bulldogs will likely have new starters at all five positions on the offensive line. At least three of those players will have never played in a college game.

Not exactly the scenario one would expect of the nation’s No. 1 team.

But other people are more than happy to talk about Searels — especially Richt.

Searels took an offensive line last season that started three freshmen and two seniors and molded them into one of the best groups in the SEC.

Not surprisingly, Richt doesn’t have a problem with Searels’ self-imposed silence.

“A lot of line coaches are like that - ‘Just give me my guys and leave me alone,’ ” Richt said. “Doesn’t bother me.”

With that backdrop, here’s what others say about Searels.

His players

It’s important to note when talking to Searels’ players that they are talking only because he has allowed it. Searels has his own communications policy for his players, the bylaws for which nobody seems to know for sure because, well, you know… Some of his charges are allowed to talk to reporters, others aren’t. No true freshmen can be interviewed. The right to talk to the media can be taken away.

Consequently, answers are cautious and measured. They never include any mention of who’s playing what string at any position at any time.

So here are a few that have earned that honor:

Redshirt sophomore center Chris Davis: “Probably the reason he doesn’t want to talk is he loves his job so much. That’s why he yells and hollers on the field, he just feels so strongly about us working hard and becoming as good as we can be. You look at him and see the passion he brings to the table and it just makes you want to equal that passion.”

Redshirt freshman guard Tanner Strickland: “By far the best teaching coach I’ve ever been around. If you’re not doing the right thing he’s going to replace you.

“One of the things I like about him is he says if you mess up, put it on him. He allows us to put it out of our system while we’re in there. Helps us not be such head cases.

“[Playing for him is] intense. You’ve got to know what to do and have it in your head. If you don’t fire it off when he asks you’re going to get hollered at.”

His former coach

You won’t find a bigger fan of Searels than his former coach at Auburn, Pat Dye. Dye said he stays in close touch with Searels and was aware of the challenges Searels took on last season.

“Last year, I don’t know who got that award in Arkansas [the Frank Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach] but nobody deserved it more than Stacy did,” Dye said. “He was the top assistant coach in the country in my opinion.”

(Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock won the 2007 Broyles Award, for what it’s worth).

“He’s got good raisin’. He has a wonderful mama and daddy. I can’t remember whether he made All-American but I’m sure he made All-conference [first-team All-America in 1987]. Played a couple years in the NFL.

“I think he’ll make an outstanding head coach some day.”

Wouldn’t that require he talk to the press? Dye: “It’s not that he can’t talk to the press. He’s probably right; it probably doesn’t help him do his job. Who do you trust?”

On how he recruited Searels out of Trion, Ga., and from under the nose of the Bulldogs? “He was a country kid. Auburn’s small-town atmosphere appeals to a lot of kids. Coach [Neil] Callaway recruited him. We’ve got a great one at Auburn, too, in Hugh Nall, another Georgia guy. Those three guys remind me a lot of each other in that they have the ability to work the heck out of kids and the kids respond. All three are the kind that care about the players. When you love ‘em they know it.”

His boss

Neil Callaway left Georgia after the 2006 regular season to become head coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Richt had no time to waste. He went after Searels.

“He was absolutely my No. 1 pick,” Richt said. “After watching LSU play over the last few years that he’d been coaching them, just based on the film that I saw I liked the coordination of that group and the hustle and heart and how hard they would play. I thought he had some very talented guys but he also had some guys that we re just lunch-pail guys, good college football players but maybe not pros.

Asked about Searels’ boisterous coaching style, he can often can be heard above the din of the Bulldogs’ already noisy practices: “When he screams he’s actually screaming some outstanding coaching points. [Laughs] He’s coaching very loud is what I’d say. [Laughs again] I’m sure he’s not just yelling at them. He’s yelling instruction and usually a little motivation to go with it. He’s an outstanding teacher.”

On whether he has a problem with Searels not talking to the press: [big grin] “I like the production. And I like him.”

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