There was major news in Athens today with the announcement that defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is no longer with the program. The former Auburn defensive lineman was hired at Georgia back in January of 2014. Over the past three years, Rocker has established himself as one of the better coaches on the staff. In fact, he was only one of two assistant coaches kept on the staff after Kirby Smart was hired as the head coach. Rocker was brought in to coach up and transform the defensive line, which is exactly what he’s done. He helped land Trenton Thompson in the 2015 class, and has coached him up to be one of the most productive defensive lineman in the country. He also turned last year’s inexperienced defensive line into a strength, as it should be a very deep position group in 2017.
Everyone knew he could coach. What he had trouble with at times was recruiting. While he did land the likes of Thompson, Jonathan Ledbetter, Julian Rochester, and other good players, there are quite a few guys that he’s missed on over the years. Josh Sweat, Albert Huggins, Derrick Brown, Antwaun Jackson, Brian Burns, and Aubrey Solomon were all major Georgia targets that have signed elsewhere in the past three years. Obviously coaching up these players is crucial, but recruiting them and getting them to sign is just as important.
So what does this mean for Georgia moving forward?
Well, this might be the best time for something like this to happen. The 2017 class is wrapped up, and head coach Kirby Smart has plenty of time to hire someone quickly who can get back on the recruiting trail and make relationships with the 2018 kids. There are still plenty of names that will emerge as Georgia targets within the next couple of months, so the new hire should not impact the 2018 class much.
There’s really no elite defensive lineman in the 2018 class, so the staff didn’t lose any major targets with his absence. The 2019 class on the other hand is a different story. There are a few guys like Travon Walker, Nolan Smith, King Mwikuta, and others who have a relationship with Rocker, but their interest in Georgia is still be very high moving forward.
His coaching can’t be ignored, but at the end of the day, his recruiting was not at the level of the other staff members. With Kirby Smart at the helm, it’s critical every staff member knows how to recruit. Look for Smart to hire someone with SEC experience who can recruit the south at an elite level.