"Playing for Coach Callaway, he's always been a tough, hardnosed, hit-you-right-in-the-face type of guy," Searels said Friday in his first public comments since taking the job. "What I've tried to do is take the best from the guys I've either played for or coached with andmake it my own kind of style. The toughness and hardnosed style of Coach Callaway is what I've taken from him."
Searels will be handed a nearly clean slate to work with for the 2007 season. Only two linemen – Chester Adams and Fernando Velasco – have any playing experience. Georgia has three coming off redshirt seasons and has signed five newcomers, all of whom will be available in the spring. At least two more will join the Bulldogs in time for preseason practice.
"The one good thing is I don't have to come in with the new guys and try to change the ways they've been coached," Searels said. "They're only going to know the way I coach, which will be good, but me and Coach Callaway are pretty similar so I don't think the older guys will have any trouble. Football is football. You're going to block and tackle and throw and run and catch. It's not rocket science. There are a lot of similar things."
Georgia hired Searels away from LSU, where he spent the last four seasons. He coaches the offensive lines at Appalachian State (1994-2000) and Cincinnati (2000-2002) before joining what was then Nick Saban's staff at LSU. Saban wanted Searels back on his new college staff at Alabama, but the offer to return home was too good to pass up.
"When this job came open it was one I've always been interested in, being able to coach back home," he said. "When Coach Richt called, I was real excited to have a chance to come over here and work for him because I've seen what kind of job he's done and I've seen what kind of man he is."
Searels' father Wayne died in March after a battle with cancer, which solidified his desire to get back closer to his mother Maxine. Searels and his family drove to Trion for Christmas last year and didn't arrive until 4 a.m. on Dec. 24, he said.
"At that point, I thought, ‘You know it would pretty nice to work closer to home and be able to see my mom and it not be an all-night ordeal to get there,'" he said. "When I got a chance to come back home, we jumped at the chance."
Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner, a college teammate of Searels, helped recruit the new coach.
"I was like, ‘I'm sure you could go to Alabama and make more money or stay at LSU and make more money, but when you start talking about quality of life, living here and working for Mark Richt, I don't think the other things could compare with that,'" Garner said.
Searels' wife Patricia tutored Garner at Auburn.
"I think it may have been a little bit of a bonus us playing together," Garner said. "He trusts that I'm going to shoot him straight."
Searels made $210,000 annually at LSU. The details of his Georgia contract have not been released. Coach Mark Richt, in Hawaii this week to coach an all-star game, will be juggling his staff salary scale when he returns to give Mike Bobo a raise to reflect Bobo's promotion to offensive coordinator.
LSU was first in the SEC in total offense and third in rushing offense behind Searels' offensive line last year. In his four years at LSU, Searels coached All-Americans Stephen Peterman, Ben Wilkerson and Andrew Whitworth.
"We had some success at LSU, and hopefully I can implement a little bit of that and make Georgia even more successful," he said.
Adams and Velasco will get the benefit of the doubt being upperclassmen but no playing time is guaranteed, Searels said.
"When you talk about a depth chart, there's not a whole lot of depth," he said. "The guys who have played will have the first shot, but my job is to put the best five guys on the field to give us a chance to win."