Bobo Settles In

ATHENS – Mike Bobo has been known as many things since he first joined Georgia's football coaching staff in 2001.

At first, Bobo was simply a familiar face. When he was hired by Mark Richt to coach quarterbacks during Richt's first month on the job, Bobo had barely been gone from Athens for a year. After an up-and-down career as the Bulldog quarterback from 1994-'97, Bobo spent two years as a lowly coaching assistant at Georgia.

Then, after Bobo spent just one year at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, Richt brought him back.

"After (Richt) said he was going to hire a young quarterbacks coach and teach him and eventually turn it over to him, I thought I would be the perfect fit," Bobo said at the time. "I think it's a great opportunity for me to learn some more football. I'm going to be a part of something special, because he's going to be a great head coach."

Maybe Bobo knew then that his career would take off from that moment. He first made his name with the Bulldogs as one of the SEC's top young recruiters.

"If somebody were to ask me who are the top two recruiters for the University of Georgia, I would say Rodney Garner and Mike Bobo, said national recruiting analyst Allen Wallace, who says Bobo is a big reason the Bulldogs have made more recruiting in-roads in Atlanta recently.

For several years, Bobo mainly made his mark on the recruiting trail. In the beginning, his coaching duties were in name only. Richt, in fact, coached the quarterbacks and Bobo at the same time in the first year. Gradually, Richt let the former quarterback take the spot in front of the room but stayed in the room to look over his shoulder.

Eventually, though, Richt felt comfortable enough to leave the quarterbacks almost entirely to Bobo. But it wasn't until the 2006 season was nearing its close that his career picked up an impressive momentum.

After mulling the decision for months, Richt handed play-calling duties to Bobo prior to the Nov. 25 Georgia Tech game, the final regular season game of the year. Bobo accepted that role with the same laid-back approach that makes him such an effective recruiter for the Bulldogs.

He was nonplussed, according to Georgia running backs coach Tony Ball, who, like Bobo, is in the press box during the game.

"I think he's always been prepared for this moment," Ball said. "When he got the nod, I was more surprised than he was. He seemed to be very, very relaxed in his demeanor. (Bobo's first game) was as smooth a press box procedure as I've seen. I thought he did a great job."

Richt had no doubts he would, which is why he finally gave up play-calling after almost 15 years of being completely in control of the offense.

"I just think the ability to be upstairs and see the big picture is a very good advantage for the guy who's calling the plays, and I also think the QBs coach is the best candidate to do that because he knows exactly what the QB is thinking," Richt said. "I feel real confident that Mike can do it."

But Bobo didn't remain the quarterbacks coach much longer. He moved right on up the coaching ladder less than a month later. When Neil Callaway resigned to take the head coaching position at UAB, Richt immediately knew he wanted Bobo to take over Callaway's position as offensive coordinator.

Once again, Bobo's acceptance speech was right in line with his character.

"He said, ‘I want you to be the coordinator,' and I said, ‘Yes sir, thank you,'" Bobo said.

All the roles Bobo has played for the Bulldogs merge neatly in the form of quarterback Matthew Stafford. Bobo recruited Stafford, one of the top prospects in the nation in 2006 out of Dallas, Texas, and tutored him through having to run the team in his true freshman season.

Now, the tenure of Stafford and Bobo appear forever linked. For perhaps the next three seasons, the two will have the biggest impact on what the other can achieve in his role, and it's a tight relationship.

"I couldn't have a better guy to learn from," Stafford said. "He's a great coach."

As for Bobo, his new duty and new title have not distracted him from what he considers his main responsibility.

"With the players, my main job is getting Matthew Stafford ready to play because that's the position I coach," he said.

Richt feared, he said, that Bobo might bolt from the Bulldogs if he wasn't given more responsibility soon, a sure sign that Richt feels he has a rising star on his staff, but Bobo has never had those thoughts, he said

"Georgia is where I wanted to be," he said. "I'm not really out looking to move around. My wife loves it here, and I'm working for a great man, and you want to surround yourself with good people."

Now, he will pick up the baton carried by Richt, who followed an almost identical coaching path as an assistant at Florida State before coming to Georgia.

"I've got to be focused on what I can do to help this team win and achieve what we've been achieving the last five or six years and maybe improve on that," Bobo said.

For the kid who came to Athens with nothing on his resume other than a history in red and black, it's beyond a dream come true. The son of a longtime Georgia prep coach, Bobo dreamt one day of reaching that same level in the profession.

"For me it was always to coach them on Friday night," he said, "now it's Saturday afternoon."

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