When Georgia’s longtime defensive line coach Rodney Garner left at the end of last year to take a job at Auburn, Bulldogs fans naturally wondered which assistant Mark Richt would choose as Garner’s successor as recruiting coordinator.
What they didn’t realize was that Richt already had someone on staff who, in addition to his on-field duties, was handling many of the administrative responsibilities that once occupied Garner.
Meet Daryl Jones, Georgia’s director of on-campus recruiting.
“The animal of recruiting has grown so large that it’s not reasonable for a position coach to try to train his position, to be involved in scheme, to sit in staff meetings and then handle the minutiae that’s involved in recruiting -- the logistics, the budget consciousness and all those types of things,” Jones explained.
“So there needed to be someone in place that could handle the logistics while the recruiting coordinator could hover above and see that everyone was tied in staff-wise. The need was, because of the increased amount of unofficial visits, official visits and other compliance issues, somebody needed to be home making sure the details were taken care of. So that was the need for my position.”
It helps that Jones held a wide range of positions before joining the staff last May. In approximately 20 years as a coach, he worked at both the college and high school level in Georgia. He also was a football camp manager with Under Armour and its All-America game, which typically features some of the nation’s top high school football seniors.
“I’ve touched all those bases,” Jones said. " But when I was working for a sports marketing group, for an apparel company in the sports marketing department, I still took a coach’s approach to things.”
However, Jones is not able to do everything that a full-fledged assistant coach like Garner could.
For instance, he can’t visit prospects and evaluate their performances away from Georgia’s campus. Instead, his main purpose is to tackle logistics and recruiting strategy -- he is specifically responsible for arranging the Bulldogs’ many official and unofficial visits -- a position that most major programs need.
“I don’t know of a single SEC school that doesn’t have someone with some type of title doing what it is that I’m doing,” Jones said. “And even more importantly, I don’t know of a single SEC school that doesn’t have a department like ours that does that. You’ve got to understand, the position is the position, but the important part is the group that is handling recruiting.”
Jones helms a small group of three full-time staffers, plus an intern and a team of 8-10 student assistants. Their duties include facilitating prospects’ visits, mailing recruiting information, coordinating the coaching staff’s recruiting travel plans, developing Georgia’s social networking strategies and acquiring, organizing and distributing prospect videos.
A never-ending array of minutiae falls into the recruiting staff’s laps, and it’s their job to keep the operation running efficiently.
“There are things that this office has to coordinate so the coaches can use it as a central warehouse. ... There’s natural coordination that occurs that we do in this office,” Jones told ESPN.com in an interview shortly before national signing day.
And it's that logistical management that is truly helping UGA's coaches.
“It’s not fair for a coach to know as he’s checking off boxes on our 2013 class where every 2014 prospect in his area is, so that’s where they tie us in," Jones said.
“So, for example, a coach may say, ‘Hey I’m heading from Tifton to Warner Robins. On the way there, where do I need to pop into where there’s 2014 guys?’ And then our department, we say, ‘Get the D-lineman that’s here, the wide receiver that’s there and the one that’s over here on the way to Warner Robins.' "
Richt said at the end of last season that “there’s no rule” dictating that he name one of his nine on-field assistants recruiting coordinator. So he may some day pass Garner’s former title along to an assistant ... or he may never have an assistant hold that title again.
“It was just too much for a guy to coach ball, recruit and be the recruiting coordinator in the true sense of the word where he was doing everything,” Richt said. “There are some things done organizationally that don’t have to be by an on-the-field coach, plus all coaches recruit.”
For now, at least, Jones and his staff will handle the in-house aspects of Georgia’s recruiting enterprise by helping the coaches’ efforts unfold as smoothly as possible.
Seeing the end product of their work is what makes their jobs particularly satisfying -- when on fall Saturdays, the players they helped the coaches identify and attract to Georgia help the Bulldogs achieve a victory.
“I take enjoyment after success of being successful. I enjoy putting in a good day’s work and seeing it at some point in the future become successful,” Jones said. “I have a sense of accomplishment with that, and I think all of us are that way.”