This coaching cycle has seen a high amount of cross-pollination between the staffs at Georgia and Alabama, starting with Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart becoming the head coach at Georgia and Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt taking Smart’s old job at ‘Bama.
One of the coaches escaping the Athens-Tuscaloosa vortex is former Dogs inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, who accepted a job as the defensive coordinator at North Texas. One of the reasons Ekeler says he accepted the UNT job amid Power 5 offers was what he saw in the staff room at Georgia this season. “I learned a valuable lesson watching Brian Schottenheimer. He came into a situation where he tried to run an offense that was already in place and didn’t run his offense, so to speak,” Ekeler said. “I didn’t want get into a situation like that after watching the difficulties that he had. When you do that – and I watched it happen – as a coordinator, and it’s not really your stamp but it’s your name, that’s not a good gig. That’s why I chose to go to North Texas with a guy I think is a rising star as a head coach and a great friend of mine. I absolutely love him. And I have the opportunity to do exactly what I believe in.”
Speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ekeler offered some colorful comments on his way out the proverbial door. On working for Pruitt: “Everywhere I’ve ever been, I’ve learned things, and I learned some valuable lessons (at Georgia). I’ll take away some things that I’ll value. There were some things we did on defense I’ll definitely use, and from a recruiting standpoint there are some things I learned.”
When AJC writer Chip Towers pressed on his there was any truth to the rumor of dissension on Georgia’s defensive staff, Ekeler essentially confirmed by not confirming. “I would say there’s stuff that happens within a football program and a staff that really needs to stay in-house. I’d rather not comment on that,” he said. “People there know, and that’s all that matters. You could say it was one of the more difficult seasons I’ve been a part of. I think that’s fair to say.”
Finally, when asked about what he would change about college football, Ekeler dished on the difference between being a recruiter and an evaluator.
“People talk about hiring great recruiters; I think that’s an absolute joke,” he said. “If you’re labeled that, 99 percent of the time that means you can’t coach a lick. That’s a fact. There are very few exceptions. Ed Orgeron is a fantastic recruiter and he’s probably the best defensive line coach of them all. The guy is big-time. It’s great to recruit 5-stars, but then they come in and play like 2-stars. It’s too bad that’s how this profession is, but that’s part of the deal now.
“It’s not about recruiting, it’s about evaluating. That’s one of the things I learned from Ed Orgeron. It doesn’t matter if he’s a 2-star or a 5-star, it’s how you evaluate it and what you think you can do with him. That’s what I learned from him. Again, you recruit them. But there’s only about five players in the country that are totally different than everybody else. Everybody else can fall into a similar category. At that point it’s about developing and teaching. It’s about evaluating and developing your talent. And that’s a fact.”