Yellow Jackets interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly and Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner both graduated from Auburn in 1990 after playing for Pat Dye. Garner was in Kelly’s wedding.
“That’s my little bald-headed buddy,” Garner said. “You probably can’t say that to Paul (Johnson), but that is my brother. Always will be my brother. I’m proud of him.”
Garner texted Kelly after Johnson, Georgia Tech’s coach, put him in charge of his defense after firing defensive coordinator Al Groh six games into the season after the Yellow Jackets gave up more than 40 points in three straight games.
“It’s not the way that he wanted it to come about, but still I know Charlie will do a great job,” Garner said. “He’s smart and he’s a heck of a football coach.
Kelly, a member of the Yellow Jackets’ staff since 2006, was a defensive back at Auburn and coaches the secondary.
“Charles has been here for the whole time I’ve been here,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I think he has the respect of the players and the other assistant coaches. I knew he would be organized and I just felt like that was the best move to make at the time to try to finish up the year.”
Garner said given the demands of their profession, Garner and Kelly don’t see each other as often as they should.
“We understand when we get between the lines what it’s all about, but at the same time it’s still my brother,” Garner said.
Dance and food galore
The annual Thanksgiving feast at Garner’s house will be held again today. About 50 people are expected.
Large football players consuming large amounts of food at the Garners has been well-chronicled through the years.
That doesn’t mean that calories aren’t being burned, too.
Safety Bacarri Rambo has shown off his moves the last couple of years playing the video game “Just Dance” with Garner’s daughters.
“They were beating me,” Rambo said. “I had to step my game up a little bit. I had to go buy the game to go practice a little bit so they wouldn’t embarrass me. I like to compete and I don’t like to lose.”
Garner’s wife, Kimberly, is buying the latest version of the video game.
“My girls actually have the guys making fools out of themselves,” Garner said. “They brag about how they beat Rambo last year in the dance contest. They’ll have him doing some crazy dances.”
Rambo plans to go to his uncle’s house in Athens to eat this year, but he said he probably will still head over to the house for the dancing.
“That’s our Thanksgiving tradition,” he said.
So is players feasting at the Garners, where this year they will serve up among other things chitlins, macaroni and cheese, dressing, fried turkey, ham, Boston butt, corn, turnips and “every kind of cake you can think of.”
“You definitely got to watch what you eat,” said Garrison Smith, who has been to Garner’s house before but is going home this year to Atlanta to be with his family. “You can’t load up, especially someone like John Jenkins. He might try to eat 30 pounds of macaroni and cheese. You’ve got to tell him don’t eat more than his body weight.”
The 6-foot-3, 358-pound Jenkins told reporters he actually doesn’t eat too much.
“You don’t even believe that yourself,” Smith said.
Said Garner: “He eats certain things in view of others. I think he eats other things in private. You definitely have evidence that he’s eaten. It’s sort of like me.”
Brotherly love in rivalry
Smith has a unique perspective on the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry.
His brother, Greg Smith, is a former receiver and A-back for the Yellow Jackets who finished his college career in 2008.
“I definitely don’t want him to give me a hard time,” Smith said.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said that Smith was Georgia’s defensive MVP against Georgia Southern when he had seven tackles, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
Now that his playing days are over, his brother now is in his camp.
“He’s on board with the G now because I’m his little brother and he supports me no matter what,” Smith said. “That’s always a good feeling.”
This and that
Tailback Keith Marshall (right shoulder contusion) practiced in a non-contact jersey for the second day in a row on Wednesday, but coach Mark Richt said that was just a precaution. “We just didn’t want him to get lit up on something that was sore,” Richt said. “He’s fine. He’ll play. He’s been practicing all the scout team work stuff.”
Georgia hopes to play in the BCS national title game in Miami on Jan. 7, but it still has a wide range of bowls where it could land. The Chick-fil-A Bowl will have two representatives at Saturday’s games. The bowl said both teams “are being scouted as potential representatives” for the Atlanta bowl.
Georgia is given 13/2 odds to win the BCS championship by Bovada. Alabama is 5/8 and Notre Dame is 5/2.
Johnson said the Bulldogs’ defense probably has “six or seven NFL guys, at least, on that defense.” He added: “Jarvis Jones gets a lot of notoriety, and rightfully so; he's an awfully good player. But Alec Ogletree jumps off the film at you – the things that that guy can do; the way he runs, and makes plays. He's a special player as well.”
After practicing for two hours in full pads Wednesday, Georgia will go again in full pads this morning for at least the early portion of practice. The team will hold a rare Friday morning practice as well for about 50 minutes after players return to campus.