Searels, Georgia’s first-year offensive line coach, has closed off access to his group pretty effectively. Searels hasn’t spoken to media members since shortly after he was hired in January.
“It’s not about a bunker mentality, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” tackle Vince Vance said. “He just doesn’t want us worrying about distractions or anything like that. I kind of support him on that even though I’m doing this interview.”
Searels has made true freshman Trinton Sturdivant, the projected starter at left tackle, off limits since the first day of fall practice.
“I just think he’s real focused on ball, and he wants his players to be focused on ball,” senior center Fernando Velasco said. “We’ve got a big season ahead of us, and we’ve got a long way to go. We can’t have any distractions right now.”
Richt has never asked Searels about his interview aversion, but he pointed out that Searels came to the Bulldogs from LSU, where former head coach Nick Saban did not allow his assistants to speak to media members.
“I think he just liked that,” Richt said.
Searels is the first assistant of the Richt era to regularly decline interview requests. His tunnel vision is fine with Richt considering how daunting Searels’ job is this fall.
Georgia will have a new starter at every position to begin the 2007 season. Velasco and senior tackle Chester Adams have made position changes. The other projected starters – Sturdivant and guards Chris Davis, a redshirt freshman, and Scott Haverkamp, a junior college transfer – have yet to start a Division 1-A college game.
Searels “has got a big job, and he knows it,” Richt said. “He’s got a lot of young and inexperienced guys trying to get ready to play in our league, and that’s not easy to do. That’s why some of those freshmen linemen don’t need to be chattering.”
There is a concern, Richt indicated, that letting Sturdivant speak to the media would make the freshman a little full of himself.
“You might be first or second team, but that’s all we’ve got,” Richt said. “Sometimes they have a false sense of how far they’ve come. They’re just trying to prove what they can do and still learning the plays.”
Georgia’s offensive line made strides in the spring and helped pave the way for more than 600 yards of total offense in the G-Day Game, but that performance may have created premature relief about the group’s readiness.
“As a whole, we’re struggling (this fall), but there are individual victories,” Richt said. “If you look at a play, it looks awful and then you look at the film and you realize if that one guy had done the right thing, we’ve got it. I don’t think there are four guys messing up, there might be one or two, but all it takes is one guy stepping the wrong way and you say, ‘My gosh, we’re terrible.’”
Center Kevin Perez, guards Tanner Strickland and Justin Anderson and tackles Clint Boling and Vince Vance make up the Bulldogs’ second-team line. Strickland, Boling and Anderson are true freshmen, and neither Perez nor Vance has any major college experience.
“We’ve got some young guys, and we need to make sure they grow up in a hurry,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “That’s what fall camp is for.”
Searels is trying to make the most of this fall. He’s always in motion on the practice field, correcting tiny detail after tiny detail, and he finishes every practice having sweated through the sweatshirt he always wears, even in this week’s triple digit temperatures.
“He’s a real intense, real demanding coach,” Velasco said. “Probably the best thing about him is he’s a great teacher. He really focuses on teaching technique.”