ATHENS, Ga. — Mark Richt did not plan to fill a vacancy on his coaching staff until after the Sugar Bowl, but when he learned Ken Rucker was available, Richt changed his plans.
Rucker, a veteran assistant known as a strong recruiter, was named Georgia’s running backs coach Tuesday.
Rucker, who has coached running backs at Texas A&M the last two years, will not move into the new job until after Georgia’s Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl game, but Richt wasn’t going to take that long to make the hire.
“A guy like him ain’t going to be around very long,’’ Richt said. “There would be a great demand for his services.’’
Rucker, 51, has worked two stints at Texas A&M, also coaching on R.C. Slocum’s staff from 1994-97. In 1998, Carl Torbush hired Rucker as North Carolina’s special teams coordinator and linebackers coach. In December of 2000, Rucker was hired by Alabama coach Dennis Franchione, but two months later Rucker opted to return to Texas A&M.
Richt said several coaches, including Slocum and Torbush, offered endorsements of Rucker.
“A lot of coaches I have a lot of respect for were calling me on his behalf,’’ Richt said.
Said Rucker, who grew up in Tennessee and played at Carson-Newman College: “We are truly excited about coming to Georgia. Being from the Southeast and raised in east Tennessee, Georgia has always been a household word. Georgia is a team on the rise and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the program.’’
Rucker previously coached at Baylor (1992-94), Arkansas (19990-92) and the Air Force Academy (1984-89), and at each of those stops his primary responsibility was running backs. Before that, he was known for defense when beginning his career as a college coach at Appalachian State and Richmond.
Rucker fills the only vacancy Richt has had on his staff in two seasons at Georgia. Citing family reasons, Tony Pierce resigned as running backs coach on Oct. 7.
When Pierce resigned, Mike Bobo moved from quarterbacks coach to take over the running backs. Bobo will return to the role of quarterbacks coach after the bowl game.
Rucker brings a reputation as “a tremendous recruiter,’’ according to Richt and Georgia assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner.
“Everywhere he’s been, he has been a top-notch recruiter,’’ Richt said.
Said Garner: “I know Ken real well. He is a good coach and really a first-class person. I think we all would like to have his reputation. ... He is a real good recruiter.’’
Richt said Rucker may make some phone calls to recruits this month but will not recruit on the road until after the bowl game.