RB Coach Dell McGee Discusses Upcoming Season
Run game coordinator and running backs coach Dell McGee discussed preparations for the upcoming fall 2020 season Wednesday afternoon. On what he has learned about Coach Smart that he didn’t already know during the pandemic and how they all adjusted to a different type of offseason... “I wouldn’t say [I have] learned anything new. I would say that we all had to deal with a lot of mental gymnastics with COVID[-19], and just a structure in your normal, everyday life of going through a spring ball season, assessing your players, concluding spring. Then you go to summer workouts and then to fall camp. The biggest thing was just having to adjust our normal practice routine and all of those facets.” On whether he’s ever had such an overhaul at the running back (RB) position as this season… “First off, I think we have a great room. All of our guys are very, very talented. They all bring certain qualities to the game of football. Losing D’Andre Swift was a big loss, but we definitely have five guys that are capable and will do a great job this year.” On how important a rotation at the RB position is… “It is definitely a good thing. It is a philosophy of ours—we feel like the more guys that we can play keep our running backs fresh. They can be more explosive, have less mental breakdowns. They are able to assess the game, stay involved in the game and execute at a high level when their number is called. It definitely benefits us having a multitude of guys and like I say, ‘Reliability and accountability is a big factor.’ I feel very confident with this group.” On why it is important to play college football with everything going on in our world today… “I just feel like it brings normalcy. Football and particularly athletics in general, it allows everyone to move away from that space and look at it and enjoy the game we all grew up loving. I think it’s really, really good for our kids—being cooped up and not being able to do spring ball and their normal routine. Just being able to come back and practice and have the social interaction—the everyday interaction we have with our players has been beneficial to them, as well as us as coaches. It was tough sitting in the house having to do all of your sessions and meeting via Zoom. I think it is welcomed. I think we have done a great job as a staff, medical staff and insuring that all of our players are safe and everyone feels comfortable moving forward."
On how he went from being a successful DB coach at Auburn to a ‘guru’ RB coach now at Georgia…
“First, it was a blessing for me. I actually started when I was at Auburn under Gus Malzahn. He allowed me to enter the college realm in an off-the-field role. I definitely learned a lot that season. We lost to Florida State in the National Championship, then moving forward from there to Georgia Southern. Being a high school coach, you have to coach almost every position and have knowledge in every position, so I feel comfortable on both sides of the ball. I think, with my defensive background, it actually helps coach the running backs and help them understand what a defense is really trying to do and really, in particular, in blitz pickups and assessing different looks on where running holes and running lanes are possible." On how important his success as a player in the SEC (11-0 during 1993 season at Auburn) is with recruits... "I think it helps. I don't bring it up very often. A lot of the guys that are being recruited don't really go past today or the near future, so they don't really look back at those things. I do offer those experiences to the parents, and they definitely understand that. I think it's beneficial, because a lot of the kids that come into this conference— if you've been in this conference, you kind of know what you're getting ready to go through as a player, on and off the field — and just giving those parents the satisfaction and putting their minds at ease that they're in good hands.”
On the running back room/those RBs he sees are ready to take on starting roles… "I feel like all of our guys are putting forth a great effort in the classroom, as well as on the field. We definitely have two older guys with Zamir [White] and James Cook who provide a lot of leadership to the room, and they bring a lot of experience. They are definitely two guys that complement one another. From a standpoint of understanding the offense and learning offense the fastest, they've kind of propelled themselves in that regard. We’re still in the process of developing and seeing where all the guys are going fit, so nothing has been decided yet, but I really like our room. Like I said, dealing with COVID, everyone has to be ready to play because we never know what's going to happen. That's my process, is making sure that all our guys are ready to run the football and protect the quarterback when their numbers are called.”
On his concerns about the pandemic with his kids and also with the season… "Like I said earlier, the biggest thing is just adjusting. We didn't have a spring, but we did have a lot of walkthroughs and a lot of Zoom sessions, so it was a lot of mental preparation. We did lose a lot of the physical part of it, and we're making do now. I think we are up to speed from that standpoint, and just moving forward, because you never know what's going to happen with COVID amongst your team. It's always going to be a ’next man up' mentality for us, and it's my job as a coach to make sure everyone in my room is prepared to play at a winning level.”
On how much more the pass/catching element is emphasized now more than during his playing days at Auburn… “We have been doing it since I’ve been here, but it’s definitely a benefit because in the next level—which all of our guys aspire to be [in]—you have to develop that part of your game if you want to be an every-down running back. It just adds value, and it adds various things to our offense as well. The more you can do, whether it is catching the ball, running great routes, protecting the quarterback, creating yards in the running game, the better off you’re going to be with us and in the future.” On how he feels his five running backs are in the pass/catching game… “I do feel like all five are capable—some are better than others and that’s the development part. That goes on me, and I have to take that and develop the guys that have shortcoming[s] in [those] areas.” On how things are changing philosophically under Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken… “First off, Coach [Todd] Monken is a great offensive mind. He brings a lot of knowledge, experience. He’s done it in the NFL level, college level—at a successful rate. We are in great hands as far as that is concerned. I think we are going to be a balanced football team. I think we are going to try to put our players in the best position to be successful, whether it is running or throwing the ball or both. I think that’s going to be a wait and see deal.” On what his memories are of the recruiting process of former UGA RB Isaiah Crowell, a player under McGee during his time as head coach at Carver-Columbus High School… “It was definitely a time where [Isaiah Crowell] was considered one of the best backs in the country. Every college was pursuing his services. He was definitely a special talent. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out here, but I think he still proved that he was an NFL-quality player despite the shortcomings at the University of Georgia. I still talk to him to this day—he is doing well. He has a son of his own. Very proud of having coached Isaiah along with all the other guys I have coached at Carver[-Columbus High School].” On the ways recruiting has changed since he first got involved in the process… “I think there is because of [how] the social media piece has increased and kind of sped up things. We get a large quantity of film and suggestions of things from coaches, services, through social media. I think kids promote themselves a lot more through social media, and they can get in contact with us via that route as well. So, it’s definitely sped up the process and created us as coaches to evaluate kids at an earlier rate.” On maximizing the offensive players’ skill sets/how that is working out with the running backs who seem to have many different talents… “Every running back and every player on our offensive has a stronger quality than others, and it is up to us to put those guys in the most successful position—where we can be successful as a team. At the same token, making sure we play at a high level, at a high standard—not turning the ball over and play clean football. Just moving forward, I think we will use those guys in the correct manner. Like I say, ‘[If] they have a deficit, it is up to me to bring that deficit up to speed.’ Anything is possible. That falls on Coach Monken’s shoulders. I am sure whatever plan we come up with from week to week, it’ll be a great plan.” On how the running back group has set the tone for the season/how that impacts the season… “For one, we are recognized as RBU. I think with that being said, it’s a very, very high standard in our room. It was established long before myself being here. Our kids take that personally, and they show it every single day in the way they prepare and in practice. We always, as coaches, try to make practice a lot harder than games. If you can make it through our practices day in and day out, you are going to be really prepared for a game.” On whether he has noticed any changes in James Cook and Zamir White this season… “Just more so from a vocal standpoint. They are taking more of a leadership role with our younger guys. They are mimicking what they got when they were freshmen when they [had D’Andre] Swift and [Elijah] Holyfield, older guys in the room. They are taking the young guys under their wings—showing them how to take care of their bodies, how to prepare and be the best you can be the best you can be the next day. As far as film studies concern, just all the tidbits and how to be successful on an every day basis. I think they also provide help to our younger guys in going to class and not being a list-guy, just being an overall really, really good student-athlete.” On whether he has aspirations to be a head coach…“I definitely have aspirations to be a head coach, but right now my whole focus is on doing the best job I can here at the University of Georgia this season and kind of let things fall where they may when those times and opportunities present themselves. But I’m totally happy being the running back coach here at Georgia. I feel like I have the best running back job in the country. Like I said, we have a high standard and our guys are going to live up to that standard." On how important exposure is for the assistant coaches like himself during a time when recruiting is so limited due to COVID-19… “I definitely think the in-person recruiting has been hampered. It’s definitely tough to recruit via zoom, not being able to interact with the parents and the kids on an in-person level. So, they do get to see me as a coach through a different lens, but at the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. We have to adjust, and every college in America has had to adjust to COVID and recruiting under the circumstances, without the student-athletes and their parents being on campus and being able to interact in person.” On the work Zamir White has put in to come back after two ACL surgeries and how he serves as an inspiration for his peers… “First off, Zamir [White] is a great kid. He had some tough upbringings throughout his life, and he’s been an overcomer. That’s the expectation. He’s never down; he’s always very upbeat. Like I said, his hard work has been recognized by his peers, along with the coaching staff, so much love for Zamir and just the way he’s embraced two knee injuries. That’s a very tough feat to overcome, but he’s a spiritual person and has all the faith in the world in our training staff, and he has faith in himself, as well. I’m expecting a lot of big things out of him this year.” On what new ideas Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke has brought to the Georgia offense… “Coach Luke is a great man. He brings a lot of energy, and I think his players, along with their other teammates, really respect him. I think all of our coaches have brought great ideas in all facets of our offense. I think that Coach Monken has done a great job of implementing those ideas, and I think we’re going to have a great plan every Saturday when we hit the field to be successful. Now, we have to execute that plan, of course.” On Kendall Milton’s injury… “He’s not out. He’s been doing everything, as far as the development of just making sure we get the correct reps in. He’s missed certain parts of practice." On what stood out about Daijun Edwards that made him and the coaching staff think he’d be an asset to the team… "First, he was a great high school running back. He started for four years in the toughest division in Georgia, and he was very productive at Colquitt County. He brings that hard-nosed mentality. He can catch the football. He can run in between the tackles and has enough speed and burst to make explosive players. I love everything about Daijun and his work ethic.” On the O-Line and how Georgia is working to fill voids left after last season… “I think our O-Line will be fine. I think we’re all a work in progress at every position, and that’s what camp is for. That’s what we’re gearing our efforts towards. As we progress closer to our opening game and kind of scaling everything back, I see us being a very good offense." On whether he thinks James Cook, Zamir White and Kendall Milton picked up special skill sets preparing for the Sugar Bowl… “Like I said, our guys prepare each and every week like they’re the guy, and that’s the expectation. Preparation in the Sugar Bowl wasn’t any different than preparation for any other game, so the only thing is their opportunity came, and they actually showed exactly why they’re here. Like I said, I love my room. I love my guys, and they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with this year." On what the expectations are for James Cook and Zamir White considering the success of past RBs… “Expectations aren’t about statistics for me. It’s just moreso about wins and losses, and how we can be successful, limit our mental errors and make sure we protect our quarterback and take care of the football. As long as we do those things, the individual accolades will come. If that happens, it happens; but that’s not the big picture of things. It’s moreso about taking care of the football, protecting our quarterback and playing with great effort.”