Penn State, Georgia adjusting to staff changes for TaxSlayer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Penn State and Georgia don't expect any major changes in the TaxSlayer Bowl despite some significant changes to their coaching staffs.
The Nittany Lions (7-5) fired offensive coordinator John Donovan at the end of the regular season - they lost their final three games - and named Ricky Rahne the play-caller for Saturday's bowl game in Jacksonville.
''Coach Rahne has been involved in the offense, game-planning, working with the quarterbacks, ever since I've been here,'' Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg said Friday. ''For him, it's been a pretty flawless transition. For us, it's a guy we know really well, a guy we work with every day as a unit just calling the plays. It's a different voice, but a lot of the same messages.
''We understand what we have to do. We've all been behind him, and it's been a very smooth transition, at least internally.''
Penn State coach James Franklin hired Fordham coach Joe Moorhead to replace Donovan. Moorhead will install the playbook after the bowl.
''I think you're going to see similar things from Georgia and I think you're going to see similar things from Penn State,'' Franklin said. ''It's about going out and executing.''
The Bulldogs (9-3) have gone through more coaching upheaval. They fired Mark Richt in late November and hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to replace him.
Richt, who has since been hired at Miami, is taking some of his Georgia staff with him. Running backs coach Thomas Brown is Richt's co-offensive coordinator and recruiting director Todd Hartley is his special teams coordinator.
Brown remains with the Bulldogs for the bowl. Georgia probably couldn't afford to let him leave since defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler already are gone.
Graduate assistants will fill-in for the bowl game, while tight ends coach John Lilly calls plays and linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer coordinates the defense.
''Ultimately, it's not going to change too much,'' interim coach Bryan McClendon said. ''It's talked about, and it should be just because it's change. But systematically, we're not calling anything different. It's not a whole offensive overhaul or a defensive overhaul and you're not going to see anything completely different than what we've done.''
Georgia linebacker Jake Ganus took it a step further, saying it's up to the players to ''do all the things we've done all year.''
''All the coaching stuff, there's been a lot of talk about,'' he said. ''At the end of the day, we've still got a team, we've still got our players and we've got our leaders. And I think we're ready for this game to go out there and kind of shut everybody up.''
Here are some more things to know about the second meeting between Penn State and Georgia:
SMART MOVE: Smart is expected to attend the game, although it's unclear how visible he will be. Smart told reporters at the Cotton Bowl earlier this week that he plans to meet ''with some people'' in Jacksonville. Smart wore neutral colors to Cotton Bowl media day since he's recruiting for the Bulldogs while still coaching the Crimson Tide.
BELLAMY OUT: Georgia linebacker Davin Bellamy won't play after injuring a leg in practice Wednesday. ''It was really just one of those freak (things), where nobody was touching anybody,'' McClendon said. ''He was going up there and changing direction and it all just kind of happened, which is a blow. Anytime you lose a player that has played a bunch of ball for you, it definitely is a blow to the team.''
GARRITY'S CATCH: Penn State walk-on receiver Gregg Garrity Jr. has gotten a lot of attention this week, mostly for something his dad did more than three decades ago. His father, also a Penn State receiver, made a diving, 47-yard catch in the end zone against Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl. It turned out to be the winning score in a 27-23 victory that propelled the Nittany Lions to their first national championship. Garrity Jr. has seen his dad's play numerous times and even has the Sports Illustrated cover hanging on the walls of his family home. ''It's something I've seen growing up and is definitely a cool deal,'' Garrity Jr. said.
SECOND HOME: Georgia might not even need to hold a walkthrough at EverBank Field. After all, the Bulldogs have played in the NFL stadium four times in the past 27 months. They played in the 2014 Gator Bowl against Nebraska as well as their annual rivalry game against Florida in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Georgia is 1-3 in those games, including three straight losses.
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org