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Getting to Know: Mel Tucker

Note … It ain’t over until it’s over. While there have been numerous published reports that Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will be named CU’s next head coach, nothing has been confirmed. The CU athletic department issued the following statement:

..“(Athletic Director) Rick (George) has not offered the head coaching position to anyone at this point; he is still in the discussion and evaluation stages and won’t make a decision on a final candidate until early next week.”

It still appears that a deal is in the works, but we’ll have to wait until an announcement with Rick George’s name on it comes out …

The Mel Tucker File …

Personal: 

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Age: 46 … Married, two sons

2018 Salary, Georgia Defensive coordinator/Defensive backs coach: $1.5 million

Playing history: Wisconsin: 1990-92; 1994 … Defensive back

Coaching history: 

1997–1998 … Michigan State …  Graduate assistant
1999 … Miami (OH) … Defensive backs coach
2000 … LSU … Defensive backs coach
2001–2003 … Ohio State … Defensive backs coach
2004 … Ohio State … Co-Defensive coordinator
2005–2007 … Cleveland Browns … Defensive backs coach
2008 … Cleveland Browns … Defensive coordinator
2009–2011 … Jacksonville Jaguars … Defensive coordinator
2011 Jacksonville Jaguars … Interim head coach (2-3 record)
2012 Jacksonville Jaguars … Assistant head coach/Defensive coordinator
2013–2014 Chicago Bears … Defensive coordinator
2015 Alabama … Assistant head coach/Defensive backs coach
2016–present Georgia … Defensive coordinator/Defensive backs coach

Tucker has coached under some famous names …

— Tucker has spent considerable time in the NFL, where he spent 2005-2014 with the Browns, the Jaguars, and the Bears. In 2015, he joined Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama as the defensive backs coach, and then moved a year later with Kirby Smart to Georgia, where he served as the defensive coordinator (2016-18). Along the way, Tucker got experience as the interim head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he went 2-3 to finish the season.

Prior to his nine years in the NFL, Tucker spent a year under Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher at LSU before coaching for four seasons under Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Tucker was the defensive backs coach for the 2001 National Championship team.

So, Tucker spent time learning under Nick Saban (twice), Jim Tressel, Jimbo Fisher, and Kirby Smart, and spent the majority of his 30’s as a respected defensive coordinator in the NFL.

In his own words: 

From FanSided“I really feel strongly about this: It is not a Mel Tucker defense,” Tucker said in August. “It is the University of Georgia defense, and it’s going to be a team effort. Our foundation is going to be in the best condition, to play with technique and fundamentals, play smart, play fast, play physical and just overall, a brand of relentless defense and relentless football — high velocity, nonstop. We want to stop the run, and we want to affect the quarterback with rush and coverage. We want to force takeaways, we want to be great in special situations and make people he can which check don’t give up big plays. In a nutshell, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

By the numbers at Georgia:

— 2016 … Rushing Defense: 36th; Passing Defense: 16th; Scoring Defense: 35th; Total Defense: 16th

— 2017 … Rushing Defense: 20th; Passing Defense: 8th; Scoring Defense: 6th; Total Defense: 6th

— 2018 … Rushing Defense: 27th; Passing Defense: 12th; Scoring Defense: 10th; Total Defense: 13th

Notes and quotes 

— From Dawg Nation“Georgia’s unassuming defensive coordinator is a ‘smooth guy’ “

Mel Tucker is easily Georgia’s most unassuming defensive coordinator this decade, as Todd Grantham and Jeremy Pruitt had personalities as big as their nose tackles. But don’t mistake Tucker’s lack of flare for lack of personality. Or lack of effectiveness.

… Tucker’s background in the NFL – where you’re dealing with older, more experienced players – may lead him to a more gentle, cerebral approach.

“He’s a player’s coach,” (linebacker Davin) Bellamy said. “But he also demands a lot of you. I know from a personal standpoint he’s not really trying to grow you as a football player, he’s trying to grow you as a man also. Me and coach Tuck, man, he’s helped me out a lot this year.”

— From Dawg Nation … “Georgia players describe their ‘phone booth’ defense

It’s not clear whether defensive coordinator Mel Tucker came up with the analogy himself. It’s also not certain whether all of his Georgia football players can appreciate the outdated nature of it.

This much is apparent, though. It’s working.

Allow J.R. Reed, Georgia’s sophomore defensive back, to explain:

“You’re in a phone booth with the guy lined up across from you. If you’re going against him, do your job, beat him, don’t give up one-for-ones. If he’s trying to block you, defeat the blocks. If you’ve got to cover him, cover him.”

… Head coach Kirby Smart said the phone booth analogy isn’t “the overriding philosophy,” just part of the “win your box” emphasis.

“That obviously stuck with them,” Smart said. “That’s one of coach Tucker’s sayings. I wouldn’t say it’s the mantra or anything like that. A lot more of it goes into it than that because some of those guys don’t play in a phone booth, they play on an island. Everybody’s different based on their position. I’d say the front guys are very much like that.”

Mel Tucker official bio – from Georgia Athletics:

Mel Tucker, assistant head coach and defensive backs coach at the University of Alabama and former NFL defensive coordinator, was named UGA defensive coordinator and secondary coach on January 12, 2016.

Tucker was part of a 2017 staff that led the Bulldogs to a record-tying 13 victories, first SEC championship since 2005, first appearance in the College Football Playoff, first appearance (and victory over Oklahoma) in the Rose Bowl CFP semi-final game, and first appearance in the College Football Playoff Championship Game.  Georgia’s defense finished second in the SEC and 6th nationally in Scoring Defense (16.4 ppg), 2nd in the SEC and 6th nationally in Total Defense (294.9 ypg), and 2nd in the SEC in Rushing Defense.

In his first year at UGA, Tucker guided a Bulldog defense that ranked among the nation’s top 20 units in the following categories:  total defense, passing defense, turnovers gained, and first down defense.Tucker joined Nick Saban’s staff at Michigan State as a graduate assistant in 1997. After two years there, he went to work as a defensive backs coach at Miami (Ohio) for one season in 1999. In 2000, Tucker returned to work with Saban at LSU for one season before going to Ohio State for a four-year stint (2001-04). The Buckeyes went 14-0 in 2002 and won the BCS National Championship. Tucker was elevated to co-defensive coordinator in 2004.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Tucker attended Cleveland Heights High School where he was a football standout and earned a scholarship to Wisconsin. He was a four-year letterman at defensive back for the Badgers and graduated in 1995.

Tucker’s wife, JoEllyn, earned her undergraduate degree at Illinois and her law degree from Rutgers. The couple has two sons: Joseph (15) and Christian (13).

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6 Replies to “Getting to Know: Mel Tucker”

  1. Chev isn’t ready to be an OC, let alone a HC………. his play calling this past year was predictable and the schemes were abysmal. Sorry Chev…. I know your heart was in the right place (as was Mac2’s).

    ** I really would prefer an experienced HC with a demonstrated winning resume. I don’t care about Turner having potential. There have been a lot of HC candidates who had POTENTIAL before they tried to climb a hill to fight the enemy. It’s different being responsible for one phase of a game instead of being responsible for all phases of a game by directing and supervising all personnel, including your coaches.

    If you ask me, I’d prefer Turner getting his HC experience at the bottom of the D-1 barrel somewhere else and see how well he does there. He may be a nice guy but I’m certain you’ve heard about nice guys and where they finish…most of the time.

    If Turner is the new HC, I’ll support him all the way…. just like I did Mac2…. and hope for the best….BUT, I won’t have”High Hopes.”

    Nothing against Mel Turner. Might be a fine man and gentleman. (So was Mac2).

  2. Seems to me that if Chev stays, then Rick’s plan (he has said he wants a coach who loves CU) is to have him take the HC job if/when Tucker leaves. Personally I would agree that Chev isn’t ready to be the HC right now. Pure speculation.

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