GA News: OnlineAthens - DC Tucker and QB Del Rio head back to Jacksonville for their first UGA

TideFans Reporter

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Sep 21, 2006
October 25th, 2016 01:46 PM

Mel Tucker will return to the sidelines at EverBank Field on Saturday. The players he coaches on Georgia’s defense as a first-year coordinator may need to be reminded of his history in Jacksonville.
“He used to be the D-coordinator there, right?” outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said. “He doesn’t really talk about that a lot.”
Tucker spent four seasons with the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars from 2009-12 serving as defensive coordinator and for five games in 2011 as interim head coach when the team’s defense ranked sixth in yards allowed.
Tucker went 2-3 in that interim role after Jack Del Rio, who Tucker worked under as coordinator, was fired.
Del Rio plans to be at Saturday’s Georgia-Florida game to watch his son Luke, Florida’s starting quarterback, who Tucker and the Bulldogs’ defense will try to make feel uncomfortable.
“Growing up there for eight-and-a-half, nine years, being able to play with my dad and watch his team compete on that field is really special,” said Del Rio, who has never been inside the stadium for the rivalry game but has gone to tailgates there with family. “We still have a game to win, but it will be fun to be back there.”
Luke Del Rio remembers running out to get the tee after kickoffs and as an 8-year old when a game of catch with kicker Josh Scobee went wrong. The ball bounced up and hit Del Rio, who ended up with a black eye.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart knows Del Rio firsthand from being a scout team quarterback at Alabama after walking on in 2013. He transferred to Oregon State where he played in three games in 2014 and transferred again to Florida where he sat out last season. Smart called the 6-foot-1, 211-pound redshirt sophomore “a ferocious competitor that I got a lot of respect for.”
Tucker is the defensive coordinator working for a defensive minded coach in Smart, who is very hands on with the defense in practice.
When Florida coach Jim McElwain was talking about the Bulldogs defense this week he said it “headed by a group of guys that really know what they’re doing in Kirby and obviously Mel. … This will be a great chess match going into it.”
Bellamy said Tucker, who also was defensive coordinator in the NFL with Chicago and Cleveland and coached the Alabama secondary last season, “is kind of the guy that’s running the show and of course with Kirby’s experience and his resume, his input is always needed. We listen to all of our coaches equally. It’s not that one has more power than another.”
Tucker, like the rest of Georgia’s assistants, is not available to speak to the media during the season.
Smart was asked to assess Tucker running the Georgia defense after seven games.
The group is coming off a game in which it limited Vanderbilt to 171 yards in a 17-16 loss.
“I don't get into evaluations in midseason,” Smart said. “I don't think that's as critical right now. I think the most important thing is our preparation, and that's what I'm evaluating is are we preparing properly, are we getting the right reps, are we looking at the right things that they're doing, seeing the right percentages of their personnel groupings. I think that's the most important part.”
Georgia’s defensive numbers have improved--currently sitting at fifth in the SEC at 339.7 yards per game--but the Bulldogs have gone up against the league’s two worst offenses in South Carolina and Vanderbilt the past two weeks.
“I think when you base things on stats, that's what can mislead you,” Smart said. “At the end of the day it comes with practice, and you have to go by practice. And I feel like because you see practice every day, those defensive players have improved. They've definitely improved on their execution. Some of that could be about we're seeing less stuff. But at the end of the day we've tried to simplify and play fast and get guys to play the right way. The numbers have shown that that's been a help, but we've also probably played guys that were not as good offensively.”
Jack Del Rio now coaches the Raiders, which won at Jacksonville Sunday and he plans to be at the Georgia game, the day before his team plays at Tampa Bay.
“Obviously, we spent a lot of time playing catch before the games down on that field,” Jack Del Rio said, according to the Associated Press. “Very cool memories. We've got a lot of pictures, a lot of memories of us spending time together there."
Georgia doesn’t want Del Rio to have good memories created on Saturday.
“He can make the throws,” Bellamy said of a quarterback who is completing 57.6 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. “He’s kind of going to bring a different gameplan than last year when they had Treon Harris. He liked to get outside the pocket. This guy can make those throws and we’ve just got to prepare like we prepare.”