Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

VanGorder Put a Stop to Bulldogs' Doubts

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

VanGorder Put a Stop to Bulldogs' Doubts

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Thomas, Times-Union sports writer

NEW ORLEANS -- After playing for three different defensive coordinators in his first three seasons, Georgia linebacker Boss Bailey was a little apprehensive when Mark Richt was hired and brought in a new staff two years ago.

After all, how can a defense build any stability and gain a sense of direction when the top man is making changes annually?

Enter Brian VanGorder, a man who knows a little something about direction; make that directions. Prior to his arrival in Athens, VanGorder's three previous college stops were at Central Florida, Central Michigan and Western Illinois; hardly the eye-opening resume some might expect worthy of heading the 'Dogs' storied defense.

"I was probably one of those people saying, 'Who is this guy?' after reading his bio," Bailey admitted.

"We had heard of Mark Richt, but we really didn't know who he was," Bulldogs middle linebacker Tony Gilbert said. "We were really up in the air about the whole coaching staff. We really didn't know who to trust. ... We were really wondering how this was going to work, especially with us on the defensive side. We had already had three different coordinators and we were like, 'Here we go again. This is another different defense we're going to have to learn.'

"We weren't really concerned about him, we were concerned about his defense."

Two seasons later, Georgia's defense is a big concern for Florida State and major reason the Bulldogs are back in the Sugar Bowl as SEC champions after a 20-year absence.

"I know who he is now," defensive end and SEC Player of the Year David Pollack said, "and he's a guru."

A finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, presented to the nation's top assistant coach, VanGorder is the architect of a unit that ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense (15.3 ppg.) and 16th in total defense (306.7 ypg.)

Suffice to say, VanGorder has come a long way from his days as a 23-year-old, first-year head coach at Class A Boca Raton (Fla.) Academy, where he first met Mark Richt. Their friendship began through family acquaintances, and continued as they climbed the coaching ladder, but it was VanGorder's scheme as the UCF linebackers coach in 1995 that left the strongest impression on Richt, FSU's offensive coordinator at the time. …

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