McGee Builds Off His Coaching Connections
By Dan Harralson
The C-USA landscape and UAB's staff looks different as Garrick McGee enters year number two on the Southside of Birmingham. The offseason has been a busy one with McGee making staff changes — five to be exact.
Usually when a lot turnover exists, it is not a good thing. However, with McGee beginning to build his own program at UAB, he still has managed to keep continuity and still has the Blazer program going in the right direction. Having to fill five staff positions is a lot and is not easy, but McGee has built many coaching ties, having coached at Arkansas with Bobby Petrino and at Northwestern with Randy Walker.
"He told me when you're looking to hire people, you hire people that are headed in a certain direction," McGee said of the advice Walker gave him. "I'm really happy that guys got opportunities to move on and I think that's going to continue with this staff."
Eric Evans takes over as the running backs coach for the departed Tyson Helton, who joined Tommy Tuberville's Cincinnati staff. Evans comes from the University of Albany where he was the wide receivers coach for the last five years. He has ties to McGee from his stint as a Northwestern graduate assistant in 2007, while McGee served as Northwestern's offensive coordinator. Evans assisted with Northwestern's quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. In addition, he handled the duties of scout defense, special teams and offensive quality control.
"They had success at Albany. He had success individually. He had a lot of players he coached that became all-conference. He understands me. He's a very good learner. He's done a really good job developing relationships with our players," McGee said.
Joe Henry takes over as tight ends coach, replacing Richard Owens, who goes from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator. The offensive coordinator position came open with the departure of Jeff Brohm. Brohm went to Western Kentucky to take the same position on Bobby Petrino's staff. Henry has ties to McGee from his playing days at Arkansas when McGee was offensive coordinator under Petrino. Henry played tight end at Arkansas and was a graduate assistant last year in Fayetteville.
Kevin Peoples will join the Blazers' staff as the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Peoples comes from Arkansas where he served as the Razorbacks' director of high school relations when McGee was there. Before Peoples joined Arkansas' staff, he served as Arkansas State's defensive line coach for eight years.
"He is one of the top defensive line coaches in the country, I think," McGee said. "For us to get Kevin to come be our defensive line coach here is a very, very big win for us as a program. When he came in, he upgraded our recruiting class immediately. He brought players in with him and he was able to go secure some players that we were on the fence with."
Matt Sanders replaces cornerbacks coach Anthony Blevins. Blevins left to join Bruce Arians' new staff with the Arizona Cardinals. Sanders will also coach special teams and comes from Louisville. Sanders is not a direct McGee connection, but being embedded in the Petrino coaching tree made the hire easier. Sanders played linebacker at Louisville under current UAB defensive coordinator Reggie Johnson and was teammates with UAB secondary coach Brandon Sharp and Owens.
The only coaching change McGee filled internally was offensive coordinator. Owens, will also take on the role of wide receivers coach this year. Ron Sigler left UAB after one season coaching the Blazers' wide receivers. Owens was an Arkansas graduate assistant while McGee was Arkansas' offensive coordinator. Owens also played collegiately at Louisville.
"Richard's a very good, young, detailed coach," McGee said. "He's done a very good job with those guys this offseason just teaching them certain details and certain ways to go about your business. He's going to bring a lot of toughness, a lot of attention to detail to our offense and be able to continue with the success we've always had in this offense."
Players report Aug. 5. McGee and his staff open fall camp Aug. 6. McGee seems more comfortable going into year number two even after making coaching changes.
"It's a very big advantage for me because I feel more comfortable," McGee said. "I know what's going on in the position meetings. They understand my language, they understand what I want, how I approach kids, how I address kids, how I look to motivate and manage kids."
The number one goal in coaching is still developing and coaching each player to their abilities.
"They (the coaches) know how to address players positively and 'coach them up' is what I call it. You don't coach kids down, you coach them up," McGee said. "You address the problem, but send them out there to motivate them to do it right. I'm really at peace with our staff because I know these guys and they all know me."