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Tim Hyland

Ace Recruiter Turns Down Tennessee, Sticks With Richt

By January 5, 2009

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The first battle between new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin and Georgia's Mark Richt has been decided.

And Richt won.

Georgia defensive line coach, assistant head coach and recruiting ace Rodney Garner said on Monday that he would return to Athens next season, despite a reported big-money offer to join Kiffin's staff in Knoxville. The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that Garner—a man considered crucial to the Bulldogs' success in recent years—was offered nearly $400,000 by Tennessee. He makes $250,000 with the Bulldogs, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Luring Garner away from Richt would have been a major coup for Kiffin, who despite obvious football smarts has a lot to learn about recruiting in the South. Kiffin may be a genius with X's and O's, but unless he can recruit players out of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina—which is what Garner does so well—he's simply not going to win at Tennessee.

Explaining his decision to stay with Georgia, Garner cited his strong relationship with Richt, who he described as a "great man." Richt was equally complimentary of Garner, saying in a statement that his assistant had been "an integral part of the success we've enjoyed over the past eight years."

Photo: Georgia coach Mark Richt will still have top assistant Rodney Garner by his side next season (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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