Running back coach Dell McGee has continued to develop a conveyor belt of talent at running back, giving Georgia football the rightful claim to the RBU title.
There is no lack of column inches about the great running backs who have rolled through Athens — Nick Chubb, D’Andre Swift, James Cook and Zamir White, to name the most recent superstars. Those guys join the list of legends that includes Todd Gurley, Herschel Walker and so many more.
Similarly, the next class of backs destined for greatness, Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton, have also been the center of attention recently as the new season begins.
But behind every great running back is a great coach. Which got us thinking — who is the “guy behind the guy?” And why not devote some column inches to the coach that works relentlessly to recruit and develop the current and future national champions?
Georgia football running backs coach Dell McGee is one of the best to hold that title.
Let’s focus on the coaches we thought — so we did. Up first is McGee because, as we all know, Georgia is a running back school, and he hasn’t skipped a beat since taking the job.
Georgia — born and bred
Like a significant number of the coaches that head coach Kirby Smart has on his staff, McGee is a Georgia native born in Columbus.
However, McGee did not go to school in Georgia, instead crossing state lines into Alabama and across the plains to Auburn. McGee played cornerback for the Tigers all four years, with two as a starter. After graduation, he got drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and played in the NFL for two years before leaving to play in NFL Europe for Rhein Fire in 1999. McGee finished his playing career in the XFL in 2001.
He joined the Georgia coaching staff in 2016 from Georgia Southern. While his journey in terms of distance was short, it was, in fact, a long and twisting one. Albeit, he has never left the state of Georgia as a coach.
From XFL to high school coach
After retiring as a player, McGee started his coaching career in high school. From 2002 to 2012, McGee coached with three Georgia high schools, where he developed talent that ultimately would get drafted into the NFL.
Unbeknown to McGee, he was subconsciously developing his recruiting network — one that would take him from high school football to the college football national champions.
As head coach of Carver-Columbus High School, he developed a strong reputation as a recruiter and developer of talent. In his eight years with the Tigers, McGee’s teams recorded seven straight seasons with 10 or more wins. He solidified his reputation by winning Georgia State Coach of the Year in 2007 and 2008. He ended his time at Carver-Columbus with an 88-19 overall record and six regional championships.
When mother calls
Given his reputation as a high school coach, it was no surprise that McGee wanted to take his career to the next level, and it was even less of a surprise that NCAA schools wanted him.
As a first step, McGee returned to his alma mater to become an analyst at Auburn to coach under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn. While McGee was only at Auburn for a season, this was an invaluable learning experience, with the Tigers reaching the 2013 BCS National Championship game.
McGee then moved back into Georgia and to Statesboro to become running backs coach with the Georgia Southern Eagles. Not long after landing with the Eagles, McGee was appointed associate head coach who started a hugely successful eight years in Statesboro, culminating in the Eagles participating and winning their first bowl game, defeating Bowling Green in the 2016 Outback Bowl.
So what does Georgia football have in Dell McGee?
The work that McGee undertook during his time coaching in high school should not be underestimated. Nowadays, the term “powerhouse” is used when talking about the Tigers, but that wasn’t the case before McGee started his eight years coaching at Carver. But by doing so, he cemented a powerful recruiting network, as you are likely to find in the state of Georgia.
Smart’s mantra is that recruiting is the bedrock of everything — recruiting, 365 days a year, always recruiting. That mindset with McGee’s experience means he fits in with the Bulldogs’ culture like a glove.
When McGee stepped through the door of the Butts-Mehre building, he brought a wealth of experience, an intimate knowledge of the Georgia recruiting scene and a proven track record of developing young players into NFL talent.
And the stats since moving to Athens in 2016 have spoken for themselves.
In those five seasons, McGee has proven himself to be quite the asset. Chubb, Sony Michel, Swift and Elijah Holyfield have all had 1,000-yard rushing seasons under McGee’s stewardship. Coincidentally, all four have continued their football careers in the NFL.
However, it’s not just the individual running backs that have mattered, and he has been able to make sure the Dawgs’ have success running the ball. In 2017, on its way to the College Football Playoffs where Georgia was No. 1 in the SEC in rushing offense.
In their national championship campaign last season, Georgia averaged 5.26 yards per carry which was an improvement from the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
All of this reinforces the idea that the Georgia football running backs are in good hands — in fact, expert hands. Does that mean that other programs will want to hire McGee? Yes, of course, they will. However, McGee is home. For a man who has never coached outside of a Georgia zip code, this means a lot. With the recruiting network he has in the state, it feels like McGee could be in Athens for a very long time, and we love that thought.