NEW ORLEANS — Mike Bobo doesn’t know what people mean when they say "old school," he said, but that’s the best description for Georgia’s 33-year-old offensive coordinator, his boss said.
"Mike’s an interesting guy," Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt said. "He’s kind of got an old-school mentality. He’s kind of got an old-school body, to be honest with you."
That’s a crack about Bobo’s physique, which doesn’t bring to mind the starting college quarterback he used to be, but Richt has nothing but respect for Bobo’s coaching, which shows a days-gone-by appreciation for the running game.
Georgia (10-2), which held its second practice in New Orleans on Thursday in preparation for Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl against No. 10 Hawaii (12-0), has rushed the ball 58 percent of the time in Bobo’s first full season as offensive coordinator.
"He doesn’t mind smashing mouths a little bit," Richt said.
Would the Bulldogs’ offense have looked the same this year if Richt, whose first inclination is to throw the ball, were still calling the plays? It’s impossible to say, both men said Thursday.
"I think it was obvious that we needed to try to do everything we could to protect our offensive linemen," Richt said. "We had to try to establish as good a running game as we could. We knew those (running backs) were the guys we better get the ball to. I think philosophically that would have been what we were trying to accomplish regardless of who was calling the plays or designing the game plan."
Georgia finished the regular season sixth in total offense (379.1 yards per game) and sixth in scoring offense (31.9 points per game) in the SEC.
When Richt named Bobo the offensive coordinator during the offseason, Richt fell back on a lesson he learned when he was the one taking orders — give someone a job and let them do it.
That’s what Bobby Bowden did for the Florida State offensive staff Richt was on, and that’s what Richt did for Bobo. Richt went so far as to intentionally stay out of the offensive meetings to give Bobo the freedom to develop his own style.
"If I’m sitting there interjecting a thought every time something rolls down the pipe, it certainly would have had some affect on the decisions that were being made," he said. "I didn’t want Mike and the staff to go in a certain direction because I was sitting there."
Working without the boss looking over his shoulder allowed Bobo room to breathe.
"When the head coach is around, you want to make sure you are saying everything correctly," he said. "Sometimes you are not being yourself. He wants me to be myself. It just shows a lot of confidence in you. That’s the big thing — belief."
Richt developed that belief while watching Bobo during the previous six seasons he has been on the Bulldogs’ staff.
"It’s not like I hired Mike away from somewhere," Richt said. "I’ve been watching him for six years. We do think very much alike. We’re very much on the same page philosophically. I just liked the way he thought so I was very comfortable turning it over to Mike."
When the Sugar Bowl is over and the season complete, Bobo and his staff will take time to break down the entire season and decide what they did well and what they can do better. Until then, it’s too soon to sum up his first year on the job, he said.
"You can’t get too caught up in, "Hey, I did a good job this day. I did a good job that day. I called a good play here,’ " he said. "You just have to put your head down and grind and give your guys the best possible chance to win."