ATHENS, Ga. --- Todd Hartley and Mitch Doolittle weren't exactly looking for seasonal jobs during the holiday season, but the Georgia graduate assistants were presented with a big opportunity by coach Mark Richt.
The two agreed to help prepare the Georgia defense for the Independence Bowl after three assistant coaches were dismissed. Hartley and Doolittle were given a little more than three weeks to prepare players for a Texas A&M team that ranks fifth in total offense and scored 39 points against Texas.
"It's a little trial by fire," said Doolittle, 25. "We're measured by that one three-hour period, so all this work, it's good and we're excited about it, but it doesn't matter unless you go perform."
Richt offered defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, linebackers coach John Jancek and defensive ends coach Jon Fabris a chance to remain with the team through the bowl, but they declined. So Richt turned to Doolittle, who worked directly with Jancek, to coach the linebackers and to Hartley, who helped Martinez, to coach the defensive backs for the bowl.
"It's a great opportunity, especially for a young coach," said Hartley, 24. "You would hope it would look good on a rÃ©sumÃ© for obvious reasons."
Doolittle and Hartley aspire to get full-time gigs as college coaches, hooking on next perhaps as a position coach. Richt promoted graduate assistant Bryan McClendon, a former Bulldogs receiver, to running backs coach last year, but staying on after the bowl as position coach is probably a long shot for Hartley and Doolittle.
"I'm just looking at it as a time to go out, have fun, get the guys flying around and for me, it's going to be a big learning experience," Hartley said.
The hours of a graduate assistant can be long (nearly 18-hour days) and the pay not so great -- Doolittle makes about $15,000, Hartley about $24,000. They do the "grunt work," as Hartley put it: breaking down film, providing scouting reports to players and organizing the scout teams. They also brief coaches on tendencies of upcoming opponents.
"They're sharp," Richt said. "When the players know that the guys have knowledge, they respect that and they respond to that."
Hartley had to complete a 10-page final paper on adult education in Third World nations before bowl practices began. Doolittle is not required to take classes.
Reach Marc Weiszer at email@example.com.