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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fabris Talks Special Teams

I have a story in today's Telegraph about Mark Richt's plans to let more freshmen play on special teams this year -- a policy Jon Fabris, Georgia's primary special teams coach, hasn't always employed.

As a general rule, Fabris would much prefer an experienced walk-on to a talented freshman on scholarship. It's a mind-set that gets a few fans riled up.

The trickle-down from that is that Fabris also insists on directional kicking, and smart folks like Rex Robinson think that's because the coverage teams aren't getting the job done.

Add rule No. 1 and rule No. 2 and it's not hard to imagine how a new philosophy on coverages might help to change the philosophy on kicking. Or then again, maybe not.

Richt has said he expects all his skill-position freshmen to play this year ("Will I say not one of these guys will redshirt? There’s a chance that they do. But right now the plan is not to,” he said) and he's also told his special teams coaches (i.e. Fabris) to be patient with the freshmen in hopes that, even if they aren't ready to make an impact immediately, they might be able to do so down the road.

That said, Fabris is still calling the shots on special teams, and as you may or may not piece together from his comments here, major changes from the past are far from a certainty.

Fabris on whether he plans to play more of Georgia's scholarship freshmen on special teams...
"The bottom line is, can the guy get the job done -- whether he was a highly recruited player who is a true freshman or a player that doesn't have a scholarship or a fifth-year senior that's never really played a lot and all of a sudden says, 'Hey, I want to play my senior year. I want to get serious about this.' You get a little bit of everything. And you're trying to fuse all these different people into one unit, and they're all playing different positions. So it's not like they're in your room every day. They come together for drills or for a meeting, but then they disperse to their different places. So you want guys that want to be there or at least understand the importance of it for the team. So the bottom line is you want the best guys, and certainly freshmen do not have as much understanding or experience."

On why he tends to rely on walk-ons rather than developing scholarship players on special teams...
"They're are going to be growing pains, mistakes made, but if you can find one that makes minimal mistakes, by the end of their freshman year, they can usually become pretty good players. But the funny thing about that is, by the time they're becoming pretty good players, they're probably going to be a starter on offense or defense by then, and they say, sorry, you can't have him. He's ours now. So often times you find yourself dealing with players that are second-level players offensively or defensively or maybe even walk-on kids, and while they might not have as much physical talent as some of those other kids, because you're able to work with them and you get those repetitions over the span of several seasons, they learn more."

On whether the coaches are trying to instill more of a desire to play special teams among the scholarship players...
"Well, we do, but you say developing the want to, and there's ways of encouraging that, but the bottom line is, if a guy doesn't really have the want to, he doesn't have it. It's kind of like Bill Parcells said one time about aggressiveness -- if they don't bite you when they're a pup, they probably aren't going to bite you when they're the big dog. That's true. You can encourage it and praise it, but a guy's going to determine how hard he's going to play and how much it's going to mean to him. And I'll give up a little bit of talent to find a guy who, as Erk Russell would say, has a bad case of the wants. It means something to him."

On how the injuries last season had an even bigger effect on special teams...

"A lot of people don't understand that. They think, just throw somebody out there. You wouldn't just throw somebody out there doing something else. There's tricks to the trade, there's knowledge. Giving a guy his chance and his being able to do it are two different things. Sometimes the light bulb comes on a little bit earlier than others. Sometimes it comes on the middle of the season for guys working on scout teams."

On how much he thinks special teams experience can help skill players when they move to bigger roles on offense or defense...
"It certainly would be beneficial just to have the experience of being out on the field, but it's not going to help you technically because it has nothing to do with your position. Certainly getting the experience and understanding the jitters and all the things that go into that, that's good for you."

On how the special teams units have looked so far this fall...
"It really looks like an old spring practice out on the field where you have multiple bodies and it's just a tryout session. Our spring, we had 35 players injured and so many of them were young kids, there's so many of them that you don't even know if they can play because they've been hurt since they've been here. So you generally get a lot of your questions answered in the spring, but because we had so many people hurt, you have a bunch of redshirt freshmen that were hurt last year that are unknowns. You have a bunch of hurt guys that are unknowns. And you've got all the new freshmen. So eventually you have to start sorting things down, and it's not an exact science."

On who he's looking at as a punt returner this fall...
"We have three guys who are here right now who have actually done it in a game -- Prince Miller, Logan Gray and Reshad Jones -- so there's nothing like experience. We have played redshirt freshmen before at punt returner. I'm totally for speed, but that's not the most important thing. You've got to make good decisions. You've got to be able to catch the ball really consistently. We're not just going to put the guy with the fastest 40 time back there because there's nothing worse than the defense about to sit down and about the time they put that drink to your mouth, people are screaming for the defense to get back on the field. We're working with a lot of different guys to try to develop depth."

4 comments:

Dawg Stephen said...

All that is fine and good, and I do trust and believe what he is saying. I have one request.

KICK IT IN THE ENDZONE!!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like he is dodging the question.

Anonymous said...

cry me a river Fab....

Anonymous said...

Fabris and Willie should have been shown the door at the end of last season.