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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Making Special Teams Special Again

Georgia’s special teams responsibilities have been officially divvied out among the assistant coaches.

Wide receivers coach Tony Ball will handle kickoff returns and tight ends coach John Lilly will be in charge of punting and punt coverage, just as they were last year. The Bulldogs led the nation in punting in 2009 and kick returner Brandon Boykin scored three touchdowns on returns.

The shakeups occur in the units formerly coached by dismissed defensive ends coach Jon Fabris.

Punt return duties will fall to second-year running backs coach Bryan McClendon, who returned punts and kicks for the Bulldogs as a player in 2003 and 2004.

Lilly will handle overall special teams coordination, setting up meetings and practice times, Richt said, but will not hold the title of special teams coordinator

The most notable change, however, comes on the much maligned kickoff coverage team, which will now be headed up by Warren Belin, who coached that unit for eight seasons at Vanderbilt. If last season tells us anything, this should be one of the biggest steps forward for Georgia in 2010.

To wit…

Last season, Vandy ranked second in the SEC in kick coverage and 29th nationally, allowing an average of 20.2 yards per return.

Georgia ranked last in the SEC and 117th nationally in kick coverage nationally, allowing an average of 25.71 yards per return.

How much of a difference was that really?

Vandy allowed 550 fewer kick return yards than Georgia for the season, and at five yards per kick, it probably made a difference of 20 to 25 yards of field position per game, which is hardly insignificant.

Of course, the other important thing to remember is -- Vandy was doing it with worse players.

I won't get into the coverage unit itself, since it should be fairly obvious that the backups at UGA should be every bit as skilled athletically as the starters for Vandy. There's absolutely no question that Georgia should be able to cover kicks as well as Belin's old squad.

But let's look at the kickers.

Vandy finished second in the SEC in coverage despite the fact that their kicker -- Ryan Fowler -- had just three touchbacks all season.

Georgia finished last in woeful fashion, despite the fact that its kicker -- Blair Walsh -- was a Groza finalist and led the SEC with 17 touchbacks.

So to be clear, Walsh had fourteen more kickoffs than Fowler in which the opposition wasn't able to return the kick, and Georgia still allowed an average of five more yards per kickoff return for the season.

1 comment:

rbubp said...

It's just comedy. Pure comedy. Can we officially being laughing at the old regime yet? Has enough time passed?