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Monday, May 17, 2010

Changing His Stripes

It kind of slid under the radar, but this comment from Mark Richt at last week's Macon Bulldog Club meeting caught my eye...

"Even his high school coach said, 'Coach, I think he's on defense.' He said it the day we got him. But we were smarter than that, and we thought, no, once he gets to do it more, he's going to be something else."

The quote is in reference to Richard Samuel, who pretty much everyone seemed to understand would be better suited for linebacker, but instead spent two full seasons -- including the first half of last year as the starter -- trying to play running back.

Now, to Samuel's credit, he did study hard and he did have breakaway speed and he was a big, bruising body -- so if things had clicked, perhaps he could have been a heck of a running back.

But the quote above strikes me as the biggest reason fans were -- and in some cases, still are -- so upset with Richt last year.

For all the "never been in the arena" talk from the head coach, it sure seemed like the folks on the outside had a lot right.

The fans understood the defense was headed in a bad direction, and the result was five games in which UGA allowed at least 34 points.

Fans knew the kickoff strategy was flawed, and the result was a loss to LSU because of a bad kickoff late in the game. (And, to be fair, a ridiculous penalty on A.J. Green.)

Fans knew that personnel changes needed to be made, and while Bacarri Rambo helped save the Auburn game, far too many big plays also occurred while Bryan Evans chased futilely after a receiver destined for the end zone.

For all the talk about turnovers and penalties and off-field incidents… it still seems like if the defensive strategy had been adjusted, slumping seniors had been benched, kickoffs had gone deep and the answer at RB had been found a bit earlier, Georgia might well have enjoyed a 10-win season (or better) last year.

And the problem wasn't so much that fans recognized those problems last year. It was that they recognized them in 2008, when Georgia actually did win 10 games. And like with the Samuel situation, Georgia's staff knew better and stubbornly stuck to philosophies that utterly frustrated fans.

On the upside, virtually every one of those issues has been addressed this offseason (along with a handful of others, including a renewed emphasis on recruiting the state of Georgia, constant talk of fundamentals, etc., etc.).

So for the second straight year, I discount much of the "hot seat" talk about Richt. But I can't help but wonder if much of that talk could have been avoided altogether if just a few of this offseason's concessions had been made a year earlier -- regardless of whether or not Georgia still finished with five losses.

So here's my question: Have all the offseason moves left you with as much confidence in Richt as you ever had? Or did two years of stubborn insistence on a largely unsuccessful approach shake your belief?

Or perhaps more to the point -- will you stick by Richt if Georgia finishes 8-5 again this year, but does it with a more fundamentally sound D, a better approach to kickoffs and a duo at tailback that understands how to play the position?

22 comments:

Ubiquitous GA Alum said...

Interesting question since it threads with 2008 ... After the 2008 season, it didn't feel like we'd actually won 10 games.

If after this season we go 8-5 and are sound fundamentally, I don't know that I'll be punching my ticket to the Moral Bowl - since that's where moral victories get counted.

I'll not be calling for heads to roll, but my confidence will be shaken.

Anonymous said...

The comment on Samuel reminded me of Ray Goof playing Robert Edwards at corner instead of RB. I remember Edward's high school coach was quotes as telling Goof that his best RB was playing defense.

Anonymous said...

Just to leave my two cents:

I think that just because fans had it right this time does not mean they always have it right. CMR made those decisions a little late in my opinion and may have been swayed by personal relationships, which may have been the reason the change took so long. However, it seems that CMR cannot always listen to fans. Fickle, Finicky, and Frustrated Fans do not always have the right answers.

I believe that if we have the fundamentals correct and we are working with sound defense and go 8-5 then I am going to have say it is because some unforeseen injury bug or 15 starters getting kicked off the team or SEC officials finally give UGA what they have always wanted to give them (ha ha) a big kick in the balls.

Other than those things I just do not see us going 8-5 with the things in the right place.

Not being a soothsayer I have to relegate my comments to the realm of possibility/probability. Therefore, if we do by some off chance go 8-5 with these things in place then I will have to say that my confidence not in CMR is shaken but my confidence in THE MEGACONFERENCE BIG 16 is on the rise, just kidding. Seriously, I can't say my confidence is shaken with him. I lasted through many more years of Goof and Donnan which have given me a certain resolve to last two consecutive 5 loss seasons.

FWIW.

Anonymous said...

As someone smarter than me stated recently, Coach Richt has earned the right to rebuild his program. He wanted to believe he had the right DC in Martinez, who convinced him that Fabris and Janceyk were top DE and LB coaches in the own right and that Fabris could more than adequately handle kick-off chores. I think we all saw that that was not the case, and as close as Richt was to Martinez, he realized last year he had the wrong man at the helm. With Grantham and the new defensive staff, we have the opportunity to re-establish what Georgia defense has stood for all these years. It will take a couple of years to fully install the 3-4, but I think it will definitely be an "evolutionary step" in the right direction for college football!

CalDawg

Shoaib Ashraf said...

If we play fundamentally sound defense, lose directional kicking as we're doing, and rely on our two running backs to find holes, I don't think we need to worry about five losses.

We've just solidified a significant part of our games by doing those three things.

Anonymous said...

Richt definitely is a few seasons from being considered on the hot seat. Most of the "hot seat" talk comes from fans of other schools and casual UGA supporters; or at least that is what I have experienced. From the outside looking in, I can see why people would assume CR is in jeopardy of losing his job. The more knowledge you have of the situation, however, the more you understand the issues Georgia faced and will face this upcoming year.

As the article states, Richt addressed the top concerns amongst fans (Defensive coaches, directional kickoffs, lack of fundamentals, excessive penalties / turnovers {we will if that translates on the field as it seems to have "been addressed" every off season} and seniority vs. talent evaluations. Richt has made the necessary changes on special teams and defense and doing what is best for the program. He will given this upcoming year and the following year before any consideration would be given to making a change at the top.

On a side note, I would not be surprised at all to see Richt take over the play calling duties later this year or next should Bobo and the offense struggle.

Anonymous said...

Um...Anon at 8:57, first its Ray Goff, and he's a DGD, and has probably contributed more to the success of Georgia Football than some internet hack like yourself,
Second, Robert Edwards was an ALL-SEC CB before switching him to RB. NO ONE said he would be a better RB and the move to RB was out of necessity. Turns out he was a great RB. So do your research first before spouting drivel.

Anonymous said...

CalDawg,

1) Martinez WASN'T convinced that Jancek was the right guy and didn't want to hire him, he was recommended by Brian Van Gorder.

2) Fab is an exceptional DE coach, he has proven that, now ST's kickoff...

AwesomeDawg said...

I hate to be Drew Downer, but CMR will never give us the team we want to see. He has shown us that he is incapable of putting it all together year after year. We have seen offensive issues with great D's, very good O's with crappy D's. Mix in some poor Special Team's, loyality interferring with coaching changes, and a complete lack of player development. This equals poor coaching. CMR has seen his best years and will not reach that highwater mark of SEC CG again. Time to move on! No, I do not have the next coach in waiting, I simply know CRM is flaming out in Athens.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, i'd like to agree with you but there is way more to it than that. Despite those points you made, doesn't it stand to reason that coaches can evolve their programs. Hell, even despite that, Richt is has been one of the most consistently winning coaches in the nation...

Consistency and stability in a program counts a lot. Think about this Dawg fans...let's say we DID find another coach such as a Meyer or Saban..? Is that someone you'd like to identify UGA with..? I sure as hell don't...especially after seeing Richt treat people with respect and ultimate class. And if that coach doesn't set college football on fire, we're back wishing we had a CMR again, but this time, changing the program all over again and enduring even more embarrassing seasons than 8-5 while transitioning, just look at Auburn.

Be patient Dawg fans, we've got a lot positive things coming ahead of us...

Dawgaholic said...

Most of the folks knocking Richt are just jealous they don't have him.

Bama and UF would not trade right now, but I'd bet they'd trade head coaches from 2001-2020 as they both know deep down that CMR will almost certainly be at UGA long after Meyer and Saban have gone elsewhere.

It's just part of the game now in recruiting to use your media outlets and influence to shine light away from your own weaknesses.

Anonymous said...

AwesomeDawg either isn't a dawg, or should change his handle ti UnrealisticDawg. Fiolks like you spend their whole lives being miserable because they aren't someone else. Go jump on the bandwagon du jour, then jump to the next one, then, and so on. I will take anouth nine just like the ones we just had. Dawgs can play with anyone, and do it with class.

Anonymous said...

David, I think you've progressed beyond being a UGA blogger to something bigger and better. I bet the AJC could use someone of your insight and talent. In anticipation of your move to greater things, I'm deleting this link from my favorites list. Have a good one.

AwesomeDawg said...

I amazes me that a differing opinion causes such fear and alarm. What exactly has CMR done that you are willing to give him "from 2001-2020" (anon 6:48)? Yes, we have 2 SEC championships. Then what? "The Dawgs can play with anyone, and do it with class" (anon. 7:27). With the exception of Florida 2 NC under Myer. How about the Vols owning us as of late? I gave my opinion and the reasoning behind it. Oh, I also posted a name to go with it. I simply believe that CMR's star is fading. I would love to eat those words, however, I do not think I will need to.

Dawgaholic said...

Awesome Dawg,

We've been top 15 for 6 of CMR's years and 2 of the last 3. If you are an SEC team in the top 15, you have the ability to win a MNC. It just takes some patience.

Please name one coach who coached at a major conference school for 10 years, had 2/3 of his teams in the top 15 and never won a MNC.

AwesomeDawg said...

Dawgaholic...That is exactly my point. I know that Richt is a good coach. As I stated in my 1st post, he has had success here in Athens. However, something is missing. There is always some issue with our team. It is the offense one year, the defense the next, add in some special teams problems, in addition to our endless off-field "issues", and you have a built in reason/excuse for lack of success. As for patience, how long do we as Dawg fans wait? I have no answer for our next HC. I think we have seen enough from CMR to understand what we are going to get from him. If you have satisfied with top 15's,
2nd or 3rd in the east, and an occassional W over the GAYtors, that is fine. I would like more from our team!

D_Dot said...

I have to agree with AwesomeDawg. Without some radical shift in philosophy from Richt the Dawgs are destined for perinial mediocrity. I think things sound promising from what I've been reading but only time will tell. Richt is the guy I'm concerned with changing his stripes.

Dawgaholic said...

D_Dot and AwesomeDawg,

You two are in the unrealistic group that does not see competition for what it is.

Objectively, anyone can see that CMR's 2002 team accomplished just as much that was within it's control as LSU's 2003 team, UF's 2006 team, and UF's 2008 team and more than LSU's 2007 team.

The 2007 team was as accomplished as LSU's team. The 2005 team could very well have gone unbeaten if DJ doesn't get hurt - remember he was not 100% for Auburn.

In the last decade, we had 3 national championship caliber teams under Richt. Giving the benefit of the doubt to other SEC teams, you could say UF had 3 national championship caliber teams: 06, 08, and 09; Bama had 2: 08 and 09; LSU had 2: 03 and 07; and Auburn had 1: 2004.

This is not mediocrity. It is giving yourself a chance to win. If you do that enough, you will win one.

Firing Richt would be like a golfer rebuilding his swing because he shot 22 under, broke the Masters record, but happened to lose to Tiger who shot 24 under that year.

Anonymous said...

Dawgaholic, lot of truth there. There is no national champioship, now what is missing from the resume? UGA could have won a couple of those just as easily, just didn't get the votes, stars didn't align, whatever. No coach can control that. Ask Tuberville, what could he have done better? MNC is crap, SEC titles are meaningful.....and earned on the field.

Anonymous said...

Mediocrity? Seriously? Give me nine more years of this.

Keese said...

Right on exactly Dawgaholic

Anonymous said...

Wow, if you're deleting Dave from your favs because of this post, you're an incurable idiot.

Second, the argument that Richt doesn't have it indicates to me that the holder of such an opinion doesn't watch a lot of football outside of the Dawgs. There were plenty of games last year that Bama (Tennessee, for example) and Texas (Big XII CG, anyone?) lacked a bit of something - I've read this as "killer instinct" - but made the play at the end or the other team failed to convert. Georgia under Richt has done this time after time after time. Check out one of several games in Columbia to see what I mean. Those types of games happen to everyone - even by God almighty Nicky Saban and Urban Meyer - and everyone doesn't always win.

Ask Houston Nutt if Mark Richt's team have a killer instinct. Ask Tommy Tubberville if Richt coached teams can slam the door on their opponent. Ask Tommy Bowden. Ask Lou Holtz. Or Steve Spurrier. Best, ask that jackass coach for the Buffalo Bills if Richt is a nice guy. You can even ask Dick Rod if Richt's teams give up when down.

The argument just doesn't hold water if you watch enough CFB of the best teams. So, all of that just to say that UGA took advantage of turmoil at UF to win a couple of championships and is going to have to keep taking advantage of those opportunities.

I'm not in to predicting the season, but there look to be 7 games that I'd call tosses. History leads me to believe that 5 of those are pretty good Georgia leans.

But there are two major items tempering any semblance of enthusiasm I may have for 2010:

A new defensive scheme.
A RS FR QB.

If we win the East, I'll be shocked and as happy as I can be.