Richt no longer soft on crime at Georgia, and that’s good

Zach Mettenberger (5) is now out of the Georgia QB derby after being kicked off the program. So hello to Logan Gray(6) and Aaron Murray(11)  (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Zach Mettenberger (5) is out of Georgia's QB derby -- and the program -- after being kicked out by Mark Richt. Life for Logan Gray(6) and Aaron Murray (11) just got easier. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Let me be the first to congratulate Mark Richt, and not because he just figured out the quickest way to settle a potential quarterback controversy (kick one guy off the team.)

When Richt first arrived in Athens, he was soft on crime. I guess that’s not surprising since he came out of the Bobby Bowden/Let’s Just Make Them Run Steps On Tuesday And Hope This Blows Over School of Discipline. It certainly didn’t make Richt an evil person. But it just took a while before he seemed to realize that punishment in Athens sometimes required more than a slap on the wrist.

Now, I don’t know what Georgia’s freshman quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, did that led to Richt kicking him off the team Sunday, as our Tim Tucker reports. But my sense is that if this was five years ago, there’s a better chance the player would’ve skated.

Mark Richt gave Odell Thurman several chances and he got burned for it. (AJC photo)

Mark Richt gave former linebacker Odell Thurman several chances and he got burned for it. (AJC photo)

I give you two words: Odell Thurman.

Thurman was one of the football players ever to pass thr0ugh (or pass out in) Athens. But he had issues. Drinking issues. Discipline issues. Being as dumb as a box of rock issues. There was one time in 2003 when the linebacker was arrested on five misdemeanor charges, including underage drinking and driving while unlicensed. I criticized Richt for doing nothing about it at the time and some members of the Bulldog Nation threatened to firebomb my house.

Well, Thurman didn’t learn his lesson. One year later, Richt suspended him for the first three games of the 2004 season for “unspecified violation of team rules.” I’m not sure but I believe Thurman still holds the school record for “unspecified violations.”

You know the rest. Thurman turned pro in 2005. He was a train wreck. He was suspended for the first four games of 2006 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. That turned into a full-year suspension when he was arrested for drunk driving that September.

Problems continued. In 2007, he and his brother were sought in questioning in an assault case, but charges eventually were dropped. There was another case in 2008 when he was indicted by a grand jury on charges of breaking a man’s jaw in Ohio. Those charges also were dropped.

He ultimately was reinstated by the NFL in April of 2008 but was released by the Bengals three months later after failing a drug test. No need to go on.

Zach Mettenberger may not be Odell Thurman. But we learn from our mistakes and clearly Richt has learned from his. Keeping the quarterback in the program would be a mistake. He already had been suspended for at least the first game of the 2010 season after being arrested on five misdemeanor charges ranging from underage drinking to disorderly conduct and obstruction. That rap sheet has a familiar ring to it.

Now, something has happened that led Richt to believe, “We can’t keep this guy.”

That’s good enough for me. We’ve seen what happens when you look the other way.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

409 comments Add your comment

RomeDawg

April 18th, 2010
7:33 pm

I hate it for Mettenberger. This couldn’t have been easy for Richt, either.

RomeDawg

April 18th, 2010
7:34 pm

Delayed first. Sorry!

MaryM

April 18th, 2010
7:38 pm

On and on it continues in Athens. The real question is: When will Richt start recruiting intelligent, moral, disciplined players and leave the Mettenbergers to Tennessee or other schools who don’t pay attention to rap sheets?

NJ Dawg

April 18th, 2010
7:38 pm

As an Oconee and UGA alum, I’m disappointed in Mettenberger. But just because you can throw a football 80 yards down the field doesn’t mean you don’t have to play by the rules. I’d rather have a clean program whose players represent the university and the Athens community well than a bunch of hooligans.
Sounds like Mettenberger has some growing up to do. Let’s hope he gets it together and doesn’t waste his God-given talent they way Thurman did.

Ubaldo Jimenez

April 18th, 2010
7:39 pm

Inside info: Mettenberger was told to stay out of downtown athens after his arrest. He was spotted out this weekend and someone told the coaching staff.

RomeDawg

April 18th, 2010
7:41 pm

I hate to be the one to bring it up, but I am assuming that means Logan Gray stays at the QB spot. Who would the 3rd string be?

Ubaldo Jimenez

April 18th, 2010
7:41 pm

Apparently Mettenberger was upset about being on a tight leash, and the decision to leave was mutual

CJDawg

April 18th, 2010
7:42 pm

Goes deeper than that Ubaldo. No inside info there. This is a MAJOR offense. It will hit hard.

Loyal Dawg

April 18th, 2010
7:42 pm

This is a situation where everybody involved is worse off. I applaud Coach Richt for doing the right thing. This bad decision began with two fake IDs, alcohol, a crime, then ended with text messaging. It is a perfect example of how what may appear to be a few innocent bad decisions, can change the outcome of a person’s life forever. This young man changed his future forever, as a result of a few bad decisions over a very short period of time. Young people, please take note, and think before you drink.

Maureen

April 18th, 2010
7:44 pm

You’re wasting your time sympathizing with Mettenberger. The idiot dug his own hole with no one else’s help. He had a fabulous opportunity, and he knowingly threw it away.

Perhaps he’ll get lucky and get hired on as fry cook at Waffle House. Or mommy and daddy can take him back.

mwh6767

April 18th, 2010
7:44 pm

Im a tech fan , but I do applaud CMR for doing this. My guess Mett was put on a short leash after his arrest and told one slip up and he was gone. May actually benifit UGA with its qb controversy bc by all accounts he and murray where neck and neck. Could’ve possibly made UGA run two qbs into the first three games and so. Hats off to Richt for making a good decision even if it wasnt possibly the best thing for the team as far as winning games.

sandiego

April 18th, 2010
7:45 pm

How is Richt supposed to know how everyone of these kids handles their social responsibilities?
Some kids get bored and want to get buck wild- plain and simple. Hope Mett takes advantage of the ops he gets in the future and really hope AMurray doesn’t get hurt- this season could get really long with Logan having to handle the load…

JLC

April 18th, 2010
7:46 pm

MaryM – Can you provide any evidence whatsoever that anything in ZM’s high school record or history even hinted that he mignt become involved in an incident like the one described or alluded to in these reports? Is Richt supposed to be clairvoyant?

Mr Charlie

April 18th, 2010
7:48 pm

The 3rd QB will be the kid from Lassiter.

FalconUGAFan

April 18th, 2010
7:48 pm

MaryM…Coach Richt or any coach for that matter can only learn so much while recruiting. I understand your point, but the parents and high school coaches are the best source of info about the kids. At the end of the day it is the responsibility of the kids to conduct themselves properly.

FalconUGAFan

April 18th, 2010
7:49 pm

Thank you Mwh6767. Well said.

Mr Charlie

April 18th, 2010
7:50 pm

Doesn’t Metts mom work for CMR?

Bow Wow

April 18th, 2010
7:51 pm

Odell was bad, but Ellerbe holds the record. He sat out two games for multiple felonies. Richt is not getting hard on crime. Richt just doesn’t kick people off the team who can play. The truth will out.

4 ncs are better than 1

April 18th, 2010
7:52 pm

Maybe some of those two star basketball recruits know how to play quarterback?

SEC FANATIC

April 18th, 2010
7:53 pm

Ok…Everybody…Back on the Murray bandwagon!!! Dig those “Murray For President” Tees out of the garbage!

browndog

April 18th, 2010
7:53 pm

Does Mett’s mother still work for the athletic department? Sorry for the kid. Hope this is a wake up call for him.

OKCBulldog

April 18th, 2010
7:54 pm

CMR did the right thing I no it was tough for him though. He has to start running a tighter ship and what better way to set the standards than with a high profile position like QB. Hopefully the other players see this and realize that non them is irreplaceable, and learn to take advantage of an opportunity that they have been blessed with.

SiddyBoy

April 18th, 2010
7:55 pm

Hey MaryM

Go back into the kitchen and get off CMR’s case.Mett did the crime not CMR and the other team members.

SD Dawg

April 18th, 2010
7:56 pm

Don’t forget that Zach’s Mom works in the athletic department. I am sure it was hard to do, but if the boy cannot keep his nose clean then we are better off losing him now then sometime this summer or even this fall. I personally think the kids on this team need the scare. The have played (and lived) in an undisciplined manner for a while. Hopefully any other potential trouble makers will get the picture now.

South ga boy in the ATL

April 18th, 2010
7:57 pm

Great collum Jeff. As a life long Dawg fan and father of a soph at UGA, I have been disappointed in CMR over the last 5 yrs. He is so slow in learning how to be a Head Coach in the SEC. It took 5 yrs or so for him to finally name a coach to help him with timeout and end of half/game clock management strategy, after he butchered a few games. (see aub in Athens about 6 yrs or so ago) Then, stubbornly, he refused to relinquish play calling and about 7 yrs in to his head coaching career to late he, FINALLY, realized he had to be one or the other (off coord/HC). As you said Jeff, the problems with discipline have been ongoing, and every SEC team has them, but CMR was viewed as a pushover. Players had no fear of him. It’s great tha CMR cares deeply about his players and I believe he loves them all like sons, but every good father knows that spare the rod/spoil the child. So here we are 10 yrs into his career and he finally learns that you have to draw a line in the sand with a high profile player/position to get everyone’s attention. At this rate of learning, CMR will be a great Head Coach about 5 yrs after he’s retired. Maybe, just maybe, this is a turn the corner moment at UGA. It’s just sad that it’s about 8 yrs late in coming

TDFAN

April 18th, 2010
7:57 pm

The fact Robinson had 3 arrests before he was booted and Mettenberger only one wouldn’t have anything to do with their relative value to the team would it? Sounds like an opportunity for Mr. Pious to make a point without really having any negative consequences for his program. What a hypocrite.

CHARLOTTE DAWG

April 18th, 2010
7:58 pm

So we are all wondering what happened, right? Something recent right? Something even last night maybe, right?

Here’s what I think happened. RIcht finally exhaulted Murray as the #1 for now and Mett flipped as he thinks he was entitled due to his play and being a local kid(subliminally).

And then Richt said take a hike. Anyone with me on this? Hey, if we are not given information, people will speculate.

Not ruling this out until I get more facts. Anyone agree?

mocca time

April 18th, 2010
7:59 pm

The TIMING of this is REALLY INTERESTING. Just so happened the week of the QB depth chart announcement. I am sure that’s completely a random coincidence.

4 ncs are better than 1

April 18th, 2010
8:00 pm

richt has been so condemned for being soft that now he is trying to show everyone how tough he can be, but this is just like one of his old play calling blunders. Kick the best quarterback off the team! LMFAO!!!!!!! The success of Coach Paul Johnson is getting in his head!!!!!!!!!!

Mr Charlie

April 18th, 2010
8:00 pm

As QB he has to show leadership and be held to a higher standard. On top of that, his mom is the coaches secretary and that also holds him to a higher standard.

steve

April 18th, 2010
8:02 pm

question one: isn’t Zach’s mother CMS’s secretary, working in the same office. that makes a very difficult decision even more challenging.
question two: what about that young quarterback, from Gainesville, Ga area I think, that wanted to go to UGA, but committed to those turkeys at Alabama – does that possibly mean that we could consider recruiting him now?

Mr Charlie

April 18th, 2010
8:04 pm

Charlotte, Metts was suspended for the first two games anyway, he was not in the competition to be the starter at the beginning of the season.

Was CMR going to tell Murray, well, you won the starting job, but Metts gets it after 2 games regardless of you will you might do? Metts had to know he was not going to be the starter, and would have to wait for an opportunity of Murray struggles.

Savannah Fan

April 18th, 2010
8:05 pm

Go Jackets-one clean program

mocca time

April 18th, 2010
8:05 pm

Seems like there has been a lot of discipline probems with Richt between: arrests, penalties, turnovers–I hope an 18 year old QB wasn’t the scapegoat—it sure won’t fix anything.

Ubaldo Jimenez

April 18th, 2010
8:06 pm

All the rumors of sexual assult, etc aren’t true. Its not as sensational is its being made out to be. The kid went out last night, someone saw him, told the coaches and thats it. He was on a short leash and he didn’t follow the rules.

Herschel Talker

April 18th, 2010
8:08 pm

MB:

Outstanding column. And outstanding job by Richt. I have been one of his harshest critics, but this is tremendous. Now if he’ll stop bringing in these jerks to begin with, but this is certainly a tremendous step in the right direction. As you would say, kudos to Richt!

HT

AP

April 18th, 2010
8:08 pm

All right….sorry this happened but will it help us get Lemay or Marshall

Looking forward….does this help in the recruitment of Lemay, Marshall or the kid from SoCal? Need a big timer in the 2011 class!

Chow Reynolds

April 18th, 2010
8:08 pm

The demise of the Richt era in Athens continues

Sugar Hill Dawg

April 18th, 2010
8:09 pm

I know the early 1970s was a totally different time socially, but my entire fraternity would have been sent off to Vietnam if today’s standards were in existence when I was an undergrad at UGA. Thank God and my parents I was born in 1953 – I don’t think I would last long in Old Athens Town these days. That being said, rules are rules – violate one, and you’re in the doghouse (and not with Russ, either). Two strikes, and I guess you’re toast these days. As long as the kids know what’s up, I have no problem with it. Maybe he can transfer to Mars Hill and back up CMR’s son.

4 ncs are better than 1

April 18th, 2010
8:09 pm

South boy is a truthful dawg fan! What richt really needs to do is take a long look in the mirror, and fire himself!!!!! I bet they are 15-20 OTHER players that should be kicked off that THUG team that he won’t do anything about!

BILLY JACK

April 18th, 2010
8:11 pm

Zacks mother still works for Coach Richt in the football dept-this had to be a tough call.

CHARLOTTE DAWG

April 18th, 2010
8:12 pm

Mr. Charlie,

You are wrong. He was suspended for 1 game; a very easy game I might add. He was still in the hunt.

This is my theory until I get more facts or someone can refut me with correct facts.

Me

April 18th, 2010
8:13 pm

Looks like all the doggies out there that were saying saying “it’s no big deal” when Berger was arrested were wrong again. And when Richt lollygagged for a whole week and then just gave the kid the standard required punishment of 1 game instead of making a statement with a multi game suspension…makes you wonder if that really even got the kids attention. Or…as someone else suggested, maybe Richt gave Metts the pecking order at QB and Berger didn’t take kindly to it….and expressed his displeasure. So I’d hold off on all this praise of Richt suddenly becoming the big bad enforcer…

mocca time

April 18th, 2010
8:14 pm

Some are gonnna say Richt’s indeciveness brought this on when he couldn’t pick a depth chart to start with. That opened the competition up. Richt took the risk, that if Mett played well in the 3 public scrimmages, and Richt wanted Murray to start, Richt would then be in a tough place.

Some are gonna think due to the TIMING of this thing, that Richt did this because first, he wanted Murray and a groundswell was growing for Mett due to Mett’s performances in the three spring competitions, and second, that this could make Richt look tough on discipline at the same time. Let’s face it, Richt wants to look tougher on discipline after finishing LAST in penalities and turnovers.

Anyone know how many arrests have happened under Richt and how this compares to others in the SEC?

no distactions needed

April 18th, 2010
8:14 pm

The is no other position on a football team that demands leadership more than quarterback. Had Mett ever started, every article ever written about UGA would have referenced his arrest and questioned Richts leadership. Mett, now has plenty of time to continue his career somewhere else. Hopefully, he will have a fresh start where ever he goes.
On another note, I remember a father of someone who played with Mett at Oconee, he had nothing good to say about this young man.

Mr Charlie

April 18th, 2010
8:16 pm

If you are suspended, you are not going to win the starters job. That simple, that message was conveyed when he did not play with the starters in the G Day game. Metts had to know his best chance will come when Murray struggles. If Murray struggles in the first game of the season, Metts gets his chance, but Metts had to know he was never going to be named that starter until after his suspension was over.

CHARLOTTE DAWG

April 18th, 2010
8:17 pm

“4″ ncs are better than 1,

Ruebon Houston…all day long…and twice on Sunday!

You know what is funny about Tech fans? They know more about UGA football than we’ll ever know about the bug program. I bet you 90% of the Bulldog nation doesn’t know 3 QB’s on the entire Tech roster.

But here are the Tech fans……so interested in us. It is just so funny…the envy I mean.

There is a golf tourney I play in every year with a great deal of Tech fans. And for some odd reason, they listen to the MARK RICHT SHOW. THE MARK RICHT SHOW.

I simply asked “why”? Why would you listen to a show about UGA football. And then I quickly answered my own question.

Just so funny. But please continue to show your interest Tech fans. hahahahahahaahahahaha

4 ncs are better than 1

April 18th, 2010
8:19 pm

No distractions, there is one other position that requires more leadership, THE HEAD COACH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mocca time

April 18th, 2010
8:19 pm

Some might say Richt’s indeciveness, to not make a decision on a QB starter, could really hurt the team’s unity. Some could think there might be a camp for 1 qb, and another camp for another qb, if so, this could be it for the unity of the team and Richt’s indecisiveness here came back to bite him in the rear end.

Mr Charlie

April 18th, 2010
8:21 pm

CMR was not going to come out and say. Metts is our #1, but Murray will start the first game while Metts sits out is suspension, but no matter how well Murray may play in the game, we will start Metts in game 2. That just was never going to happen. It is Murrays to lose, and Metts has nobody to blame but himself.