Kickoffs remain a ‘challenge’ for Dogs

 

Jon Fabris, Mark Richt (Associated Press)

Jon Fabris, Mark Richt (Associated Press)

I was driving home from Athens Saturday night, listening to the “Fifth Quarter Show” on WNGC, and the subject of the Dogs’ terrible kickoff coverage came up.

The frequently asked question since last year has been why Georgia can’t get a kicker to put the ball deep into the end zone for a touchback like so many other teams do. At the end of last season, after too many of Blair Walsh’s directional kicks had sailed out of bounds, Mark Richt indicated he wanted a kicker who could “boom” it and famously said he’d go as far as Poland to find one.

Instead, he looked to California and signed junior college player Brandon Bogotay to a scholarship, ostensibly because of his strong leg. But in preseason competition, it was decided that Walsh should keep the kickoff job as well as handling PATs and field goals. And the Dogs stuck to special teams coach Jon Fabris’ policy of preferring high, shorter kicks directed into the corner.

If you’re wondering what happened, former Georgia players A.J. Bryant and Kelin Johnson, now regulars on the “Fifth Quarter Show,” put it all into perspective. Both of them played on special teams for Fabris, and they said that it wouldn’t matter whether the Dogs had a kicker who could put it in the end zone or not; Fabris likes “the challenge” of directional kicks. That’s just Coach Fab, they said, get used to it.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Fabris would rather his coverage team face “the challenge” of containing a return than get a touchback and have the other team at their own 20. 

Of course, the argument that Richt continues to make in favor of directional kicks is that they have more hang time and allow the coverage team to get downfield and prevent a long return. Theoretically, that is. As the Dogs have shown time and time again, including in Saturday’s Oklahoma State game, that frequently isn’t the case.

Meeting with reporters Tuesday, Richt said of the OSU game, “The fans want the long kick, but the longest kick had the longest return. The kicks that were a little shorter had the better hang times and ball placement. We covered those better.”

It’s worth pointing out, of course, that it’s not just “the fans” who would like to see Georgia kick it into the end zone. Some folks who know a thing or two about kickoffs, including former Bulldog greats Kevin Butler and Rex Robinson, have come out against the directional kicking approach. Why Richt sticks with Fabris’ philosophy, even when it obviously has greater risk than kicking it deep, is a real mystery.

But let’s put aside for now the argument over deep kicks vs. directional kicks, since apparently Fabris is going to go with the latter, no matter what, and Richt shows no sign of doing anything about it.

The bigger problem for several seasons now is that Georgia’s kick coverage is just plain lousy. The first players to reach the kick returner are usually pretty easily eluded — frankly, they fall down a lot — and once a returner gets past the first wave, there’s frequently a wide-open seam running through Georgia’s coverage that produces results like Saturday’s 74-yard return by the Cowboys’ Perrish Cox. 

Richt himself conceded that on the long return by Oklahoma State, “I wouldn’t say that because we kicked it deeper that was the cause. We had a young man who should have contained and forced [Cox] inside to where our coverage teams were. We didn’t do a good job of that. Our second wave didn’t get in position to corral him. There was some great hustle at the end to keep him from going the distance. The guys that were designed to be safeties did their job, so it didn’t become a touchdown at that point. Ultimately that ensuing drive was a touchdown on a short field. We just can’t have it.”

Indeed. 

Richt talked during the preseason about bolstering the coverage by using some of the Dogs’ much-lauded freshman talent, though Fabris apparently wasn’t so enthusiastic about that idea. But that’s not really the problem. The Dogs could load up the coverage team with first-teamers and it wouldn’t matter if they’re not properly coached and if Georgia doesn’t devote the needed time to improving its special teams play.

Bad coaching, or not enough coaching, seems to be the problem. 

Here’s another example: On the other side of the kickoff game, the Dogs had a true freshman, Branden Smith, receive a kick deep in the end zone Saturday and, against all common sense, he tried to return it and got stopped inside his own 10-yard line. OK, chalk that up to a stupid freshman mistake. Surely, he’d get coached up on the sidelines, right? 

Nope, next time he tried the same thing again. 

All of which makes it seem that Richt and company don’t take special teams play seriously enough.

Until they do, it’s likely that Georgia is going to continue to lose the field-position battle. And games.

121 comments Add your comment

Denver Dog

September 9th, 2009
4:10 pm

Yellow Fizz the only lead that you have got in a classroom is leading students to terrorism, and to perverted professors. You lost the academic lead about 7 years ago, and you don’t have the athletic lead at all. Bill Curry will make Atlanta forget all those miserable Tech teams as he turns Ga State into Atlanta;s college football team. Go steal some manhole covers you pervert.

Pester

September 9th, 2009
4:30 pm

I went to school with a guy that was just like Saint Simons – the only way he could get any attention was to needle the hell out of everyone around him. Everyone hated him but that didn’t stop him. Saint Simons craves the attention even if it’s negative. In his own sick way, he thinks he’s being cute, even though even Tech fans find him obnoxious! Sad!!

BOBO the CLOWN

September 9th, 2009
4:34 pm

Anyone could have a high gpa when you’re teaching student how to be a government school teacher. They don’t have as many low level classes at GT. You can’t truly compare academic scores to one another.

snot bubble

September 9th, 2009
5:27 pm

Nice guy don’t always finish last. but they don’t finish first either…….

dawg07

September 9th, 2009
8:01 pm

Ok’s deep kicks seemed to work. Did Richt or one of the others coach Smith after his return to the 10. Don’t think so. No urgency no hands on no coaching during the game on one with an overall picture.

JB

September 9th, 2009
10:24 pm

I think Georgia gets better coverage in Oklahoma.

I was at the game and met a number of great Georgia fans. The ones I met I would compare to the fans of Nebraska or Texas A&M. I hope they received a warm welcome from the Cowboys. Great Game!!! Beat Florida!

Go Pokes.

AltamahaDawg

September 9th, 2009
10:45 pm

Why do you say the OSU deep kicks worked?

Why do you assume nobody said anything to Smith after the 10 yrd return, Because he advanced a KO barely into the endzone out to the 20 the next time? yea, so? Are you suggesting that nobody is ever going to run a KO out of the endzone ever again? Are you saying that a hands on coach would have told him to never run a KO out of the endzone ever again??????They do that more often than they do not. Boykin ran one out to the 23 earlier. How the hell do you know what they said to him? Where did you get the sideline pass?

His first one was a mistake. Should have downed that one, as it was much deeper, and he hesitated, but we see that all the time by players far more experienced than him, at every level of the game. And obviously somebody “coached” him after that. What do you think, they figured they would just let him watch the tape the next day?

Chuck Uga

September 10th, 2009
12:22 am

Fabris is simply incompetent. There is no other words to describe it. When you have a block-headed man in a position like that, you are in trouble.

Mark Richt will NOT win another SEC title with the current staff. I am a season-ticket holder, donor and 37-year UGA fan (and alumnus). Coach Richt is digging his own grave currently. he can change all this by leading and not deferring to the assitants who are simply incompetent. For you idiots who attack me for this, look in the mirror. Anyone who disagrees should ask themselves this question: WHY do we continue to make the same mistakes and have the same problems week after week, season after season? Does anyone really think UGA can win a national title with this band of pinheads? Why would Mike Bobo repeat the same excuse that I’ve heard before about “we need to simplify the plan?” Why didn’t he do that AT HALFTIME? Why not? Because he thinks he is untouchable. Herein lies the problem. Mark Richt has taken UGA as far as he can. If he doesn’t have the backbone to make the obvious coaching changes, he’ll be gone by 2012 (he will resign-book it).

Hugedawgfan

September 10th, 2009
12:55 am

we will never get it. we will constantly be out played on special teams-our coaches are not bright enough(ie stupid directional kicks) to take a page out of meyer’s book and win the special teams game (remember, Meyer coaches the ST himself). Hey, Fabris, the proctologist called. They found your head.

Hugedawgfan

September 10th, 2009
1:01 am

Altamaha dawg, because–he did the same bonehead play twice in the same game. He probably did say something but if it is said in a low monotone voice and with one hand on his shoulder and the other hand patting Smith on the back, there is no deterrent from ever doing the same mistake twice. He needs to point it out where the young players will think twice before doing something soooo stupid. You sound like you are auditioning for a coaching job at UGA–your remarks would definitely get you in.

AltamahaDawg

September 10th, 2009
7:27 am

So running a KO out of the endzone EVER is bonehead? Really? Nobody ever does that? Since we are mindreaders here, I’ll tell you exactly what they said. “hey look for your blocking and make sure you have a seam. If it’s not there sit on it, BUT there is a reason that we put a freshman DB in there running KO back, and that is to punch it out there and make something happen, so don’t be afraid to take it if you think you can, and don’t hesitate next time if you are”. What happened? He took it shallow and up to the 20 which could have been the 15 or the 30, you don’t know. Did you see the Miami/FSU game the other night? lots of kicks into the endzone and they ran almost all of them out. So much so the squib kick started coming out later on.

The only thing I am auditioning for is to be a charter member of the lets look are reality and stop making emotion accusations club. Yea, a coaching staff at a major SEC school isnt instructing a freshman on his mistakes, I’m sure that’s a real problem, and not imagined at all

[...] ready for another round of adventure on kickoffs, Dawg fans.  It’s just how Jon Fabris rolls. … If you’re wondering what happened, former Georgia players A.J. Bryant and Kelin Johnson, [...]

AltamahaDawg

September 10th, 2009
8:42 am

Personally, I questioned having him in there at all. I suppose the first time he breaks a big one, I’ll kkow why, but is he really That much faster than a more seasoned guy? I openly questioned why we were running him on offence, I know we have better receivers than that.

HOWEVER you don’t stick a freshman in a game because he is a speedster and tell him to never, ever, under any circumstance, run a ball out once it crosses the goal line.

J Dub

September 10th, 2009
9:20 am

Altamaha, I understand your frustration with the bashing going on. It is very tough to understand after one loss why we are jumping off the cliff. BUT, there is reason to question what may be going on in Athens right now. Last year, our defense was abysmal and we got shelled by Alabama and Florida. All year we heard it was because we were too soft in practice. Is it that hard to imagine that with that being the case last year and with Richt’s demeanor that maybe some of that has rolled over into this season and some of the players or assistants are going about their business the wrong way (no sense of urgency) and with not enough heart or emotion? If what was said was true about Tony Ball not even knowing that Marlon Brown and Wooten had not gotten into the game, is it that much of a stretch that no one was very proactive in pulling Branden aside and instructed him on bringing the ball out of the end zone. True sometimes it is warranted and it worked out fine this time but we have not shown the big play ability on kick returns and the momentum was already against us. Not the best time in my opinion to try to bring it out. Again, my own personal opinion. I am not an advocate for never, ever under any circumstance run a ball out once it crosses the goal line, but in this circumstance I wouldn’t have. The frustration comes when we look to our sideline or look to our players on the field and they just look defeated. That was the look we had in the second half against OK State. Such a big deal was made out of the cameras catching Richt saying “Poise” to the offense after a couple of mistakes. Well that is fine and not many coaches would have that patience with their offense but sometimes it is o.k. to bring your offense over to the sideline and LIGHT EM UP! That may have happened, I didn’t have a sideline pass but all indications with our track record is it did not. All I want is some fire, some emotion. As someone said before, play with your hair on fire!! I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions over the past week ranging from depression to outright anger and none of that will change until Saturday when SC comes to town. The problem with having a coach that stays such an even keel is when you (the fan) gets mad, you want to know why he isn’t mad. Not saying it is right, it is just life. And life in the SEC is tough right now.

sedog

September 10th, 2009
9:26 am

Earlier someone commented about how Butler and Robinson kicked in the end zone. They kicked off from the 35 or 40 then. Kicking off from the 30 is a different story. To get the ball to the end zone if difficult enough. Through the end zone almost never happens now (w/o wind). To get deep, the kicks generally have a lower trajectory hence the ball gets to the goal line quicker. With the coverage team starting from the 30, the returner does not face the coverage as soon as he did with kickoffs from the 35 or 40. As stated earlier, the pros hardly ever kick through the endzone. Therefore, we need to improve the coverage or coverage schemesn and deep kicking may still not be the entire solution.
Also, have we wasted a scholarship on a kicker. He was signed sight unseen after looking at videotapes (at least that was what was reported). Could it be his highlight tape was so good because he was kicking an old ball? I know in high school, teams use an old worn out ball for kickoffs and even field goals. Those old balls will travel up to 10 yards farther than a new or slightly used ball which is being used by the offense during the game. Some GHSA referees allow such balls, some don’t. Perhaps that was allowed at the California league in which Bogotay played. Maybe our newest scholarship kicker has trouble with the game balls that are required by the SEC. At any rate, UGA stated as late as Vandy last year they would definitely not be giving a scholarship to any kickers for this incoming freshman class. Some kickers were planning to walk on but given the abrupt about face with Bogotay, those potential kickers were not encouraged to pursue the walk on process. I hope the best for Bogotay or Walsh because if either becomes successful, the Dogs will benefit. Regardless of who kicks, it will not matter too much if we do not develop a successful plan for kick coverage and make that a priority.

Yellow Fuzz

September 10th, 2009
1:10 pm

“Maybe one day Tech football will be as prominent as UGA football and they will have something to blog about”.

That day is now dude. It started in the 3rd quarter last November (26-0) and increases weekly. georgia is running scared and Tech is poised and enjoying every minute of the “changing of the guard”.

In two weeks, we will have 3 wins when you have 3 losses. I’ll remind you. Bank on it. But it won’t do any good, because like so many of you true georgia fans, you will be nowhere to be found. Or if you do return here, you will be using a new handle (I can’t blame you) or writing without listening because you just have too much koolaid wax in your ears.

Either way, Georgia Tech has always owned you in the classroom, but now you are our little bitch in football, basketball and baseball. You azzholes can keep your gymnastic, equestrian and other Title 9 dominance (for now).

((((( 0-3 ))))) hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Bill King

September 10th, 2009
1:33 pm

As long as our kickoff coverage is bad, it’ll likely remain a topic for discussion.

Yellow Fuzz

September 12th, 2009
9:08 am

Enter your excuses here

(((( 0-2 )))) hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahhahahhahahhah

Yellow Fuzz

September 12th, 2009
9:31 am

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers (dawg nation),

“YELLOW FUZZ WAS RIGHT” tee shirts will go on sale immediately following tonight’s game.

$45 to $42 (while supplies last)

[...] It’s worth pointing out, of course, that it’s not just “the fans” who would like to see Georgia kick it into the end zone. Some folks who know a thing or two about kickoffs, including former Bulldog greats Kevin Butler and Rex Robinson, have come out against the directional kicking approach. Why Richt sticks with Fabris’ philosophy, even when it obviously has greater risk than kicking it deep, is a real mystery. more [...]

[...] back on that through the prism of Walsh’s stellar 2009 season, it’s obvious that Fabris’ insistence on directional kicking took its toll on Walsh’s confidence during his freshman year. If you’re wondering what [...]