A hard but fair look at stumbling Dogs

Paul Johnson is riding high right now. Mark Richt, not so much. Will Richt address the "decay" in his program? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Paul Johnson is riding high right now. Mark Richt, not so much. Will Richt address the "decay" in his program? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

My friend John is kind of blunt but prides himself on being “hard but fair.” That’s how I’d characterize this assessment of the current state of the Dogs by ESPN.com’s Chris Low:

“There was already a black cloud hovering over Georgia’s football program. This season hadn’t been what anybody wanted, but then the Bulldogs went out and lost to Kentucky … at home. Not only did they lose, but they dominated the statistics and still managed to lose. But that’s what happens when you turn the ball over four times in the second half and have 75 penalty yards for the game. The Bulldogs (6-5, 4-4) are staring squarely into the face of their first non-winning regular season since Jim Donnan’s first season in Athens in 1996. The Bulldogs might not be one of the top two most talented teams in the SEC, but they’re certainly one of the top three or four. Talent is not Georgia’s problem. It’s focus. It’s execution. It’s player development and it’s discipline. When you commit as many penalties as the Bulldogs have the past two seasons and turn the ball over as many times as they have this season (26), it’s obvious that there’s a decay in the program somewhere that has to be addressed. Mark Richt has been as classy as they come and as consistent as they come. But if he doesn’t address this decay with more than just cosmetic changes, then it’s going to be addressed for him.”

Ouch.

What do you think? Too pessimistic? Right on the mark?

I’ll be off Tuesday as usual, but the Blawg will return on Wednesday.

356 comments Add your comment

chazzo

November 26th, 2009
10:51 am

How can there be decay? The guys turning it over are first year starters. The team, for that matter is loaded with freshmen and sophomores.

Here is the one, two punch that got us:

1) Richt fired all of the guns at once with Stafford and Moreno. He put together the team that was going to win the NC (Donnan comparison valid here), and things fell apart. A rash of season ending injuries, legal and academic problems, and early exits to the pros… well, it just kind of deconstructed. He never had the whole team together and was patching holes all season.

2) The biggest problem with this season is last season. That team that he put so much stock in is gone with the exception of a few. This is naturally a rebuilding year (contrary to popular opinion Richt has not had a true rebuilding season at UGA, not to this extent), and we all expected it to be hit or miss with the exception of a couple of overconfident people predicting an undefeated season. It is just hard to suffer through a rebuilding season after last years deconstruction.

3) While great players are recruited, there may be some questions about the right players being recruited. There were four or five scholarship QBs at one point. I don’t know enough about it to comment, but it seems that recruiting a few seasons back was heavy on O and skill positions.

3) Whoever handles scheduling needs a kick. Is this a coaching thing? If so, then maybe I do have another criticism of Richt. It is not so much the teams UGA plays, although a couple of tune ups would have been nice this season. It is the arrangement of the schedule over the last couple of seasons: back to back big games, flying across the country before big games, no home games for a month. This season was a baptism by fire for a bunch of guys playing on Friday nights last year. Next season’s schedule is no cakewalk either.

4) The dawgs are a couple of plays away from 8-3. They are also a couple of plays away from 4-7. I wonder what affect one of those wins would have had on the overall season. If there wasn’t the bogus unnecessary roughness call that set up the OK-St TD, maybe UGA pulls out a victory. I don’t have to mention LSU. I am not writing this to say woulda, shoulda, coulda. I am merely pointing out that this season, hinging on personal fouls, miscues, and turnovers could easily have very different complexions. The core elements and the raw talent are there, though.

Richt loosened up on the reigns and let the program do its thing after Hawaii. I think that is honest criticism. I think his ego got a little out of joint, considering it was Hawaii for Pete’s sake. Does everybody get that now? It was frickin’ Hawaii.

Honestly I think he has tightened it back up. He cut his losses, learned his lessons, and he’s going with these young guys. It doesn’t happen over night. There are a couple of stragglers, but they have been slowly getting replaced. Now is the time to build, shape, mold.

1) I think sticking with Cox was a great long term decision. It sends a message to the young guys that they have to earn it (unlike Stafford who knew he owned the place as a recruit). It also sends a message that the coaches are going to stand by you. Despite the results, I think it was the right thing to do, and UGA will be a better team for it.

2) This season was a path of pins or a path of needles. There were no answers that were going to please everyone. Lots of lessons were learned. This offseason is the time to lower the boom, seize power, clean house, move forward. This offseason (including recruiting) is the Richt test. The jury is out until next year.

3) Whether the change involves coaching changes or not, the dawgs are in good shape for next season. Lots of good, young players with some experience. Only losses on O are Cox, Vance, and Moore. The D backfield, in my opinion, has slowly been evolving with lots of good, younger players coming along. The weak spot and the question mark will be the interior D-line.

Next year probably won’t be THE year. But, the year after, if everyone stays healthy, eligible, and amateur will be an NC contention year. It dawned on me during the UGA/ Auburn game that these two teams could be playing for the SEC in a couple of seasons.

Urban Meyers to Notre Dame!

November 26th, 2009
11:29 am

Can you believe Meyers is heading to Notre Dame? Without Tebow, I knew he’d take the money and run. I guess since Meyers is Catholic and was named after Pope Urban, and he mentioned coaching at Notre Dame was his dream, and the big cntract, he just couldn’t pass it up. Meyers, after Tebow leaves, you better get Lois Lane on the phone and call for Superman again. How many Natl’ campionships ya got without Tebow? What’s that? Your cell phone line is b…r…e…a..k..i…n..g. up. Ha ha ha.

2010 Looking Good for Georgia

November 26th, 2009
11:35 am

Chazzo,

You’re wrong. 2010 will be THE year. Oklahoma won a Natl’ Championship with a FRESHMAN QB with very similar skills to Murray’s. When you look at the Offensive guys alone, Ealey RB, Brown/Green/Wooten WR, Charles TE/WR, Murray QB, it adds up to the right combination. And when you consider BOTH times Richt has had a bad year, he went either 11-2 or 13-1 the NEXT year. 2010 is looking good for Georgia.

2010 Looking Good for Georgia

November 26th, 2009
5:36 pm

Bernie Kosar had a great year as a Freshman starting QB. One of Georgia’s QB’s could also fall into that type of QB.

I think Richt was on the same team Kosar was on when that happened.

2009 Was Like Wooden's 1965 for Richt

November 26th, 2009
5:42 pm

Losing will teach Richt how to succeed. He will never repeat the mistakes that happened this year. The pain is too much.

Richt will go on a run of Natl’ Championships, and Heisman winners like the USC years.

Georgia is absolutely LOADED with top tier talent, SO many Heisman candidates:
Murray, Ealey, Brown, Green, Charles.

chazzo

November 27th, 2009
3:39 pm

2010,

I hope you are right. I will be pulling for them 100% either way.