Richt: ‘We’re not dead yet’

Mark Richt said he'll do "anything and everything" needed to get Georgia back on track. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Mark Richt said he'll do "anything and everything" needed to get Georgia back on track. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

You might have expected Mark Richt to be a little tense this week as he tries to get his floundering team to shake off last week’s second-half collapse and prepare for a Georgia Tech offense that gave the Dogs big problems last year.

But the Richt who dropped by the Touchdown Club of Athens meeting Tuesday night at the Athens Country Club appeared relaxed as he teased UGA color analyst Eric Zeier and recounted how his efforts to recruit Zeier to FSU came to naught.

Richt noted that Zeier has done such a good job of analyzing Georgia in the radio booth that Dogs supporters have been urging him to add Zeier to his coaching staff. In reference to widespread criticism of that staff, Richt cracked: “I said that if I hired him, he wouldn’t be so smart any more.”

Talking about Georgia’s past two games, Richt said he thought the Dogs winning the turnover ratio for the only time this season was the key to beating Auburn. As for the Kentucky game, he said, the first thing he told his team “was to protect the ball.” He said he stressed ball security at halftime of the game against the Wildcats, only to see his team turn it over four times.

Perhaps, he said sarcastically, “I should just say fumble and throw picks all you want and maybe they’ll do the opposite of what I say” again.

More seriously, he said part of the problem with Georgia getting more takeaways has just been the way the ball bounces, with the Dogs getting few chances to cover an opponent’s fumble. “It’s just been one of those years.”

But, he said, “I don’t think the team fell apart” in the second half against Kentucky. “We had a couple of freshmen spit it up. It wasn’t a bunch of guys giving up or quitting. We just found ways to hurt ourselves.”

And he promised the crowd of several hundred Bulldogs fans, “We’re not dead yet.”

On the subject of injuries to Bacarri Rambo and A.J. Green, he noted that Rambo was unable to practice Tuesday and would try again Wednesday. “If he can practice [Wednesday], he’ll be OK to play.” Green, he said, hasn’t been able to practice “but has not been counted out. There’s a little bit of hope that he can play” on Saturday.

Richt was asked by someone in the audience how Georgia having an off year is affecting recruiting. “Are [other programs] trying to steal players from us? Yeah. Are they saying Georgia’s having troubles? Yeah, they’re doing that. But so far no one has decommitted.”

And Richt said he didn’t expect to lose many recruits “because we don’t feed them a bunch of crap. We tell them how it’s going to be. I feel like we’re still in very good shape.” He added that at quarterback he’s sticking with Logan Gray, Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray for next year. “We’re not bringing in a freshman [quarterback] in this class, as of right now.” He said Georgia is looking at some potential walk-on QBs “for emergency situations,” but said he did not anticipate signing a junior college quarterback.

Asked about the Dogs’ troubles with kickoffs, Richt said that Blair Walsh has been doing a “stellar” job of kicking off, but “we just haven’t been covering good” this year. That was what led him to try a variety of approaches in the Kentucky game, including squib kicks. He just didn’t think his coverage team was capable of stopping the Cats and “the strategy was to try and disrupt what [Kentucky] was trying to do by doing some different things.”

The result, he said, was “two that were embarrassing, two that were not very good and two that were pretty good.” The squib kick returned to Georgia’s 49 popped up higher than Walsh expected, he said. It was supposed to be more of a line drive.

On the subject of penalties, he said that some of the personal fouls called were “not very smart” but others have just been the result of aggressive play that the Georgia staff thought was legal but the official “didn’t see it that way.” The officials, he said, “are human. They’re gonna call what they see.”

Same with holding calls, like those that have been called on center Ben Jones, he said. “We signed that kid because he’s a mean snake. He goes after it. But if he locks onto a guy and buries him, sometimes they think he’s holding him.”

Richt didn’t directly address the likelihood of any staff changes after this season, but he did pledge to the Touchdown Club: “I’m gonna do anything and everything I can do to get us back on track.”

ZEIER: RICHT IS THE MAN TO FIX THINGS

Speaking after Richt, Zeier said he thinks the Georgia program will be better off for having survived the kind of season it’s had this year. Citing his own career in football, which included time in the NFL, he said, “Challenges like this push you out of your comfort zone. … For the past several years, we’ve had a lot of success and were in a comfort zone. But when that happens, people will catch up to you and pass you before you know it. ”

Zeier thinks the abundance of young talent at UGA is the key to a turnaround. “We are on the verge of some really good things.” He said he’s already seeing the changes wrought by adversity. Over the past three weeks, he said, they’ve changed from a “loose, cocky bunch” to a more determined group.

And, he said, he thinks there’s “no better man for the job” of turning things around than Richt, who Zeier said “has earned the right to take this program where he wants it to go.”

Zeier said his “biggest fear” for this team is that it will buy into the excuses that the loss of players like Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno was responsible for the downturn. “When you allow challenges to become excuses, you have every reason not to win.”

Georgia, he said, has the talent to be an elite program again. “We’re a year or two away from being back at that level. “And we’ve got the right group [of coaches] to do it.”

216 comments Add your comment

Andy

November 25th, 2009
10:40 am

Me

November 25th, 2009
10:42 am

Check back Sunday morning…..

JB

November 25th, 2009
10:45 am

Gotta walk it up, not talk it up…………………………..

cooldawg

November 25th, 2009
10:46 am

Unconfirmed report on 680 the Fan this morning that Martinez will tender his resignation on Sunday. Hopefully, Fabris does as well. Zeier said that this was the coaching staff to get us back on top, huh? Looks like its minus one effective Sunday.

NAZ

November 25th, 2009
10:49 am

3rd! Upset this weekend…UGA 34, GT 24. Go Dawgs!

Sigh

November 25th, 2009
10:49 am

Takes poster on message board to point out to coaching statt that Cox has been tipping pass/run plays:

Will writes: David, is there any way you could bring up the point the Senator pointed out on his blog recently about Cox’s footwork tipping off opponents to the coaches? I just don’t know how else to get that to them. If we, as fans, can see this (and confirm it in numerous game film examples from this season) it can’t have slipped past other defensive coordinators.

David: We all owe a big tip ‘o the cap to The Dawgfather, who noticed this well before most people… including Mike Bobo apparently. But even Bobo now admits… it’s true!

“We did go back and look at it and it was more so in the Kentucky game,” Bobo said. “It was not every play of pass-run, but there was definitely more of a stagger this past week, and that’s something we’ve got to work to correct.”

My follow up: So you hand’t seen this before the Kentucky game?

“No,” Bobo said. “We usually have a stagger, and he had gotten a little more square on certain plays.”

http://ugadogsblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/from-mailbag-turnovers-talent-and.html

dawggirl

November 25th, 2009
10:50 am

I’m sorry, but what is the big deal about first? Who cares? It’s so childish, like a third-grade mentality. Maybe it’s a guy thing, although my boyfriend thinks it’s stupid and childish too.

Anyway, after a long and disappointing season, I’m somewhat tempered by Richt’s comments regarding “anything and everything”. I’ll believe it when I see it, but I do think he sees the writing on the wall.

I’m not in any way under the illusion that we can beat Tech as much as it pains me to say, but I will still root for the team. I’d be happy for the coaches and players of Tech, but not the fans.

Ernest Borgnine as Ernest Borgnine

November 25th, 2009
10:50 am

And I quoteth the American commander in “The Patriot” after Mel Gibson’s son dies, “Stay the course.” Patience, people, patience. Crap happens, get thorough it, beat Tech, and go west to Bumminham and eat pizza.

DAWG

November 25th, 2009
10:50 am

Zeier is right. CMR is anything but a quitter. He’s proven that time and again. UGA is having a down year due to many causes, including the early leaving of players that had been counted on to avoid transition. Are there coaching issues? Yes. But I for one would rather have CMR in position to affect changes than anyone else. It takes a man of character to address problems in the appropriate manner and CMR has more character than anyone else I can think of in the coaching world.

DOG FAN

November 25th, 2009
10:51 am

LEAVE RICHT ALONE HE WILL FIX IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gator Fan

November 25th, 2009
10:57 am

UGA fans… Once you improve the talent you will start winning again!
The talent level is not that great right now, you may have one player who will play in the NFL!

Coach Richt is still a good coach, he is the right man for the job!

xl dawg

November 25th, 2009
10:57 am

As always the further removed from a loss we get the real perspective. A change at DC will bring about a new attitude. A change at QB, Logan Gray will never take another snap, will give us a stronger arm and a bigger playmaker. Recruiting is going extremely well again. Mat drills will unify the team like never before and Saturday night will definitely be all right for fighting. Yes I am a Dawg fan to the core but look at the records of the great coachs. Everyone has ups and downs. One in a row is not a streak or a trend.

"Go west and eat pizza....

November 25th, 2009
11:00 am

Cameron

November 25th, 2009
11:01 am

Cooldawg,

Zeier said Richt was the coach to fix the program. Not that this was the staff to do it.

bobby1976

November 25th, 2009
11:01 am

a year or two away??, and by looking at our incoming recruiting class which has only ONE offensive lineman(the second commit blew out his knee and may never play again), it looks like a young, inexpereince-lack of depth offensive line will be the excuse in two years.

GeorgiaGrad

November 25th, 2009
11:02 am

We’re dead.

Delbert D.

November 25th, 2009
11:03 am

Here’s Georgia and Ga. Tech opponents’ W-L leaving out the games
against Georgia and Tech:

GEORGIA
Florida 10-0
Ok St. 8-2
LSU 7-3
Ark 7-3
Auburn 7-3
UK 6-4
USC 6-4
UT 5-5
Ariz St 4-6
Vandy 2-9
TN Tech 6-4 *

TECH
Clemson 8-2
Va Tech 8-2
UNC 8-2
Miami 7-3
FSU 6-4
Duke 5-5
Wake 4-6
MS St 4-6
UVA 3-7
Vandy 2-9
Jack St 8-2 *

* FCS opponents

cooldawg

November 25th, 2009
11:03 am

Cameron. The last sentence says we have the right group [coaches] to do it.

Gordon

November 25th, 2009
11:04 am

Dawggirl,

90% of us Tech fans respect UGA and are nice people. Obviously we want to win and are happy with the way the season is going. Don’t let the few who are over the top make you think otherwise. I’m sure the same can be said for UGA fans. That has been my experience.

There is no doubt UGA can win this game. If they end up plus 2 or more on turnovers they probably will win. Tech is the better team this year, but anything can happen on a given day.

instate

November 25th, 2009
11:07 am

nice thanksgiving article

Official Sports Report: November 25, 2009
It’s Not The End-all, Do-all
Johnson said it; other examples prove it
by Matt Winkeljohn, OSR Managing Editor

ATLANTA – Right off the bat, before I dabble in the delight of Paul Johnson’s weekly council fire with the media, I am compelled to opine a tad on something almost entirely unrelated.

Georgia Tech is playing host to Georgia Saturday night in a football game that is important in one way or another to a whole lot of people aligned on two sides of an occasionally ugly line.

But learning as I did a few hours ago that Tech baseball players are about to launch into a fundraiser for a would-be Georgia baseball player not only made me blink, but re-consider the idea of trying to lend gravity to a mere ball game.

Then, I read again what I couldn’t believe I read the first time I read it.

Chance Veazey, a talented UGA freshman from Tifton who went through fall workouts with the baseball team, crashed on a scooter in Athens in late October.

Now, he’s at the Shepherd Spinal Center here in Atlanta, torn nearly asunder. He’s paralyzed from the waist down. After leaving a study hall of some sort, he hit a car, or it hit him.

Doesn’t matter which.

Here’s the double-take maker: Yellow Jacket baseball players are working up a fundraiser for a young man who hasn’t even played against Tech.

Sorry to jump the gun on a story Sting Extra OSR’s Jon Cooper will write for next week, and sorry again that the Tech sports information department folks preferred that SE-OSR wait to write about this until later for fear of compromising this weekend’s start to the Michael Isenhour Toy Drive.

The moment moves me, though, and the greatest joy in my role with Sting Extra OSR is something approximating an absence of rigid oversight.

I have no great, deep, super meaningful words here. It seems a bit of a shame to go this route when Johnson was more intriguing than usual – and that’s saying something – today with a big and perky media crowd in attendance.

But holy cow!

In taking into account all the recent conversations I’ve had with my 12-year-old son about the dangers of motorcycles, we’ve had none regarding scooters.

So in an odd way, this underlines yet again for perhaps the 10,000th time in my life, the fragile nature of existence, and the value of – and need for — perspective.

We all assign different emotional values to things material and ethereal.

I’m having a hard time calibrating the emotional verdict that should be rendered on the concept of the Jackets raising money for a Dog.

But I think it’s big.

In a way, it renders easier to believe Johnson’s comments today that the Georgia game, while very big to some, will not define this squad of Jackets. It’s not likely to define much, in fact.

Johnson referred to a larger body of work meaning much more. He was onto something.

The pending act of the Tech baseball team defines the potential of humanity in simultaneously small and huge ways. This is a small thing writ large.

If I need to apologize for getting your hopes up, for teasing you into reading on with the idea that there would be great Johnson nuggets, I will. I’m a little low on that kind of juice right now, though, as I close another edition of Sting Extra OSR with children behind me who need to be put to bed.

I’m also unabashedly proud to have been moved by all of this, proud that my older and more calloused heart still has soft spots. And I’m glad that people are capable of greatness on many levels.

Lastly, I’m thankful ahead of a special holiday for a forum to open that ever older heart.

Bless Chance Veazey and all on the wrong side of fate. Bless, too, the baseball Jackets, and all who endeavor to help those in need.

Matt Winkeljohn is managing editor of Sting Extra OSR, with a mail box at gtstingx@gmail.com. He promises more football later in the week.

Advertisement

dawgerbrown

November 25th, 2009
11:08 am

Hey Gator Fan, thanks for you confidence in Richt, and, I agree. However, talent is there. Alot of youth. Three UGA defensive tackles will be drafted this year.

Jefferson

November 25th, 2009
11:10 am

UGA is not half the team they were last year.

Gordon

November 25th, 2009
11:13 am

If I were a UGA fan, the only thing that would bother me about Richt is that 2 of the major problems from last year’s team were not addressed: penalties and bad defense. Why were those not fixed? Nor have they been fixed as this year has progressed.

On the other hand, Zeier and others are right that a guy who has averaged 10 wins a season for nearly a decade has earned the right to have a bad year. Next season will be huge for Richt.

Ogeechee Dawg

November 25th, 2009
11:15 am

My adivce to Richt:
– Tweak the staff – new DC and reassign Martinez
– Keep the faith
– Let’s get through this season
– OFF SEAson (spring) addtional focus on turn-overs – takeaways and prevention -and kickoff coverage.

We will be in good shape – 2010 will be better – 2011 – we will be in the thick of SEC East title race!

Bryan G.

November 25th, 2009
11:15 am

Um, I noticed the two freshmen spit it up and that was bad.

But it wasn’t as bad as your FIFTH YEAR SENIOR QUARTERBACK throwing two of the most idiotic picks ever.

Why throw the frosh under the bus???

Progress, of a sort « Get The Picture

November 25th, 2009
11:15 am

[...] of a sort Jump to Comments At least he’s realized who’s not to blame for the kickoff woes this season: Asked about the Dogs’ troubles with [...]

WTFyousay

November 25th, 2009
11:16 am

Any coach that wants to talk about his resume and what he’s done in the past is a dead man walking. Paul Johnson wouldn’t have Mark Richt as a position coach at Tech.

SGD

November 25th, 2009
11:19 am

Richt indeed is the right man for the job (that’s what Eric said anyway, not the whole staff: we’ll see on that part). Richt has been there, he’s won, he’s quickly became one of the best coaches in Georgia’s history. As for the other articles about his sideline demeanor, etc. who cares?!?! His calm, cool, and collected visage was raved about when the Dawgs were whippin up on opponents. Fans are so fickle.
BTW, Eric Zeier has forgotten more about football than 99% of any blogger/poster will ever know.

BEN

November 25th, 2009
11:20 am

The fans that even think we should first CMR are idiots. The man has resurrected our program!!! The fans that talk this garbage didn’t sit in the stands during the Goff and first couple of Donnan years and wish we had a team that could just compete. CMR knows changes have to be made and they will happen once the season is over. We are a very young football team and I am personally excited about the future. It is sad to see people in here talk about be Dawg fans and all they do is bash…One season should define the work CMR has done for our football team. GO DAWGS!!!

Delbert D.

November 25th, 2009
11:22 am

WTFyousay – Crude statement. Johnson doesn’t need an offensive coordinator, which was Richt’s specialty.

jimmy

November 25th, 2009
11:25 am

ididn’t know zeier dr5ank heavaly

ajfdog

November 25th, 2009
11:27 am

In other words, we are a year or two away, meaning we should not expect to compete for the SEC next year and possibly the year after. Problem is, the coaches don’t consider last year the start of the down turn, so they say it is one year. If/when we struggle next year, it will be the third year in a row. Sorry guys, but we should have been out of our comfort zone last year going into this year.

Richt is a gimmick coach (end zone celebration, black jersey, black pants and helmets). Problem is, gimmicks should be used when you do not have the talent to compete, not in place of coaching. I am ready for new leadership.

raoul75

November 25th, 2009
11:29 am

Delbert D
Great point on comparative records but it’s flawed logic, Einstein. Of course, more teams playing UGA have better records, they all played UGA. Sprinkle 4 more victories in the win column of Tech opponents and they would be almost identical (down one) to the number of wins that the UGA
opponents have. Tech can’t help it if their two opponents from the big, bad, SEC were below par. Heck, even our FCS opponent was stronger than Tennessee Tech.

DirtyDawg

November 25th, 2009
11:30 am

Not that CMR needs my suggestions, or doesn’t already know it, but the problem is speed, or lack of it, on defense…and most importantly with our linebackers and defensive ends. They are the ones that have not been able to keep backs from reaching, and turning, the corner…they are the ones that have been unable to get into position, and react, in order to execute a zone pass defense – and forgetabout them being able to cover man-to-man. Speed…even if it means losing a little weight…sure getting there ‘firstest with the mostest’ is the goal, but first you gotta get there in time.

PMC

November 25th, 2009
11:40 am

Well, they have a good man at the top anyway. Martinez was a mistake from the jump. Secondary and Special Teams coaches… need to go. Honestly they could probably clean house outside of Richt and do better than wha they have now. They have had plenty of time to prove what they could do toegther. It just didn’t work.

Styles

November 25th, 2009
11:42 am

Why are we having to get “creative” on something so fundamental as a friggin kick off!!?? That spells trouble right there!! It’s like the wicked slice on my golf swing…sure I can get a quick fix by aiming extreme left but it’s not a permanent solution…

another ptc dawg

November 25th, 2009
11:44 am

We have seen what CMR and his coaches have done on the field for the last two years. Let’s see what CMR can do off the field to improve the Dawgs for 2010. He has earned the right to get the program back on track.But with an inexperienced qb next year, it may take a little longer than one year.

p.s. Can we get rid of all the night games?

PMC

November 25th, 2009
11:45 am

I tend to believe overall the problem is not skill position talent but speed at linebacker and the quality of the previous Offensive line classes. They made some mistakes in recruiting. It happens. Until the Kentucky game I felt like the coaches as a whole had done a much better job getting the team to focus and play better after the Tennessee game. Not having Rambo and Green arguably the two best players on the team at thier respective positions and some really bad turnovers killed them in the Kentucky game outside of the obvious penalties for lack of focus.

I tend to believe that Richt can and will turn it around…and I seriously doubt he fires anyone but I also believe they can do a lot better than Martinez and Fabris etc.

EricADawgFan

November 25th, 2009
11:45 am

THE DAWGS ARE PITIFUL…. THEY WILL LOSE AGAINST TECH AS WELL.

EricADawgFan

November 25th, 2009
11:46 am

WHAT A TEAM OF UNDER ACHIEVERS!!!!!!!!

Nick Papagorgio

November 25th, 2009
11:46 am

I feel happy. I feel happy.
I am not dead yet
I can dance and I can sing
I am not dead yet
I can do the Highland Fling
I am not dead yet
No need to go to bed
No need to call the doctor
Cause I’m not yet dead
He is not yet dead
That’s what the geezer said
No, he’s not yet dead
That man is off his head

PMC

November 25th, 2009
11:46 am

Not being able to cover a kickoff is plenty enough reason to fire a special teams coach.

atlvols55

November 25th, 2009
11:47 am

UGA fans, be afraid, be very afraid when opposing fans start telling you to keep your coach….I remember last year when all of a sudden, Florida, Alabama, Georgia fans started all telling us how nice and what a great coach Fulmer was…”you guys should keep him.” Bottom line is the exact same things that are happening at Georiga, over-confidence, stupid penalties, no adjusting style of play, players to concerned with getting to the NFL, getting arrested for stupid stuff…all happened to Fulmer and you see the results….trust me, just firing Willie Martinez/Bobo will not fix all of your problems

EricADawgFan

November 25th, 2009
11:48 am

FACE IT. THE DAWGS ARE NOT MAN ENOUGH TO BEAT ANYONE ELSE….. AS MUCH AS I AM A DAWG FAN, THEY ARE EMBARRASSING. THIS DAWG FOOTBALL SQUAD IS NOT WORTHY ENOUGH TO CARRY GA TECH”S WATER COOLER.

bill

November 25th, 2009
11:48 am

No on eon the blogs will speak the truth and put blame where it need s to go. Joe Cox is the biggest reason for the losses this year. The coaches can put in great plays but if they are not executed it does no good. It amazes me that people will not focus on the worst QB in Ga history and say something. Thanks Joe Cox for the loses. I fanyone has the guts to agree with me do it.

Matty Ice Chernoff

November 25th, 2009
11:49 am

CMR is a damn good man just like UGA is a damn good dawg! Woof Woof Go Dawgs! I would rather lose as a Dawg than win as a Jacket anyday, like Arnold says, We’ll be back!

Numnutts Dawg

November 25th, 2009
11:51 am

There once was a coach named Mark
His Bulldog team was no bite and all bark
The team kept losing but he did not seem to care
At least he was tanned and had it going on with his hair.

TC Dawg

November 25th, 2009
11:52 am

Thanks instate for the comment about what really matters in life. The question I have is, why don’t we hear more of these kind of stories? For all the lunatic fringe’s screams, I would not trade Mark Richt for any other coach. Period. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that everyone thought Les Miles could do no wrong? Now, he has fans calling for his head. Interesting that instate brought up Chance Veazey. I live in Tifton and know the family. Great people. But when you see how Mark Richt, David Perno, and the athletic staff have put aside their own problems and took precious time with this family, it is unbelievable. Georgia has promised Chance that his scholarship will stay in place for six (yes, I said six (6)) years. If I had a kid being recruited, that would speak volumes to me as a parent because it speaks loud and clear to me as a fan. Would I love it if we had won more games? You bet! But character is what will build a program for the long haul and Mark Richt is loaded with it as far as I’m concerned. We’re still better off today than we were the day he walked in the door and I’m still proud to be a Georgia Bulldog.

another ptc dawg

November 25th, 2009
11:53 am

Quincy “cokehead” Carter is at the head of the list of bad qbs. The Carolina game that he threw 5 int, he came off the field laughing and smiling every time.

Dion

November 25th, 2009
11:54 am

Excuses can be made about losing Stafford, Moreno, and Massoquoi, but how many National Championships did they win while at UGA. I love the Dawgs and the talent is there. Freshmen will overtake this team next year and do better than this year IMO. Look for Aaron Murray to break out and hook up with Orson Charles just like they did in High School. We do need another DC and OC, these two have become lackadaisical in their coaching. Good luck in the ATL this weekend, it should be a good game since it is a rivalry, no blowout, sorry GT fans!!