Yea or nay on a full-time special teams coach for Dogs?

Blair Walsh was one of the bright spots in special teams play for the Dogs. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Blair Walsh was one of the bright spots in special teams play for the Dogs. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

I’m back from the holiday and my regular day off and see that the subject that occupied a group of us Dog fans sitting around talking football on Sunday afternoon is still drawing split opinions in the Bulldog Nation: Should Mark Richt use that last open coaching slot for another defensive coach (outside linebackers?) or to finally give Georgia a full-time special teams coach?

Before the news of Todd Grantham and the switch to a 3-4 defensive alignment, most of the chatter seemed to favor the idea that the Dogs badly need a coach dedicated to special teams. But now some are arguing that Grantham will need all the help he can get in the defensive rebuilding project.

Under the Dogs’ system up to now, various coaches split up special teams responsibility and much-maligned former defensive ends coach Jon Fabris was the overall “coordinator” and handled punt returns and kickoff coverage, the two areas of special teams play in which Georgia seemed most hapless this past season.

Of course, not all of the Dogs’ special teams were in need of fixing. Georgia has two of the nation’s best kickers in Blair Walsh and Drew Butler and a dangerous kickoff return game. And on occasion the Dogs’ special teams have looked great — the Independence Bowl being the most recent example. (Was the fact that Fabris was gone by then mere coincidence?)

The Georgia Sports Blog argues that the solution is to “put better athletes on special teams which UGA started doing mid-2009, and … spend more time on special teams in practice.”

I’m certainly in favor of that, particularly when it comes to covering kickoffs. Whether they were booted toward the end zone or those high, shorter directional kicks that Fabris embraced as a “challenge,” Georgia’s coverage often looked clueless and was hampered by too many walk-ons and not enough speed.

The Dawgs Online blog notes that while there have been some bright spots on special teams play, “there have been enough breakdowns over the past few years to suggest that a more cohesive approach to special teams could help. Fabris caught most of the criticism for special teams breakdowns, but all coaches had some responsibilities for some area of special teams. There is too much advantage in having the kickers and guys like [Brandon] Boykin to see it countered by an ad-hoc approach to kick coverage and returns.”

The argument in favor of hiring another defensive assistant, Dawgs Online says, is that “the Bulldogs will be implementing a new defensive alignment and scheme with new coaches. This transition will be especially challenging for the front seven — it’s not as simple as dropping a rush end into an outside linebacker spot. Richt should maximize the coaching resources available to ease that transition and get this new defense performing in time to show big improvement in 2010.”

Both of those bloggers come down on the side of hiring another defensive coach and continuing to split up the special teams coaching responsibilities. Or having Richt himself oversee the special teams, the way Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer and Florida’s Urban Meyer do. Special teams are, of course, a major element of Beamerball, and Meyer has gone to great lengths to make sure his special teams are truly “special,” making it an honor to be on the teams and giving them certain perks.

Should Georgia have a dedicated special teams coach?

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Now I’ll admit the arguments for needing another defensive coach are sound. And, who knows, maybe just getting rid of wrongheaded Fabris will be enough to improve Georgia’s special teams play.

But while the idea that Richt ought to take ownership of special teams also sounds appealing, I just don’t see it happening. In his time at Georgia, Richt unfortunately has been more like his mentor, Bobby Bowden, than Beamer or Meyer when it comes to special teams. He’s  never seemed to appreciate what an important part of the game that is and how many games can be won by dominating special teams play (the Independence Bowl being just one example).

So I come down on the side favoring the hiring of a special teams coach. I think this piecemeal approach plainly hasn’t worked well at Georgia. Remember after A.J. Green blocked a field goal attempt how we heard that there had been opposition from his regular position coach to using him on special teams? Dedicating a full-time coach to that aspect of the game would elevate it in the minds of Georgia’s players and other coaches and be a statement by Richt that the old way of handling special teams wasn’t good enough.

I think that’s needed more than an outside linebackers coach. What do you think? Share your views in the comments, vote in the poll or have it both ways.

190 comments Add your comment

richtfan

January 20th, 2010
10:08 am

sorry bill. can’t do a special teams only coach. not enough coaching spots for that.

grantham will coach the inside backers. garner will likely coach the entire DL, he needs an outside backer coach. that will exhaust our maximum number of coaches. no team, that i know of, has a coach who just coaches special teams. no college team, at least.

Habersham Dawg

January 20th, 2010
10:10 am

Close games are won and lost during the transition phases of a football game, i.e., special teams play. To challenge for and win the SEC East and SEC Championship, the Dawgs have to be stronger on both defense and special teams play. The defensive shortcomings have been addressed, now the punt teams and kickoff teams have to be shored up, with both a dedicated coach and quality players assigned to them.

GeoffDawg

January 20th, 2010
10:11 am

While I would agree that the transition to a 3-4 would be helped along by dedicating four coaches full time to it, I can’t discount the need of more coaching attention to special teams either. If it weren’t for tremendous individual efforts on the part of players like Walsh, Butler, and Boykin, special teams would’ve been a complete and unmitigated disaster last year.

I actually really like the idea of CMR taking some ownership there in the meantime until the new staff and scheme get settled. I’m not somebody who thinks that you have to play starters on the special teams to get results because I think it’s a great way to get the younger guys on the field and get them used to game speed and conditions but having more coaching attention in this phase of the game to keep them focused and enthusiastic about their play would help mask their relative inexperience.

Nerd Central @ North Ave

January 20th, 2010
10:11 am

Tech barely loses to UGA in football last year and is still going to be ranked WELL ahead of UGA to start the season this year. By the way, Tech basketball beat a GOOD Clemson team last night. Its going to be an awesome year for GT athletics! Get ready for a severe beat-down in Athens this year at the hands of the Nerds. Yeah, baby!!!

Wrestler II

January 20th, 2010
10:14 am

To hire a Special Teams Coach would be a waste of money, time and recruiting advantage. Basically only 1 in 7 plays on average is Special Team related. Only 20-30 minutes are devoted to Special Teams practice on a routine basis. Dawgs had a KO return man that took 3 to the house (tied a decades old SEC record) so that is not the problem. They have the best punter in the nation so that is not the problem they have one of the top 5 kickers in the nation so that is not the problem. The problem now resides in Louisville, KY so I say get another D Coach to work with the outside backers and work on the area that was a problem with another coach in charge.

Nerd Central @ North Ave

January 20th, 2010
10:15 am

Your new defensive coordinator is going to be a huge failure. But, he will be better than Martinez. There will be some serious pains in learning a completely new system. My prediction is they will lose to South Cacka-lacka.

Coach Johnsons Paul

January 20th, 2010
10:16 am

Nerd Central!!! I told you to hit these Dawg fans in the face!!! Not chat with them!!!! Now drop and give me 50!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now maggot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

gdawginkalamazoo

January 20th, 2010
10:17 am

Yes use the open space for the special teams coach. Grantham should be able to handle the D-line and LB’s. That way the coaches aren’t stretched out spending time on the special teams. We all know that it is a vital part of the game. No telling how much it would have helped to actually return a punt instead of calling for a fair catch every single time. And getting someone to actually kick the ball into the endzone saves a mile of yardage a year. Chances are the returner takes a knee if you have some fast guys getting down there.

Coach Johnsons Paul

January 20th, 2010
10:18 am

Nerd!!!!!! For one last time!!! Shut your pir hole!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve got enough challenges trying to sell my DC whose team got beat by Bill & Mary last season at home!!!! What in the heck was I thinking???

Nerd Central @ North Ave

January 20th, 2010
10:18 am

Nerd Central @ North Ave = Daily reminder how delusional UGA fans are. You are, at best, a 9-3 program. And definitely well below that of Alabama, LSU, and UF. Accept it. GT gets lesser athletes and can still beat UGA 45-42!!!! You know it still hurts!

lastgrad

January 20th, 2010
10:19 am

I believe it would be a benefit for Georgia to hire a special team coach who could help inspire, guide, teach the skills necessary to play these positions and most importantly create pride in this group of men. Who want deny how good it was to see Coach Bobo coming down from the press box and standing with his team on the field. Now that was inspiration. And the team responded. Georgia needs spirit in a hard way.

NerdHerder

January 20th, 2010
10:20 am

GT has only barely beaten UGA once in the past 9 tries, and it doesn’t matter where you start but where you finish. With your backfield gone, best wr gone, and best defender gone tech might well be ranked behind UGA in the inital pole. After all we did beat you with our worst team this decade.

Paul H

January 20th, 2010
10:23 am

Nerd@centralave = the new Saint Simons. Congrats.

By the way,

30-24
1-8. Glad THAT still hurts so much.

HunkerDownGeorgia

January 20th, 2010
10:25 am

There is another football program in the state of Georgia? Who knew?

The Other Matty Ice

January 20th, 2010
10:26 am

Is it not possible to find a coach that is capable in both aspects? An OLB coach that knows what to do with special teams? I agree it’s only a piece of special teams, and to be honest, the only real problem is, like you said, not the right athletes on the field to make plays. It goes back to Richt’s loyalty and allowing some people that work hard and don’t get a scholarship a chance to go out and get some real action. The problem is, there’s obviously a fault with that mentality. I think if Grantham’s view on having the best players on the field to be your playmakers, this will fix a lot of the problems on the special teams.

FBR

January 20th, 2010
10:31 am

Often times, the talent level between SEC teams is very close, and guess what wins the games–some facet of the special teams!!!!! That aspect of football is too important to overlook.

shannon1776

January 20th, 2010
10:33 am

No we don’t need a ST coach. 3 out of 4 areas were great last year(kick off, punting, and returns). All we need to do is work on kick off coverage.

Spend that money on a OLB coach since those kids are on the field half the game. Only appx. 14% of playes in a game are special teams anyway.

besides, Lakatos coached ST some. He can help out

HUNKER DOWN

January 20th, 2010
10:34 am

Any team without special teams coach will never win a NC.

shannon1776

January 20th, 2010
10:35 am

HUNKER DOWN, you mean like Florida? UM looks after that-not a coach. Do you want a OLB coach visiting defensive studs getting them to come to UGA? Or do you want a special teams coach doing that?

Not even close

DMR

January 20th, 2010
10:40 am

If Richt will not take sole control of the Special Teams, then absolutely hire a Special Teams coach. Games can be won or lost due to field position, flipping the field, field goal makes, misses, and blocks. This makes or breaks some programs. Florida and VA TECH are good examples of what special attention to these units can do to vault a team to a win against an equal or superior opponent.

GeoffDawg

January 20th, 2010
10:42 am

shannon1776 – Urban Meyer isn’t a coach? You think his handling of special teams keeps him away from recruits less than an OLB coach?

DawginLex

January 20th, 2010
10:50 am

RICHT NEEDS TO COACH THE SPECIAL TEAMS HIMSELF!

HE NEEDS TO SHOW ALL OF US THAT THIS IS HIS TEAM!

dap01

January 20th, 2010
10:51 am

UGA needs attention put on special teams. Currently, they look poorly coached and poorly prepared. UGA did not play a more poorly prepared special team this year.

CMR is great but he needs to put down that CFO crap and coach his butt off. Urban Meyer and Saban would not settle for less merely to fit the role of looking like a CFO.

At a major university such as UGA, we the fans who pay major dollars should never have to settle for having a below average product and our special teams philosphy was terrible last year. I will throw up if I see a short directional kickoff again.

robodawg

January 20th, 2010
10:51 am

I’m all for an overhaul of how special teams are coordinated. Not sure if that requires a dedicated special teams coach. Grantham’s input will be invaluable here. With his experience under Beamer, I’m sure he has some ideas. Plus, he’ll know better than anyone if he needs to split inside and outside LBs under different coaches.

MtPleasantDawg

January 20th, 2010
10:53 am

I’d like to let Grantham get whatever coaches he needs, AND see a full time Special Teams coach.

Georgia has plenty of money, go get whatever Coach Richt needs.

Otto

January 20th, 2010
10:54 am

Maybe not a coach but mroe time. We can not give the defense at the 30 or worse more times than not and expect them to hold. Also even if they do hold it gives the UGA offense a bad starting spot. Bobo can only produce long clock killing drives against Vandy and GT.

Otto

January 20th, 2010
10:55 am

The question isn’t money but the number of coaches as limited by the NCAA.

Blindhawg

January 20th, 2010
10:57 am

There are three phases of a football game offense defense and special teams,win 2out of 3 of them and you will win 99%of your games.We need to dominate special teams.

UGA 2010

January 20th, 2010
10:57 am

YOU SUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKKKKK BIIIILLLLLL!!!!!!!!! i put ALOT of thought in that one. go find a special teams coach, thats why theres ALOT of other BIGGER fans out there than you! DEFENSE ALL THE WAY!!

SCDAWG

January 20th, 2010
10:58 am

reguardless of what they do with the coaching situation the dawgs need to KICK THE BALL IN THE ENDZONE, especially when you have a kicker that is capable of doing that.

Ken Ray

January 20th, 2010
11:00 am

Kick off coverage definitely needs improvement, but the other segments of special teams were actually a team strength this year-there were some fumbles on kickoff return by freshman, but that can be corrected. I feel that NCAA staff number restrictions won’t allow a full time special teams coach and cover the position needs. Even Alabama’s special teams coach is a position coach.

The Great Malenko

January 20th, 2010
11:08 am

Unless someone on the staff can match up with Urban Meyer, yes a thousand times yes.

gdawginkalamazoo

January 20th, 2010
11:08 am

Special teams can put you in a game or take you out of a game in one play. After the Independence Bowl we should all know that by now.

UGA 2010

January 20th, 2010
11:09 am

Granted that a special teams coach would allow us to utilize Brandon Smith and Boykin but im jus not set on it yet….Richt is a SMART coach but other coaches there can make you look like your losing your touch, i think Richt can handle the s. teams and would be better suited getting the defense the way it use to….DOMINATING

Ginger

January 20th, 2010
11:13 am

CMR….needs to make really good decisions or He could be in for major problems and pressure next yr. Ga needs another good defensive coach and recruiter….If we can get Travis Jones from the Saints to coach outside linebackers—we need to get him period…makes defensive better and gives us another power weapon in recruiting…..then CMR needs to put heavy emphasis on special teams…Now why can’t we hire a special teams coach too ?? also I really like the work that the grad assistants did with the defense at bowl game—what about giving them a shot at special teams…But CMR does need to think of special teams as vitally important and make these truly special

Fry Steve Babik like Bacon

January 20th, 2010
11:14 am

Bottom line- winning special teams and the turnover battle makes the other parts of the game so much easier. Great teams have great special teams.

OlDawg

January 20th, 2010
11:17 am

Emmitt Thomas (formerly with the Falcons) should be considered for a position somewhere on the Dawgs staff. He would be a great mentor and positive influence on these young men and would instill some much needed on and off field discipline.

JB

January 20th, 2010
11:18 am

Big mess in DC this morning……….Obama train left the tracks………Scott Brown seen pulling train out the way with his pick up truck………..heard him telling Obama, ” I’ll be pulling your Ar’se out of the way next.

SOGADOG

January 20th, 2010
11:21 am

Why not do both? Hire a new defensive assistant and hire another person to be in charge of special teams. Keep the grad assistant Doolittle to help the defense and hire a full time special teams coordinator. Kick coverage must be fixed if UGA is going to step back up to the BCS bowl level. I would also like to see UGA have more fake punts and kicks in appropriate circumstances and be more agressive in trying to block punts.

PHIL

January 20th, 2010
11:21 am

I don’t know enough about the defense to know if it requires another coach. I believe the defense we played with CWM did not require another coach. But maybe a multiple defense with a base 3-4 might, especially since it is a new system. BUT with the exception of this directional kicking, which CMR HAD to have signed off on, (and maybe a kicker should be able to do that, maybe we have a guy who can kick field goals but not kick offs) and subsequent kick off coverage the special teams under Fabris were pretty darn good. We always had great punt block schemes, we always had great return teams punt coverage was good because of the punters we’ve had over the last several years. If I were a position coach, I wouldn’t want my best players on a kick off coverage team, either. I don’t care if the special teams coach was Vince Lombardi. So I feel it can certainly be accomplished with a part timer, but I think the decision would be based on does the defense need another coach.

Mikey in the SAV

January 20th, 2010
11:23 am

I am of the opinion that someone on Grantham’s defensive staff, and it doesn’t matter who…..should take on the special teams coaching duties. I believe that ST is an extension of the Defense.
Attack, not react.

Bryan G.

January 20th, 2010
11:23 am

Well, do we really need an O-line coach, WR coach and a TE coach? Maybe someone coaches WRs and TEs and Lilly can coach only STs.

Mike In Jax

January 20th, 2010
11:23 am

If the DC wants another Linebacker coach, hire one. Then hire a special teams coach too. STs are too important not to devote a separate coach. At least a part time ST coach.

clemcudtlhopr

January 20th, 2010
11:23 am

No. Kick the ball run down the field, make the tackle. Catch the ball, run up the field. Don’t need a dedicated coach specific for this. Just someone who knows how to kick, catch, run and tackle.

JB

January 20th, 2010
11:24 am

I hear what you guys are saying about Richt recovering and having a big year or else, but with Damon and Adams on the job, 8+ wins a year is a contract for life. Adams canned Donnan because he didn’t like him and the Quincey cover up and the losses to O’liar at Tech.

Buddy Curry made every tackle

January 20th, 2010
11:28 am

We need a full time special teams coach.

More importantly we need establish our team as a run oriented team. If we can’t run the ball consistantly, we will never win a NC. What is Richt’s record when we run for over 100 yards? Get the fullbacks involved, and make no secret about the fact that we are going to run the ball 40 times a game.

Dawg 3/20

January 20th, 2010
11:37 am

You need a new head coach, the last two years have been embarrassing.

rossdawg

January 20th, 2010
11:47 am

We need defense. Hire Travis Jones. The only special team that is bad is the kickoff coverage team and hopefully these new coaches will be able to correct that. We have a great kicker and punter. Coach Ball did a great job heading up the kickoff return team and that does not need to change. Defense and running the ball wins NC. Travis Jones would be a great hire for the defense.

DawginLex

January 20th, 2010
11:47 am

Dawg 3/20(gaytor boy)

Why don’t you mind your own business and worry about your flip flopping head coach?

no Tebow
no Spikes
No Hernandez

A pro style QB trying to run the spread. When it is 3rd and 3 is Brantley going to lower his head and get the first down?

You boys are in for a return to reality.

dawgfan

January 20th, 2010
11:48 am

Like Meyer, Richt can coach special teams. When the head coach is in charge of something, it tends to get the attention needed.