So, first thing when I fire up the computer this morning, there’s an e-mail from my brother Tim saying, “I see in the Athens paper that Mark Richt reads your Blawg, he answered your question about Logan Gray returning punts. …”
And, sure enough, under the headline “Richt takes issue with blogger,” The Athens Banner-Herald reports that after practice Thursday Richt appeared to be criticizing my comments earlier this week about him continuing to use Logan Gray on special teams. I say “appeared,” because he didn’t name which blogger he was disagreeing with, saying only that it was a “media blog,” and I’m not the only one critical of the move (as I noted at the time). But the ABH seemed pretty sure he was talking about me.
Anyway, Richt said: “I usually don’t ever read a blog, but I read a blog about Logan Gray catching punts.” He went on to say he wanted “to try to educate whoever cares that when Logan is back there — I tried to explain it the other day — it’s at a time when our opponent is punting it in. It’s a pooch kick. Our defense — our punt return team — is in punt safe to keep them from faking the punt because their across the 50-yard line.
“All Logan is doing is making a decision whether it should be a fair catch or let the ball hit. The fine gentleman who writes the blog, I don’t think he understood that very much, but I just thought maybe if everybody got educated on that a little bit better, they’d understand why Logan would do that. He was 100 percent last year on making those decisions and never bobbled the ball. I think that’s not a hard thing for him to do and we’re not expecting him to return the punt because those punts don’t get returned. There’s no return set up.”
I thank Richt for saying “fine gentleman” and not “complete tool” or one of the other phrases I’ve had thrown at me here. But I have to point out that, like a master politician, Richt chose to disagree with me on a point I wasn’t making.
I understand completely, and always have, that Gray is in there to either fair catch the ball or let it go and isn’t intended as a returner. And I never questioned his ability to do that.
What I questioned was the wisdom of using one of your quarterbacks for such a job — which not only takes away from his QB preparations (the Georgia coaches noted that two years ago Gray fell behind Joe Cox in practice in part because he was spending time on special teams) but also exposes him to possible injury if an opposing player fails to observe the fair catch signal.
And, secondly, I expressed concern over Richt’s indication that he might continue to use Gray on other special teams, noting I didn’t think Gray looked too sharp in kickoff coverage last year. The coach did not to address that point.
Lastly, I should point out that at times last season Gray was deployed to fair catch the ball when Georgia wasn’t backed up deep in its own territory. So the strategy itself was used inconsistently. And, as the Senator notes in responding to Richt’s comments, on at least a couple of occasions Prince Miller was back there fielding pooch kicks instead of Gray.
As for whether it’s a good thing for everyone in the stadium to know when Gray runs out on the field that Georgia isn’t even thinking of attempting a punt return is a strategy question that can be argued both ways.
Bottom line: As long as Gray is a quarterback, even if he winds up as the backup, there are more reasons for not using him on special teams than there are for doing it.
And, again, thanks for reading, Coach. If you continue to do so, you’ll find that I actually agree with you and support you more often than I don’t.