Dogs ready to kick it up a notch?

Georgia kick coverage was awful despite Blair Walsh being one of the best kickers. (AJC staff)

Georgia kick coverage was awful despite Blair Walsh being one of the best kickers. (AJC staff)

While UGA assistant defensive coach Warren Belin was heard on the practice field earlier this week questioning the coaching his charges had received in recent years when it came to tackling, he was more coy when Marc Weiszer of The Athens Banner-Herald asked him what his philosophy will be on the kickoff coverage team that he will oversee.

“I can’t give that away right now,” Belin said.

Chances are pretty good, however, that what he really thought of saying if he watched film of last year’s kicks is, “Where did you guys learn to cover kicks the last five years??!!??”

Kickoffs have been crazy at UGA the past couple of years. And longtime readers know they’ve been a particular pet peeve of mine. (Not that I’m alone; former Georgia kickers Rex Robinson and Kevin Butler also have harped on this issue.) So here I go again …

The Dogs have one of the best kickers in the country in Blair Walsh. And yet Georgia was the worst team in the conference and nearly the worst in the nation (117th) in kickoff coverage.

Walsh certainly wasn’t the problem.

When he’s allowed to go for it, he has a great leg and led the SEC last season with 17 touchbacks. And yet much of the time Walsh was directed by former kickoff coordinator Jon Fabris to kick it high, short of the goal line and in the corner — the infamous directional kickoff.

Some of those kicks ended up awfully short, giving the returner a head start on great field position. Too often last year the Dogs’ opponents got the ball in the vicinity of their own 40-yard line or better.

Still, it wasn’t even the directional kicks themselves that were the main problem.

The problem was the coverage after the kick was caught. That’s where Belin is most likely to make a difference. As Weiszer points out, the school he came from, Vanderbilt, had only three touchbacks last season, and yet the Commodores ranked second in the SEC and 29th nationally in kickoff coverage. And that was with a talent pool that’s not nearly as deep as Georgia’s.

Bottom line, though, is that if you’ve got a guy who can kick a touchback pretty routinely, why would you not let him go for it the vast majority of the time? There are occasions when a directional kick is called for, depending on who’s back to receive the kick, the wind and so on. But generally a touchback is what you want.

Belin isn’t coming right out and saying it, but you suspect he might be thinking along those lines when he says of Walsh, “We’re going to take advantage of his strengths, but the reason I won’t say much is because it depends on what our opponents are going to give to us, the returns that they present to us.”

Hopefully that means going for more touchbacks. And more importantly, better coverage when the ball is returnable.

YES, HE HAS TWO BCS RINGS, BUT …

Chris Low of ESPN.com touches on probably the most salient point about the recent flap over Florida coach Urban Meyer going all bully-boy with a reporter who had quoted a Gator receiver making a comment that perhaps didn’t reflect well on Tim Tebow.

Says Low: “Meyer and the whole Florida offensive staff are probably a little sensitive about the way Tebow’s mechanics and delivery have been picked apart by NFL people. You’re talking about one of the best college football players of our era, and his delivery is having to be totally re-worked for a lot of teams to even consider drafting him as a quarterback. You think that impacts the Gators’ recruitment of a pro-style quarterback in future years? You think rival coaches are going to use that against the Gators? You think anything that remotely suggests that Tebow wasn’t properly developed at Florida causes Meyer to bristle? The answer to all three questions is yes.”

Meyer has been ultra successful at Florida. But his volatile and emotional nature, his health concerns and indecision on whether he was going to continue coaching, and the fact that his celebrated QB is seen as struggling to be NFL-ready have to give some recruits second thoughts.

Mark Richt might not have a BCS ring to flash at a recruit, but in addition to being a consistent winner, he’s stable, a gentleman and he produced a No. 1 NFL draft pick at quarterback.

You can bet recruits are being reminded of that.

I’ll be off Saturday for an out-of-state family wedding, but the Blawg will return on Tuesday.

146 comments Add your comment

toph

March 26th, 2010
11:37 am

Nice work Bill. Enjoy your weekend!

Silver Britches

March 26th, 2010
11:52 am

Yeah, Urban’s wound a bit tight.

tony smith

March 26th, 2010
11:56 am

Go Dawgs!

March 26th, 2010
11:58 am

I so hope they start using touchbacks more often. Giving the opponent the ball on the 40 doesn’t equal many stops! Take the LSU game for example. We take the lead with little time left and then do a directional kick and combined with some very poor tackling (Thanks Willie), we lose the game. Us the kickers strengths and give the opponents offense a long field to work with.

As for Meyer, I believe he was totally out of line for his outburst. I read the article and the reporter didn’t sensationalize the quote or anything. Meyer is just a tool (being nice). Be a professional for goodness sake. It was your player that said it, talk to him.

Go Dawgs!

March 26th, 2010
12:00 pm

sorry that should say “use kickers” not “us kickers”.

robodawg

March 26th, 2010
12:08 pm

Was Belin a great hire or what?! I love the emphasis on teaching and technique from all the new staff. They’re not going to rely on just having better athletes.

meh

March 26th, 2010
12:20 pm

glad to here the new staff is putting an emphasis on learning to tackle. the last few years it seems they didn’t attempt to tackle people so much as trying to knock them over

DeltaAirDog1967

March 26th, 2010
12:29 pm

Can one say “Coach Crazy” the players name for Jon Fabris—just kick the ball long and straight down the field as Walsh can do and cover the kick–jdw

bwell

March 26th, 2010
12:35 pm

Is this the same Myers that took a leave of absence? All ready picking a fight in spring practice. He won’t be along much longer, give it two years top. Go Dawgs

unweaned lil pup

March 26th, 2010
12:39 pm

the whole kickoff philosophy last year was inane … who put that seed in CMR’s head?

dawgjammin

March 26th, 2010
12:45 pm

Anjoy your time off, I don’t know if I’ll be able to manage it with out you…..Oh wait, I’ll just click over to David Hale’s Blog or Online Athens.

Most dawg fans have read this 2-3 days ago via those sites. Come up with some original content please…

dawgjammin

March 26th, 2010
12:45 pm

Anjoy = annoy + enjoy

Jon Fabris

March 26th, 2010
12:48 pm

You people don’t know anything! I know what’s best!

Big Al

March 26th, 2010
12:50 pm

You hit the nail on the head with our kick off coverage. It was almost like Fabris was trying to do a crappy job on kickoff coverage the last couple of years. Look up egomaniac/jerk in the dictionary, and you’ll find a picture of Urban Myer.

Lizard King

March 26th, 2010
12:51 pm

Got to respond to that last part of the article. First of all, Urbans ire toward the reporter had NOTHING to do with Tebow. This was about an injustice or percieived injustice (depending on your viewpoint) of WR Deonte Thompson. Meyer felt like the reporter in question was taking one brief snippit from that interview (a “real” quarterback) and was trying to sensationalize it in a headline. And before you know it, another Sentinel columnist (Mike Bianchi) jumps all over it with a headline insinuating that Thompson was “dissing Tebow”. All of the sudden, here comes the national media and out of state newspapers, like this one, jumping all over the story and the kid. Of course, the young man (Thompson) is shocked and devastated that this ONE word out of the whole interview was blown up. (Of course the article just happened to leave out that he also called Tebow a “living legend”) So what does Meyer do? What any good coach would do…come to the defense of his player and chastize the source of the sensational headlines. I have found that the national media in general, who have limited knowledge of the program other than to follow what everyone else out there is saying, is usually wrong. This newspaper is no exception.

AceDawg

March 26th, 2010
12:53 pm

I have to see everything to believe it, but let’s be honest – coaching changes have a bigger effect than recruits (as long as the recruits are at least respectable, which they are). UGA could show VAST improvement next year. We shouldn’t kid ourselves – the only teams with comparable or better talent, on paper, in the SEC are Florida, Alabama, and LSU. A few others have nice recent recruiting classes, but they aren’t going to all have a bunch of freshmen starters getting put on All America teams. UGA, with good coaching, can win NOW.

If Richt is DA MAN still, wouldn’t an experienced offense (I know it is hard to argue that with a first time starter at QB on the way!) and a strong defensive coaching overall spell success right away? It might be acceptable for UGA to get beat next year, but there are no excuses for the program if penalties aren’t down, turnover ratio isn’t up, and a few SEC teams get totally throttled by the Dawgs.

mike the trout bum

March 26th, 2010
12:54 pm

Judging from the blogs/comments I’ve read this spring. It sounds like we had a pretty poorly coached defense the last 5 years. What’s startling to me is that it went on for 5 years. I couldn’t believe guys weren’t earning their postion on the field week after week. Look forward to the new scheme and attitude.
Bill – the Vandy statistic about kickoff coverage really opened my eyes.

humper hater

March 26th, 2010
1:01 pm

In regards to your comment about developing a #1 QB; Richt also produced a top 10 RB and how many SEC Championships do those 2 me players have to show for it. Meyer is an egomaniac for sure, might blow apart this season, but everyplayer in the country knows now he has his players back. Its why he and coaches like Saban are successful. Question, do you pay Richt to develop NFL stars or to win championships?

Marcellus

March 26th, 2010
1:01 pm

Lizard King,

Meyer could have handled the situation a lot better than he did. He’s a maniac.

Bulldog59

March 26th, 2010
1:05 pm

Nice job Bill. Belin will do wonders for UGA on D as well as special teams. You hit it on the head with Meyer. His attempt to embarass the Orlando Sentinel reporter, only to have it backfire, is only the beginning. Meyer will implode by the end of 2010, for all the reasons you stated at the end of your article. Most notably, Meyer can not stand the fact that it is being aired publicly by NFL scouts, that Tebow was never properly coached on how to play QB. He was basically, a rare specimen and unbelievable college talent. In other words, anyone would have won a BUNCH of games with him at QB. Lets hope you are correct and this fact is being mentioned to all future recruits.

Lizard King

March 26th, 2010
1:11 pm

BTW, as long as I’m trying to clarify, let me point out that the wishful thinking that all this will affect recruiting…UF is a leader or a final couple of choices for 3 of the top QBs on the country for the 2011 class. The 2010 class just signed has been called one of the best classes ever by more than one expert. When I was at practice the other day, I observed a couple of the top prospects in the country who had just come up on their own…James Wilder and Jeff Driskel being two of them. And don’t be too surprised if UF doesn’t pluck a few peaches out of the state of Georgia this year…hopefully James Vaughters being one of them.

JC in Powder Springs

March 26th, 2010
1:11 pm

What happened to Brandon Bogotay – the kicker the dawgs signed with the great leg? Was he redshirted last year? Is he any better or worse than Walsh with kick-offs? From all the silence about Bogotay, all I can assume is that he sucks like that punter (Bailey) Dawgs signed out of TN about 6 years ago.

Mark Richt

March 26th, 2010
1:15 pm

Bulldog59 surely you dont think that a person as honest and straight forward as me would sit in a recruits living room and dis another coach do you?

Lizard King

March 26th, 2010
1:20 pm

Marcellus, you might well be right. He might have handled it better. But one thing I DO know…he handled it. And that’s what really matters to his players and I would suspect to most of Gator Nation. It also sent a strong message to recruits that this is a coach who is very passionate about his players and their families and will stand up for you and defend you if need be. Be it the wrong way or be it the right way. But one thing’s for sure…he’ll be there. As a parent myself, that would resonate very strongly.

Mark Richt

March 26th, 2010
1:23 pm

Lizard King, Who cares if Urbie owns me and my doggies; I do things the right way. I get paid a lot of money to develop my players for the NFL and not to win Championships the way Urbie does.

dawgs01

March 26th, 2010
1:23 pm

urban meyer is on steroids. jk

Mark Richt

March 26th, 2010
1:32 pm

Urbans on steroids while I lay in the tanning bed. Which is more harmful?

Urban Meyer

March 26th, 2010
1:40 pm

I’ll kick all of your a*ses! Do you hear me?!

You’re all bad people and of very low moral character.

Mark Richt

March 26th, 2010
1:54 pm

Urbie, I like you. Please don’t run up the score on me this year.

Buckhead Dawg

March 26th, 2010
1:57 pm

Urban Meyer will literally coach himself to death. So this is the new calm and relaxed Urban? Interesting. He had a heart attach after their only loss last season. They are good but there will be more losses. The guy is an idiot, no career is worth dying over.

how2fish

March 26th, 2010
2:09 pm

Urban’s outburst has every sports “reporter” in the nation drooling..want to have copy that writes itself? Just ask Urban or one of his players a tough question turn the mike on..record the outburst and BAM your copy is on Sports Center 24/7 for a week..I mean its not like the media to pile on is it?

Bremen Dawg

March 26th, 2010
2:19 pm

No more pouch kicks, yes we do know that is a pet peeve of yours and heck ours too. We have been winning on pure talent, lets see what we can do when our talent pool has great fundamentals.

egeagle

March 26th, 2010
2:23 pm

The G-ville paper fawns over and licks the boots of UF and its coaches. That reporter isn’t going to do anything but what Urban says. There’s your reason so little is made of Florida players’ indiscretions. Their local paper is in their pocket and corner. Here, the AJC can only rattle UGA’s cage in order to draw hitws from its defenders and the large numbers of rival haters in the ATL area. Florida is never questioned while UGA never sees any sort of let-up on even the most minor concern. Having a player’s back doesn’t do him the same good as disciplining him fairly and effectively.

Urban Meyer

March 26th, 2010
2:24 pm

It is easy to run the score up on you CMR when your teams give the game away to us like they have the last two years.

I'm a man I'm 40!

March 26th, 2010
2:26 pm

I had my players back and it worked out for me. Except for said player transferred to another school.

76-Dawg

March 26th, 2010
2:32 pm

Everybody know that i think the world of CMR and hope he will retire at UGA but as the General or head honcho he has got to start making changes before it is to late. Example : Everybody that follows UGA football knew that Willie Martinez wasn’t doing the job and should have been fired after 2007 or at worst 2008 not in 2009. Last year UGA was last in kick off coverage in our conference. After just a few games CMR should have met with coach Fabris and said you arn’t getting the job done and here are the changes ” YOU WILL MAKE”. CMR needs to stop being the lieutenant colonel and start acting like the General. The coaches need direction too or they would be head coaches. That why someone like Steve Spurrier wins championships at Fla. and does much better at USC with the talent he can recruit and is considered a coach who makes you play better than you thought you could play. One thing that CMR has got to control better is when coach Bobo want to start trying some stupid stuff. One series the offense looks like world beater and then the next series they stink up the field. When that happens CMR needs to step in and take charge and rein in Bobo’s dumb s*** sorry i mean stuff.. GO DAWGS GET ER DONE.

Shelley Meyer

March 26th, 2010
2:33 pm

This wasn’t caught on camera but I was standing on a table nearby at this practice screaming “What goes around comes around!!”

KJ

March 26th, 2010
2:36 pm

“I have found that the national media in general, who have limited knowledge of the program other than to follow what everyone else out there is saying, is usually wrong”

Ah, the old “everyone except me is wrong” argument.

Brandon Bogotay

March 26th, 2010
2:43 pm

For those wondering what happened to me last year, I didn’t agree with the philosophy of directional kicking and was put in the doghouse (no pun intended).

Urban Meyer

March 26th, 2010
2:48 pm

I am personally going to beat the living snot out of whoever posted above pretending to be my wife.

Erin Andrews

March 26th, 2010
3:13 pm

Speaking of snot, I had a pretty significant nose job back in the day. (I’m also a big attention wh*re.)

Lizard King

March 26th, 2010
3:15 pm

Buckhead Dawg…Meyer never had a heart attack. He has been extensively tested at UF and there are no heart issues which even the the President of the university came out and said . Meyer doesn’t like to talk about it, because like most people when it comes to intimate details about their physical or mental health, that is a deeply personal issue Stress that comes from getting too immersed in the job without a healthy outlet and the related time away from family etc etc is what is at issue here. Everyone has their own stress level and tolerance and way of dealing with it. With anything in life, you’ve got to know how and when to “let off the throttle”,, and Meyer himself has admitted that he hasn’t done a good job at that. But it doesn’t mean you have to be braindead or mellowed out all the time either. I’m sure, that by taking time off before and after spring practice, he is trying to find that balance. It’s not easy, alot of us struggle with it at times in their lives, maybe even you!

KeithB

March 26th, 2010
3:16 pm

Urban MeyerS is a punk! Go Gator!

The only other Gator to post here

March 26th, 2010
3:16 pm

Lizard Queen

March 26th, 2010
3:20 pm

The Gators, Tim Tebow, Steve Spurrier, Charley Pell and the rest of the Gaturd Nation ARE ALWAYS RIGHT! Not matter what! There! Ha!
Shall I go on? Alrighty then…..

Corrine Bailey

March 26th, 2010
3:21 pm

All I no’ iz dem gator dont take no jive…….go gator

Lizard King

March 26th, 2010
3:23 pm

KJ…One question. How many times did you read or hear something in the national media about the program you support and say to yourself…how did they come up with THAT?? The truth is that most, like a Jim Rome for instance, will just read a headline or somebody else’s opinion and based on their own perception (or agenda), create their OWN spin. Rarely, if ever based on their direct knowledge or some kind of contacts within the program.

Ronnie Wilson

March 26th, 2010
3:23 pm

Shelly Meyer

March 26th, 2010
3:26 pm

Lizard King

March 26th, 2010
3:29 pm

I can see the non-contibuting, non-sensible, namecalling idiots, have now arrived. Have a good day…