While it’s billed as Mark Richt’s annual “State of the Bulldog Nation” address, his appearance at the Touchdown Club of Athens spring meeting at the Athens Country Club Monday night was really just a relaxed overview of the progress the Dogs made this spring.
Richt was talking with the friendliest of audiences — at one point he scanned the crowd and said, “Hi Dad. I love that guy” and at another point looked over at Bulldog fixture Loran Smith and teased, “Wake up, Loran!” But the coach still played it close to the vest on the upcoming post-spring depth chart at quarterback. “I’m not going to give away anything, because it’ll be all over the Internet,” he said with a grin. (Smart man.)
He alluded to the lack of a clear-cut starter at QB, however, by saying, “I think we have more than one answer at that position.”
And he offered an assessment of each of the quarterbacks’ performance at G-Day, starting with a defense of presumptive front-runner Aaron Murray. “The spring game for Murray is not indicative of how he practiced. It was not his best day,” Richt said. Zach Mettenberger, Richt said, had previously “shown flashes” of the performance that wowed fans on Saturday, but “that was one of his better days.” And Logan Gray’s play on G-Day was “about the middle of what he’s done.”
Overall, Richt said, “I really liked what happened in the spring.”
He had high praise for new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. “It took me so long to get the right guy,” Richt said, adding that some day he’ll tell “the whole story” of that hiring process, but not this night. Grantham, he said, is a man with “a plan,” but this spring he had to teach the other coaches his 3-4 defensive scheme as well as teaching the players. Sometimes, Richt said, Grantham “is, quite frankly, the only one out there who knows what’s going on!”
When one fan questioned why there often were four defensive linemen in a three-point stance on Saturday, Richt noted that the 3-4 scheme sometimes looks deceptively similar to the 4-3 when one of the outside linebackers “has his hand down on the ground.” Richt said what he particularly likes about the 3-4 is that “in the 4-3 it’s very obvious who the four rushers are” while in the 3-4 there are the three down linemen and the fourth rusher can be any one of the four linebackers. So the offense “is not sure where the pressure’s coming from. It’s much more confusing for an offense.”
It also “really allows you to get after the quarterback,” who is the one person on the field most likely to make a mistake and turn over the ball, he said.
Playing against the developing 3-4 defense was also good for Mike Bobo’s offense, Richt said. After nine years of the offensive coaches knowing what to expect from their defensive counterparts, the new system “kept them on their toes.”
Among Richt’s other comments: