Richt is right to call Georgia’s special teams ’scary’

Blair Walsh and Drew Butler had bad days against Florida, but it's the kick coverage that's really scary. (Associated Press)

Blair Walsh and Drew Butler had bad days against Florida, but it's the kick coverage that's really scary. (Associated Press)

Some media observers were amazed to see quite a few UGA fans griping about various aspects of the win over Florida.

Granted, maybe those unable to fully celebrate a big victory in Jacksonville do need to lighten up a bit.

But immediately after the game even Mark Richt found it necessary to lament the distressing state of the Dogs’ special teams play, which has been a recurring problem this season since the South Carolina game. “We’ve just got to keep from giving the game away on special teams,” he said.

At another point, he said Georgia’s special teams were “mostly average to scary.”

Actually, I’d say mostly scary. It got to the point in the Florida game where after a Georgia score the first thing you thought was, “Oh, no, now we’ve got to kick off again!” — and the squib kicks later in the game were a welcome sight.

It was bad enough that placekicker Blair Walsh continued his slump, and even normally rock-solid punter Drew Butler had a bad day. But it’s in kick coverage that the Dogs really get really scary. Georgia ranks 109th in the nation in kickoff coverage and isn’t much better in punt coverage, ranking 104th.

UGA fan John Thrasher summed up a lot of folks’ thinking on my Facebook page:

“Georgia needs to take a hard look at their approach to Special Teams. 2011 has been one of the worst performances of Georgia special teams that I can remember. I believe that Frank Beamer [of] Virginia Tech personally coaches his special teams. His approach, ‘Beamer Ball,’ is that special teams is a critical factor in winning. He selects his best athletes for special teams. It is an honor to be selected. I think Georgia needs a similar approach. We have given up way too many big plays this year from kickoff and punt returns to allowing big yardage on fake punts. In regards to our inability to be ready for an opponents fake punt, a fellow frustrated fan lamented that he ‘didn’t remember when an opponent’s fake punt had not been successful.’ Our inability to cover the kickoff against Florida (and Vandy, for that matter) was almost our undoing. Love to hear your thoughts.”

The first suggestion from most people, including the CBS broadcast crew Saturday, is that UGA needs a full-time special teams coach, but I don’t think that’s likely to happen since Richt subscribes to approach taken by his mentor, Bobby Bowden, in splitting up the responsibilities for special teams among the position coaches. I do think perhaps returning to having one of those coaches be the overall special teams coordinator might be a step in the right direction.

The problem appears to be more execution on the field than coaching (though in the case of falling for fake punts the coaches probably should take the bigger share of the blame). The answer, as Georgia kicking great Kevin Butler was noting on the radio after Saturday’s game, would appear to be putting more veterans and starters on the kick coverage teams in place of all those freshmen and walk-ons that tend to get the bulk of their playing time there.

As John Thrasher said, Beamer has had a lot of success making special teams truly special, and Urban Meyer took the same approach in his time at Florida, making it an honor to serve on the special teams. Georgia does have some starters show up on special teams but from comments Richt has made that appears to be more a case of them acting on their own volition and pulling rank on a younger player, rather than the result of any grand design by the coaching staff.

As for the skill players on special teams, one bad game for Butler shouldn’t be that alarming. Walsh will just have to sort out whatever’s going on between his ears since Richt appears set on sticking with him — not just because of his past success but because apparently he’s the most consistent of Georgia’s kickers in practice. Butler thinks perhaps Walsh needs to cut back and quit kicking so much, especially in the pregame warmup.

Whatever the case, as Richt put it: “We’ve gotta figure something out, don’t we?”

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125 comments Add your comment

Herschel Talker

November 1st, 2011
10:43 am

Time for Bogotay!

Reality

November 1st, 2011
10:44 am

Best 11 on the field at all times…period.

McDawg

November 1st, 2011
10:49 am

got to kick it out of the end zone

D. Butler has not been effective in pressure situations throughout his career

N. Marshall is getting killed on kickoff coverage/need someone else on that right side

Alabam used Julio Jones and Mark Ingram on kickoffs

Mtn Dawg

November 1st, 2011
10:49 am

I agree, Bill. It is kick coverage that is kicking our ars. Walsh and Butler are two of the finest in the land.

Ed Pilcher

November 1st, 2011
10:53 am

In the words of the 2 Japanese ground-keepers on the movie Major League…….They’re sh***y.

Ed Pilcher

November 1st, 2011
10:53 am

Oh, and 5th!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TheItalianDawg

November 1st, 2011
10:54 am

Best 11 on the field at all times…period

Dbalcer

November 1st, 2011
10:55 am

In the pregame Blair hits them all so it is not that he can’t kick. I hope he gets back into his groove because I am sure as much as this bothers us it bothers him more.

Mtn Dawg

November 1st, 2011
10:57 am

Put Jarvis Jones and ‘Tree’ in there and fill it out with our best athletes. Special teams needs the attention it deserves and gets from some of the best coaches in the land. Come on. It’s not rocket science.

Kickin Wide

November 1st, 2011
11:04 am

I’m really surprised to read Walsh & Butler saying stuff like “I can fix it. I’m not doing that bad. Richt still has confidence in me.”

Well memo to Mr. Walsh & Mr. Butler, the fans don’t have confidence in either of you at this point. Especially in Walsh. You’ve missed almost half as many kicks as you’ve made. You should be benched. Give another kicker a shot. What ? He’s gonna miss some like you always do ? Give me a break…

UGA70

November 1st, 2011
11:05 am

On a site yesterday, I raised the same example of Frank Beamer’s approach at VATech (Beamer Ball) as mentioned above and I also went on to say that what is needed is that one of the Special Team’s coaches needs to be designated the lead coach or coach-in-charge of the the Special Team’s play. Some one needs to be responsible for the overall ST coaching. If you don’t have someone in charge, no one’s in charge and no one can be held accountable.

Kickin Wide

November 1st, 2011
11:05 am

Here’s Richt’s confidence in you Blair Walsh : Richt goes for it twice on 4th and long well within field goal range. Kickers are supposed to be assets. You are a liability Walsh !

RabidDawg84

November 1st, 2011
11:06 am

I love Walsh. His performance on the field should determine whether he kicks. I would have to try someone else right now. It could be the difference in the AUB or GT game. Both of these are championship games (hoping SC loses). On kickoffs, we stay blocked. Sorry to say, these guys look like walk-ons just out of highschool and are not coming close to hitting someone hard. We are not close to average here. It is so nice to not have to think about losing to Florida for a whole year.

Kickin Wide

November 1st, 2011
11:07 am

Exactly. Beamer is the leader of the Special Teams at VT. Why can’t Richt be the leader for UGA ? Put your best players on special teams like T.King,I.Crowell,A.White,J.Jones,etc.

Lagdawg

November 1st, 2011
11:09 am

The question is? When will CMR figure out that it takes a complete team effort, including the right coaches in the right position to be a dominate team. The fans cannot even get a complete game out of this team. The problem is Bowdon had better coaches under him and Richt doesn’t. He just can’t seem to figure out what it takes to become an elite team. He doesn’t make the right moves on coaching and he takes too long to make changes. UGA has been lucky this year and the luck will soon run out. UGA has to be the worst coached 6-2 team in college football. CMR still refusing to acknowledge that he needs a special teams coach is pathetic. Beilen was great at special teams, but he is gone and no one else on the team can fill the void. If CMR can’t make the proper decisions, then maybe it is time to move on. Just winning is not good enough anymore, especially when yu win this ugly.

Lagdawg

November 1st, 2011
11:11 am

Walsh is not the problem. The is not having a coach to lead the special teams. That is why Boykin has not run one back this year. The lack of a ST Coach.

sogadog

November 1st, 2011
11:11 am

Well said John Thrasher.

Also, when was the last time the Dawgs ran a fake punt or fake field goal attempt?

The fakes sure work against us. If we ran a fake it would certainly shock the opponent.

Kickin Wide

November 1st, 2011
11:13 am

UGA never flat out destroys an SEC team. They always give the Ole Pizzes,Kys,Vandy’s a chance at the end of games. Mr. Richt, do you see how bad LSU & Bama beat these same teams ? Like 49-14,38-3,etc. ? But your team barely beats these SEC door mats.

FRED

November 1st, 2011
11:15 am

WE WONDER HOW A REAL COACH WOULD HANDLE THIS PROBLEM.

Kickin Wide

November 1st, 2011
11:15 am

You are insane Lagdawg, none of Walsh’s kicks have been blocked. They’ve all been wide right usually. That’s ALL on the kicker and accuracy.

Kickin Wide

November 1st, 2011
11:20 am

If Walsh makes the two kicks he missed against South Carolina then UGA is 6-1 and on top in SEC East. That’s how much his kicking has hurt UGA.

New Kicker Wanted

November 1st, 2011
11:21 am

Richt’s probably ABOVE coaching special teams…

Dawgustus

November 1st, 2011
11:22 am

The infamous stubborness streak in Richt again. Seems he always waits too long and lets things get too out of hand before he’ll make a change. Miserable special teams play cost us the Carolina game and nearly cost us the Florida game, yet no changes and the stubborn declaration that changes won’t be made. Richt finally made some badly needed changes to the defensive staff so maybe 4-6 more games of terrible special teams play will convince him to do something this off-season.

New Kicker Wanted

November 1st, 2011
11:26 am

Whatever the case, as Richt put it: “We’ve gotta figure something out, don’t we?”

Yeah. Like putting seniors and star players on the special teams that can hit,block,and tackle. Then allow a competition in practice for kicking field goals. Start the most accurate kicker.

SSIgator

November 1st, 2011
11:29 am

UGA “special teams” should be re-named “special ed teams” since the palyers being used are either special ed students or they are being taught by special ed teachers, which happen to also be the coaching staff, or a combination of both.

dmr

November 1st, 2011
11:29 am

It would make the most sense for the time being to do the following. Let Bogotay kick off. Let Walsh concentrate on field goals. We won’t see any more return men like Demps this year. That said, Tony Ball should take over coaching WR’s and TE’s since their functions are closely related whether on running plays or passing plays. Let John Lilly take over as a full time Special Teams Coordinator and take more of an Urban Meyer/Frank Beamer approach. Richt is too busy babysitting Bobo who still seems relatively clueless when it comes to strategy, down & distance, what’s working and what’s not.

Call David Cutcliffe and see if he wants to win a BCS Title by coordinating an offense that will be extremely high powered over the next few seasons provided we build depth on the line and add one more explosive running back to next year’s class. In all seriousness, Bobo is just to Jeckyll and Hyde when it comes to calling a game.

dawg82

November 1st, 2011
11:31 am

Bill, have the dawgs ever thought about a special teams consultant? i.e. Jerry Glanville

dap01

November 1st, 2011
11:32 am

UGA should be embarrassed to be 104th in anything. That is pathethic an unacceptable. CMR needs to realize that such sloppliness will lead to him losing everyone confidence very fast.

Come on CMR, tighten up. Quit telling your team to read a book when basic coaching is missing.

dap01

November 1st, 2011
11:34 am

The excuse that people simply aren’t doing their jobs is week. The strategy for UGA’s special teams are the blame. The returns for FLA were up the middle and untouched.

It’s disgusting.

jrmdvm1

November 1st, 2011
11:35 am

How about letting someone else kick off. Other teams, even the pros, have had someone other than the “accurate” kicker doing the kickoffs, on the theory that kicking off is a different motion than that for a field goal ( as well as not tiring the field goal kicker ).

truedawg

November 1st, 2011
11:35 am

ST lost us the SC game. We would be top ten team and well on our way to a BCS bowl. But SPECIAL TEAMS let us down. Let that sink in..a one loss team’s only loss coming from a top 5 team..we’d be maybe 7th right now. I have to agree that special teams have to be special. We should have our best players on the field at all times. Also too many cooks spoil the stew. let one coach, Ball, O, etc.. have complete control, and be able to get any player from the team to play on special teams. If we don’t fix this problem before the Tech game, we will lose. Also I hate to think what we will look like playing the West champ….that’s scary.
GO DAWGS!!!

Alphare

November 1st, 2011
11:36 am

Bill, I missed out another of your blog “Gators didn’t give the game to Georgia — Dawgs took it”.

Not to talk down UGA, but UGA’s win has lots to do with BAMA/LSU dismantling the gators before UGA went in pick up the loot.

I love coach Richt, but his job status has lots to do with BAMA/LSU as well, by not playing against them. Can you imagine FL got UGA’s schedule and UGA got FL’s schedule? UGA might have 5 potential losses instead of 2 as it is now. UGA fans would be calling for the coach’s head with 5 losses.

DawginLex

November 1st, 2011
11:37 am

SSI

If our coaching staff is special ed, what does that make yours?

Considering that Grantham played Weis like a fiddle for 3 quarters.

DawginLex

November 1st, 2011
11:40 am

SSI

Your alumni and fanbase should demand a full refund from Weis and ship his fat self back to the north.

He got OWNED by Grantham. You know, the guy who you said was a donut eating nothing who would never make it in the SEC as a DC?

Your head coach is a profanity spouting, spitting idiot with no ability to calm his emotions down. Your OC is a fat, obnoxious buffoon who just got OWNED by our DC.

Who has the special ed staff?

The gators

Fire Bobo Dawg Aka" BIG MIKE"

November 1st, 2011
11:41 am

Could u imagine returning a kick and looking infront of u seeing J. Jones,Otree, S Williams, Hererra, Charles, R Samuels,R Drew, coming at u.. Just sayin
.. have a feeling Bobo is to blame…… Bobo u suck

Hopelessly Devoted

November 1st, 2011
11:42 am

Weis could probably fiddle better if all his strings weren’t broken. Thanks again, Bama and LSU!

Fire Bobo Dawg Aka" BIG MIKE"

November 1st, 2011
11:44 am

Bobo’s shortbus was just spotted leaving Chucky Cheese with Murray and Walsh… Bobo ur a retard… lolololol…..

Fire Bobo Dawg Aka" BIG MIKE"

November 1st, 2011
11:47 am

Is it just me or does anyone else out there think Bobo and Murray stink????? and ist time for Bogotay…. sitting my clear Walsh’s head!!! reaaly fast…..

ARdawg

November 1st, 2011
11:50 am

SSI

Surprising you even show up around here on these blogs. What’s the matter? Did the gator fans kick you off of theirs?

Eddie Merckx

November 1st, 2011
11:50 am

i can think of 2+ million reasons Richt should rethink his special teams coordinator position.

Joey

November 1st, 2011
11:51 am

Our Special Teams woes are why we are hoping for somebody else to beat SC.

I can count about $3.5 Million reasons for Richt to coach them himself.

Actuarydawg

November 1st, 2011
11:55 am

I haven’t been able to attend a game this year, as such I only get to watch on TV. Now, on TV, following the kick off, the camera typically cuts downfield to the receiver. When most teams kickoff, the camera makes its downfield cut and the ball arrives about the same time you see the first of the kicking team enter the screen. When Georgia kicks off, the receiver catches the ball, the wedge is formed, and the ball carrier runs about 10 or 15 yards before you even see a Georgia player. I’m frustrated by the fact that, on TV, I the downfield camera shot does not give me the ability to see what is delaying the Georgia wave of tacklers get to the ball carrier in a timely manner. So my question is for those who actually attend the games. Are the Georgia player’s excrutiatingly slow? Are they getting blocked too easily?

What I envision happening off camera is that when the ball is kicked all the Georgia players start running around in circles and whooping Three Stooges style. Is this on the mark?

barrow dog

November 1st, 2011
11:56 am

what are the various coach’s responsibilities on the special teams?

ActuaryDawg

November 1st, 2011
11:58 am

barrow dog, I don’t know. But your question makes me wonder that if there is any chance that Richt simply forgot to assign a coach to the kick return team. Maybe he wrote it down, but the photocopier cropped it off or something like that. It would explain a lot.

Cb4d

November 1st, 2011
11:59 am

In a way I’m glad Walsh did miss the field goals he did. Had he made them we would have had to kick off and allowed Florida special teams to get a couple more big returns. Special teams must be addressed if we have any desire to beat Auburn and GT.

barrow dog

November 1st, 2011
12:15 pm

could be actuary.. i thought maybe the kick defend and kick returns coachs has gotten confused on each other’s duties

robodawg

November 1st, 2011
12:15 pm

Kick returns and kick coverage really improved last year when Belin came in from Vanderbilt. Then Belin left and we’re back where we were. I think coaching assignments for special teams probably need to be shifted around. I would like to see more first and second teamers out there as well.

Being this bad in special teams is inexcusable. If it’s not fixed it will come to cost us more ballgames. If we had been better prepared here we’d probably be looking at an undefeated conference record right now.

ActuaryDawg

November 1st, 2011
12:16 pm

It’s probably Bobo this year. That guy can’t do anything right!

SSIgator

November 1st, 2011
12:23 pm

DawginLex -

On speaking terms again? I am flattered. Never said anything about any coach at UGA except Richt. And if you think that beating the worst football team that UF has had on the field in over twenty years, by only four points and having to come from behind to do it, is something for UGA to get excited about, then you have not yet sworn off the KoolAid. But then again, I guess you never will as long as Richt is the coach.

BP85

November 1st, 2011
12:23 pm

I don’t know who ‘DMR’ is, but I could not agree more. Especially letting Bogatay handle kickoffs and going after Cutcliff for an absolute brilliant OC.