UGA fan talk: Do Richt and Bobo lack a killer instinct?

Do Mark Richt and Mike Bobo play not to lose? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Do Mark Richt and Mike Bobo play not to lose? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

I’ll be off next week and away from the Blawg as we get my daughter settled in Athens — which is sure to get me even more primed for football season to begin!

In the meantime, let’s jump into some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

David Youngerman writes: Bill, I enjoy your blog and the attempts to stay grounded as a fellow diehard fan. With all the chatter around Top 5 question marks going into the season, I’m in agreement the OL, RB’s, and special teams are potential watch-outs (even though special teams is the only one that scares me). That said, my biggest concern going into the season isn’t one of those three topics and I’m worried my concern doesn’t get discussed more often. Recent years have shown a pattern (particularly from the offense) of not having the ability to close out a team when we have them down. I honestly believe this reflects Coach Richt and Bobo’s personalities as we repeatedly “play not to lose” once we get a nice lead (see Michigan State, Vandy, Miss. St. last year). Seems to me we used to close out games with sustained, time-killing drives and end up in the “victory” formation at the end more often before Bobo started calling the plays. We just seem to have a soft mindset towards really closing a team out.

The lack of a killer instinct has been a common complaint, really, throughout the Mark Richt era, not just since Mike Bobo started calling the offensive plays. (Although, once again, I have to say that Bobo’s maddening tendency in games to go away from whatever has been working offensively drives me up the wall.) But I don’t think it’s just a matter of the coaches trying to play it safe in their play calling (though that certainly appeared to be the case in the bowl game against Michigan State) or generally not keeping the pressure on offensively when they’re ahead (which we’ve also seen quite a few times). More than that, conditioning was a problem for the Dogs late in quite a few games in recent years, and although last season showed some improvement in that regard, the bowl game against the Spartans was an example where our defense looked gassed in the fourth quarter. Hopefully, the continued changes in the strength and conditioning program will help turn that around.

As for your reference to areas of concern, I tend to agree with you that special teams is the scariest, especially since Richt hasn’t taken any really concrete steps to revamp that portion of the game, aside from saying they’ll practice it more and more starters will play kick coverage. Like many fans, I wish he would name a special teams coach to focus more directly on that area, though I understand that NCAA coaching limitations complicate that.

Nick Saban supplements his coaching staff with "analysts." (Associated Press)

Nick Saban supplements his coaching staff with "analysts." (Associated Press)

There apparently are ways to get around those limitations, however, as Nick Saban is showing at Alabama. Al.com recently reported Saban’s staff now includes nine “analysts,” up from six last season and three the year before that. Five of the “analysts” work with the offense, three “analysts” work with the defense, and John Wozniak, most recently the running backs coach and co-special teams coordinator at UAB, is Alabama’s new special teams “analyst.” If he can’t free up a coaching position to handle special teams, maybe Richt needs to follow the Saban model and add a special teams “analyst”  to his staff.

Andy M. Johnson writes: As a Dawg Fan, I worry about our recent years of “slow starts” and wonder what coaching strategy has been implemented to rectify this ongoing issue…

I don’t know what changes might have been instituted, but I just hope the Georgia coaching staff avoids doing whatever they did in getting the team ready for last year’s season-opener against Boise State! That was as poorly prepared a Georgia team as I’ve seen in a while, which made the improvement (at least, in terms of the offense) from that game to the game against South Carolina all the more remarkable.

Along those lines, Steve Upshaw writes: I have absolutely no confidence that Mark Richt will have the Dogs prepared when they go to Columbia, MO. We already have our tickets, as we do for most road games with the Dogs. For 30 years, we’ve traveled with and supported the team, but this organization is on a very long, slow and steady slide. The facts clearly bear this out. I remember standing in the stands at the Superdome the night we beat Hawaii and quietly thinking how lucky and blessed we are to have Richt as our head coach. I have stood by, supported and defended Richt as long as I can. So I’ll state this before even the first game of the season: It is absolutely time for a change in Athens. Of course, we could be satisfied with our 10-win seasons and a Jan 1st bowl game, but that’s all we’ll accomplish with the current regime. I’m in the high-end medical hardware business. My travels take me to every corner of the nation. Outside the SEC region, UGA is never mentioned as a power team and one to be feared, as are Alabama, LSU and even Florida. We have become Tennessee. Like Alabama a few years back, it looks like we will spend the next few years lost in the wilderness looking for a way out.

I’m glad to hear your pessimism hasn’t prompted you to give up supporting the program, even if you’ve given up on Richt. That kind of school loyalty is what makes the Bulldog Nation a great fan base. I haven’t yet given up on Richt, but I know you’re not alone in your view. As for what folks in other regions think, that’s pretty much a function of who’s taken home the crystal football. That’s the millstone hanging around Richt’s neck.

Aaron Murray might surprise some Georgia fans this season. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Aaron Murray might surprise some Georgia fans this season. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Glenn Goldstein writes: Bill, It’s fairly easy to point out Georgia’s expected strengths — defense, QB, receivers — and potential weaknesses and questions—OL, tailback, special teams — going into the season, but where do you think the unexpected surprises will come from?

On the positive side, I think the receiving corps might surprise a lot of folks this season, and I believe Aaron Murray may surprise the many naysayers about him in fan forums. Daniel Jeremiah, who covered this summer’s Manning Passing Academy for NFL.com, was impressed by Murray and said he was surprised at how powerfully Murray threw the deep ball. “Murray had as much range as any quarterback at the camp,” he said.

On the negative side, I’m tempted to say we’ll probably have some suspensions crop up during the season, but I’m not sure that would really qualify as a surprise any more.

Bill C. writes: I think Richt is doing a really good job coaching UGA in a highly competitive league. Why can we not get over the hump though? I can think of lots of reasons: inconsistent at best special teams, really bad luck (i.e. losing Shockley before UF), we play in the toughest league ever, etc. But those aren’t the reasons why we haven’t won it all. We haven’t won it all because, unlike his peers, Richt does not value winning above all else. Urban Meyer almost killed himself winning his championships, Nick Saban would kill anyone within 200 miles of Tuscaloosa if he thought they might negatively affect his team, Gene Chizik and Auburn bought their championship, Les Miles isn’t smart enough to care about anything but winning, and it’s no mystery how Steve Spurrier feels about winning. Richt runs an ethical and clean program. I respect where winning ranks in Richt’s overall values: I am guessing 4th, behind his religion, family, and the overall well-being of his players. However, if we’re going to win it all, that value ranking has to change. Winning needs to move to number 2 behind player health for 3 1/2 hours 14 times a year. I’m not talking about partying in the end zone, I’m talking about players never letting up or losing to someone who wants it more. I hope Richt finds that killer instinct somewhere inside of him and finally brings a team above and beyond its potential. Thoughts?

I’m not sure I agree that you have to be ruthless and obsessed to win a national championship, though I’m sure it might simplify the process. A bit of fire in the belly certainly doesn’t preclude having high standards and sticking to them. And despite his laid-back demeanor, I think Richt is probably every bit as competitive inside as the coaches you named. What will it take for Georgia to win a national title? A Heisman-winning player usually helps a lot in that regard. Plus a dominating defense. I don’t know whether Georgia has that kind of game-changing player on the roster right now, but I think the Dawgs are on the right track defensively. A bit of luck usually comes in handy, too. Maybe that’s why so many Georgia fans get so frustrated with Richt: the program isn’t that far away from rejoining the elite.

Do you have something you want to discuss concerning the upcoming football season or UGA athletics in general? Got a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

330 comments Add your comment

AugustaDawg

August 4th, 2012
9:48 pm

t2go

August 4th, 2012
9:52 pm

Dawg Haus

August 4th, 2012
9:53 pm

If the Dawgs had any kind of a killer instinct last season, they might have finished 12-2. I still support CMR, but that is one thing that just frustrates the heck out of me about him and his staff.

t2go

August 4th, 2012
9:53 pm

yes……but thank God for Grantham!!!

t2go

August 4th, 2012
9:58 pm

If you can stand it watch the Mich St game again….Dawgs were killing them! How that game ended up a loss is beyond me. Richt and Bobo seem to take their foot off the gas…they need to help the D and stop leaning so hard on them.

Cuz

August 4th, 2012
10:01 pm

Mark Richt is still the man I want as our coach.

Augustadawg

August 4th, 2012
10:10 pm

Even if he wins one it won’t shut people up. Richt is a class act and can win the big one. Sometimes it the pollsters that do us in. 2002 and 2007. We could go undefeated, beat Bama or LSU in SECCG and they would say we had to soft a schedule. Gooooooooo Dawgs! Sic em. Woof woof woof. Can’t wait to yell that at Sanford.

coondawg69

August 4th, 2012
10:11 pm

Of course they do NOT!! I will take the word of former players that both have an extremely competitive spirit.

The ability as top line coaches to get the job done??? That still remains to be seen. I will offer this one hope of optimism: Bobby Bowden and Tom Osborne both took a long time to finally win over their critics and a national championship. Hopefully the same will be true for CMR!!!

UGA has been ranked #2 twice in the final polls. Other SEC schools have won recent National Championships when they got the breaks and help. UGA has not had such luck. It takes some luck to win the national championship, ask Florida, Bama, and LSU. Great teams? No doubt. national championship teams? No doubt. Did they need help to play for the national championship? No doubt. Hopefully UGA will be back in Atlanta in early December this year and we will see if we get some these breaks!!!

Sargeant Hulka's Big Toe

August 4th, 2012
10:15 pm

The D ran out of gas in the bowl game because the offense couldn’t stay on the field. Very few teams are conditioned well enough to stay fueled up under those conditions.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:18 pm

It’s not strength & conditioning.

The reason we struggled in the 2nd half against South Carolina, LSU, and Mich St, is because Murray started turning the ball over in the 2nd half of all 3 games.

Murray’s idiotic blunders crushed their spirit, they just lost heart and gave up.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:20 pm

It all comes down to turnover margin. In 2011, when we won the turnover margin, we went 10-0, when we lost it, we went 0-4.

Not strength & conditioning, it’s pretty much Murray’s propensity to turn the ball over multiple times in big games.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:21 pm

Richt’s value system got us to a couple of #2 finishes, so that’s not the problem.

It’s turnovers, and Murray is the #1 culprit.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:23 pm

You missed hte #1 potential weakness:

Aaron Murray’s 20 turnovers in 2011.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:25 pm

UGA is top 5 nationally in merchandise sales, and in revenues. And is ranked pre-season #6 by coaches and cbs, well respected around the country. Your perception of UGA is not accurate.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:26 pm

Bill,

I’d suggest going to these fan type of articles on a monthly basis.

I enjoy your take MUCH more than these lame questions.

kingdaddy

August 4th, 2012
10:28 pm

Coach Richt needs a fire in his belly, then he needs to rip into Bobo and stop being so nice. This may be CMBs last year if he can’t score against a good team and cut down on the turnovers. Richt has to get a mean streak from somewhere but I just don’t think he’s up to it. We will see this year…

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:33 pm

Uh, David Y, I think we addressed the slow start problem.

Went from opening up against 2 top 10 teams last season, to Buffulo & Missouri, easy 2-0 start with 3rd string back ups.

Who in the world asks questions like that, you didn’t notice we went form 2 top teams to no top 25 teams in the first several games?

MattDawg

August 4th, 2012
10:34 pm

Yes Richt and Bobo have no real killer instinct. Grantham sure does and if they wanna make him head coach at UGA I am all for it!!

Quit mealy mouthing UGA Fans!

August 4th, 2012
10:38 pm

Been around this program since 1966. Quit mealy mouthing everything UGA fans. Fact is, I was at Auburn today (my 22 nephew graduated today). On way out of Auburn Arena, I (MBA Terry), my Dad (UGA grad.), and my wife (UGA BA) had to walk right by the Crystal Trophy. How do you think that made me feel? Well, Cam Newton or not, Auburn has a trophy we don’t. Fact. Yeah…that hurts.

UGA, it isn’t what lies in front of you or behind you that’s important…it’s what lies within you. Point is, I had to listen to Larry Munson (woulda, coulda, shoulda mantra (although I love the man)) mealy mouth UGA all those years. It’s is time to act like we’ve been there and do it! Quit “wait ’til next year” crap.

Need the go for the “juglar” mentality now. If not this year, then it will not get done under Richt. Great man. Very good coach. Just don’t know if he can take us to the next level. UGA needs a Crystal Trophy to shut (me) and everyone else up.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:39 pm

Glenn G, must have gotten his question backwards.

Weaknesses are Murray, defense (due to suspensions), and receivers (Mitchell is gone, King had 1 or 2 50+ yard games last year.)

Strengths are Sp Teams (can’t get worse than missing 14 field goals, punter has better hang time than Butlet did, Smith is faster than Boykin) almost every year at UGA, tailback is one of the deepest positions–we’re at least 4 deep with 4-5 star talent there–we also got the #1 running back in the nation, Glenn how could you have missed that? Oline is an NFL facotry of talent, we’re sending 3 guys a year to the NFL, what does that tell you?

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:40 pm

Richt already has been on 2 national champion teams as a coach. Finished #2 2x at UGA. That’s close enough.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:41 pm

Since Richt has a higher win % than Saban, Miles or Spurrier, they need to get more of a killer instinct like Richt’s

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:42 pm

Saban only had 1 top 3 finish in his first 11 years, Richt’s had 2 at UGA.

Saban needs ot be more like Richt.

Dawg Haus

August 4th, 2012
10:47 pm

Have y’all seen CMR’s press conference from today? Maybe that five o’clock shadow he’s got going on means he’s getting a little rougher around the edges.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
10:49 pm

His win % is better than Sban’s we don’t need him to be “rougher”.

Dawg Haus

August 4th, 2012
11:24 pm

True, Unkle. I’m a CMR fan, too, but Saban has a few things in his trophy case that I think would be very welcome in Athens.

Unkle

August 4th, 2012
11:28 pm

You don’t sound like a fan if you arn’t happy with a Coach who has a higher win % than Saban.

Top Row Dawg

August 4th, 2012
11:46 pm

Real Georgia fans support CMR. Funny how the trolls and haters are so anxious for us to dump him. Stay the course.

Dawg Haus

August 5th, 2012
12:02 am

I never said I wasn’t happy with CMR, Unkle. I respect him both as a man and as a coach. I believe he has what it takes to get the Dawgs to the championship level, but there’s no point in claiming that CMR is a better coach than Saban solely based on winning percentage. CMR has won two conference titles in 11 years as a head coach, which is great, but in only six more years as a head coach, Saban has won three national titles at two different schools.

Dawg Haus

August 5th, 2012
12:04 am

Killer instinct or not, CMR is our coach and we should all stand behind him and the Dawgs in 2012. Can’t wait till the 1st!

Right On Time

August 5th, 2012
12:12 am

Skeptical DAWG

August 5th, 2012
12:31 am

CMR wouldn’t know a killer instinct if it hit him in the head. Being totally unprepared at the beginning of potentially big seasons has been what’s kept us out of the national picture. Expecting we won’t be prepared for Mizzou as well. We’ve seen the best this regime can do. Nice records, at least at the beginning, but someone else will have to lead us to the promised land.

Ron Roberts

August 5th, 2012
12:50 am

All this “killer instinct” hogwash…

If Shockley’s not hurt, we beat Florida and play for the national championship.

We SHOULD have played for the title instead of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl, too, and had the new “plus one” model been in place, we would have been involved in both scenarios.

A little perspective, folks; too many people confuse Coach Richt’s faith and his good manners with a “softness.” The guy’s a head football coach at a D-1 SEC institution. I’m certain he’s got “killer instinct” for the game. Let’s just not confuse “killer instinct” with “willing to cheat.” We don’t need that.

Pj

August 5th, 2012
1:01 am

Bill, I’m of the opinion that those who give you a hard time are most likely jealous of the fact that – from a writing standpoint – you essentially have a uga fan’s dream job. I think you do it quite well personally. Good luck settling your kid in Athens. I grew up in the classic city and my parents still live in five points as soon to be retired Professors. We moved to Athens in 84 and buffalo will be my 125th Georgia game.
From my perspective, we are lucky to have coach richt in so many ways. I never experienced a conference title until cmr arrived – and now we have 2 with an additional 2 runner ups.
All he’s missing is the crystal ball – this year seems as good as any with an elite qb and a top 5 defense – those two things seem to be on almost all bcs title winners

WorldWideDawg

August 5th, 2012
1:02 am

I don’t see how folks can say either CMR or CMB has no killer instict. Look how many points our offense scores. As said above it’s the turnovers that hurt us most. Secondly is last season we didn’t have a run game at all, with that I give CMB mad respect for keeping/giving us 10 wins with Brandon Harton and Kyle K (not even going to try and spell his name) running the ball for us. I give those two much respect as well for doing a great job as well to keep us on the path. Of course special teams sucked bad, there were way too many times we got in the RZ and didn’t score from a missed FG. I know we’ll be better this season, if the Coaches do what they did last year I feel we’re good, it’s the players who have to take care of business/ball. GO DAWGS SIC ‘EM!!!!

ncdawg

August 5th, 2012
1:48 am

augustadawg, tell me about CMR winning the big ones – at least in recent years. I seem to have missed those games.

ncdawg

August 5th, 2012
1:50 am

augustadawg, tell me about CMR winning the big ones – at least in recent years? I seems to have missed those games.

staDog

August 5th, 2012
1:52 am

richt is a good man and the dogs have a strong roster. the dogs should win 9-10 games in 2012 and go to a good bowl game.

WorldWideDawg

August 5th, 2012
2:33 am

ncdawg,

How about the UF and GT games? He has beaten LSU 5 in a row as well as Aubum until Scam and that horrible officiating crew. Seems CMR doesn’t do anything right, if he wins the NC then he better win it from then on out or else folks will want him fired. Look at UT, want to be like them? SC, Spurrier was about to retire before Lattimore literally carried him and the whole team on his back. SC will be back to where they were historically, once Spurrier gets tired and realizes he’ll never get those Hens to where he thinks/wants he’ll hang it up. Maybe we should be like Alabama, have just two sports teams to hand money to/root for and be happy. I’ll take CMR and the Dawgs, be a Braves and Falcons fan plus being a proud Georgian over all of that mess…

chuck

August 5th, 2012
3:16 am

Thank goodness that many areas have been fixed but we still have several issues.

1. Mike Bobo offense isn’t performing close to the talent level he has at his disposal.

2. The roster management is horrible. Once again, UGA doesn’t have enough OL on scholarship. How can this keep happening? OL has had 5 of 22 starters for as long as the sport has existed. That means sign 4 to 5 EVERY year. CMR can’t get the concept that recruiting is an every year job. Last year the signing of only 19 recruits was a joke.

3. Our special teams are an embarrassment. Do we have to lose a game before our head coach figures out that we need a dedicated coach in charge of special teams? The worst part is there isn’t a coach trying to fix this area. We just continue to look like a clown act on special teams. The rest of the world has figured this out. UGA can expect to see a steady diet of trick plays on special teams because we don’t have a coach looking at our tendencies and fixing our issues. Our opponents then plan plays to exploit these tendencies. The result is fake punts for touchdowns, reverses on punt returns for touchdowns, and successful onside kicks. Against Vandy, it was a kick return for a touchdown and then a blocked punt. The blocked punt at that time of the game in of itself should result in immediate action. Who knows what other things the dedicated special team coaches on our remaining opponents will exploit.

It’s 4th and long and time to drop back and punt CMR and then start moving forward.

Reality Dawg

August 5th, 2012
3:17 am

Top Row Dawg
August 4th, 2012
11:46 pm

Real Georgia fans support CMR. Funny how the trolls and haters are so anxious for us to dump him. Stay the course.

Only true idiots blindly support and blindly follow any leader. “Stay the course.”

Really?? “Stay the course”?? Even if it takes you to Starkville, MS???

7576DAWG

August 5th, 2012
3:23 am

I think we do lighten up after getting a big lead sometimes and if our second team and third team is a lot worst than the starter then our opponents do have a tendency of coming back. Then we put our starters back in and they can’t get back to the same level of play. Putting away an opponent has to do with keeping up the same pressure until the other team gives up, like Auburn did last year. Until that happens you can’t go into a conservative mode of play by running on every play.
Bobo has a tendency of going conservative and CMR wants to play the second and third team and the walk on’s. We start running the ball hoping to run out the clock but if we go 3 and out, 3 or 4 times in a row it could give the other team confidence that it is not too late to come back , which has happened a few times.
I think if we have the same lack of killer instinct this year with a lot of 3 and out’s in the 3RD and 4TH Quarters and this cause us to lose 3 or 4 games I think McGarity will make a few changes at the end of the year on the offensive side.
For those of you that think Bobo is doing his job, tell me how many teams have asked to talk with Bobo about becoming their head coach or how many Pro teams have asked to talk to Bobo about becoming a coach with a Pro team? Georgia has averaged 9 or ten wins for at least 10 years and there is no doubt in my mine that with a top Offensive Coordinator we would have done better. I think this is the last year for Bobo to prove he can be a Coordinator . I’m pulling for him because he recruits South Georgia very good and he does love the Dawgs.

chavez ravine dawg

August 5th, 2012
3:46 am

Undoubtedly CMR and CMB have a killer instinct as shown in a plethora of games….unlike Saban. 7576: McGarity isn’t a coach. He will make zero changes on Offense as you note.

chavez ravine dawg

August 5th, 2012
3:47 am

NO killer instinct, pardon me.

BlackOutSkinnyOne?

August 5th, 2012
3:50 am

Why hasn’t Bobo been dismissed if he’s underperforming, 7576?

WDE

August 5th, 2012
5:28 am

How many OC’s won 10 games in a row last year in the SEC? How many in the Big 10-12 ?

tony

August 5th, 2012
7:05 am

I agree with David Youngerman. In the SC game we were running the football extremely well against their defense but as usual they put the breaks on and allowed Murray to throw the football down feild only to turn the ball over time after time. Remember, SC rush defense was rank 45th nationally and their pass defense was rank 2nd nationally so why would a hc play into his opponent’s strenght? It doesn’t make sense and it is self defeat. Our team doesn’t have a durability problem – they’re problem is maintaining momentum throughout the course of games due to turnovers and miscues.

In that bowl game against MSU we were up 7 points with less than 3 minutes left in the 4th quarter with the ball still in our possession. On 3rd and 8 they hand the ball off to RS for some odd reason. Once again they put the breaks on even when they had the lead. The defense became a none factor late in the 4th qt when John Jenkins left the game with an injury not because they were out of gas. This is why it is very important for the dawgs to recruit Montravius Adams because when Big John Jenkins leaves they need a impact player who can create havoc for offenses.

Destin Dawg

August 5th, 2012
7:05 am

New S & C program.. full time nutrionist Jen Ketterly.. Grantham’s 3/4 defense all take a year or 2 to have an impact.. Win the SEC Champs THIS Year… Go Dawgs !!

SSI

August 5th, 2012
7:06 am

I remember very well the day some 36 years ago when my wife and I did the very same thing you’re to do next week. Taking your baby girl to Athens to live…and hopefully study. Mama handled it better than I. It was traumatic for me…to say the least. But, it turned out very, very well. She ended up living with the same roommate the entire time in the same room in Mary Rutherford (now demolished, I understand). Met her future husband the first week of school, and is now a grandmother, a season ticket holder of many years, and a rabid Dawg fan…as are we all. Good luck to you, your wife, and of course, your daughter. And, Go Dawgs!!!

MDawg

August 5th, 2012
7:26 am

Bobo is the No. 1 candidate to become the head coach next year of a miditier school which is very impressed by his recruiting and tutelage under Coach Richt. I know that for a fact. The AD there is very high on him. Very good chance he will be a HC next year.