Mixed signals from Athens oddly reassuring

Mark Richt and his quarterback, seen here on the first day of camp, didn't seem to be on the same page about this week's scrimmage. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Mark Richt and his quarterback, seen here on the first day of camp, didn't seem to be on the same page about this week's scrimmage. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

There’s been an interesting contrast in statements coming out of preseason practice in Athens this week.

On the one hand you get the usual player happy talk, which we’ve had all summer (like usual). That relentlessly positive spin from players about this year’s team and how much better it is than last year’s team generally is good for getting the Bulldog Nation revved up but has proved in past seasons to be not a very good indicator of how things actually are going to go.

Sure, I always hope they’re right when they’re gushing about the up-and-coming talent, but they do tend to go a bit overboard.

Take this week, for instance. While the coaches are trying to keep the tone very even when it comes to the tailbacks, particularly Todd Gurley, star of the first two scrimmages, the players aren’t holding back.

Shawn Williams, in particular, was effusive on the subject of Gurley: “When I’m standing on the sideline and watching, all I can say is, ‘Wow!’ I don’t want to say too much, but when I saw that [No.] 3 running down through there today, I was like, ‘that’s going to be a Trent Richardson right there.’ That’s what I can say. Big and fast, that’s all I can see.”

And Chris Conley chimed in: “I’m seeing a lot of great things out of Todd. … It gets me very excited whenever you see a running back who can create plays like that when there’s really nothing there.”

Head coach Mark Richt tried to keep things in perspective. “Well, he had one big run,” Richt said. “I forget the situation but the one that broke out I think was a short-yardage run. A lot of times that happens. . . . But, yes, he’s done well and I’m impressed with him. I was impressed with the running backs today. They all ran well.”

But that was one of the few semi-positive things Richt had to say after this week’s scrimmage. Mostly he was complaining about mistakes and lack of effort, particularly singling out the quarterbacks for an excessive number of turnovers.

“I saw a lot of bad things,” Richt said. “I saw three bad interceptions, just bad throws. Every time a quarterback got touched, they fumbled the ball.”

I thought for a moment there that maybe Richt had been possessed by Steve Spurrier.

Richt also wasn’t pleased that “our No. 2 offense drove the field on our No. 1 defense and scored. Brandon Harton broke a tackle in the backfield for a first down that got them going. The No. 1 offense started out great, but after the No. 2 offense scored it must’ve inspired the No. 2 defense because they stoned the No. 1 offense on the next three drives and during a one-minute drive. The No. 1 defense got scored on on the goal line, and I didn’t like that. The No. 1 offense scored on one of two tries from the 2-yard line and the 1-yard line, which is not too impressive.”

On the other hand, Aaron Murray said he “thought we had a great day offensively. We scored, I think, 50 percent of the time. We scored six touchdowns. I think we took a step forward. Were we perfect? No, but we have 16 days to continue working and continue working better. And I think if we continue on this pace, we’ll be good.”

And Mike Bobo, after watching video of the scrimmage, said he thought Murray played pretty well. “The one interception he had was a protection blow down,” Bobo said Thursday. “He had to run up in the pocket and the defense made a great play. I think he was 9-for-13 for 69 percent and the one interception was really not his fault. So I thought he had an outstanding scrimmage.”

As for the fumble Murray had, Bobo said: “We’ve got to protect the ball at all times, but that was more of a situation where he said, ‘Well, OK, I’m sacked’ and just kind of sat there and somebody ran in and knocked the ball out.”

Maybe there was an element of good cop/bad cop there with Bobo providing the counterpoint to Richt’s grousing, but frankly I’d rather have the offensive coordinator coming off as demanding as his boss rather than making excuses for turnovers. Especially considering turnovers by Murray were a key factor in at least two of Georgia’s losses last year.

Now, having the head coach and his quarterback and playcaller not on the same page might concern some fans. But I find Richt’s peevish tone oddly reassuring. The knock in many quarters on Georgia’s head coach has been that after his second SEC championship he got a bit complacent, and as a result the program lost its edge. I’d much rather have Richt demanding more of his players, particularly his starting quarterback, than making nice all the time.

I liked it that Richt even got a bit sarcastic in summing up the scrimmage. “I thought we looked like a pretty good team,” he said. “But pretty good is about 8-4, maybe 9-3 if you’re lucky. We’d like to be better than 8-4, but that’s about how we played today. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great. Did we have great effort on every play? No. Was every guy busting his tail on every play? No. Was there great effort on some of the plays? Yes. I didn’t see a team that was ready to be great. I saw a team that was still pretty good, and I’m not that thrilled about it.”

In general, there’s been a noticeable edge to Richt this preseason. There was even some bite in his address to the Rotary Club in Athens this week, as reported in the Athens Banner-Herald. Asked if some games mean more to him than others, Richt noted, “Over the years, it has become more personal. I was at FSU for 15 years and … I wasn’t mad at anybody. We were winning. Now that I’ve been in this league for 11 seasons of football, it gets personal.”

Maybe it’s something another team’s coaches did or said. Or perhaps Richt’s time on the hot seat made him less inclined to turn the other cheek.

Either way, I’m hoping Richt stays in this we-can-do-better mode throughout the season. The team needs it.

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167 comments Add your comment

Maconbulldog

August 17th, 2012
10:46 am

Bryan G.

August 17th, 2012
10:55 am

Totally agree, Bill. I like seeing angry Richt as opposed to “aw shucks, dadgum, at least we won the game” Richt

RxDawg

August 17th, 2012
10:58 am

I agree. Evil Richt his here!

Dawg Haus

August 17th, 2012
11:00 am

Absolutely, Bill. CMR being critical of Murray is a good thing. The kid is a great quarterback but far from perfect. If he can cut down on the turnovers and goofy mistakes this season, he could end up the best QB in the league.

hipdawg

August 17th, 2012
11:01 am

I would like him to get fired up a little more so the team will too! Go Dawgs!!

GeoffDawg

August 17th, 2012
11:05 am

Even without the goatee, CMR’s evil twin remains in charge.

Moobs Johnson

August 17th, 2012
11:08 am

Mixed signals of mediocrity, a trademark of the last five years of Georgia football under St Richt.

UGA Insider

August 17th, 2012
11:09 am

The freshman I have been most impressed with is Josh Harvey Clemons. He to me is the best DB/safety we have bar none. We really have some good depth on defense at the moment. Ray Drew was a beast Wednesday and he is fighting for 2nd string. UGA will be undefeated when we play USCe without a doubt. Everyone one the team can’t wait for that game.

Cuz

August 17th, 2012
11:10 am

Perhaps the defense is better than the offense.

Nick

August 17th, 2012
11:12 am

I totally agree and have thought the same thing all “fall” so far. Is it just me or is there a different vibe down there right now? Not making any predictions, just wondering about the feeling. Something just seems different to me.

Old Dawg

August 17th, 2012
11:14 am

If you’re not helping your players with constructive criticism you’re not really coaching.

Jump43

August 17th, 2012
11:14 am

Richt didn’t call Murray, his favorite player out, never uttered his name in a negative light, neve has, never will.

Richt has never called Murray out, even when he had 3 or 4 turnovers in a game, or when his offense had 8 turnovers, like ths scrimmage, and Murray said the 8 turnover offense was “outstanding”.

Dawg Haus

August 17th, 2012
11:34 am

Insider, no doubt about JHC. I know they recruited him as an outside linebacker, but it looks like he’ll be getting significant playing time at safety. I also like what I’ve been reading about Corey Moore.

chazzo

August 17th, 2012
11:37 am

Could be that since McGarrity’s arrival Richt has been more involved on the field and with the players.

Could be that teams in the past weren’t quite up to par and tearing them down wouldn’t have been productive.

I don’t want to be a delusional dawg or a downer dawg. I won’t say I have a feeling about this team as far as winning championships. I do, however, have a feeling that this is a team with good chemistry and good leaders. I also have a felling that this is a team that Richt cares about, a team like he hasn’t had in a while.

SSIgator

August 17th, 2012
11:37 am

“I saw three bad interceptions, just bad throws. Every time a quarterback got touched, they fumbled the ball.”
___________________________

Second verse – same as the first

Yip

August 17th, 2012
11:38 am

The team has averaged 8 wins a season for the last 3 years, yep, 8-4 sounds about right.

Chase

August 17th, 2012
11:40 am

Feel good about team leadership?

Really? These guys are 0-9 against teams that finish top 25, 4-10 against winning teams.

These leaders are the worst ever.

SSIgator

August 17th, 2012
11:41 am

“And I think if we continue on this pace, we’ll be good.”
_______________________________

Ah, spoken like a starting qb that truly wants to keep up that tradition of ten win seasons – but no titles – alive and well in Athens.

Root

August 17th, 2012
11:42 am

Running backs, have 2 td’s combined of production. Tight ends have 0. Fullbacks have 0.

Bama in Atlanta

August 17th, 2012
11:43 am

Maybe RxDawg is correct and we are finally seeing the evil Richt. After all, an anagram of MARK RICHT is CHARM TRIK so he may have been faking the last 11 years!

Ok, I have way too much time on my hands and just ready for some college football.

SSIgator

August 17th, 2012
11:44 am

“Richt also wasn’t pleased that “our No. 2 offense drove the field on our No. 1 defense and scored”
______________________________

Was St. Markus Rectumus not present at the first two and then the last two games of the 2011 season? If so, he certainly has a short memory.

AirForce1

August 17th, 2012
11:46 am

@Chase well said, well said

doug dawg

August 17th, 2012
11:47 am

will this team be a ‘good surprise?” we won’t know until the mizzou game. relax, all of you dawgs. they will show NOTHING playing buffalo. it will be a fall scrimmage. might only win by a td or two. if we lose that game, i’m moving to sardinia, or, more appropriately, corsica.

Dr.G

August 17th, 2012
11:52 am

My experience tells me the team has mixed identity. Richt’s not pleased, Murray/Bobo are, Gurley stinks, Gurley is great.

NO ONE IS ON THE SAME PAGE.

NO TEAM UNITY.

6-7 SEASON ON THE WAY.

SSIgator

August 17th, 2012
11:54 am

“I’d rather have the offensive coordinator coming off as demanding as his boss rather than making excuses for turnovers”
_______________________

Very well stated. I hope Booboo doesn’t keep himself awake too long into the night wondering why no other major college program has ever wanted to interview him for a position.

Frodo

August 17th, 2012
11:54 am

Richt always follows an SEC East Championship with a worse season.

0-4.

Don’t get your hopes up Georgia fans.

SSIgator

August 17th, 2012
11:57 am

“Now, having the head coach and his quarterback and playcaller not on the same page might concern some fans.”
________________________

Why? They certainly should be used to it after eleven years.

NCDawg

August 17th, 2012
12:02 pm

Ahhhhh… the usual irrelevant drivel from the Richt haters. Funny how people only see what they expect to see. Mark Richt was brought in… if you will remember… to “blow the lid off this program”. This was because Donnan had boat loads of talent and couldn’t win an SEC championship, much less a national championship. I was thinking about that very comment a couple of weeks ago and wondering if CMR was going to go back to that fundamental with this season. I think he has. He is letting his players know that the bar has been raised. No more “I think we can be pretty good…” I think that comment has been made a few years in a row now. No he is saying “nothing less than your best will impress me.” That is a big change.
Last year was about weeding out the negative. This year is about reaching potential. Naysayers will carp even if CMR wins a national championship. I’ll take my usual wait and see stance. I love my Dawgs but I am not going to predict championships based on pre-season.

SSIgator

August 17th, 2012
12:03 pm

“But pretty good is about 8-4, maybe 9-3 if you’re lucky. We’d like to be better than 8-4, but that’s about how we played today. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great.”
_________________________

Amazing, that sometimes when you least expect it, Richt actually makes an honest, truthful assessment of his team instead of the normal balogna that you usually hear. Well, like they say, even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then.

Tev

August 17th, 2012
12:04 pm

The o-line has less experience than 120 other NCAA teams (just 31 starts together).
Tight ends have 0 pass receptions. Running backs have 2 td’s as a unit. Fullbacks have never scored as a unit.

The offense has no returning production at oline, tight end, running back or fullback.

SSIgator

August 17th, 2012
12:07 pm

“In general, there’s been a noticeable edge to Richt this preseason.”
_______________________________

Has UGA and its fan base finally realized that the Emperor has no clothes?

McDawg

August 17th, 2012
12:14 pm

hey gator your emperor destroyed your program and left town

OkieDawg

August 17th, 2012
12:26 pm

I’m ready for the Dawgs to get on the field so we can see what we have. For me, the season has started. I’m thinking about the next two weeks as if we had an open weekend. Otherwise, I could not stand the anticipation. This team is going to be special, in spite of Bobo.

Loran, What’ve ya got?…Time to hunker it down one more time…RIP Big Guy

gbal

August 17th, 2012
12:36 pm

TEV—- And the media still has us ranked in the top 10….. Makes no sense.

truedawg

August 17th, 2012
12:48 pm

I like what I’ve read so far about the 2012 Dawgs. I think we will for the first time in 4 years be able to run the ball well. I’m still worried about Murray. Gotta protect the ball better than he is now. There is alot of tallent on both side of the ball. I think coach Richt is right to expect greatness and not “pretty good”.Bobo is Bobo..I love him as a player, but he needs to be more aggressive with his games.
SSIgator…I understand you hate the Dawgs..but wow..really? you have more posts on here than all the Dawg fans combined!! Stalker? Personality traits like that signal deeper issues. Do you have a job? Family? Who has that much time on there hands to spend said time on hate? I’ll pray for you son..just get help.
GO DAWGS!!!

Tev

August 17th, 2012
12:52 pm

Media knows little about what it takes to win football, they’re writers, SEC Media are almost always wrong in their picks to win the SEC. So if you want to hang your hopes on that thin thread, knock yourself out Bro.

Tev

August 17th, 2012
12:55 pm

UGA historian P Garbin went back and found whenever UGA field an offensive line with this little experience, 80% of the time, UGA lost more games than the year before.

20% chance UGA wins 10 or more games, 80% it’s 9 wins or less.

Columbia Dawg

August 17th, 2012
1:00 pm

SSIGATOR go worry about your sorry program in Gainesville. Your coach is an idiot, you have what 1 healthy quarterback left, your whole offense is a joke. UGA might be a 8 to 10 win this year, enjoy your 6 wins momma’s boy.

OkieDawg

August 17th, 2012
1:00 pm

SSIgator…You should spend your energy on a team you love rather than focusing on a team you hate. That way, your life would not be so miserable.

It’s okay to hate…I hate Tech and Florida and Tennessee and Auburn and Vandy and…

But don’t let it dominate your existence. You poor sad little man.

Sunny Cloisters

August 17th, 2012
1:01 pm

As usual, the dawgs are all pumped up for another run at the SEC and a national championship. The Kool-Aid is flowing in copious amounts as they make ready to mow down their cupcake opposition.
.
.
.
Wait, haven’t we heard this before… as in every year?
.
.
.
And before long the dreams will be just shattered illusions, victim to 3rd rate coaching, failed drug tests, DUIs, girlfriends beaten up, academic failures, and a dozen other reasons.
.
.
.
So let me be the first to say so long, farewell, ciao, adios, sayonara, and adieu to the whimpering puppies, whose only hope is… are you ready for this…
.
.
WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR!!!

MattDawg

August 17th, 2012
1:02 pm

I feel that many of Murray’s turnovers were due to poor offensive line play. I am not so sure Mr. Murray deserves the lion-share of the blame for his turnovers. He was trying to make something happen because he had to last year. We had poor play from the O line and the running game was missing most of the time. So Murray had to make things happen. He shouldnt be in that position.

DrG

August 17th, 2012
1:02 pm

By A Murray’s recent comments, as quoted in this article, it appears to me A Murray still suffers from an extreme case of Narcissitic Perosnality Disorder. I predicit he will continue to throw @12 interceptions, @30 sacks, @5 fumbles, hurting his team’s chances of winning with too much passing, and too many turnovers, but putting up 30+ td’s and 3000+ passing yards, in other words, o big team wins for the 3rd straight year against teams that finish top 25, yet big individual statistics.

Tev

August 17th, 2012
1:05 pm

I don’t see how you blame the oline for 14 interceptions and 5 fumbles from Murray. If that was the reason, since 3 of them left for the NFL, and UGA returns only 31 starts, look for 20 interceptions, and 10 fumbes form Murray in 2012 due to the much less experienced oline.

kingdaddy

August 17th, 2012
1:05 pm

Sissy
Once again you come to the Dawg blog throwing bombs. Its a little harder to throw uphill than it is to throw downhill. Your program is a mess. Clean your own swamp up, we don’t need help or advice from a barely relevant team. What were you guys last year, 6-7? Doubt you’ll do much this year either and you might as well go ahead and start looking for a new head coach. Y’all may be relevant in about 3-4 years. Until then, worry about your own sad state of affairs…

David

August 17th, 2012
1:06 pm

I thought it was a blind squirrel?

David

August 17th, 2012
1:08 pm

Im gonna save that one Sunny. With that schedule UGA should fnish in the top 5. Only time will tell.

LogicalUS

August 17th, 2012
1:12 pm

“just me or is there a different vibe down there right ”

Just you…there is ALWAYS and “new, different” attitude in Athens every August….Just like last season there was a “new, different work-ethic and vibe”, which lasted until little Boisy State and their 5-8 frat boy WRs started carving up Granthams’ greatest defense in football history.

Seriously, the QB position has the same disastrous problem as before with 4 turnovers including a fumble and Int by Murray which coupled with UGA lack of a running game = same problems as last year.

kingdaddy

August 17th, 2012
1:17 pm

Trolls are out in force today. UGA must be doing something right to haven them so worried they have to “whistle through the graveyard”! At least SSI has the stones to claim a school and I have to respect him for that. Most of you others are little frat-boy nerds doing a little cyber-warfare. Ain’t good at anything but cheapshots and cooking fries. Oh yeah, and eating boogers…

kingdaddy

August 17th, 2012
1:22 pm

Log
Why did Bosie St. finish #5 if they were that bad???

Grantham's The Man!

August 17th, 2012
1:33 pm

How can it not get personal?

Richt’s doing it the right way while most of the other SEC coaches are cheating, buying players, Oversigning, Spurrier’s taking snipes at Richt because he’ll actually suspend a football player, Chizik tried to take his QB out because he didn’t have a defense.

I’m glad that it’s getting personal. GATA Richt!!!