Georgia coaching staff’s fix-it list is a mile long

Georgia's defense had difficulty handling Jonathan George and other Kentucky runners. (Associated Press)

Georgia's defense had difficulty handling Jonathan George and other Kentucky runners. (Associated Press)

Some more thoughts and observations from Georgia’s win over Kentucky and looking ahead to the showdown with Florida …

Mark Richt’s Bulldogs have a lot of problems that need addressing before the game in Jacksonville, but the three biggest ones are a continuing problem defending the run, the deteriorating performance of the offensive line (and its effect on Georgia’s own running game) and the disaster that is UGA’s special teams play most of the time.

I’ve heard a lot of discussion in the past 24 hours over whether it was another faulty Todd Grantham game plan that was responsible for the Georgia defense’s terrible showing right out of the gate against the Wildcats, or whether the blame lies largely with the players, most of whom haven’t yet lived up to their preseason press clippings and have failed to put together a complete half (let alone a game) playing as a team.

I’m inclined to think it’s a bit of both. We’ve seen too many first-half offensive surges by lesser teams this season (not to mention an outright offensive blitz by the one good team we’ve played) for Georgia’s highly-paid defensive coordinator to be let off the hook. Even if it’s not the game plan itself that is lacking, Grantham appears to be doing a very poor job of getting his troops ready.

But, yes, the bottom line is the players aren’t getting it done. Even after Grantham made adjustments in the second half to slow down Kentucky’s suddenly potent running game (which the rest of the conference probably would tell you must have been a mirage), it appeared the Cats temporarily losing Jalen Whitlow to a migraine had more to do with Big Blue getting off track. When Whitlow returned in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats were able to grind out another long touchdown drive.

True, the Dogs still won the game, as the Georgia coaching staff was repeatedly reminding everyone Saturday night. And there were individual efforts worth applauding, including those of Jordan Jenkins and Kwame Geathers.

But the larger picture is what has the Bulldog Nation disturbed: A Bulldogs defense that gives up 206 yards on the ground to the worst rushing offense in the conference doesn’t look well-positioned to halt Florida’s not-flashy-but-effective grind-it-out ground attack.

And the defense’s poor showing when the Cats had third-and-long was so disturbing that even amid all the positive spin emerging from the Georgia locker room Saturday night Grantham noted, “I didn’t think we played the third-down runs well and we need to clean that up.”

Todd Gurley and the rest of Georgia's rushing attack was largely ineffective against the Wildcats. (Associated Press)

Todd Gurley and the rest of Georgia's rushing attack was largely ineffective against the Wildcats. (Associated Press)

On the other side of the ball, Aaron Murray and Georgia’s passing game looked sharp, but that was against a secondary that can’t hold a candle to Florida’s. And the continued poor play of the offensive line, after some encouraging performances against midlevel opposition earlier in the season, is distressing. Georgia simply hasn’t had an effective rushing attack the past two games, and that largely falls on the blockers. Throw in three sacks of Murray and several false-start penalties and Will Friend’s unit just barely rates a passing grade for its effort in Lexington.

And then there’s the clown car of college football known as Georgia’s special teams. Saturday night, even Richt was cracking wise about placekicker Marshall Morgan’s continuing troubles, noting: “He’s hit the upright more than anybody in the nation, I would think. He probably set a school record for that.”

The Dogs’ dire kicking game is no joking matter, though. Since Richt has chosen not to even have an overall special teams coordinator, much less a special teams coach (or to take the job on himself, as some head coaches do), there’s no one to work with Morgan on solving his problems. Maybe someone should at least get him on the phone with Georgia kicking legend Kevin Butler, who noted on the Saturday night and Sunday Bulldog call-in shows that bad form in how Morgan approaches the ball is likely to blame.

And then there’s Georgia’s apparent inability to come up with a plan for fielding punts. After finally settling on Rhett McGowan as the deep man receiving punts for the Dogs, Richt and company still haven’t been able to get the message through that whenever possible you have to actually catch the ball, rather than let it hit the ground and take your chances on where it’s downed.

With the Dogs facing one of the nation’s best punters this coming week in Florida’s Kyle Christy, fixing this should be a top priority for the UGA coaching staff. On this matter I’ll again defer to Butler, whose son Drew just finished a terrific stint as the Dogs’ punter and is now making a living punting in the NFL. The elder Butler thinks Georgia needs to once again start putting two deep men back on punts to make sure the ball is caught.

The one bright spot in Georgia’s special teams play Saturday was Connor Norman’s Johnny-on-the-spot recovery of that on-side kick by the Cats. If he hadn’t pounced on that ball, the Dogs probably would no longer be in the SEC East race.

What’s especially alarming is that Florida’s special teams play has been as terrific as Georgia’s has been lacking. Against South Carolina the Gator special teams helped produce points by forcing turnovers and making long returns.

So much to fix and so little time. Should Georgia simply run up the white flag and concede the Florida game? Of course not. Lesser Richt teams have somehow managed to pull off upsets of highly rated opponents (if you go back a few years, admittedly).

But as Georgia QB Murray put it, “We know we have to play an unbelievable game offensively, defensively and on special teams if we want to have a chance to win that game.”

Even then, it’s probably going to take the Gators finally stumbling and turning in a poor performance to make Bulldog fans’ dreams of two in a row in Jacksonville come true.

JUNKYARD MAIL CALL

Got something you want to discuss concerning the upcoming game against Florida? Or maybe a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

244 comments Add your comment

Matt Sanders

October 21st, 2012
8:37 pm

Just win, please.

iago's yoda

October 21st, 2012
8:42 pm

“And then there’s the clown car of college football known as Georgia’s special teams.”

Bless you, Bill.

P-Man

October 21st, 2012
8:44 pm

Oit only chance is to jump out to a lead and force Florida to play catch up. otherwise, it’ll probably be a rout…

Nate the Great

October 21st, 2012
8:50 pm

Spot on Bill!!!

jdawg

October 21st, 2012
8:50 pm

Enter your comments here

jdawg

October 21st, 2012
8:54 pm

Non native. I got suckered in to rooting for the Dawgs while living in GA. I go to a game or two a year. Tired of under performing teams. Talent is obviously there. 8-10 defensive players who will be playing on Sunday next year or after. They can’t stop Kentucky. The forecast this weekend is ugly and two to 4 touchdowns gator win. Sick of it. Fire me. I quit.

Dawg89

October 21st, 2012
8:57 pm

Watching the espn BCS show and noted that UGA is 10 in the BCS. Behind Herbstreit as he spoke, there were only 9 helmets on the shelf. You guessed it, there wasn’t a Georgia helmet on the shelf. Hmm….

Bulldog Born & Bred

October 21st, 2012
8:59 pm

I hate to say it but the only way we get rid of this pitiful coaching staff is to lose to GT so as hard as it is i am ready to bite the bullet

Nate the Great

October 21st, 2012
8:59 pm

P-Man: it’ll probably be a rout. If the spread is less than 17 put the house on Florida. I’m a life long UGA fan, Athens native, and UGA alumnus, and I’m getting the same feeling like I did under Goff, like the big games won’t even be competitive. Unbelievable talent with lacking results.

PS Hasn’t USCe lost to all the goods teams they played too?

FB

October 21st, 2012
9:01 pm

How can you say the D has not had a solid half, much less a game? Vandy sure comes to mind….

wreckmaniac

October 21st, 2012
9:02 pm

What happened to Gurshell ? Where is he ?
Another faulty Grantham game plan ? Please. This guy was “King of Athens” (and what higher position could any mortal have) until Tennessee cut the dawgs up.

Outer Banks Dawg

October 21st, 2012
9:03 pm

I love the idea of having 2 deep men back to field the punts… The 9 in the box need to play a base defense against the fake and set up a return. Now if we could just get TWO tight ends in the game we would be in business on the O-Line.

How many times did Florida have 2 tight ends in the game against SC? Let me answer, it was a LOT! Full back and 2 tight ends = time to throw and the ability to run the ball.

Plus you have safety valves all over the field. Spread is only good if you have a run threat QB. And then it’s marginal in SEC.

Regarding Defense, stop rushing outside so much on the ends… They are going around the play, which is up inside off tackle… The ends are rushing outside and opening the lanes for the inside runs… And our press coverage is a joke. I have yet to see a corner jam anyone, even when they are supposed to.

Bill, is our coaching staff coachable? Does anyone (you, reporters) ask them about these technical details? I’m no million dollar coach, but I know a little about football. It seems to me we do the same things over and over and expect different results… Time to mix it up?

Go Dawgs!

GatorsWaiting

October 21st, 2012
9:07 pm

Georgia has no special teams coordinator? Your kidding! The Gators spend half an hour every practice on special teams and our best players are on the coverage teams.

You might as well forget about the Gators coming out flat. This team just isn’t wired that way. And even if they did, they would still pound you in the second half.

cleveland dawg

October 21st, 2012
9:08 pm

whats even the point anymore we have as much talent as any team in the nation so why are they so confused every week on defense, poor planning and preperation by coaches. stop making excuses and fix the problems, or get coaches that can mcgarity.

Dawg Fud

October 21st, 2012
9:10 pm

Rich has lost the alumni. He’s on borrowed time.

Big Enos Burdette

October 21st, 2012
9:11 pm

It’s just ugly. It’s fun to watch people/teams who are accomplished at what they do. It’s not fun to watch those who aren’t. Georgia football is not fun to watch.

LDawg

October 21st, 2012
9:17 pm

What is the excuse for not having special teams coaches? I mean Blair Walsh cleaned up his kicking when he went to the NFL BECAUSE HE HAD A COACH TO SHOW WHAT WAS GOING WRONG AND HOW TO FIX IT! Could have won our bowl game otherwise. Do any of the sports announcers ever ask Richt that question and if so, does he bypass it with a non-answer? I would like to know the reason. I am tired of the same old answer he gives for everything. And for God’s sake, don’t let Malcolm Mitchell return punts. Lots of talent but immature and not a good decision maker.

I just wish the team would come out pumped up. What happened when Richt did something different and dared his team to get an excessive celebration penalty on the first TD against FL? That’s right, we won and made Tim Tebow cry. They look flat as pancakes when they come on the field now. They lack ENERGY!

Outer Banks Dawg

October 21st, 2012
9:18 pm

I was pleased that we got Lynch in the game and got him match up against, and behind the linebackers a few times… One for the TD. Imagine what Jay Rome would look like on the other side, wreaking havoc down the seam. That’s a lot to defend and would slow down the blitz and the linebackers from becoming overly aggressive… Just sayin

prpl dawg

October 21st, 2012
9:19 pm

Bill,

You pretty well hit the nail on the head. Team exhibits characteristics of dissension- poor motivation. Whether it is the coaches or the players does not matter. Coaches recruited the players.

Maybe we can just put a blow up of Erk on the sideline and let the blowup call the D. It would be better, or not worse.The Junkyard got its nickname because the OVER ACHIEVED. They got big bowl bids because the fans loved them. That was then and this is now.

I am a proud alumnus, and I love all sports. Time to quit looking forward to tennis season, though. Time for a change.
Like many , however, I still say GO DAWGS!

Biggdawg33

October 21st, 2012
9:23 pm

Great article, Bill. I still want to know what Kevin B. did to keep him from being a voice our special teams need to hear. CMR needs to know that the Bible does say something about pride.

Lifelong UGA, but I am getting tired of having my heart broke by this team. I am watching a number of Dawgs in the NFL, but nothing showing in college.

Big Mike 37

October 21st, 2012
9:23 pm

This is the worst Defense in the SEC….. The worst Coached….. The players look like they have bought into all the excuses the coaching staff tell us, probably brain washes them with it.. Truth is is the Grantham’s defense hasn’t been stoppin the run for 2 years.. Nor did they in Dallas when he coached… look it uo… He should be ashamed of his performace…

Russell Hall

October 21st, 2012
9:24 pm

Ever see a coach fired after a ten win season? It could happen.

old school

October 21st, 2012
9:26 pm

CMR note to self: have radio interview tape of post game remarks from the South Carolina game available for replay after FL game

Chris

October 21st, 2012
9:27 pm

Bill, everything you mentioned points to coaching, and it just makes me sick to think there are people out there, and people at Georgia that continue to give this coaching staff, second, third, fourth chances, and so on. Richt will never take Georgia to the heights we dream of, and the ONLY reason we won 10 games last year was because of a week schedule, and the ONLY reason we may win 10 games this year is for the same reason.

I personally have been sick of if for several years now, and unfortunately we will have to put up with this for at least one more year. It is so sad.

Mobile Dawg

October 21st, 2012
9:29 pm

Either Bill King has me censored, or his filters are as inept as Mark Richt’s coaching.

Uncle Kirk

October 21st, 2012
9:32 pm

Just because you get a special teams coach does not mean he is a place kicking specialist. Actually the special teams has improved somewhat this year. Not where it needs to be, but hasn’t lost us a game…..yet. Keeping my fingers crossed.

secfan

October 21st, 2012
9:32 pm

Enter your comments here

Dawg Haus

October 21st, 2012
9:38 pm

Well said, Bill.

Uncle Kirk

October 21st, 2012
9:39 pm

Actually Chris, what is sad is the fact that you (and many others) allow a game or a sport, that actually has no bearing on your life, to bother you to the point of hatred and anger. Surely you have a life or a family or something that is more important.

t2go

October 21st, 2012
9:47 pm

Im not a betting man but with a line like Fla-4.5 I am tempted!!!

t2go

October 21st, 2012
9:48 pm

….and that bet would be on Florida….but you knew that. sigh

my2cents

October 21st, 2012
9:50 pm

We have a problem! IMO even if we win in the line of scrim. we still have problems like special teams. My big concern is that consistant, poor special teams play is a sure sign of discipline problems that tend to expand to other areas. If we turn ball over we are done. The good news is that motivation should not be a probelm(though I still worry about that, too). Gentlemen, I guess it gets down to discipline. Go Dawgs!

ARdawg

October 21st, 2012
9:54 pm

Bill, Good article!

Actually, the list isn’t that long. It’s as simple as get a new coaching staff but, it’s obvious that isn’t going to happen. Your points are spot on but there are more. I haven’t neither the inclination or the will to get into it.

We haven’t a chance against another well coached talented team. Thats already proven

jdatl

October 21st, 2012
10:15 pm

Enough is Enough. 3-8 against Florida. They’ll lose. I graduated UGA in 96.

Abnerish

October 21st, 2012
10:20 pm

Think of how bad the backup kicker must be. I saw a 2nd grader kick an extra point this weekend. It’s not hard. A full-time ST coach isn’t going to fix our kicker. He needs a shrink.

Hunkerdown

October 21st, 2012
10:22 pm

Hitting an upright is not and easy task. Hitting it and making thru much more difficult yet. We have managed to hit the upright …what three times and still make the PAT. I feel it is only fair that they award the young man and team 3 points on such an accomplishment. That would also take a lot of the glaring heat off special teams and instead everyone would be saying wow!!!

NCDawg

October 21st, 2012
10:22 pm

I tried this twice earlier on the last blog. I hope the players realize that they are playing for their coaches jobs this weekend. Beat UF or CMR and staff are gone. It’s that simple. I don’t know what is wrong but the players better do something… play up to their potential or their coaches won’t be there next year.

sandiegodawg

October 21st, 2012
10:26 pm

Can someone please forward these Outer Banks Dawg comments to coaching staff- if we are struggling on the OL, put in the extra TE. At least teams usually play up to their competition so I’m not counting the Dawgs out. I wait all year for this game and hope we can rise up.

JRW7

October 21st, 2012
10:29 pm

Hope the Dawg beat the Gators, but you never know which team is going to show up with these DAWGS!

Georgia Dawg 706

October 21st, 2012
10:31 pm

I gurantee CMR will be emotionless on the sideline, Bozo will call draw plays on 3&15, we run the same predictable plays, Sorry *** Theus #71 will false start several times. UF doesn’t even have any sack leaders they will sat. Why does GEORGIA not listen to its fans? We all say the same thing. “We are tired of this”

harold

October 21st, 2012
10:37 pm

UGA PLAYS ONLY TWO TEAMS IN THE TOP 25. UGA HAS ALL THE NFL TALENT AND IS STRUGGLING—–BADLY.

RICHT LOOKS OLDER AND JUST “WORN OUT”!

IT MAY BE TIME FOR RICHT TO GO.

NCDawg

October 21st, 2012
10:38 pm

I am holding onto a wait and see attitude… the Dawgs have the potential but they haven’t played to it in a long time. I will always be a Bulldog… nothing can change that… but fully expect McGarity to can this staff if they don’t beat UF. Enough is enough. Lose to UF and it is time for a culture change.

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

October 21st, 2012
10:39 pm

We do have some kinks to work out, but people on here are acting like we have Auburn’s record. Are people REALLY talking about firing the coaching staff with a top ten ranking and a 6-1 record?

If the people on this board (and the rest of the AJC boards this weekend) are any indication, UGA has the most entitled, neurotic and deluded fanbase out of any team in the nation.

in 2007, UGA got pounded by Tennessee and skated by Vanderbilt before going into Jacksonville and beating a highly-ranked Florida team, and this team has just as much talent and gumption as that team did. Yeah, Florida’s good, but I’m not willing to give them the game until it’s actually played next week, unlike everyone on here who wants to go ahead and give Florida the victory.

Seriously, fans like the ones on these boards almost make me ashamed to call myself a Dawg. Pathetic.

Don’t bother responding to me, by the way, because I’m not wasting my time coming back.

Go Dawgs!

OkieDawg

October 21st, 2012
10:40 pm

CMR has playmakers and speedsters that are as good as any team in the Nation. So, when special teams struggle in punt returns what does he do? He calls on a former walk-on whose total talent is he can catch a punt and not make bonehead mistakes because he is smart and is a Dean’s list student. Why not coach up someone who has the athletic ability to make a return? He doesn’t because he takes the easy way out…which means he doesn’t have to coach them up. Time to hit the road Jack and don’t ya come back no more.

Ed the Prescient

October 21st, 2012
10:46 pm

Final score: UF 49, Georgia 10

Richt after the game: “If we don’t miss that block in the first quarter leading to the sack, fumble, and defensive touchdown, we could have scored and completely changed the momentum of the game. It was only 14-3 Florida at the time, and we had already driven the ball 12 yards. Hey, that’s life in the SEC!”

Bill E Rubin

October 21st, 2012
10:50 pm

I’m just glad we have the guy standing with the towel up in front of Grantham. That’s big time defense right there…

gb

October 21st, 2012
11:00 pm

uga was junkyard dawgs, now they are show dogs. great pedigrees trained to strut,dance and pose.
a safety was celebrating a big hit 8 yds downfield on 1st down. 2nd and 2 oboy i’m good.
no one can say uga doesn’t lead the sec in celebrations, poses and cheap shots.

tide roll

October 21st, 2012
11:04 pm

How the hell are you starting a true freshman punter and place kicker? A true freshman at right tackle from a private school? A 5′10″ 270 lb. offensive center who played at a private school? A walkon fullback from that same private school? A walkon returning punts? 67 scholarship athletes? An offensive coordinator that has the position because he’s married to Barb Dooley’s niece? A under qualified strength and conditioning coach who’s promotion was supported by an equally under qualified athletic director? Ya’ll create your owm problems. What does Richt do in the off season. That’s a time that is more challenging than the regular season. It takes more work. And he wants none of it. Thus the suspensions, the attrition and the lack of foresight that results in the absoluetly inexplicable personnel decisions mentioned above. How much longer does the fool have to get his head handed to him before he starts playing the athletes on the offensive line that Tenneesee, South Carolina, an Florida play? The Gators Center and left guard are 6′4″ 330 ib. MEN. Your center and left guard , with their little beer guts, belong on the front portch of the PIKE house, pounding Budweisers. How in the world do y’all stand it? Richt benefits from the most lethargic, uninformed, and non-demanding fan base in America. 32 years. 32 friggin years

El-Toro GATA

October 21st, 2012
11:11 pm

In the past 4 years, Georgia’s special team is the worse that I’ve ever seen. teams faked many times punts and kick offs . teams returned punts or kick offs for a TD or long returns several times. on D our middle of the field is open all the time

tide roll

October 21st, 2012
11:12 pm

This would all would be excusable if, say Richt was a 1st year coach and the prior coach left the cupboard bare, but this guy’s been at Georgia what,12 years? It’s another fine mess Richt has got y’all in. It’s now obvious to everyone that he refuses to work as hard as your competitors, and I’ll bet what your’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. They probably can’t find him half the time.