Fan talk: Georgia-Florida week brings challenges for both players and coaches

Should Mark Richt have said he was "happy" with the win over Kentucky? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Should Mark Richt have said he was "happy" with the win over Kentucky? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Let’s get right to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail …

Clint Harrison writes: Bill, I enjoy your stuff. Georgia-Florida week, the theme should be: “We have an opportunity … What are you/we going to do with it?” We have what we were hoping for. Did the Gamecocks peak too early? I know [Steve] Spurrier had those guys’ intensity levels up for Georgia. Then their confidence kicked in. The crowd was already kicked in. And they were in our heads (or we were in our own heads) the rest of the way.  But all that is behind us. It’s a new day. (What are we going to do with it?). So my question to Coach Bobo is, Do you think [Will] Muschamp is going to send a blitz right up the middle at Murray on the first series (to send him/us a message) like he did to Connor Shaw and the Gamecocks in their game? You know it’s coming; what are we going to do? A screen, quick slant, quick toss to the outside? Coach Grantham: Which linebacker is going to be the spy on [Jeff] Driskel or [Trey] Burton or whoever comes out of the backfield with the ball? You know Driskel is going to run and yes we will give up some yards this way but at least we won’t let them gash us like Shaw did. Coach Richt: What are YOU going to do to ADD to this game. … We need INTENSITY, CONFIDENCE … SOMETHING from you that shows that this means something PERSONAL. I KNOW you love this team and you love those guys and where you are in your life (just like we do). But this is a great opportunity that we don’t get in our “business as usual” lives. We have an opportunity to do something special. As always on Monday (win or lose) I WILL be wearing my GA shirt to work because they will ALWAYS be my team.  GO DAWGS!

You’re on the mark with some of the challenges facing the Georgia team in this game, Clint. When Mike Bobo had to stare down South Carolina’s awesome pass rush, he frankly blinked and came up with an awful game plan, as he later admitted. Todd Grantham did likewise when it came to planning for Connor Shaw early in the game against the Gamecocks. It will be interesting to see if they rise to the occasion against the Gators. And while Mark Richt indicated early this week that he didn’t think the team needed pumping up for Florida, I get the impression that the Georgia coaching staff deliberately allowed the whole Shawn Williams “too soft” thing to play out in the media as a way of publicly challenging the defense (and the team at large) to rise up, as the Falcons ads say. We’ll find out soon whether that was enough.

Lamar Westbrook writes: Bill, this is hard to believe. Richt said after the [Kentucky] game “You know what? I am happy with the victory.” Correct me if I am wrong, but how can he be happy when his team is giving it about 60%? When the guys play down to the competition and then the coach himself thinks it alright, then why should the guys change the way they play? If [Nick] Saban’s team played like Richt’s [against the Wildcats], do you think Saban’s answer would be that he is happy? He would be so deep down their throat that they would choke! The team is not giving it their all, yet their coach says it’s alright. This is a alarming thing!

And Ben writes: Do you find it disturbing that Mark Richt actually said he was happy with the win over Kentucky? I know he doesn’t wish to be an “energy vampire,” but he seems like he’s in denial. By continuing to praise such lackluster efforts, he sends the message to his players that just getting by is good enough.

The Richt quote that’s gotten some Bulldogs fans stirred up was this: “Know what? I’m happy with the victory. We’re 6-1. That’s not bad.” I think that probably wasn’t the wisest choice of words, but I understand what Richt was trying to do there. He wasn’t pleased with the overall play of the team and he made that clear, but his point was that it was an SEC East victory and his team only has one loss, so he’s not going to jump off the bus like some folks and declare the season a failure. Still, I don’t think anyone in the Georgia locker room after the Kentucky game was happy about the way the game went, despite the head coach’s positive spin. As Malcolm Mitchell said, “You don’t wanna look at any game like ‘We’re just happy to win,’ because you gotta play another team next. So we just need to focus and get ready for the next game.” And then there’s the challenge Richt issued to his team leaders, mentioned in the next letter …

Cleveland Williams III writes: Bill, Just read your column on Shawn Williams and the thing that stuck out to me the most was the statement made by Mark Richt about leaders stepping up. Seems like he has the pulse of the team to me. I understand his calm demeanor on the sideline and some view that as a lack of fire. So why don’t we hear more of the statements he makes like that one being published?

The quote in question here came when Richt addressed the team after the Kentucky game and, with the cameras rolling, said: “It’s going to be a war in Jacksonville. … You leaders, I want you to think about what this game means. You’ve been talking about it all offseason since January. ‘Our team, our time, no regrets.’ Well, here we are. We’re at the moment of truth.” And I translated that somewhat more bluntly as: Put up or shut up. Richt is a competitive guy and I think he probably addresses the team like that a lot more than we know; he just doesn’t let us hear it. Perhaps he should.

Joe writes: Hey Bill, Just wanted to get your thoughts on the game this coming weekend … is this a must win for Coach Richt? Not literally, but in the figurative sense. Does UGA need to at least show up, if not win, for coach to ‘win back’ the belief, love and support of Bulldog Nation?

And Morris Rich writes: Bill, let me just say I love Mark Richt and if I had to choose a someone to coach my son, it would be Mark Richt hands down because of his character. But having said that, I am really concerned that maybe it is time for Coach Richt to retire. There is no doubt that we get some of the best talent in the country. But for some reason, they just don’t perform up to their talent. As much as I don’t like to even say it, it has to come down to the coaching. I would love nothing more that for Coach Richt to get that NC, but I just don’ t see it happening.  What are your thoughts on this.

Is this a “must” win? No. Georgia can still have a 10-win regular season and go to a New Year’s Day bowl without beating Florida. And that’s a heck of a lot better than many programs will experience this season. Would this win be a major step forward for Richt’s program? Yes, of course. As for those who think UGA ought to be thinking about another coach, I’d just like to remind them of what has happened to the Tennessee program since they dumped Phil Fulmer. Do you really want to go down that road?

When does it make sense for Malcolm Mitchell to return a kickoff out of the end zone? (Associated Press)

When does it make sense for Malcolm Mitchell to return a kickoff out of the end zone? (Associated Press)

Bubba King writes: Malcolm Mitchell could have got 5-20 more yards on kickoffs if we didn’t have 2 would-be blockers running with the defense with their hands up waving him to stop or physically keeping him from returning the ball out of the endzone. Now, I don’t think he should necessarily return the ball that’s kicked 8 yards deep, but he can’t make it to the 10 yard line if he is outrunning 2 of his blockers to the point of attack. He is the return man, and we will never get a return if the blockers are more concerned with him downing the ball than making a key block to spring him. If he is not equipped to make the decision on his own, he shouldn’t be back there. If he is back there, he has a better view of a possible crease than someone running with his back to the defenders. Just do your job, and maybe our special teams would not be so pathetic!

Actually, that is part of their job. You’re referring to the Kentucky game when Mitchell fielded a kickoff eight yards deep in his end zone and started to bring it out before Kyle Karempelis stopped him. Mitchell wasn’t happy at the time, but he said this week that he later apologized to Karempelis. With the new touchback rule, it doesn’t make sense to try and return a kick that goes more than a yard or two deep into the end zone, as the odds of getting it out further than the 25 yard line are slim. Now, if it’s not a high kick and the coverage hasn’t had time to make it downfield, that’s a different matter and it’s probably worth trying a return. But that wasn’t the case in this instance.

Jeremy Floyd writes: Here’s what I fear about Saturday, and I think it has been a problem for UGA over the last few years. I fear that UGA players will not be able to regulate their emotions. I fear they come out way too high and fired up, eager to prove they are not ‘soft.’ I fear this will lead to early mistakes and we’ll see the pendulum of team emotions swing the other extreme. I think this happens a way too often with the team. What do you think?

I’d much rather have Georgia’s players come out fired up than flat. Yeah, they might make a few mistakes if they’re amped up, but we saw in the South Carolina game what can result when one team comes out more pumped up than the other one.

Michael Scharff writes: I haven’t seen any mention of a connection between the loss of Michael Bennett and the deterioration of the Dawgs’ ability to open holes for our running backs. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the loss of a large and powerful offensive force came at the same time our offense first began their current downhill slide. What say you?

Georgia still has plenty of talented receivers, and while Bennett is a great one, I don’t think his absence is responsible for the lack of an effective rushing attack the past two games. Against a terrific South Carolina defense, the flaws of Georgia’s offensive line were put in the spotlight. They simply were overwhelmed and couldn’t open holes for the running backs or protect Aaron Murray. In the Kentucky game, the Wildcats sold out against the run, leaving themselves vulnerable to Georgia’s passing game, and Murray made them pay for that.

Marshall Morgan reacts to a missed PAT. (Associated Press)

Marshall Morgan reacts to a missed PAT. (Associated Press)

Ryan B. writes: Why is no one even mentioning Damian Swann as an option for punt returner? He had a few nice returns early in the season and at least gives us a chance at a return. Let’s be honest, [Rhett] McGowan isn’t scaring anyone by being back there. At this point we should rush all 11 and let the ball be downed wherever (that’s what is happening any way). And while I am on the subject of special teams, let’s talk about extra points. What would it hurt for our coaching staff to actually hold someone accountable for bad play? If for no other reason than to incentivize Morgan to improve, why not let the walk on attempt a PAT. That’s probably the number one issue with this coaching staff and therefore the team, not holding people accountable. The players at least subconsciously know that their spot is safe, so what incentive is there to be perfect or at least always get better?

I’m not sure why the Georgia coaches soured on Swann as punt returner, but that’s certainly one of the special teams problems that need addressing. As I wrote earlier this week, I’m partial to Kevin Butler’s suggestion that the Dogs start putting two deep men back on punts to assure that the ball is caught. This business of letting it hit the ground has got to stop. As for Marshall Morgan and PATs, I have a feeling if they thought the backup was going to be any more consistent than Morgan they’d give him a try. That’s another case where Georgia’s lack of attention to special teams play is hurting. It was interesting to see Richt say this week that he might study up on kicking and take on coaching the kickers himself next season, like some other head coaches do. What’s frustrating is that it took him this long to come to that conclusion.

Bad Brad writes: Bill, When Richt first came to UGA we beat top teams at home and particularly on the road. In the past few years we have been unable to win big games. I don’t know exactly when the downward trend started but I think it started with coordinator changes. When Richt turned play calling over to Bobo and [Brian] VanGorder left for the Falcons, I think that is the point where we started sliding. Don’t you think it’s time to fire Bobo? Took too long to fire [Willie] Martinez and get Grantham. I understand loyalty to your friends/staff but don’t you agree sticking with Bobo is insane. Same could be said for Rodney Garner.

Bobo generally hasn’t been the problem this season. If there’s a negative trend through the recent seasons that you can point to on the offense, it’s been the continuing problems Georgia has had with its offensive line, and that’s not Bobo’s job. The Dogs have gone through three OL coaches in recent years with pretty much the same problem. Maybe it’s a recruiting issue, I don’t know. Besides the OL, the major problem responsible for most of the Dogs’ troubles this season has been the play of its talented, experienced but underperforming defense. Are you ready to fire Grantham as well?

I’ll answer more Junkyard Mail next week. Do you have something you want to discuss concerning the current 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

107 comments Add your comment

The Gator

October 27th, 2012
2:30 pm

Feel horrible for Marcus Lattimore. He looked like his old self on a couple runs today and I really hope he can come back from this.

m10

October 27th, 2012
5:14 pm

Boy does Aaron Murray suck or what,he’s awful.

Dog4Life

October 27th, 2012
5:36 pm

I agree Gator. Competition is fine, but I do not wish injuries on anyone. It reminded of the Joe Thiesman(sp?) injury when I was a kid. It makes me sick to see it. I hope he recovers well. Good Luck Mr. Lattimore.

jug head

October 27th, 2012
6:30 pm

not looking good we could have blew this team away with smart playing

flintriverdawg

October 27th, 2012
7:22 pm

fnally finally finally!!!!!!

dale

October 27th, 2012
7:30 pm

I’ve been telling you guys all week – Georgia, baby!

LawDawg

October 29th, 2012
10:29 am

Damian Swann and Smith are not being used on punt returns because if either one gets hurt, Bowman becomes the third CB (the boundary corner in nickel situations) and he is not even close to being ready for that. Bad kick returns is nothing compared to allowing huge passing plays.