To hit or not to hit: Richt faces tailback dilemma

Should Georgia's coaches allow full-contact hitting of Todd Gurley in practice this spring? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Should Georgia's coaches allow full-contact hitting of Todd Gurley in practice this spring? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Depth problems always raise the question of just how much full-contact hitting is wise in practice, an issue exacerbated by scholarship limits. It’s a question Mark Richt has gone back and forth on in the past, and now he faces the dilemma anew.

In a teleconference Richt and his coordinators held Wednesday with reporters it was revealed that the first half of spring practice will see tailback Keith Marshall sitting out with a hamstring injury suffered earlier this month running track for UGA. With “Boo” Malcome gone and signees A.J. Turman and Brendan Douglas not due in Athens until summer, that leaves starter Todd Gurley as the only scholarship tailback. The rest of the backs are walk-ons.

While Marshall should return for the portion of spring drills after the school’s spring break, Mike Bobo acknowledged that the situation is somewhat precarious. Should the Georgia coaching staff allow full-contact tackling of Gurley, or of Marshall after he returns?

“That’s something we’re going to have to talk about as a staff and hash out, how much contact we truly give those guys, because depth really is a concern there,” Bobo said.

The offensive coordinator plans on giving wide receiver J.J. Green a try as “a scatback-type guy” and there’s also probable receiver Tramel Terry, though he’s still recovering from an ACL injury.

“It’s going to be a touchy situation here in spring ball,” Bobo noted. “We like to compete in practice but we can’t let our competitive juices get too much where we want to win every drill and wear Todd Gurley out at the same time, so we’ve got to be smart about it as coaches. We’ve still got to get work out of them, too, so it’s a fine line.”

Mark Richt has regretted it in the past when he cut back on tackling in practice. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Mark Richt has regretted it in the past when he cut back on tackling in practice. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

While on the surface it might seem a no-brainer to simply tell the defenders to take it easy on the scholarship backs, or even put them in noncontact jerseys, there’s a definite downside to that approach, as Richt has discovered in the past.

Back in 2008, injury concerns prompted the Georgia head coach to cut back on tackling in practice, going to “thud” stops rather than tackles to the ground. It was a move Richt later lamented and reversed during bowl preparations after the lack of contact seemed to erode fundamentals and take an edge of his players’ performance.

The lack of full-contact work in practice was blamed in particular for the poor tackling by Dogs defenders late in that season that saw Georgia Tech notch a rare victory in Athens.

“When you look back and say why didn’t we tackle well, why didn’t we do this or that better? Well, we didn’t practice like we usually do, trying to keep another guy from going down,” Richt said at the time.

So, what should Richt and his staff do this spring about the tailbacks? If they try to protect them from possible injury, it might make the practices less effective for both the backs and Georgia’s defenders. But if it’s full-contact all the way, they run the risk of further depleting the tailback corps.

What would you do if you were Richt and Bobo?

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58 comments Add your comment

Michael Reed

February 28th, 2013
10:48 am

I think he should get minimal reps but still take contact. I believe the coaching staff has turned a corner on the type of RB’s they recruit. Going the duke basketball route and recruiting talented guys of higher character. Check out AJ Turman on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40ufjRypdII, seems like a great kid and is still extremely talented!

Cuz

February 28th, 2013
11:14 am

We have already seen what lack of full tackling can do. I agree with Michael, minimize the reps but keep full contact. We have a new D that needs to gel together.

Reality Dawg

February 28th, 2013
11:21 am

Endless drama for UGA football…

DawgByte

February 28th, 2013
11:37 am

I bet that kid who went to Bama on signing day, just said to himself – “Oh damn, I could have received immediate PT, now I’m going to be stuck on the bench for the next 3 years.”

Michael Reed

February 28th, 2013
11:48 am

Seriously compare the highlights between Alvin Kamara (BAMA) and AJ Turman (UGA). I honestly believe that Kamara will have trouble getting playing time other than returner. Kamara was brought down by a single tackler almost everytime and his overall speed is just slightly better. Turman can come in as a freshman and contribute a lot! JJ Green and Tramel Terry can contribute in spread situations, and of course Gurley and Marshall can wreck shop. The depth is a huge concern but if managed correctly it shouldn’t matter that much. Need 3 RB’s to sign next year though!

Columbus Dawg

February 28th, 2013
12:04 pm

I’ll have to agree with Reality Dawg, there is drama in everything that is UGA Football most EVERY year. Now here is the approach that the brilliant head coach should have taken with Marshall. “We have had our third string back transfer from UGA because he could not get his way, so I do NOT want you to be on the Track Team in 2013 because of injury concerns.” Marshall would have been disappointed, but he probably would have understood. If not, the brilliant head coach could have then reminded him that he was on scholarship to play football, not run track, period. He is a very smart young man. Looks to be much smarter than his coach.

Now, lets touch on the Georgia Bulldog Defense being able to tackle a top notch running back. They can’t. Bill would have everyone believe that this was just an issue in 2008, but it has not improved. Grantham even made the statement “We have to be able to tackle backs like Eddie Lacey.” So what is Grantham’s plan for fixing this glaring weakness on the D? This would be the question I would ask in a pointed manner, and if the over rated defensive coach did not like it , then tough doo doo.

Bulldawg35

February 28th, 2013
12:09 pm

Pure and simple…….we just don’t have the depth and key player this damn year to win a championship…..y’all people take off your rosé color glasses and realise this…….wake the heck up….we are going to be on pins and needles the whole season….we will struggle to win 8 games this year

NYCDAWGFAN

February 28th, 2013
12:33 pm

Bulldawg35=TechTroll… Come on dude are you freakin serious? Other than the young D (which I honestly believe will suprise some folks because we will finally see Grantham’s players in Grantham’s system) our offence will be one of the best, if not THE best, in the nation. Murray returns, the Gurshall combo at back, the entire line, and the dynamic Malcolm Mitchell. Please. Take off your yellow colored glasses and realize that CPJ will lose again.

Red and Black til Death

TATMAN

February 28th, 2013
12:59 pm

The negativity of some of these so-called UGA
fan amuses me…if you are that dissatisfied with the team…leave! Jump on the BAMA bandwagon cause we don’t want or need you! And as always, GO DAWGS!

USC Jimi

February 28th, 2013
1:11 pm

I believe there has to be full contact for at least 75% of spring practices to be effective. When you don’t play at full speed injuries happen more often.

Truthiness

February 28th, 2013
1:27 pm

Fewer reps for Gurley. Full contact for Defense. Seems to be a balance that makes sense. As others have said, this D could very well surprise its detractors if the young talent can come together as a unit. For a defensive player, there’s nothing more satisfying or motivating than a good, tough hit. That’s why they play defense. To a fan, there’s nothing more disgusting than a “thud” hit that’s more “dud” than hit. Today’s offensive players are too big and athletic for that style. Practice the way you play.

LOYAL DAWG

February 28th, 2013
1:28 pm

In the SEC you gotta be ready to hit and be hit on both sides of the ball. TG3 doesn’t need EVERY rep in practice, but he does need to be tackled for the good of the entire team. We need to do a better job tackling, what a better back to practice against than him!

Bulldawg35

February 28th, 2013
1:57 pm

NYC…..you are not entitled to tell anybody how a true Uga fan should be…….I’m more diehard Uga fan than any of you pretenders……best offense in the nation….we will see, something always goes wrong. The defense will be horrendous, Grantham hasn’t proven anything….thanks

Michael Reed

February 28th, 2013
2:09 pm

Most die hard 35?….keep saying that to yourself. You could be my personal guest at an Athens touchdown club and tell Mark Richt exactly what you think. Problem is you wouldn’t, not to Grantham, Bobo or any of the coaches. The defense will be statistically better as long as they stay out of trouble. While I wouldn’t bet money on it, I do believe that UGA will have the best offense in the SEC next year.

Dean Tate

February 28th, 2013
2:23 pm

Why can’t they tackle the walkons?

Bulldawg35

February 28th, 2013
2:30 pm

Michelle reed….I will wait to when Richt and fat boy Grantham comes to the greenville sc….td club and I will attend and ask questions they won’t be able to answer………thanks. Oh yeah thank you for telling me to keep up my die hardness…I sure will

kybodawg

February 28th, 2013
2:37 pm

lets find a home for faton bauta or however you spell it. let him get some reps at tailback.

Macclenny_dawg

February 28th, 2013
2:44 pm

It’s tackle football!!! Practice it!!! Someone goes down then next man up!!! Practice only makes u better if u are doing it the right way!!! Go Dawgs!!!

SanDiegoDawg

February 28th, 2013
3:11 pm

@Columbus

Herschel ran track in the spring and in Europe in the summer when he was at school and he WAS the offense. Didn’t seem to bother Coach Dooley.

NYCDAWGFAN

February 28th, 2013
3:22 pm

@bulldawg35: Pretender? Really? I’m here all the time. Can’t say the same for you. Pretenders don’t schedule their vacation time around the G-day game. Pretenders don’t put in OT to make sure that their little bro gets in to Mark Richt camp.You ar a joke of a fan. How bout this, someone who is down south please go to the Greenville td meeting and record this big mouth asking questions.. I promise it won’t happen.. Real fans don’t down the team BEFORE a snap has even been played.

Red and Black til Death

Dean Tate

February 28th, 2013
3:25 pm

Anyone remember Robert Edwards? We have too many talented players not to find a running back.

WDE

February 28th, 2013
3:33 pm

NYCDAWGFAN old bulldawg35 is all fan Hey he has dawg in his handle so that has to prove he is a UGA fan…just don’t get confused by his constant running down of the program, the coaches and the players that is just his way of flushing out the trolls don’t you see?

The Monger

February 28th, 2013
3:57 pm

Don’t understand the situation he is presenting here…we are LOADED at tailback with the best one-two punch in the SEC, and arguably the nation in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who easily topped 2,000 yards combined this year, in their first year in the SEC. Then after them we have an underrated, bruising running back similar to Musa Smith with AJ Turman. 1,256 yards and 15 td’s as a senior last year. Great cutbacks and punishing running style. We have a fullback/tailback hybrid we stole from Georgia Tech named Brendan Douglas, who ran for 1,569 yards as a Junior. We have both JJ Green and Tramel Terry who run sub 4.4 40s, and are both amazing athletes, and Terry was rated as the top athlete in South Carolina and top 20 in the nation. Both are great running backs, just a little undersized for the SEC. Green ran for 989 yards and 19 touchdowns on only 73 carries last year and 4 recieving touchdowns, and Tramel Terry ran for 950 yards and 10 touchdowns, to go along with 958 yards recieving and 10 touchdowns. That is 43 rushing and recieving touchdowns between the two of them. We also have Brandon Harton and Kyle Karempelis behind that. So in conclusion, we have plenty of capable backs and have the right mix of power (Gurley, Turman, Douglas) and speed (Gurley, Marshall, Green, Terry) to have the best running back core in the SEC. I doubt their will be many touches left though after Gurley and Marshall though.

My projected depth chart:

1. Gurley
2. Marshall
3. Terry
4. Green
5. Turman
6. Douglas
7. Harton
8. Karempelis

The Monger

February 28th, 2013
4:03 pm

Projected Starting defense (for those that are worried over nothing)…

DE- Garrison Smith
NT- Johnathon Taylor
DE- Ray Drew
OLB- Jordan Jenkins
MLB- Amarlo Herrera
MLB- Ramik Wilson
OLB- Josh Harvey-Clemons
CB- Damian Swann
S- Corey Moore
S- Tray Matthews
CB- Sheldon Dawson

Chiefdawg

February 28th, 2013
4:18 pm

To Dawgbyte: I bet the kid who just went to Bama said, ” I gonna have a couple of Nat. Champiomship rings”

NCDAWG

February 28th, 2013
4:27 pm

I’d let them go at it. It’s not flag football. Gurley is tough and the D needs as much live action work as they can get. Give Gurley a few breaks but don’t disrupt any rhythm the offense finds. We are light on bodies now but that will be corrected by Fall. I bet Boo Malcome wishes he had stuck around. Now would be an ideal time to prove your worth.

Paladawg

February 28th, 2013
4:31 pm

To all the bright guys who have all the answers: It’s one thing to express concern about some aspect of the program, but quite another to snipe at the coaches unless you can do a better job. So, if you’re so dawg-gone football smart, I’ll be happy to give you Greg McGarity’s address so you can send him your resume. I’ve known him for over forty years, and assure you that he will give all the consideration it deserves. Otherwise, please, just hush up.

Bill King

February 28th, 2013
5:02 pm

Columbus Dawg misrepresents my viewpoint. I’ve noted many times the difficulty Todd Grantham’s defense has had against the running game.

Bulldawg35

February 28th, 2013
7:21 pm

No mongrel…….the great weak Conner Norman will start at one safety….yeah we have a lot of running backs with injuries and their only freshmen geez

Bulldawg35

February 28th, 2013
7:33 pm

Richt talks about making players into better men….how about making them into champions on the field…..it’s not a process….it’s either they have the talent and can be coached or they don’t. Prediction here…..as long as Richt is here we won’t win a championship…..their is just to many missing pieces this year and every year for that matter

DAWGMAN

February 28th, 2013
7:48 pm

If I were Richt or Bobo, I wouldn’t have any idea what to do. Not a clue. Has anyone made a job offer to to either of these two in the last eleven years? Really. If that has happened, please tell me. Really. Why don’t we just be darn sure that our football players who do dress out in the fall (95 degrees) are well coached ( educated and motivated ) and in championship condition. CMR said he knows what he’s doing. Can he recognize OC championship talent we he sees it? Isn’t part of the job description? Well, can he?
Has Alabama, LSU, Carolina, Florida been sniffing around either of these two? Have they?
Really!

Bulldawg35

February 28th, 2013
8:52 pm

I agree dawgman……..I don’t see us beating the chickens till spurrier retires…..I mean my gawd, if spurrier went to Kentucky…..Kentucky would start beating us!!! I love Uga……but I’m tired of the excuses from him…..win something more than the east title. Here are some coaches I would take over him in the sec.
Saban
Miles
Spurrier
Sumlin…….
So Richt is the 5 best coach in the sec……I’m happy that Richt has beaten fla the last 2 years but it won’t be long before they start beating us again. Because they out recruited us this year and they already once again ahead us in recruiting for next year…..they already have 6 guys signed!!!!!!!!!!!

Brewmaster

February 28th, 2013
10:02 pm

Bulldawg35, Spurrier started at SC in 2005. He’s won 4 of those games and the Dogs the other 4. Yes, SC won the last 3, but to say Richt will “never” beat Spurrier again is just plain stupid. We were 5 yards from beiing SEC champs and likely National champs last year, you moron. Take your negativity somewhere else.

Bulldawg35

February 28th, 2013
10:30 pm

Brewmaster……you delusional smuck………what signs have Richt given us that he will beat spurrier again….I said he won’t beat spurrier again because he has improved the team every year he has been there…..I believe sc or fla will win the east in 2013. With us slipping all the way to 4th place with Tennessee passing us. Geez more tales from the moral victories of the 5 yardsFrom glory land.lol

Brewmaster

February 28th, 2013
10:46 pm

Its spelled “schmuck,” you moron. Mark my words, the Dogs will beat Spurrier, Vols and Gators this year. We will win the SEC East for the third straight year, but I’m sure you will attempt to find the negative. I suspect you are just another Tech troll on here trying to get attention. No real Bulldog fan would practically root for us to fail.

Vampire Bill

March 1st, 2013
7:38 am

Put the coaches in at running back. CMR can test out his new hip. I’m sure the players would love to beat up the coaches for a switch!

AltamahaDawg

March 1st, 2013
9:30 am

Why not 35? Why can’t he tell you how to act? In his opinion you are not being a good fan. He IS entitled to say so. . YOU do it all the time. If anybody tries to make supportive, positive comments YOU are the first one in here to tell them to tone it down, expressing your opinion that negative whinning, running down the coaches, is what “true” fans should do.

AltamahaDawg

March 1st, 2013
9:41 am

ON the comments back and forth over Kamara.

He might be the best kid in the world. He may very well end up with a very good college career, But IMO he was making a mistake considering either of his last choices, given his particualr skill sets. I and honestly not sure why we or Alabama were that high on him. (given our offensive personalities)

But when I heard him basically say…..I went to Alabama because they can give me rings……..it sounded to me as if his ego got the better of him, not so much looking to where HE could prove his talents. (again, I never thought that was Georgia either)

Paladawg

March 1st, 2013
9:49 am

Word, Altamaha, word.

AltamahaDawg

March 1st, 2013
9:50 am

This is what…… 15 sessions and a couple of scripted scrimmages? It’s not like we are putting in the game plan for Clemson here.
There are always guys recovering fom anything from pulls to offseason surgery, every spring ball. Flip things around, rotate a bunch of guys. Same as always.

Columbus Dawg

March 1st, 2013
9:55 am

SanDiegoDawg, I know that Coach Dooley let Herschel do it, and I don’t really have a problem with it, just discouraged that he got hurt at it. Bill, I know how you look at it, I’m just willing to bash Grantham a little more. He makes more money than any D coach ever in Athens, and I guess I have just been expecting more out of him. When he shows me something, I will congratulate him.

AltamahaDawg

March 1st, 2013
9:57 am

I’m not sure that Gurley and Marshall would be going against full speed tackling against thte #1 defense in the spring, even if they were in the best of health, would they?

The concern is hear is that we need our “new” #1 guys to get as much live tackling as possible. But thats not really against our starting TB, for the most part , ever, is it? I think that have got that part figured out.

the concern is how much work does Gurley get……….not the #1 defense.

Flo- Ri - Duh

March 1st, 2013
10:04 am

Just do it the way you usually do it – no holding back and no over working Gurley………. fill in with walk ons. UGA always seems to have depth problems at RB because they do little substituting and basically use a two back system. Bama, LSU and others use 3 or 4 backs a game.

AltamahaDawg

March 1st, 2013
10:05 am

CD, you can see how you repeatedly calling our coach stupid for letting Marshall run track, confused SDD…..seeing how you really didnt have a problem with it.

Flo- Ri - Duh

March 1st, 2013
10:07 am

The Falcons letting Abraham go is just not right and not smart. Turner and MAYBE Dunta Robinson I can see but not Abraham who still was productive last year with 10 sacks. Also Abraham took less money and restructured his contract to help the Falcons with salary cap last year and he wasn’t making top money to begin with. Loyalty has no place any more in the business world.

Bulldawg35

March 1st, 2013
10:25 am

We will not match the offensive out put of last year. The o- line is still suspect,…..Austin long and Dallas lee…..xavier ward and zack debell are weak. And watts danzler is clueless…..we cannot get any separation from fla ans sc with an suspect o-line……yeah I think Tennessee will upset us….they already score a bunch of points on us with some of their weakest teams in years

Z Dawg

March 1st, 2013
10:46 am

Dawg Nation, calm down. Things have a way for working out for the best. Have some faith in your players and coaches. Just calm down.

NCDawg

March 1st, 2013
11:27 am

It is spring ball… letting Marshall run track is not a significant issue. The D will get lots of practice trying to tackle Gurley… a beast of a back, who be even bigger and stronger this year. If this were the beginning of August I could see being a bit panicked but it is spring ball and getting other guys more looks may end up being a good thing. Z Dawg is right… chill.
I see Bulldawg35 is spreading more doom and gloom… You get what you expect sir. If you are REALLY a Bulldog fan your negativity helps absolutely NOTHING. It serves no useful purpose at all. Successful people do not wallow in negativity and they do not listen to negativity disguised as realism. But I suspect that you actually hate the program because you are not a Bulldog fan at all. What is the 35 for BTW?

Thank God for Reggie Ball

March 1st, 2013
11:55 am

I say limit contact to the scrimmages. No need to risk a small position drill. I would even consider giving them ‘no-hit’ shirts against the scout team, but once the 1s on 1s get going, all bets are off.

Thank God for Reggie Ball

March 1st, 2013
12:00 pm

@Bulldawg35

Yep that O-Line was so bad Gurley ran for 130+ against Bama.

So Tennessee with NO quarteback, NO recievers and the 5th best O-Line in the division will outscore a team with a record-setting QB, two elite tailbacks, 3 quality recievers (with 2 very good tight ends as well) and the 2nd best O-Line in the division. Please that game is one of the easiest locks in the schedule