As the karmic wheel turns: Richt and Georgia face another ex-Dawg

Mark Richt takes an unusual approach to players dismissed from his program. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Mark Richt takes an unusual approach to players dismissed from his program. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Among the many other things he is, Mark Richt appears to have become the leading supplier of starting SEC quarterbacks.

Three of this year’s SEC starting quarterbacks originally signed with Georgia. Which says good things about Richt’s nose for talent.

But two of them are now leading the offense at other schools as a result of Richt’s strict disciplinary policies: LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Auburn’s Nick Marshall.

I don’t know whether it’s happened before where a college team has to face two Top 10 conference rivals in the same season, both of whom have starting quarterbacks that used to be on the first team, but I imagine it’s pretty rare.

For one thing, not many coaches would kick a player good enough to be an SEC starter off their team, no matter what they did, and even fewer would allow the departed player to sign with another team in the same conference.

In an era when many coaches put restrictions on a player leaving their program, Richt is the exception. And his generosity in not only helping place dismissed players with junior college programs where they can get back on track, but also allowing them to sign with other SEC schools is a remarkable testament to what a good man he is — a point of pride for UGA fans, although whether it’s the best move from a football coaching standpoint is open to debate.

Still, it’s produced some pretty unusual storylines this season. First, there was Mettenberger, who grew up in the Athens area and whose mom even works in the UGA football office, returning to play his former teammates Between the Hedges. That had to have played mind games with him, though Mett had a terrific day against the Dogs, even in a losing effort.

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will face his old team Saturday. (Associated Press)

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will face his old team Saturday. (Associated Press)

For Marshall, it won’t quite be as dramatic a reunion, since a quirk in SEC scheduling has Georgia making the trip to Auburn two years in a row. But even for a player whose coaches this week have (perhaps in a bit of psychological bolstering) been touting how he always remains on an emotional even keel, going up against the school where you originally signed and where you played your freshman year, and where you still have friends, has got to be a little unsettling.

But just as Mettenberger dismissed (not too convincingly) the emotional aspects of going up against his old team, so Marshall told AL.com after last week’s Auburn win over Tennessee that playing Georgia “doesn’t mean too much. It’s just another opponent that’s in our way, blocking to what we’re trying to capitalize on.”

On the other side, Georgia defensive end Ray Drew told ESPN.com: “It’s a little weird, but I knew whenever he was here that he was a player. And now someone that could have been helping, you’re having to try to stop him.”

While getting kicked out of UGA over a dorm theft probably marks a low point in Marshall’s life, things have turned out well for him. In his first year at Auburn he’s not only the starting QB, but his team has staged one of the most remarkable turnabouts in recent college football history, going from being one of last season’s conference doormats to a once-defeated Top 10 juggernaut. And Marshall is a big reason why.

You might think Richt would wince at the success elsewhere of players he turned loose, but the Georgia head coach said earlier this season: “I’m happy for them that they landed in a good place and are getting an opportunity to do what they hoped and dreamed about doing coming out of high school. I’m big on guys realizing their dreams. That’s part of the reason why I coach. When you hit a major roadblock like they did, you like to hear stories of guys turning it around and doing really good things.”

Nick Marshall in his playing days as a Georgia Bulldog. (University of Georgia)

Nick Marshall in his playing days as a Georgia Bulldog. (University of Georgia)

In his Monday teleconference, Richt struck a similar tone. “I’ve said on plenty of occasions, if a guy has a situation where he doesn’t finish at Georgia, a guy that signed with us, my goal for him is to find a new home and have success there, so I’m happy for Nick.”

Marshall, who chose to play defense at Georgia in hopes that he also could walk on at some point with the basketball team, no doubt would have been a valuable part of this year’s Bulldog team, which could have used his athleticism in the secondary, even if Mike Bobo hadn’t borrowed him for the offense.

“I think he’d be an all-conference-type guy,” Richt said Monday. “He’d be a guy with a very bright future at that position. But he’s a dynamic guy who has a lot of skills and he’s using a lot of them as a quarterback right now.”

The success of Mettenberger and Marshall after being dismissed at Georgia is the sort of feel-good story that sports media love. As former UGA defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner, now at Auburn, told ESPN: “Nick and Zach are both examples that one mistake as a kid doesn’t define who you are. They’re both good kids that just made bad decisions.”

Earlier this season, Mettenberger and Marshall’s teams met on the football field and Auburn suffered its only loss so far. And, of course, Mettenberger lost when he returned to Athens.

Some might say that karmically Richt’s approach to letting ex-players go where they want should pay off for Georgia (hey, we’ve already got a win over LSU).

But, from a more pragmatic standpoint, should his policy work for or against UGA in future recruiting? I put that question to Michael Carvell, who covers recruiting for the AJC.

“In my opinion, I think this 100 percent works in favor of UGA,” Carvell said, “because it has shown, especially with the high-profile quarterbacks this year, that if things don’t work out for a player in Athens, Mark Richt is pretty much willing to let that player seek happiness wherever he feels like he may find it, even if it’s at an archrival. It shows that Richt puts the welfare of a recruit above him and the program, even if it comes back to bite.”

I hope Michael is right. I also hope that UGA does all it can to make sure the story of Richt’s generosity is one of Verne and Gary’s talking points on this week’s CBS national telecast.

So, what do you think? Do you support the fact that Richt doesn’t hesitate to dismiss talented players from the program if they get too out of line? And the way he then allows them to sign wherever they want? Or do you have a problem with that approach?

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

Find me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

257 comments Add your comment

How To Win

November 14th, 2013
11:59 am

@From 706 to 407

I agree with you. Be thankful for Coach Richt and let him stay in Athens for as long as he wants.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that, since I’m not a Georgia fan. ;-)

Bulldawg35

November 14th, 2013
1:03 pm

I hope James Franklin leaves vandy soon. Because before long he will start to own Richt. Franklin is 12-4 in his last 16 sec games..

Bulldawg35

November 14th, 2013
1:04 pm

How to win….are you fat pie or pig iron?

Bulldawg35

November 14th, 2013
1:06 pm

Art brills got a big raise from Baylor. He is going to make 4 million a year…what does that say about Richt?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 14th, 2013
1:18 pm

35

I think we win this weekend 35-30

what are your thoughts?

7576DAWG

November 14th, 2013
1:57 pm

I think there is a very small minority that want Mark Richt gone from Georgia . The overwhelming majority like his values and dedication to his players to develop into good men and if not a Pro career then a good job after they leave Georgia.
If he has one fault it is hiring the best Coaches who not only can Coach but are great Recruiters. The problem with great Coaches and great Recruiter is they don’t stay very long because they end up in the Pro’s coaching or promoted by another College so unless you want to put up with a revolving Coaches door like Saban does you try Richt’s method. Me personally I think Saban has the right idea . The Coaches only get a 1 year contract and Georgia should be putting the best Coaches on the field just like they do with the players . There can’t be a double standard, one for players and one for Coaches. When I say the word Coaches I mean coaching is only half of their job . Recruiting is just as important as coaching and if they are weak in either area it time for a change.

UGA Insider

November 14th, 2013
2:06 pm

The Auburn fans think they are the best team in the nation and are about to get a RUDE awakening. Everyone knows on this blog that I have the heart beat of this team like no-one else!! I predicted wins against USEe, LSu and UF. I unfortunately picked losses like Mizzou and Vandy. I missed on Clemson and I blame that on me. Clemson at home was a tough game.

Now onto this week. UGA is focused and ready to roll…AU has been talking trash and the UGA team is excited. This game is our SEC Championship.

UGA 42
Auburn 20

Book it!

AltamahaDawg

November 14th, 2013
2:10 pm

I’m going to completely ignore that you predicted Georgia would lose 5-6 games last year, and go put some cash down on the 2 point win.

Alternative Dawg

November 14th, 2013
2:12 pm

letting Zack and Marshall go is not a negative towards Richt. letting Adams and Lawson go there is. How do we not get those two. Lawson as a true freshman can be dangerous against our OTs.

Alternative Dawg

November 14th, 2013
2:15 pm

UGA Insider…what trash has been said? I think we are too confidet. This is the best OL we will face all season. Mel Kiper just rated Auburns OT who is a sophmore as 22 on his big board. Their Center is up for awards and the other tackle and guard were big time recruits.

If we win it will be a shootout. The key again is can our OL who had trouble with Mizzou handle Lawson and their DL. If we win the line on offense then we can score some points.

Alternative Dawg

November 14th, 2013
2:21 pm

Anyone who wants Richt to stay is delusional. We have more talent then most schools and lose these games in embarrassing fashion. We have two SEC titles in 13 seasons with richt despite finishing in the top 10 in recruiting every year.

Are we a better team now with these guys back then when we played LSU? Not really. Our defense is still porous.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 14th, 2013
2:23 pm

Altamaha

Good to see you back

JB

November 14th, 2013
2:29 pm

One thing in Dawgs Favor Saturday. The whole world has reported and predicted they lose to Auburn, and we have a pretty talented bunch of guys on this team, and a lights out offense. I think Auburn runs into a rattle snake Saturday and has a fight on their hands.

JB

November 14th, 2013
2:57 pm

Miami seemed to have got off light for the crime IMO. I bet if it was UGA, it would of been twice as bad. The NCAA kinda had the attitude , hey, it’s Miami

NCDawg

November 14th, 2013
3:08 pm

“NCDawg, I’ve forgotten more about how to lead people than you will ever know.” LMFAO!

Talking about delusional… give me a break… Flatter yourself all you want but YOU don’t know me. To make that statement is beyond idiotic. Just damn…

Don’t reply… you’ll make yourself look like a bigger fool…

NCDawg

November 14th, 2013
3:29 pm

And don’t say I said the same about you…because I did not. I was replying to his qualifiers and the fact that I did not see anyone that met those qualifiers here.

Dave

November 14th, 2013
3:43 pm

Looks like Bama just signed the #1 recruit again. I guess you could call it jealousy, but the rich keep getting richer. As long as the Tide keeps winning, they don’t recruit. They select. They can literally have anyone they want. All this talk about Ga. recruits should stay in Ga. or how Richt should be able to overcome Alabama in recruiting is just wishful thinking. As long as they saty on top, there is absolutely nothing Richt, Bobo or UGA can do to stop them from taking what and whom they want. And that goes for any other school in any other state. Bama could go into Tibet and get the top recruits. I just hope UGA can beat Awbarn this weekend. I sure would’ve loved to see the Dawgs at full strength taking on Bama in the SEC Championship game this year.

NCDawg

November 14th, 2013
3:50 pm

I am seeing an Auburn team that is possibly overlooking the Dawgs. They want to get to Bama soooo badly they may just stumble at home. The coaching staff will be preaching but these are kids and sometimes they just don’t listen. They are a young team and sometimes experience is the only way you learn that type of thing.

2006. The similarities are strong. I hope the results are as well.

The Dawgs must get a lead early in this game. If we can force them into stacking the box to stop the run 80% of the battle is done. They will come out hoping to be able to stop our running game without extra help. We must be balanced. None of this “run it at them until the squeal” BS. Our offense works best when we mix run and pass. We get in trouble when we deviate too far either way. BTW balanced is @ 50-60% running plays.

I hope Gurley has his legs back so he can take some runs to the house and not puke.

ARdawg

November 14th, 2013
3:53 pm

Dave
You are correct, for the most part. Bama does by in large select but, they can’t get them all. They don’t have enough roster spots for that. Eventually Bama will stumble and fall. They (top teams) always do. Saban doesn’t have to leave for that to happen. Bama has great athletes, a great coach and some great luck the last couple of years from a scheduling standpoint. At some juncture the luck will wear thin. Perhaps not this year but, it’s coming. It always does

ARdawg

November 14th, 2013
3:58 pm

NCDawg
I think a pass happy game plan with a steady dose of Gurley will win this game. Rather than vice-versa. They can’t stop the pass and they’ll have a difficult time trying to stop Gurley looking for the pass. Hand it to the Big Dawg when we need a 1st down. I don’t look for it to be all that close if the defense can get a few well placed stops. That being the question though

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 14th, 2013
4:08 pm

and Im seeing a victory if the O-line blocks for 4 qtrs

UGA Insider

November 14th, 2013
4:12 pm

Just got an email from an FSU friend. Everyone go to TMZ.com. Looks like the FSU dream season is in the crapper.

Bulldawg35

November 14th, 2013
4:16 pm

Flat..

No way we win this game…our defense is horrible…..I just hope we can make it a close game.
This auburn team won at Texas a&m……anybody in their right mind think we could win there?

ARdawg

November 14th, 2013
4:20 pm

Flat
This Georgia OL should not have much difficulty with AU’s defensive front. Especially if Dallas Lee is back

Aubie

November 14th, 2013
4:22 pm

Yeah, it’s true.

I don’t know about the players, but the Auburn fans are definitely looking past the Georgia game. Beating Georgia means nothing. A&M was a much bigger game for us.

I expect Auburn to win this one pretty handily, but I’m not planning a big celebration afterward.

old dog

November 14th, 2013
4:40 pm

If we do not change our whole defensive paradigm, we will be where we are now next year….the occasional decent d-game but mostly depending on the skill folks to light up the board. The first time the o-stumbles or the injury bug bites and the fact that we cannot bring in top of the line o-linemen and teach our d properly will (as usual) expose us. I am a true fan….have been for years. But, our d-strategy ain’t workin’, folks! And we gotta have a top-tier o-line.

ARdawg

November 14th, 2013
4:50 pm

AU has had a good run. nobody expected them to win 9 games but, it stops there. 9-3 ain’t so bad for that team

Aubie

November 14th, 2013
4:56 pm

I was hoping for a 9-3 season after last year. And yet, here we are.

Auburn doesn’t have 3 losses. Who does?

Alternative Dawg

November 14th, 2013
5:08 pm

If we lose it wont be all bad….Grantham will definitely be out. Thre longer Grantham and in some ways Richt hang around the more others can pick at the dying carcass.

ARdawg

November 14th, 2013
5:15 pm

Auburn doesn’t have 3 losses. Who does?
==============

Yet

dawgfan

November 14th, 2013
5:21 pm

We lost to Vandy and the Kool Aiders are talking trash about a Top 10 team.

Simply unbelievable.

JB at home

November 14th, 2013
5:29 pm

Again, Georgia match’s up well with Auburn. Healthy, and for the most part we will be, AU very average D will have a tough time stopping us, in fact, they won’t. Defense for us is another question. AU likes to run, and we are pretty good at stopping it, But I know Gus saw App state in the first half hit every 5-10 yard pass they attempted.Now . we adjusted, but this ain’t App St.
I like our chances….and playing at 3:30 is HUGE. Night is a different animal down there.

dawgfan

November 14th, 2013
5:44 pm

“2006. The similarities are strong.”

No they aren’t. Unlike now, we actually had a pretty decent D in ‘06. Willie hadn’t had enough time to screw everything up yet. I actually liked that ‘06 team. They made a lot of mistakes like any Richt team but they played tough. I don’t know what’s happened to us. We’re too soft to go in to Auburn and win this game.

Mobile Dawg

November 14th, 2013
6:07 pm

You really good at hurling insults, not so good at answering the questions directed at you. Maybe a little insecure with yourself Sport.

Mobile Dawg

November 14th, 2013
6:11 pm

7576, your earlier post is a good one. Richt doesn’t surround himself with the best qualified people he can find, just people he’s comfortable with. That’s one fault he can’t overcome. A good support staff can make an average leader look really good.

NCDawg

November 14th, 2013
6:58 pm

UGA Insider – that remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see how quickly things progress…if they do progress. If it was a cover up then more is a stake than just Famous Jameis. I always say just say nothing until you have concrete facts. We try people in the court of public opinion way too often.

ARdawg – many people are touting Auburn’s victory over A&M and pointing to us. Their thinking is that we don’t have as potent an offense as A&M. Maybe not but even as poor as our defense is, it is nowhere near as bad a A&Ms. That is fact. This might be a game where turnovers are exceptionally important for our D. If we can get them to put it on the ground and intercept Marshall that may be enough to provide a cushion. But we need to use the passing game to move the chains and keep that offense on ice. I think they will play to take away the pass to start the game. If we can get them off balance running the ball and some quick throws to slow their pass rush, it will be “game on”.

If the D can play decently, I see a win. Otherwise it’s whoever has the ball last. Auburn better not be looking past the Dawgs, it could really bite them hard.

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
7:49 pm

Bama already had a commit from the #1 player – a OT. The commit they just got was the #1 DL but not the #1 overall player. So is Saban a great coach so much as he is a great recruiter? There are a lot of coaches that could win with the talent he has and Richt came within a hair of beating Saban last year with lesser talent (depth in particular).

Barnum&Bailey

November 14th, 2013
7:50 pm

NCDawg,

If Georgia is better than A&M, then you have nothing to worry about.

Barnum&Bailey

November 14th, 2013
7:52 pm

The best players want to play on the best team.

That “Duh” in your handle really works for ya!

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
7:53 pm

Cool stat:
Aaron Murray has 0 SEC wins in his career when he loses the turnover battle.

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
7:54 pm

YES the Tigras have a highly recruited OL but the Dawg’s DL is nothin’ to sneeze at.
Dawgs traditionally win on Au-barn’ s cow pasture.

Love the dawgs

November 14th, 2013
7:55 pm

A criminal playing QB at Auburn????? That has never happened before…… Oh, it has?????

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
7:58 pm

Oh contrare’ Bum & Booby – the duh in Flo-Ri-Duh is for YOU!

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
7:58 pm

Aaron Murray has only 1 CAREER win against an SEC team, when losing the turnover battle (Florida 2013).

So if you can get him to commit a fumble, or throw an interception, and protect the ball on your side, 96% chance you beat UGA.

Barnum&Bailey

November 14th, 2013
7:59 pm

If Auburn manages to bang Aaron Murray up the way they did Johnny Manziel, will Hutson Mason be ready to compete against Georgia Tech?

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
8:01 pm

What I was pointing out is that Saban has the best recruited talent money can BUY – three deep at every position…. and the coach you say can’t cut it came within a hair of beating him even though Richt had lesser talent and depth.

In other words – Richt & Bobo out coached Saban.

Barnum&Bailey

November 14th, 2013
8:02 pm

“Richt & Bobo out coached Saban.”

Yeah. That’s obvious. Just compare their records.

Hey! I LIKE the Duh… It fits. ;-)

Barnum&Bailey

November 14th, 2013
8:04 pm

Georgia should be in the Top 5.

It’s not fair.

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
8:04 pm

Bum & Booby – Murray is one tough nut… even Quinton Diahl’s assasin’s cheap shot to the head didn’t keep him out. Murray hasn’t missed a game since he has been at UGA – 50+ in a row. If anybody is knocked out of this game it will Au-Barn’s QB.

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:07 pm

I’d expect more leadership form a 5th Year Sr Qb in Aaron Murray than to just QUIT if he loses the turnover battle and GIVE UP and LOSE.

But if you’re an SEC team, believe it or not, that’s about all you have to do to beat UGA. Works 96% of the time in the Murray era, aka “The Lost Years”.

P.S. UGA is 108th in turnover margin, Murray is 93rd best Qb in interceptions. He finished last in 2012, and 89th in interceptions in 2011. He’s a 1 man wrecking crew.