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.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

257 comments Add your comment

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:11 pm

Auburn offense ranks 4th in 3rd down conversions, #33 nationally, where Murray ranks 11th in the conference in 3rd down conversions, 69th in nation.

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:12 pm

That’s the story of 2013:
#108 in Turnover margin + #69 in 3rd down conversion= No player leadership = 6-3 season

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:15 pm

Countdown on:
3 more games and the Murray era aka “The Lost Year” (LAST in interceptions in 2011, 90th in 2012, 93rd in 2013) is FINALLY OVER!!!

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:17 pm

Hello Nick Marshall and Auburn and Rodney Garner:
Want a formula for beating UGA that works 96% of the time in SEC games?
Win the turnover battle against UGA.

Barnum&Bailey

November 14th, 2013
8:19 pm

Fifty games in a row without being injured?

Fifty… That’s a lot.

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:19 pm

Super Stat:
In EVERY LOSS in 2011
2012
2013

AARON HAS THROWN AT LEAST ONE INTERCEPTIONS.

At least he’s consistent.

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:21 pm

Aaron Murray has 12 interceptions in the 9 losses in 2011-2013, aka part of the “The Lost Years” Murray era as we UGA fans call it.

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:25 pm

Aaron Murray has thrown 20/TWENTY interceptions on his own 0-40 yardline.

AJ McCarron has thrown 3/THREE interceptions on his own 0-40 yardline..

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
8:30 pm

2011 – 2012 combined score UGA 88 – Au-Barn 7….. now that’s what you call domination.

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:31 pm

UGA STORYLINE OF 2013;
TURNOVERS + POOR THIRD DOWN CONVERSION = 6-3 TEAM

#108 in TURNOVER MARGIN
#69 on 3rd DOWN CONVERSION

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
8:34 pm

SiameseTwin – And what does McCarron have to do with THIS game? His OL made him look great – he’s good not great. Missed 5 receivers wide open against LSU last week.

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:37 pm

Murray’s record vs Auburn when they’re top 10 ranked:
0-1

Murray;’s record vs Auburn when they’re 3-9 or 7-5?
2-0

Uh oh, AUburn is ranked in the top 10 again
Murray’s CAREER record against teams that ended up top 10?
1-10

He loses 90% of his starts.

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:42 pm

Only game Alabama lost was when their Qb threw 2 interceptions vs Texas A & M.

Even Bama couldn’t overcome interceptions.

Imagine how much harder it’s been for UGA with Aaron Murray “The Human Turnover Machine”?

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
8:43 pm

Make up your schizo mind are you going to be SiameseDawg or Barnum&Bailey? You need a shrink

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
8:46 pm

Tech vs Clemson…. on ESPN. YOU TROLLS need yo get on it!

SiameseDawg

November 14th, 2013
8:49 pm

3 more games and no more aaron murray.

dawgfan

November 14th, 2013
9:49 pm

How many games before no more Mark Richt?

Barnum&Bailey

November 14th, 2013
9:58 pm

I’ve been watching the Tech game.

I don’t think Georgia has anything to worry about from the Jackets. The Tigers? Maybe.

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 14th, 2013
10:54 pm

Tech is a power house! Uh, maybe not. How much longer is a program like Tech with a proud history in college football going to tolerate Turkey Neck Johnson? Talking about a bad defense… miserable!

GTBob Jr.

November 14th, 2013
11:22 pm

Flo…Were bad.

GradyBredDawg

November 14th, 2013
11:23 pm

Sniffing a DAWG WIN over Auburn!

GTBob Jr.

November 14th, 2013
11:32 pm

FLO..Why getting so upset?

Barnum&Bailey

November 15th, 2013
7:31 am

I think it’s illegal to fire a CFB HC in the state of Georgia.

dawgfan

November 15th, 2013
8:21 am

We grow very emotionally attached to our coaches here in Georgia. That’s for sure.

old dog

November 15th, 2013
8:22 am

Murray is taking too much of the blame when he has a middle of the road (at best) o-line, and no d or special teams to help out. Murray does have a problem against better teams, as they tend to expose the fact that we have fallen short on SEC caliber linemen. Better teams know this, and go straight at us and over-power our line. But for a few way-above-average skill players and a battering-ram running back we would be way towards the bottom. We will always do ok, but we definitely need to bring in a higher caliber o-lineman, get the special teams figured out, and start anew on defense. Our whole concept of defense has gone south.

Pago Pago Dawg

November 15th, 2013
8:31 am

Don’t forget people, Ohio travels to the mighty ILL, they haven’t won a game since 2010? Ohio may never get beat…but they do have one of best bands in their Big Ten (12) division.

Barnum&Bailey

November 15th, 2013
8:31 am

Georgia will be fine. They can go 7-5 this year without doing any damage to Coach Richt’s overall win percentage. It’s one of the best in the nation, you know. That’s why so many teams try to hire him away from Athens every year. Hope he doesn’t take that Texas or USC job!

old dog

November 15th, 2013
8:57 am

B and B,
Hope he gets a new d-coordinator, though!

ARdawg

November 15th, 2013
9:15 am

NCDawg
I like the match up. Our D is pretty decent against the run. Marshall struggles to hit open receivers and he panics under pressure. On offense we have some play makers back. Now “if” Bobo will get pass happy, AU’s pass defense is as bad as ours. We have the better passing game against a weak defense.

Yeah Barner’s want to point to the A&M game as if it means something this week It doesn’t. Georgia with nothing to lose and AU with everything to prove. They have already over looked Georgia. Big mistake. Auburn players and fans are beginning to believe the press clippings. Big mistake. Georgia wins and it’s not that close

eldawg

November 15th, 2013
9:25 am

Richt put LeMay ahead of Marshall, good call coach.

old dog

November 15th, 2013
9:40 am

ARdawg,
I’m as loyal to my Dawgs as any, but don’t underestimate Marshall; this ain’t his first rodeo. And, its not like he is going against a top d or anything………

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 15th, 2013
9:42 am

as long as you beat the has been program in GT and have 8 wins you basically have a lifetime contract at UGA

NCDawg

November 15th, 2013
9:49 am

eldawg – LeMay was one of the Top 4 Pro style QB recruits in the country coming out of HS. Did you even look that up? Texas A&M wanted him, Clemson wanted him, and Auburn did as well.

Another example of some Richt hater finding an out of context factoid and using it as a bludgeon.

You may not like Coach Richt… that’s your opinion but twisting facts to suit your bias is not. Do the research. Nick Marshall CHOSE to play CB at Georgia. Get it straight. He thought he had a better chance of going pro using his talents that way.

Damn people… at least try to be truthful.

Dog4Life

November 15th, 2013
9:50 am

Matching up on D according to statistics concerning our run D is problematic. We do not handle the edges off tackle issues very well. ILBs are fairly stable but our OLBers are too pass rush happy, which is the way the 3-4 is designed–attack the pass and force the run. Jenkins is not the beast everyone said he would be (notice he is bigger this year and slower off the edge). We tend to get exposed with running QBs, especially those who can also throw fairly well (hope Mrashall is a terrible passer–do not know because the run is so good at this point). We need to stack the box keep a minimum of four D-line man at the LOS–three and two down linemen with two standing up is ineffective against the run because the O-linemen can drive into you lower and quicker getting a good push–remember one does not need to pancake a linemen just move him enough or block his path to the ball, even for a second is enough with fast backs and a QB that runs the read option very well. That is what makes Manzeil so good and he is definitely the luckiest guy i have ever seen–w/o Manzeil Summerlin is a 4-8 or 5-7 coach. Stop the read option, stay on Marshall and keep the assignments–hopefully CTG can plan a scheme and then hope for good discipline–guys this could get ugly–but UGA CAN WIN this game–

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 15th, 2013
9:59 am

UGA retiring research monkeys – does that mean the TROLLS won’t have anything to biotch about anymore?

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 15th, 2013
10:20 am

Nick Marshall would be much better off at CB or Safety – there is where he had potential future in the NFL.. Notice that I said he HAD a potential future at CB / S in the NFL. But now all those millions are down the drain.

Aubie

November 15th, 2013
10:21 am

NCDawg,

If Nick Marshall “chose” to play CB at Georgia so he could also play basketball, then why was he never on the basketball team?

NCDawg

November 15th, 2013
10:38 am

There is an article on that right here under Chip Towers blog.

The Tide is Rolling and Nothing can Stop it

November 15th, 2013
10:39 am

I couldn’t convince you about Grantham three years ago (I’ve been proven right), but please quit bringing down the entier SEC with your oversigning crap. You just lost to Vandy because you didn’t have enough quality players.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 15th, 2013
10:53 am

Aubie

What time is the Annual “Pay to play” Aubarn fundraiser today?

WDE

November 15th, 2013
10:53 am

CMR lives a line my grandfather told me many times…”there is no doing wrong when your doing right”…CMR truly has the best interest of these young men in mind, even when he had to do the tough things like dismiss them… haters will second guess him but he is right.

NCDawg

November 15th, 2013
10:53 am

Keys to the game:

1) This is probably worth about the top 3 spots actually. Tackle well. Tackle in space. Gang tackle inside. Scheme is secondary when facing a spread. It doesn’t matter what you do scheme-wise if you don’t get them on the ground.

2) Balance on offense. Mix it up and confuse them. If they play to keep everything in front of them, then take it and play ball control. If they play aggressively stretch the field.

3) Roll the dice – go for it on 4th down. Fake punts… pull out an unexpected onside kick. Pass up FGs to go for Tds. Just like we did against SC.

4) Play solidly on STs. No bonehead/nutted up mistakes.

5) No freebies. Tackle the ball on D. Protect it on offense. Let them get all the personal foul penalties if things get chippy. Take it out on then on the next play, the way you are supposed to.

The last 2 go for any game.

If we can stay aggressive on offense and defense the chances of winning are dramatically higher. Our guys will be up for this… we need to let them ride it. Again, just like the SC game.

Aubie

November 15th, 2013
10:54 am

NCDawg

November 15th, 2013
10:38 am

There is an article on that right here under Chip Towers blog.

……..

I see that. Looks like the coaching staff lied to Nick when they promised him that he could play basketball. Maybe that’s why he came up with a way to get himself out of Athens?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 15th, 2013
11:05 am

wow NCDawg

I would like to see those keys to the game every game; if we did we would still be undefeated right now and would have won the National Title last year

oh well

old dog

November 15th, 2013
11:19 am

NCDawg,
I admire your good attitude. But you gotta see our d-scheme is not good. We have several NFL high-round picks, one who has said “This D-scheme is not nearly as complicated as the one we tried to learn/run at UGA.” I presently have someone sending me the player/source of that comment. He was right..this is the most atrocious scheme available. Even with NFL prospects on our team we still did not get it. “There’s your sign!”

ARdawg

November 15th, 2013
11:22 am

old dog

I don’t underestimate Marshall. I saw him play in high school. An unbelieveable athlete even then. I was baffled as to why he didn’t want to play QB at UGA. He was/is “that good”.

Marshall is ready for primetime but, I don’t think he can carry a team, yet. He does panic under pressure. He has a rifle for an arm but his placement suffers greatly. All mechanics that he will get worked out. I just don’t think he’s there yet and I hope he’s not tomorrow

old dog

November 15th, 2013
11:22 am

You gotta think on each and every play. However, when a D makes you think about 500 different scenearios at each snap, instead of the usual number of possibilities/reactions, the back has already run by, the pass has been caught, or one is too entrenched in thought to just square up and make a play.

old dog

November 15th, 2013
11:24 am

ARDawg,
Against our d, he does not really have to be there yet……..look at some (all) of the QB’s who have moved on us. The backup frosh at Vandy…….really? Marshall is better than that.

ARdawg

November 15th, 2013
11:38 am

old dog
If Marshall was a better passer or AU had a better passing game I would agree with your summation. Our defense is pretty good against the run. That is the only place I have seen where they have improved. Our defense has seen better QB’s than has AU as well

WDE

November 15th, 2013
11:39 am

dawgfan 3,232 games before no more CMR…that will keep your troll azz crying for a while I bet..