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 13th, 2013
10:53 am

“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.”

Hate to spoil your narrative Bill, but Nick Marshall wasn’t recruited and didn’t play as a quarterback at Georgia. So much for Coach Richt’s nose.

How To Win

November 13th, 2013
10:56 am

“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.”

Wow… I see that it just gets deeper as it goes along. If only every Head Coach could be so magnanimous and generally perfect in every way. It must be hard for the man to be humble. ;-)

Bill King

November 13th, 2013
10:57 am

How to win:
Actually, Marshall was initially recruited as a QB at Georgia. Then, after they decided to go after Christian LeMay at that position, Marshall still wanted to come to Georgia and hoped to join pal KCP playing basketball for the Dogs. So he told the Georgia coaching staff he’d like to play defense. It was his choice.

Dawg stuck in Bammer...

November 13th, 2013
11:00 am

Second…
It may not speak to the players as much as it probably speaks to their parents. They know “this man” isn’t going to kick our son to the curb and leave us to fend for ourselves.

Dawg stuck in Bammer...

November 13th, 2013
11:01 am

Unlike “the man” in Ttown, who will kick a kid to the “grey curb” in a heartbeat

How To Win

November 13th, 2013
11:07 am

Well, who knows? Maybe Coach Richt truly is a Saint passing himself off as a mere mortal?

At least he isn’t evil incarnate, like those Head Coaches of every other team besides Georgia. ;-)

Bulldawg35

November 13th, 2013
11:11 am

Who really cares….who cares what position Marshall was recruited for by UGA! All I know is that he is on the other side now. He and auburn will be looking for revenge and undoubtedly they will probably get it. If this game was at home I think we would probably win. But for the second year in a row we have to go to the sorry plains. Thanks to the SEC! I hate auburn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bulldawg35

November 13th, 2013
11:12 am

I wonder what happened to fat pie?

RealDawg

November 13th, 2013
11:16 am

@How to Win Nick decided not to try and play QB at UGA because he was also wanting to play basketball and couldn’t do both. Plus, he knew he would have a better chance of going pro at cornerback. Not to mention that UGA already had Murray and Mettenberger. It had nothing to do with Richt’s nose.

How To Win

November 13th, 2013
11:22 am

Why can’t a quarterback play basketball? I’ve never heard of that rule. If he thinks he’s better off playing cornerback, then why is he not playing that position at Auburn?

Heath

November 13th, 2013
11:36 am

While I agree this shows the type of man Coach Richt is, it really puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to the teams we play against. Not many other schools would have dismissed Mettenberger and Williams, especially not in the “win at all cost” SEC. I am afraid Georgia will really have a hard time with any consistent success in football until they stoop to the level of everyone else in the conference. We can either have a great man, like Coach Richt, or a great football program. Can’t have both, not in today’s college football. Really sad when you think about it.

gbal

November 13th, 2013
11:43 am

How to… Because AU needed a QB and he agreed to give it a shot. Worked good for him now, but all would agree that he does not have the arm to QB on Sundays. Hope it works out for him.

How To Win

November 13th, 2013
11:46 am

@gbal

Neither does Tim Tebow. What’s your point?

P-Man

November 13th, 2013
11:48 am

I disagree, Heath. I believe we have both. Just because we haven’t won a national championship doesn’t mean we’re not a great program. Do I want one? Absolutely! Every year! But, realistically, it’s not going to happen. But I believe Georgia has a great program. Of course my definition of a great program is one that is consistently successful, and has a chance to win the division/conference/national championship every year. (I understand that might not be everyone’s definition of a great program…)

Heath

November 13th, 2013
11:51 am

How To Win, I think what gbal was talking about was NFL and how Nck Williams would best project to NFL scouts. Scouts may have liked him more as a corner for a sustained NFL career. Tim Tebow doesn’t have the strong arm, true. And which NFL team is he playing for? That is the point gbal was making; you just helped him explain it.

elevenoftwelve

November 13th, 2013
11:52 am

He stole, got caught, and was dismissed. It was classified as another UGA and Richt failure in recruiting.

Now he gets a second chance at Auburn (big surprise…can you say Newton?). Everyone wants to make this into a feel good story for him because he is good and having success.

Bottom line though is he should be at UGA and had he not made a really bad decision he would be. It isn’t supposed to be a fell good situation.

Heath

November 13th, 2013
11:57 am

P-Man, I think we have a very good program, a top 20 one for sure. We have a chance to do something every year, but always seem to fall short. Bad karma? I used to think so, but when you see it happen year after year, and you see our neighbors have incredible success…makes you wonder. I don’t expect Georgia to win the national championship every year, but we as a fan base seem too complacent when it comes to winning. Does the state of Alabama have better high school athletes than Georgia? No. Does Bama have better facilities than UGA? No. Then why is Bama going for its third straight championship, while UGA is yet again on the outside looking in? Don’t you have to start looking at the coach at some point? I love coach Richt and think he is a great man, but you have to be ruthless in D1 football nowadays.

Bill King

November 13th, 2013
11:57 am

How to Win:
Marshall figured it would be easier to make a two-sport schedule work as a cornerback. Quarterbacking takes a lot more time in the film room, etc.

JoeBarking

November 13th, 2013
12:05 pm

Fact check:
a- Ask Gray, Mett, Marshall and Mason if Richt is fair and allows competition at Qb or plays favorites? Recruiting–please…
b- Mett wins 77%, Marshall 90%, Murray 66%, Richt went with the wrong guy at Qb, simple as that, poor judgment, should have slapped a 2-4 game suspension like he did favorites AJ and J Houston
c- Strict–Richt looked the other way when Murray was buster in poassession of beer underage, against the law in Ga. AJ, JhOUSTON, Murray, all got off with 0-4 game suspensions. Just depends on if you’re a favorite or not.
d- Karma–Richt lost the SEC Championship in 2012, and tons of injuries in 2013, Richt’s middle name is ‘bad luck’

Heath

November 13th, 2013
12:05 pm

Two ways to make a more level playing field. First, a uniform suspension/expulsion policy, along with a strict policy on re-admittance to another school. It just isn’t equal at all. Second, limit the number of games you can play in your home stadium each year to 7. For example, Auburn playing 8 true home games and Georgia playing 6 just isn’t equal. Would also force schools with no big out of conference rival to play home and home series with other big teams versus all of these cupcakes.

JoeBarking

November 13th, 2013
12:08 pm

Fact Check:
Richt thought Cam Newton would be a tight end

Richt thought Marshall would be a cornerback.

Murray’s 66% winning record proves Richt’ s poor judge of Qb leadership compared to 90% win %with Nick Marshall, what a leader.

No joke.

JoeBarking

November 13th, 2013
12:11 pm

QB’s really blossom when they leave UGA and get under a solid program.

Mett–most QBR improvement in NCAA once he leaves UGA, benchwarmer at UGA
Marshall- most wins turnaround in NCAA once he leaves UGA, benchwarmer at UGA

JoeBarking

November 13th, 2013
12:14 pm

If Richt was God, Moses and David and Paul in the Bible, would be disqualified to lead after making one mistake.

Heath

November 13th, 2013
12:16 pm

JoeBarking, Mett would have been a stud at UGA as well…quarterbacks tend to get better as they get more experience in college. Also, if you remember, Mett looked to have put himself in the lead 4 years ago as the starter after the spring game. Besides, Murray has broken just about every passing record there is in the SEC…last time I check, quarterbacks don’t also play defense. Marshall would in no way be a benchwarmer if he were still in Athens. Comparing Murray’s win % over a 4 year period to Marshall’s in one is ludicrous; really doesn’t even have to be discussed, as you show your intelligence by just noting that comparison

Brewmaster

November 13th, 2013
12:20 pm

“How to Win ” should change his moniker to ” Having trouble with Logic.”

Brewmaster

November 13th, 2013
12:24 pm

JoeBark and How to must be related. I think they may be the missing link : CroMoron Man

Heath

November 13th, 2013
12:27 pm

Brewmaster, ha ha, true….Joe is probably writing something right now trying to somehow humiliate me here on this blog, when all he will do is dig himself into a deeper hole.

uncle kirk

November 13th, 2013
12:29 pm

JoeBarking is by far the stupidest person on this forum. No point in arguing about biased “facts” that aren’t facts. Your hatred of anything enough to skew facts shows that you have mental restrictions and a very low IQ. But keep Barking, the more you Bark the dumber everyone knows you are.

Heath

November 13th, 2013
12:29 pm

It will take poor Joe a while though….he probably still has a paperback thesaurus

Heath

November 13th, 2013
12:31 pm

Joe, fyi, that is one of them there readin books that tells ya which wurds mean the same as otheruns. Maybe he will understand if I speak his language.

How To Win

November 13th, 2013
12:48 pm

Bill King

November 13th, 2013
11:57 am

How to Win:
Marshall figured it would be easier to make a two-sport schedule work as a cornerback. Quarterbacking takes a lot more time in the film room, etc.

Did he play cornerback at JC? I’m familiar with the narrative regarding his time at Georgia. That said, it is only a narrative. I have no idea whether he wanted to play QB at Georgia, or not. Nor do I really care. He plays QB now, and it doesn’t really matter what he did at Georgia.

That Coach Richt is the only Christian, and the only HC that administers discipline within his program in all of NCAA CFB coaching is also a popular narrative in Georgia, but it doesn’t really hold water. Georgia is one of the most undisciplined football teams in the SEC.

BigDawg

November 13th, 2013
12:57 pm

Fellow Dawgs I am happy that Marshall and Mettenberger seem to have turned their lives around and look to become good responsible citizens. Speaks volumes about Coach Richt that he would be so generous to these and other young men who have come through Georgia and made mistakes.

Now just like LSU I hope the Dawgs put it on Auburn this Saturday down on the Plains. Georgia always seems to play them tougher at Auburn for some reason, almost like a home game. Must be all those Georgia boys who wind up going over there each year.

Go Dawgs

Heath

November 13th, 2013
12:59 pm

How To Win, it seems that way because Georgia doesn’t hide anything with regards to discipline. For example, Matthieu said while he was at LSU he failed numerous drug tests, and yet we all knew nothing about it.

Also, Bill King was simply stating why Marshal decided to play corner at UGA, and was replying to your post, that stated, “Why can’t a quarterback play basketball? I’ve never heard of that rule. If he thinks he’s better off playing cornerback, then why is he not playing that position at Auburn?” You asked why he couldn’t play both at Georgia, and Bill simply answered it. You brought it up.

Why do I feel like I am just beating a dead horse…or in this case, a complete idiot?

Bulldawg35

November 13th, 2013
12:59 pm

UGA has to play mistake free football. Something we haven’t done all year. We can’t stop that pitch and that a scary thing. I’m already getting sick on my stomach thinking about it. The veteran OL should have their way with Auburn’s DL. But we know they won’t though. Because the OL lacks killer instinct as does coach Richt.

Heath

November 13th, 2013
1:07 pm

Bulldawg35, I agree, but Auburn has not shown much of a defense and if we have any strength on defense, it is our rush defense. Auburn is 9-1, but really not the strongest 9-1 team out there. A good schedule has really helped them out. They are good, don’t get me wrong, but #7 in the country? Not sure. Vegas has Auburn by only 3.5 at home….they must know something. Going to be a lot closer than some might think.

Brewmaster

November 13th, 2013
1:10 pm

BD 35, have you ever predicted a Georgia win ? If so, rarely. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

BigDawg

November 13th, 2013
1:11 pm

Fellow Dawgs- the perception that winning is the only thing that matters is wrong, as the most important thing is turning these young men into good, responsible citizens. Now having said this it would be Great to win a SEC and MNC once in a while especially since the State of Georgia turns out so many good to great players every year. This program seems to be snake bitten- as 2002 we had one loss (Florida) which cost the Dawgs a chance at playing for a Mythical National Championship. 2007- loss to South Carolina in what was a terrible called game by Coach Richt and the usual blown game at Tennessee then the snub by the Coaches and media when they jumped the Dawgs in the Final BCS poll and LSU played Ohio State for the MNC. 2008 and 2013- all those injuries. 2012- Bad officiating in the SECCG cost the Dawgs the SEC and chance at playing for a MNC.

Overall Coach Richt won-loss wise has done a great job, player wise another outstanding job, but Championship wise his performance leaves a lot to be desired as missed opportunities seems to be the operative word.

Go Dawgs

How To Win

November 13th, 2013
1:17 pm

It’s just too bad for all of those guys who didn’t get to play for Coach Richt at Georgia.

Now they’ll never have the chance to develop into good, responsible citizens.

Oh well… ;-)

robodawg

November 13th, 2013
1:40 pm

I think the SEC should have a rule that other conference schools won’t accept players kicked off conference teams for disciplinary reasons. The onus should be on the SEC (or the NCAA) to have consistent disciplinary rules to begin with. We’ve dismissed a lot of players that would not have been dismissed by our rivals. I wonder if we’re disciplining the player or just punishing ourselves?

Top Recruit

November 13th, 2013
1:47 pm

We are so kind at UGA to our opponents. How many players have left us and go to another SEC school. You would hope it ends along with always playing of opponents turf more than our own. many of wonder why we even have a Sanford Stadium. Why not give it up. Play in the Swamp every years and rent the Dome those 4 -5 times we have “home”games. Save that money and put it on S&C and keeping our players injury free for more than one or two games a year.
You have to wonder how smart the Athletic Board and AD are at UGA. Maybe while they ponder those circumstances they can ponder why the Dawgs are called for “targeting” and other teams are not. For instance those plays in the Bama – LSU game.

Jack Bull

November 13th, 2013
2:15 pm

It is funny how folks that get kicked out of a program tend to land at LSU and Auburn..this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last..speaks a lot for those programs…I’m somewhat surprised that I. Crowell doesn’t play at Auburn, actually.
Wonder why nobody ever lands at UGA? hmmm.
Me, I don’t mind if other teams pick ‘em up..good for them.

AU-37 UGA-29

george

November 13th, 2013
2:46 pm

jack bull- thanks for the comedy. Dumbest post of the day.

dawgfan

November 13th, 2013
3:00 pm

BigDawg, we are not “snake bitten.” There’s no hoo doo voo doo at play here. It’s really quite simple. To win championships you have to beat good teams. Mark Richt has a very difficult time beating good teams. Thus, he has a very difficult time winning championships. There is also another very practical explanation for Richt’s lack of championships that does not involve any headless chickens or curses. Winning a championship requires the utmost dedication and focus for an entire season of football. That means no letdowns or mental lapses. Under Richt, our team has trouble staying focused for one single game, let alone an entire season.

It’s just not going to happen with Richt. Trust me. I’ve watched nearly 13 years of Mark Richt football so I know what I’m talking about.

Thanks.

How To Win

November 13th, 2013
3:10 pm

If Georgia fans don’t like the way their HC handles discipline, then they should hire a new HC, rather than whining that every other school should follow their HC’s policies.

As for the scheduling, everyone had to deal with temporary mix ups in order to add TAM and Mizzou to the mix. Georgia should just be happy that they avoided a regular season game with Alabama and avoided having to play A&M for the past two years.

The whining about the officials got old long before the targeting rule was changed and Georgia fans were some of the loudest in calling for an enhanced targeting rule. They just didn’t stop to think that it might also apply to UGA, a team that is consistently one of the most penalized teams in the SEC. Here’s a hint: It ain’t because the officials spend every night dreaming about throwing flags on Georgia. It’s because Georgia is a very undisciplined team on the football field. Truth is, they aren’t setting any shining examples of off-field discipline under Coach Richt either.

McDawg

November 13th, 2013
3:11 pm

Marshall blew on special teams as a freshmen -very soft– hit him hard

still can’t believe we lost to Vandy

McDawg

November 13th, 2013
3:13 pm

whose whining?

How To Win

November 13th, 2013
3:31 pm

Who’s whining?

Who isn’t?

Half of you whine about the lack of success of the football program and the other half whine about the ones who dare to complain. Then everyone joins together to whine that it’s all the fault of the crooked officials and the other SEC coaches cheating.

RiffRaff

November 13th, 2013
4:06 pm

Yeah “feel good” stories are just that, but Richt is paid 3 million+ to win football games. Good man no doubt but we will never get to the next level with this guy. Saban can be up by 40 points and still will raise hell with a player making a mistake. Good guys finish last…

NCDawg

November 13th, 2013
4:31 pm

Wow, why do I even read these blogs? The comments are sooo fricking predictable. There are the trolls that will take any opportunity to rip Ciach Richt… some of them don’t stick to critiquing coaching either. They have to wade into the pool of the totally asinine and imply or out right claim Mark Richt is a phony. Some will twist facts intentionally while others are just too damn stupid to comprehend the situation. But ALL of it is predictable because the same cast shows up.

My God people, do your lives suck sooo badly that THIS is all you can do?

Coach Richt lives his faith, follows his heart and not once have I ever seen him even suggest that anyone should follow his example. If you feel like he is too good to be true then you are a pitiful, cynical maggot that has no discernment at all.

Crawl back into the slimy little spaces that excreted you.

Jack Bull

November 13th, 2013
4:32 pm

It’s not really Mark Richt who has a hard time beating good teams, but more A Murray. Up until Murray, Richt was something like 19-2 against good teams before Murray..

But no worries, with Nick ‘Step Right Over A Player While He’s Down’ Saban going to Texas next year and Urban ‘Spend More Time With The Family When It Gets Tough’ Crier up in yankee land, it’ll be clear sailing from here on out!