Fan talk: Coaching changes, special teams, quarterback leadership, basketball Dawgs and more!

Secondary coach Scott Lakatos' departure appears to be of his own doing. (University of Georgia)

Secondary coach Scott Lakatos' departure appears to be of his own doing. (University of Georgia)

Let’s get straight to some Junkyard Mail. …

Terry D. writes: Bill, I couldn’t help but notice Scott Lakatos, who oversaw our miserable secondary, announced his departure from the UGA staff the very same day Greg McGarity was having his annual sit-down/evaluation with Mark Richt. I know Richt previously had said he didn’t anticipate any staff changes — continuity rules! — but the timing here is awfully curious. What do you think, coincidence, or did Greg put pressure on the head coach to make a change?

Coincidence, I think. Yes, the secondary was the most disappointing area of this year’s team and it’s true that Georgia’s defensive backs showed little progress over the course of 13 games, at least a portion of which could be laid pretty fairly at Lakatos’ feet. But McGarity made it clear this week in his interview with the AJC’s Chip Towers that he doesn’t get into the hiring and firing of assistant coaches, so I think it’s highly unlikely the athletic director played any role in Lakatos’ departure. Plus, there had been rumors for quite a while about some sort of issue that the secondary coach was dealing with, which would jibe with his announcement he was resigning for “personal” reasons. In an interview this week, one of Georgia’s defensive back recruits, Shattle Fenteng, told the AJC’s Michael Carvell that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Lakatos had “some family issues he needed to take care of.” Whatever the reason, it does give Richt a chance to put someone with a fresh point of view in charge of the struggling unit. Which leads to our next letter …

Bob writes: What do you think about replacing Lakatos? How about a guy like Ron Zook in a dual role as DB and special teams coach? … Though Zook’s tenure as a head coach might not be stellar, I think a guy of his experience and profile could be a big plus.

Secondary coach would be quite a comedown for a former head coach and defensive coordinator, but, last I heard, Zook was working for a bank in Florida, so I guess he might consider such a move if he wanted to get back into college football that badly. But I think he’d be a longshot. The names that almost immediately started circulating include former Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who is no longer the hot commodity he once was when he was considered a potential candidate for the defensive coordinator’s job ultimately filled by Grantham, and Duane Akina, who coached defensive backs for Texas and might be a more likely consideration. But considering Grantham’s pro ball background, some sort of NFL defensive assistant might be a more likely prospect. That’s where Grantham found inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. Along those lines, Shattle Fenteng told Michael Carvell that “Coach Grantham said he is going to try to hire someone within the next week. He’s waiting for some NFL guys to call him back. He said he wants to get a good coach so he can develop me to go to the NFL.” Another possibility to consider is that Richt might decide to go for a defensive backs coach who also has special teams coaching experience, allowing him to address another nagging and very serious problem with his team. Or he might use this staff opening to reshuffle some responsibilities among current assistants to focus more on special teams. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

Speaking of special teams play, Pete Talmadge writes: Remember, Richt’s background was FSU under Bowden, who, for years, refused to give a scholly to a kicker. Only after “wide left, wide right” did he do so. How many guys did we send back to field punts? I lost track, but [Richt] decided on [Reggie] Davis for the Gator Bowl, a young, fast but untested “hands” guy who wasn’t going anywhere in the mud in Jacksonville. Predictably, he fumbled once, but then they sent him back another time as well? Fortunately, he ran away from the punt the second time, which is about as good as we can do. When you see teams execute some tricky special teams plays, you shake your head and realize that UGA could NEVER do anything like this. We can’t even find a guy that can catch punts. Pitiful.

Greg McGarity said it's Mark Richt's job to fix defensive and special teams problems. (University of Georgia)

Greg McGarity said it's Mark Richt's job to fix defensive and special teams problems. (University of Georgia)

Pete, I do take a small measure of hope from another comment McGarity made in his AJC interview, when he addressed this season’s breakdowns in defense and special teams play. “Everyone knows where are shortcomings are. It’s pretty obvious to everyone. There’s no sugar-coating that. We do have a lot of deficiencies. Those are the things … that are going to be addressed. As head football coach, it’s [Richt's] job to address those and learn from those and move forward. … But right now our special teams are a deficiency; they need to be a plus. It’s a three-headed monster — offense, defense, special teams. Right now we’re not special. It’s up to Mark to fix it.” Let’s hope that point was made strongly with the head coach this week.

Joe Burger writes: Hey Bill, My question looks ahead to 2014. In addition to the pure playmaking and talent we lose with Aaron Murray, his leadership void is what concerns me most. Murray (arguably) singlehandedly won us several games with his toughness and will (UT, LSU). However, with him departed, who steps in to fill the void (be it coach or player)? With huge question marks about the defensive secondary, the O line play, special teams ineffectiveness, UGA really needs someone to step up and lead this team. Without a true leader for this upcoming season, I feel another season of 5 to 7 losses is what we are headed for (but I sure do hope I’m wrong!) …

Well, my first choice, naturally, would be Hutson Mason. It’s always a strength for a team when the quarterback is a team leader, and while Mason might be new to the starter’s job, he’ll be a five-year senior and he’s shown in the past that he’s not shy about stating his preferences and exhorting his teammates. The only thing that gives me pause with Mason was his hesitancy and trust issues with his line and receivers in the Gator Bowl, but that hopefully won’t carry over into the new season. The Mason who led Georgia to a comeback win over Tech would do a pretty good job of stepping into Murray’s shoes as a leader. Elsewhere, some of the other rising seniors, like center David Andrews on offense and defensive end Ray Drew and linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera on defense, seem likely to step up as team leaders. There’s no doubt Murray’s leadership will be missed, but I feel pretty good about that aspect of the 2014 team.

Roswell Dawg writes: Bill, Many folks in the Bulldawg nation, including me, are fed up with the mediocrity that our program has fallen into.  Very few are optimistic about next season since our leader thinks continuity after an 8-5 season is a good thing. It’s hard for us to overlook long-term problems like absolutely no attention to special teams, horrific secondary play, little if any in-game adjustments, lack of attention to recruiting and coaching offensive lineman, and lack of preparation, motivation, and discipline on and off the field. What do you think it’s going to take to turn this around? Many of us think it will take a change at the top, maybe all the way to the AD. Lakatos’ resignation gives some hope that we’ll go after the best DB coach in the country and perhaps also a special teams leader, but we’re not holding our breaths.

I’ll admit some of the nagging problems plaguing Richt’s program concern me, but keep in mind that the 2013 team had to overcome a horrendous rash of injuries to key playmakers. And the team, especially the offense, will be loaded again with superlative talent in 2014. Yes, I think special teams and secondary play need some drastic action, and I’m tired of spotty offensive line play, but I don’t think complaints about the overall level of recruiting and discipline are valid. You have to remember that most of the disciplinary problems that have cropped up for the Bulldogs have been for things that get passed over with a blind eye in many other programs. Calls for changes at the top are not warranted at this point, in my opinion.

Putting a more positive spin on things, Jim P. writes: All of the criticism is legitimate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a precursor to 2014. Let the Dawgs get healthy this offseason and see what happens. I’m sure a lot of coaches and players are staring in the mirror this offseason, with a strong will to improve. I just think we all need to chill out and not let our emotions get the best of us. We’re all feeling down right now. But we’re The Bulldog Nation! We will bounce back up!!

Thanks, Jim. We needed that.

Patrick writes: With Faton Bauta being a large running backup quarterback, do you see UGA bringing him in to run in short yardage situations, similar to a “Wildcat” formation? Also, do you think coach Mark Richt will go back to the backup having a guaranteed drive or 2 per game?

To answer your second question first, no. Aside from the David Greene-D.J. Shockley era, Richt has shown little indication to rotate his quarterbacks, preferring to stick with his starter. As for Bauta coming in for the occasional running play, we did see that briefly in the Gator Bowl and we’ll probably see it again, but it’s not something that Mike Bobo has had a lot of success with in the past. Actually, what might be fun would be to send in Bauta for what looks like a running play and then have him heave it downfield. Reportedly, he has a pretty strong arm and his passing game has improved tremendously, which is why he’s worked his way up the depth chart.

Mark Fox was understandably emotional after his team's win over Missouri. (Associated Press)

Mark Fox was understandably emotional after his team's win over Missouri. (Associated Press)

Jerry Phillips writes: Bill, I know you write mostly about football, but I’m wondering what your thoughts are about Mark Fox and the Bulldogs basketball team this season. The nonconference portion of the season was pretty underwhelming and I’m not real optimistic about how this no-star team will do in conference play. How about you?

I don’t get to attend many Georgia basketball games because of my work schedule, but my wife and I did make it to a couple of games at the Steg in December — both enjoyable wins over negligible opposition, one a last-second squeaker over Western Carolina. I didn’t leave overly impressed with Georgia’s talent level — or very optimistic about their prospects in the SEC this season and Fox’s chances of holding on to his job. Which is a shame, because I think that, in addition to being a nice guy, he’s a fine game coach and does well by his players. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to recruit much superior talent to Athens, and that’s a big problem. Of course, you never know how things will turn out. The roundball Dogs opened their conference schedule this week at Missouri, which had the nation’s longest home winning streak. I didn’t get to see the game, but my son watched online and called me with three seconds left to tell me that Georgia was about to knock off Mizzou, and that Fox was really emotional. No wonder; he’d just buried his basketball coach dad and his team had somehow won a shocker no one expected them to take. Whether the win over the Tigers turns out to be an outlier this season or shows what this team really is capable of remains to be seen. Offensively, the Dogs haven’t been that bad, though they lack a sparkplug like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Defensively they’ve been spotty. And the foul shooting has been pretty awful; that’s why the Missouri game went into overtime. Maybe the win over Mizzou will give them the confidence to step it up in league play. I think at best, though, Georgia looks to be a midlevel team this season. Whether that would be enough to save Fox’s job, I don’t know.

Go Dogs!

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

328 comments Add your comment

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 11th, 2014
11:44 am

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 11th, 2014
11:48 am

That’s what I got out of McGarity to Bill…. the new DB coach will likely come from the pros. No expecting a big name splash there due to Grantham being in the last year of his contract and it has not been extended, Any new DB coach could be in for a one year job.

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 11th, 2014
11:52 am

There has been no great defense in the SEC this year – even Bama gave up an average of 40 points a game in their past two games. There have been several reat “O”’s in the SEC this year and that will revert back to the norm in 2014 as Murray, McCarron, Shaw and many other QB’s are graduating. Bama even hired Lame Kitten as their next OC…. a desperation move?

Macclenny_dawg

January 11th, 2014
11:53 am

We can only hope that we could hire someone good to coach our defensive backs. Actually I prefer we fire Grantham and bring in Zook to coach the defense. Zook was a great recruiter and former nfl defensive coordinator. Wow the possibilities. We can dream can’t we. If that is the only coaching change I expect more of the same. Can’t blame injuries because they will happen again this year. Injuries is just part of the game.

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 11th, 2014
11:54 am

Three comments on here already and no TROLLS? Oh wait – four three two one let the TROLLS begin.

John Galt

January 11th, 2014
12:01 pm

Flo- Ri- Duh – that all you got?

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
12:08 pm

I’m sold on Chris Wilson….we finished 6 th in rush defense! That’s not much better than last year! As a matter of fact I’m not sold on anybody on the whole staff except bobo!

Moist Dawg

January 11th, 2014
12:12 pm

we should get michigan states dc narduzzi or mabey even wade phillips to come in to take lakatos job. my sources tell me narduzzi could some here and then if grantham cant get the job done narduzzi or phillips can take over.
as far as basketball goes we need to get the cheapskates that hold the checkbook to build a new basketball place. stegman is a dump and if we are gonna win national championships in hoops we need new facilitys that a national champ would have

2014?

January 11th, 2014
12:14 pm

Only an unemployed ball coach would take the B back coaching job at Georgia. He would also have to be a gambler. 2014 will be the end for all of the football staff, UNLESS they vastly improve, like 10-2.

Alumni and contributors have seen enough of the 7-5/8-5 stuff. No SEC CROWN in several years. UGA ought to win that once, every three, four, five years and go to the SEC more often.

UGA alumnus, class of 71 and 73

John Galt

January 11th, 2014
12:22 pm

2014? – Plenty of unemployed assistant coaches right now with all of the HC firings.
And, UGA went to the SEC CG two out of the last three years. But I do agree, no defensive improvements and heads are likely to roll on that side of the ball.

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
12:24 pm

Richt not having a punt returner ready for the season is just all part of the cutting edge 101! Haha!

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
12:27 pm

I can’t believe that guy wants Ron Zook! Well he did beat Richt 2 times so their ya go!

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
12:30 pm

Moist

So you really think the Michigan state DC would take a demotion to come here?? LMAO! You kool aiders have lost your minds!

dawgfan

January 11th, 2014
12:47 pm

It’s funny that when things were going well early in Richt’s tenure we hardly ever even talked about the assistants. Now we’re on year 8 without a championship and all anyone wants to talk about is the assistants.

Richt gets all the credit for the good but doesn’t take much blame for the bad. That’s what it certainly seems like to me.

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
12:48 pm

Watch shattle Fenteng switch too ole Miss! Sad but true!

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
12:56 pm

Richt is not going to take the blame for anything….remember what he said at the Macon td club…I know what the hell I’m doing! Richt’s stubbornness will ultimately do him in!

dawgfan

January 11th, 2014
1:05 pm

I forgot about that little outburst. I have no doubt that he knows what he’s doing. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s doing just enough work to keep his job and dupe these Kool Aiders into their endless optimism about “next year.”

Richt is no dummy folks.

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
1:14 pm

Dawg fan

I agree…..Richt will keep he kool aiders excited! If Richt told them UGA would win the mnc next season those kool aiders would throw a party! Wake up people Richt isn’t going to take us any where!

dawgfan

January 11th, 2014
1:20 pm

He would never say that. Gotta keep those expectations in check. You don’t want people expecting results and holding you accountable.

It’s gotten him far.

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
1:24 pm

Richt will go down as just another disappointing coach in UGA history. Richt is just a few bad seasons away from becoming ray goff! Truly sad because Richt had a promising career in the beginning of his era!

7576DAWG

January 11th, 2014
1:29 pm

I think that the reason our Secondary looked just as lost in our first game as our 13TH was because Lakatos has not been available to straighten out the issues he is having with his players. I think that Richt was too patient with Lakatos and we lost at least 4 games because nobody other than an assistant was Coaching the Secondary. I think that Richt gave him until the end of the season to have everything squared away and when they weren’t put pressure on Lakatos to do what he was hired to do or leave and he chose too leave.
It really doesn’t matter what Lakatos’s problem was because it isn’t any of our business but it is Georgia’s business when it loses us games and when other Coaches are doing all the Recruiting for the Secondary but too bad for Lakatos that he couldn’t get this resolved because he just threw away a great opportunity to be a major contributor to one of the best College programs in the nation. Trying not to sound insensitive but he is nearly 50 years old and coaches who make it to this level should have the maturity , incite and family support before they make the move. When personal issues come up in ones life that is serous enough that you can’t do you job you have got to have the maturity and mental strength to address them head on and get them resolved so things will not get worse and fester. I may be a little more sympathetic but with all the issues our Secondary had last year , 8 future NFL players playing out of position and looking loss at times, I think the issue have been going on for a long time and probably should have been addressed last year. There is a reason why position Coaches are only given one year contracts.

Da Stats

January 11th, 2014
1:42 pm

Bill, as you can tell the natives are restless. I enjoy you blog and read it often. I think you represent the great things about UGA fans but I’m also beginning to think you represent what’s wrong also by your statement “Calls for changes at the top are not warranted at this point, in my opinion.” UGA fans want different results but aren’t willing to look at the facts. Richt’s program in the last 5 years is no better than the previous coaches. As a matter of fact he has averaged more losses per season than the others. The info below shows UGA coaches, their records, and average losses over their last 5 years at UGA. Interesting to say the least.

Richt – 44-23 = 4.6 losses
Donnan – 40-19 = 3.8 losses
Goff – 36-21 = 4.2 losses
Dooley – 40 -17 = 3.4 losses

So if no changes are warranted, then UGA fans shouldn’t be upset when Richt delivers what’s been the trend over the last 5 years. Did UGA have extensive injuries the last 5 years?

Dog4Life

January 11th, 2014
1:48 pm

Bill, if you believe that you can lay the blame totally at Lakatos’s feet, then you have no clue how football works. As stated previously i played D 1 football. The DBs Wiggins etc were getting better with their athleticism. JHC and Matthews (auburn craziness was just youthful eagerness) were playing hard and getting better. The real issue lies with the DC–Grantham and his inability to get plays in at a reasonable amount of time. Grantham’s indecisiveness cost us 99% of the problems we have on D. I do not care how much one coaches, if the DC is a buffoon all else falters as well–stop looking for the singular scapegoat and realize that Grantham is the problem. he is going to look better next year because of the athleticism, but many of the confused issues will still be there. When he is confused so are the schemes and the players. If you wait too late to get the play in–then confusion sets in. Do you know how hard it is to recognize speech when yelled theough a mouth piece–in the huddle it is easy to hear–while watching the O run around and try to focus on your area–it is almost impossible to hear–trust me the huddle call is always better–but Grantham can’t make a decision until the O is already at the line and beginning the play–What a MORON!!

dawgfan

January 11th, 2014
1:50 pm

Wow that is pretty harsh 7576Dawg. Good thing that bum is gone. Now it’s time for Richt to make one of his usual brilliant hires on the defensive side of the ball.

His track record on that is impeccable.

7576DAWG

January 11th, 2014
1:50 pm

Bill this is in responses to what you said to Pete about Special Teams:
My problem with Richt on this issue is Georgia had the same Special Teams problems and results last year and when it was brought up Richt said he would monitor Special Teams himself. Well it is obvious he thought everybody else was delusional and it was not an issue. This year it actually lost us 4 games and I am one that doesn’t want another patronizing answer like we got last year from him. Why didn’t Richt learn from his problems LAST YEAR and address them then?

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
1:51 pm

Horrible coaches that have beaten Richt

Ron zook!

Dan Hawkins

Lane kiffin

Bo pelini

Paul Johnson

I’m afraid they will be many more losses to mediocre coaches!

Dog4Life

January 11th, 2014
1:52 pm

I don’t mean you’re clueless; however, i do mean that Lakotas leaving is not the panacea for the ills of our defense. I did not mean to be rude!

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
2:03 pm

I can’t believe Mcgarity hasn’t mentioned hiring a special teams coach! How in the world can we go into next season without one??????????

7576DAWG

January 11th, 2014
2:12 pm

I know somebody out there is close enough with the players to kind out what the problem on Defense is. I would love to know if it is the position Coaches, with the job being over their head or is it Grantham who just expects too much from 18 to 22 year old kids and does he actually need to simplify things. If I was Richt I would have a face to face with every Defense players and get their feedback. Georgia has WAY too much talent to look that bad on Defense throughout the entire season.

Bulldawg60

January 11th, 2014
2:18 pm

when Richt came to UGA he had Jim Donnans players and surrounded himself with good assistant coaches but since then he has only been mediocre. look at the talent on this team and all he has done is underachieved…

Bill King

January 11th, 2014
2:29 pm

Dog4Life:

If you go back and read what I wrote a little closer, you’ll see that I did not lay the blame for the secondary woes completely on Lakatos.

dawgfan

January 11th, 2014
2:33 pm

I think the SEC wasn’t as good 10 years ago as it is now and Richt benefitted from that. Is it any coincidence that we stopped winning SEC titles at the precise moment all these other SEC teams started playing for national titles? The writing was on the wall in 2003 when we lost to LSU twice. Richt can’t beat the top teams.

Never has and never will.

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
2:35 pm

Richt is the main problem….he does less when given an abundance of talent! We are just a mess of a program now….suspensions…..assistant coaches quitting….too strict on drugs offenses! Losing recruits to ole miss…..falling behind SC!

The Judge

January 11th, 2014
2:44 pm

We do not run our businesses, or our jobs on what we did in the day. Richt has not won the SEC in 8 seasons. Folks, what CEO keeps her job by telling the Board of Directors how great things were back in the day AND faced with a massive 8-5 downturn in sales and market share? They would be aware that just three prior years ago, things were awful then.

Richt cannot keep turning out 7-5 results. He is NOW in the same category as Goff and Donnan with NOTHING TO SHOW lately. The VERDICT governing or defining success is the SEC Championship once every 4 or 5 years, not every 8.

Gutrake

January 11th, 2014
2:44 pm

Same old thing…over…and…over…and…over…on…and…on…on…and on…

It’s like…mommie…mommie…mama…mama…mommie…mama…mama…momme…

kool-aiders…kool-aiders…mommie…mommie…mama…mama…kool-aider…kool-aider…

over…and over…day…after…day…

That’s “continuity” from the ones who claim to be fans of UGA. Guess you guys agree…”Continuity is a good thing…”

Gutrake

January 11th, 2014
2:46 pm

…over…and…over…losing recruits…losing recruits…losing…recruits…on…and…on…

Uga Grad89

January 11th, 2014
2:47 pm

I really think 2014 is the year to determine the future of the entire coaching staff for UGA. Either produce or be prepared for other opportunities.

Also, according to sources, the Lakatos situation is really a personal situation and has nothing to do with McGarity’s meeting with Richt. I personally wish Lakatos the best.

Gutrake

January 11th, 2014
2:48 pm

…knock it down…losing recruits…Richt’ tan…on and on…over and over…same ol’ doo-doo heads…same ol’ doo-doo heads…over…and…over…

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
2:48 pm

Gut sucks

No….but I do agree that you need help paddy! Go talk to a shrink dude! Get help!

Bulldawg35

January 11th, 2014
2:50 pm

Mcgarity can’t even get us real silver britches….so why should we expect anything out of him??

Dog4Life

January 11th, 2014
2:51 pm

My apologies Bill. I guess i did not understand your definition of “portion” It seemed as if you were laying a “good portion at his feet.” I just disagree. If the DC is confused everyone is confused.

Gutrake

January 11th, 2014
2:52 pm

…Richt’s tan…his religion…his composure…his Ford commercials…his religion…his judgement…his special teams…his religion…over and over…on and on…mommie…mommie…mama…mama…kool-aider…kool-aider…day after…day…day after day…losing recruits…losing recruits…special teams…special teams…his Ford commercials…Kool-Aid…losing recruits…Richt’s tan…

Gutrake

January 11th, 2014
2:53 pm

…no silver britches…mommie…mommie…mama…mama…no silver britches…

Uga Grad89

January 11th, 2014
2:53 pm

Gutrake:
The Mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Uga Grad89

January 11th, 2014
2:54 pm

Gutrake:
Just say NO to Drugs.

Uga Grad89

January 11th, 2014
2:54 pm

Gutrake:
Fat, Drunk & Stupid is no way to go through life.

BIG DAWG

January 11th, 2014
2:55 pm

I know right now. We are going to be National Champs next year. lol

Gutrake

January 11th, 2014
2:58 pm

Richt’s religion…his special teams…his Ford commercials…knock it down…knock it down…mommie…mommie…mommie…mommie…mama…mama…losing recruits…losing recruits…mama…mama…Richt’s tan…his tan…knock it down…losing recruits…

fish dawg

January 11th, 2014
3:00 pm

If he can’t win with 5 star then he can;t win with 3 star.

Gutrake

January 11th, 2014
3:00 pm

…offensive line…offensive line…special teams…special teams…losing recruits…losing recruits…mama…mama…mommie…mommie…over and over…continuity…continuity…on and on…