Fan talk: Biggest concerns for 2014, defensive coaching changes, new wrinkles and more! (Updated)

Marshall Morgan was Georgia's most reliable special teams performer. (USA Today)

Marshall Morgan was Georgia's most reliable special teams performer. (USA Today)

Let’s get straight to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

KennyDawg writes: Bill, I enjoy your balance of devout fandom and evenhanded criticism when it comes to our beloved Dawgs. Coming off this past season, I’m naturally disappointed with the record and who we lost to, but I’m mindful that few teams could have done better suffering the string of injuries we had, and I’m proud of the big wins that the team came up with (South Carolina, LSU, Florida, Tech!). Looking ahead, I’m of course concerned with the need for rapid improvement on the part of our secondary but hopeful that Jeremy Pruitt will turn that around. So the D is not my biggest worry. I’m concerned about whether (Mark) Richt will finally get serious about fixing our stinking special teams!!! Marshall Morgan did great last season and the punting was OK (when they weren’t blocked). Our kickoff coverage was mostly solid, except when it wasn’t, but I’m like Kevin Butler in that I can’t believe we can’t find a guy at UGA who can consistently put the ball in the end zone for a touchback, which makes any coverage issues moot. And when it comes to receiving punts, not only are we too worried about the fake to bother setting up a return, but the guys we’ve put back there to field the ball don’t seem to know what they’re doing. If anything about our special teams points to the lack of proper coaching, it’s right there. So that’s my big worry, Bill, that on special teams we’ll continue to turn the ball over and give the other guys easy points while forsaking the chance to make a big play ourselves. How about you?

Kenny, I think you did a fine job of summing up the disaster that has been special teams at Georgia over the past couple of seasons. And, yes, that’s probably my biggest concern looking ahead at the 2014 season. But I have a few lesser concerns, too. I worry about the personnel turnover on what was already an inconsistent offensive line, and whether they’ll allow too much pressure on relatively untested quarterback Hutson Mason in those crucial early-season games. And while, like you, I’m hopeful that Pruitt will be able to turn things around with the Dogs’ defensive backs, that will still be a concern until we see some on-field progress. The rest of the defense was pretty good last year; I’m just hopeful the coaching changes won’t disrupt that. On the other hand, to balance things out, I generally feel really good about Mike Bobo’s offense, barring another bout with the injury bug, especially the running backs and receivers. Even if Mason starts out shaky, I think Todd Gurley, Michael Bennett and company will raise him up.

UGA's latest hire is Kevin Sherrer. (University of Georgia)

UGA's latest hire is Kevin Sherrer. (University of Georgia)

Ed Teller writes: Bill, I’m curious about the apparent shift in Mark Richt’s philosophy shown by his two defensive hires so far in Jeremy Pruitt and Kevin Sherrer, both of whom are not that far removed from coaching Alabama high school ball. That’s quite a switch from our previous reliance on former NFL assistants, don’t you think?

It is, Ed, but I can see the logic. One of the knocks on Todd Grantham was that he appeared to not know how to develop kids arriving out of high school because he was used to dealing with veteran professionals. That NFL mindset also showed in his reluctance to rotate players as frequently as some other college coaches do, which not only resulted in defenders tiring out, but a lot of inexperience on the depth chart. Hiring coaches who understand high school players seems to have worked pretty well for Nick Saban, so I’d say it’s worth a try.

Phil writes with a question several others also asked: Have you heard any buzz about candidates for the coaching vacancies?

Not a lot of reliable buzz so far, Phil. Pruitt’s first order of business was to hit the recruiting trail. Plus, there was a lot of speculation that Georgia waited to see what Florida State would do after his departure and whether he might be able to bring some key defensive staffers with him. That appears to have been settled this week when FSU promoted linebackers coach Charles Kelly to defensive coordinator, replacing Pruitt, and promoted defensive line coach Sal Sunseri to associate head coach. One name that has surfaced is former Auburn player and coach Tracy Rocker, most recently the DL coach for the Tennessee Titans. When Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph asked Rocker this week if there was anything to rumors of him joining Georgia’s staff, Rocker replied, “Not yet.” Actually, though, there’s not a big rush here to fill out the defensive staff, despite the impending signing day, thanks to Pruitt’s prowess as a recruiter.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Georgia has hired Tracy Rocker, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and an Atlanta native, as its defensive line coach, according to multiple reports. Rocker told Macon.com that he had accepted the job and said, “I’ll be down there early next week.” Fox Sports first reported the hire.

Jenny Bowen writes: Bill, love the Blawg! While we try to stay warm waiting for signing day, my friends and I have been talking about what new wrinkle we’d like to see in the 2014 Dawgs. Mine is more blitzing. I’d like to see a defense that blitzes, or threatens to blitz, just about every play. I think that might be an especially good tactic for disrupting those read-option spreads like All-barn runs! Bill, what surprise would you like to see?

How about using Faton Bauta as more than just a running QB? (University of Georgia)

How about using Faton Bauta as more than just a running QB? (University of Georgia)

I’d also like to see more blitzing, Jenny, but my suggested new wrinkle would be on offense. Bobo has been working some elements of the spread into his offense over the past three seasons and I’d like to see more of that. Along those lines, I’d like to see Bobo come up with more creative ways to use backup quarterback Faton Bauta than simply inserting him to run a predictable wildcat-type QB keeper like he briefly tried in the bowl game. That’s like holding up a sign saying, “Hey, we’re inserting our RUNNING quarterback on this play!” From all reports, Bauta has a really strong arm and I’d love to see him inserted for what is expected to be a run and instead chunk the seed deep downfield to a wide-open receiver. There’s nothing like confounding expectations!

Aaron in Arizona writes: Bill, I think you are dead wrong about changing the schedule due to possible suspensions!!!!!! By doing that, one would actually be encouraging bad behavior on the part of the players because they know they can screw up and most likely not hurt the team by missing “lesser competitive” games. The schedule should not change cause of stupid personal decisions. That’s like the tail wagging the dog. But what about these players that do drugs? There are suspensions but is there some type of rehab/counseling they go through? We “regular” folks would usually lose our job and have jail time if caught with drugs!!! Seems these players don’t pay the same price, whichever school being attended.  Doesn’t seem the NCAA cares too much about this either. Anyway, GOOO DAWGS!!

Good thing exclamation points don’t cost anything, Aaron. I frankly doubt that opening with a cupcake is going to encourage players to go out and get suspended. And, to me, it deals with reality: As long as Georgia has tougher disciplinary policies and punishments than other schools, the Dawgs are likely to enter each season with at least a couple of players sitting out. Better for that to be against the likes of Troy than against a team like Clemson. As for how UGA deals with players who’ve broken the anti-drug policy, after Justin Scott-Wesley’s suspension was announced, Richt said, “We will discipline him according to our policy. We will also educate him, provide him counsel so he can learn from this, and be able to move forward in a very positive direction.” So I’d say the Georgia staff isn’t just punishing those who break the rules, they’re trying to educate them on the issues involved as well.

I’ll answer more Junkyard Mail next week, so let me know what is on your mind concerning UGA athletics or if you have a question you want me to tackle. Just email me at junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

Go Dogs!

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

285 comments Add your comment

Macclenny_dawg

January 25th, 2014
11:10 am

Bill,
I totally agree we start each year behind the 8 ball due to our strict policy. Not only does this hurt the 1st few games it hurts all off season. Practicing most of the off season with suspended players and sum players not getting as many reps. Then usually after the 1st couple of games we have injured players and it puts more players on the field with less reps. As for special teams there is too much conservative play like instead of making a play we worry we will make a bad play. But that has been the biggest problem of the Richt era.

old dog

January 25th, 2014
11:24 am

It is a good thing kids did not have the same restrictions back in the day when I was at UGA. Coach Dooley would have had to go the the YMCA for volunteers to field a team. The legal age was eighteen, so drinking was not a problem. Now, a kid gets publically chastised like he is the scum of the earth for “drinking in public” when the law probably should be eighteen still. There were keg parties after every game, and folks survived. Ask on old letterman about seagraves, the party Sinkwich threw every year for the team. Now, he would go to prison if he threw that party.
And yeah, folks, weed was around then too, though not tested for (another good thing.) I’m just saying that kids are suspended and pigeon-holed now for behaviour that was acceptable (well, maybe “accepted” is a better term) not long ago.

CHDawg

January 25th, 2014
11:34 am

Every starting defender back except 56, and a lot of new talent inbound. A great new coordinator coming in…I am not worried about the D. It will likely be very competitive. The offense has a lot of work to do. The two games for Hutson are either going to give him what he needs for next year, or be a catalyst for change; if he can’t get it together quickly and we start losing, I expect them to make a change. Special teams have to get better, as does the turnover margin. The SEC is a tough town. O line, QB, STs, rehab success are the keys. On the suspensions, maybe UGA would be more successful if they were lenient, but maybe UGA players are better men in the long run for being held accountable?

Bulldawg35

January 25th, 2014
11:43 am

I think we should find somebody that can kick the ball out of the end zone. That’s where the trouble begins if we let the opposition field the ball. Yeah we need to blitze more! Disrupt those silly spread option teams! I’m sick of them!

Bulldawg35

January 25th, 2014
12:03 pm

We just hired Tracy rocker! Baby!

old dog

January 25th, 2014
12:14 pm

We also should put SOMEBODY back that can catch a punt!

Skint

January 25th, 2014
12:17 pm

OL and special teams. Very mediocre because of talent and coaching. Too many walk-ons on special teams, and no dominant players on the OL. It begins and ends at the top.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 25th, 2014
1:06 pm

“That NFL mindset also showed in his reluctance to rotate players as frequently as some other college coaches do, which not only resulted in defenders tiring out, but a lot of inexperience on the depth chart. ”

hmm I seem to remember bringing this issue up and how he should have been fired after he went looking for another job the 2nd year in a row

the kool-aiders were quick to defend their guy though calling me a non fan and troll

I really thought it was funny how their guy trashed the program after leaving for a pay raise

7576DAWG

January 25th, 2014
1:12 pm

Our Defense will look so much better in 2014 . I was afraid that we may not find someone as good as Wilson but Rocker won the Outland and Lombardi Trophy in 1988 and has Coached in the NFL for the last three years. I hope the Offense can keep up . Can’t wait to see what changes Lilly and Richt has plans for our Special Teams.

MacDog

January 25th, 2014
1:22 pm

Why does the running back line up a step back in shotgun formation for running plays, and a step ahead on passing plays? The Falcons do the same thing.

Bulldawg35

January 25th, 2014
1:49 pm

I’m more worried about the offense after these hires. Mason and a revamped o line has me worried!

Bulldawg35

January 25th, 2014
1:50 pm

The basketball team will get whipped today I’m afraid so.

7576DAWG

January 25th, 2014
2:04 pm

Bulldawg35
Surely , Richt is aware of our Offensive Line inconsistencies last year and that some changes are needed.

Bulldawg35

January 25th, 2014
2:19 pm

7576dawg….i

What changes will be made though?? Will friend will be back with the same ole scheme.

Bulldawg35

January 25th, 2014
2:20 pm

Already down 23-10! I just turned the game….I love UGA but I’m not much of a basketball fan….don’t have the emotions for it after such an emotional football season! It’s better for my heart not to watch UGA basketball! Lol!

HotDawg

January 25th, 2014
2:32 pm

No need to panic fellow Dawgs…..it’s only January.
Can you let them at least get to Spring practice without all the negativity.

HotDawg

January 25th, 2014
2:36 pm

I’ve forgotten who our redshirt linemen are. Hopefully they’ll be ready to hunker down.

HotDawg

January 25th, 2014
2:44 pm

Dawgs hired tracy rocker as D-Line coach…..should be good hire.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 25th, 2014
2:58 pm

7576DAWG

I dont think Richt is too concerned about the O-line and that has shown for years

Just read his philosophy

“I’ve coached offensive football a long time,” Richt said last week. “I don’t want to make anybody mad at Florida State, but we didn’t have dominating offensive lines, but we had some great skill people that were able to make some great plays. If you have a bunch of linemen that know what to do, and can stay coordinated and get their hat on the right guy, and fight like mad, you can neutralize a defender for long enough for a great skill guy to get on by, or get the ball off, whatever it might be.

“I mean I’d rather have five guys that are in sync, that are a little above average, than three of them that are superstars and two guys that can’t play. You’re not gonna get it done. Because all it takes is one guy to blow it, and you’ve got a negative-yardage play. It can be very frustrating.”

dawgfan

January 25th, 2014
3:16 pm

You know what also hurts us in early season games? Not practicing.

Richt skipped 6 last preseason.

fishook dawg

January 25th, 2014
4:13 pm

Bill, Is there any way you think that Georgia could hire Wes Durham to become the voice for Georgia football? To me, Scott Howard was fine backing up Munson, but being seeming lost now as the main man Let Scott have he basketball broadcast, but get Wes to do the football games. I miss Munson, but I know he will never be replaced in the lore of Georgia football.

7576DAWG

January 25th, 2014
5:22 pm

Flat Tire
We can only hope that McGarity had a heart to heart with Richt during their sit down. I think Grantham was told he would not get a contract extension after 2014 which has turned out great for us.
Did anyone tell Richt that his philosophy on the Offense showed up on the field. Will Friend sealed the deal with Pruitt so I just hope Richt and Friend can see things need to change on the Offensive Line.
The one thing I am counting on is Brandon Kublanow to show the rest of the Line how it is done. We have a potential All American with him. He is a mean dude

tell me again

January 25th, 2014
6:44 pm

You have to like this hire with Rocker – the line on him is that he gets the D line to play with intensity.

HotDawg

January 25th, 2014
8:20 pm

Final hire will be another linebacker coach.
Don’t expect a specific, special teams coach. And don’t flip out over that either.
That is not the cause of the problems with special teams. Pruitt and other coaches will help rectify the problem. Wait and Watch.
Then there should be no more nonsense about not having a singular special teams coach.

4Dawgs

January 25th, 2014
8:54 pm

Hiring Rocker is big. Great coach and recruiter, but even better, Auburn fans hate it because they know he is better than Garner.

DawgVoiceofReason

January 25th, 2014
9:51 pm

fishook,

Wes Durham is a fine announcer for the Falcons and a fine announcer for Tech. There is NO WAY he is going to be our announcer. Scott Howard does a good job. He is not trying to be and will never be Larry Munson.

DawgVoiceofReason

January 25th, 2014
9:52 pm

make that “was a fine announcer for Tech.”

DawgVoiceofReason

January 25th, 2014
9:58 pm

Punt returns and kick returns have been horrible. What is most disappointing is the poor way we have approached punt returns. When Damian Gary was back there years ago, he was a tremendous weapon and made every return exciting. Now, we either plan to fair catch the ball before it is even snapped or we make the play exciting for all the wrong reasons! We can not afford to just give up on such a big part of field position, but yet we have for several years.

Kick coverage has been adequate but as was pointed out, would be better if kickoffs were going out of the endzone. Marshal Morgan was outstanding as a field goal kicker this year and is a real weapon.

dawgfan

January 25th, 2014
10:30 pm

All this talk about special teams. Special teams tend to be pretty technical and detailed. I’m sure it takes alot of time and training to get it all fine tunes and nailed down.

It would probably help if our head coach didn’t skip practices.

mgdawg

January 26th, 2014
7:25 am

I think the best way to stop the read option, or option of any kind, is to hit the qb every time he fakes like he has the ball. Sooner or later if you keep doing this the fake isn’t going to be as good because the qb will get tired of being hit. The problem is dumb refs like the one when UGA played Nebraska who throws a flag for you hitting a qb who is acting like he has the ball. Furthermore on the point about bad refs and bad calls, has there been any news about targeting and changes?

gsuga

January 26th, 2014
9:04 am

We just have a punt “Catch” team.

Joey

January 26th, 2014
9:31 am

“We just have a punt “Catch” team.”
*********************************
Not always . . .

Hairy Dawg

January 26th, 2014
10:46 am

Here another reason Oline be better in 2014. Arron Murray was good QB with escapability and quick feet. He was good at dancing in and out a pockets like a Barnikov. But that make it harder for OL to blocking. They dont know what direction Murray goning do his scrambling. And that leads to Kentarious Gates trying blocking by flopping round on ground like fish shooting out a barrels. Well Huttson aint got that problem. He not make it so hard on OL that they does the flopping blocks of Swinging Gates. With Hutson all they got do is defend one side to forms a pockets. That much easier. And besides replacing ones that do the flopping blocks like Kentariois Gates that why OL be better in new year.

BigDawg

January 26th, 2014
11:16 am

“Hotdawg” In all due respect; Yes it is the end of January but that is what has been said every year for the last 13 years- Coach Richt still hasn’t fixed Special Teams play which has been a disaster for 13 years and counting and has cost UGA a game or 2 almost every year and made other games closer than they should have been i.e. North Texas. He continues to ignore another Crucial component in winning Championships the offensive line both in recruiting by bringing in 5 to 7 per year, letting the “Best OL” from Georgia go to Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee and other schools by either NOT Recruiting them at all, half heartily or at the last minute and/or playing favorites such as Gates over Beard. In all honesty it has been that way every year since he has been at Georgia as he and his coaching staff seem to not watch how players are performing in the games and making adjustments on the fly and/or watching film afterwards to see how each lineman grades out. It has also shown in his hiring of offensive line coaches by not getting the “BEST”. Anyways we will see if his piece meal approach will have an effect this coming season.

Go Dawgs

Bulldawg35

January 26th, 2014
1:27 pm

I’m loving this staff…if Richt cant win a championship with this staff then he will retire without a championship! Thanks!

GHWB

January 26th, 2014
3:11 pm

If Richt keeps hiring coaches from the state of Alabama, than maybe they’ll teach him how to recruit the best talent from the state of Georgia?

DawginColorado

January 26th, 2014
4:23 pm

Okay, lets start with the kicking out of the end zone thing. Folks, it isn’t leg strength that is the issue. It is a philosophical issue over high and deep, forcing a return and long and low and the opponent getting the ball at the 25. That is all there is to it. Marshall Morgan has a big leg and could easily kick the ball through the end zone if he kicked the ball lower.

DawginColorado

January 26th, 2014
4:28 pm

BigDawg – you are having memory issues sir. The special teams were a strength for the first 7 or 8 years of the Richt era.. We rarely if ever lost games because of special teams up until the past 5 years. Fabris was let go because the STs slipped in that final year of the Wille era. Up until then he had been point man for the STs.

The Sts strating to reallu suck when Grantham was brought onboard. Make of that what you will.

DawgVoiceofReason

January 26th, 2014
4:28 pm

mgdawg,

Agreed. We got jobbed on that call in the Nebraska game. When you think about it, it is kind of amazing how many personal fouls (and now targeting) have been called against us (UGA), while our players have their eyes gouged and our QBs are assaulted, with nary a peep from a referee’s whistle. In fact, it’s hard to explain. Some say it’s related to Penn Wagers or the 2007 Florida game unsportsmanlike conduct play. And, I know some sad-sackers on here will find a way to blame it on Coach Richt. Maybe it’s just bad luck.

DawgVoiceofReason

January 26th, 2014
4:32 pm

DawginColorado,

You are correct. Special teams were originally mainly a strength for us and only recently, at least partially, become a big liability. BigDawg is letting his emotions get the best of him, as many of the sad-sackers are want to do here.

DawginColorado

January 26th, 2014
4:33 pm

The hiring of coaches from Alabama thing is pretty simple. Who has the best coaching tree at the moment? Coach Saban is all about the “process” and when you can get a disciple of a great coach then you do. Tracy Rocker was a great D-lineman and a solid coach. The instant respect a guy like that brings is huge. The players will listen because he has been there and done that. If he’d been from Georgia or Florida it wouldn’t have mattered. The fact he is a native Georgian is a big plus.

Flo-Ri-Duh

January 26th, 2014
4:46 pm

‘mon car talk

GHWB

January 26th, 2014
5:01 pm

McGarity should write a letter to the SEC asking them to refrain from calling penalties against Georgia in exchange for their self-imposed scholarship limitations.

Snoop Dawg

January 26th, 2014
5:02 pm

Everybody already working themselves up thinking about next year. Unfortunately, Richt is still the head coach, and Bobo is still the OC. That means that hope is not a method, and that we can expect another year next year just like the previous years we have suffered through while Richt became one of the richest men in the state of Georgia.
I’m sure he really likes all the blind faith the Bulldog Nation continues to bestow on him…
When they flop again next year, just look at yourself in the mirror…

Snoop Dawg

January 26th, 2014
5:04 pm

…and another clarification…
The UGA team gets more than its share of penalties because the SEC referees have in effect blackballed Richt based on the Florida game a few years back…
You may not believe it, but it’s true… It isn’t just Wagers…

DawginColorado

January 26th, 2014
5:06 pm

DawgVoiceofReason – I try to call them on it whenever possible. All it requires for something false to be assumed as fact is for small changes to the facts to be allowed. I think they call it revisionist history. And unfortunately there is a bunch of it on these blogs.

Snoop Dawg

January 26th, 2014
5:07 pm

Hairy Dawg, you’re a hoot!

Three senior OL seniors graduated this year, and you think that the O Line will be better next year? OL recruiting has been atrocious for several years now… Your logic is not working out…

You are hallucinating if you think the OL will be better next year…

Hairy Dawg

January 26th, 2014
5:09 pm

Rocker a good hire excepts for him playing for that sorry Awful Burn War Tigersmen. But so long he smash mouths of Awful Burn OL as coach then he fine with me. Now we just got get his scheme goning in spring practice and Dawgs be ready to dominants next season. It good news to hear dawgs stacking up best coaching on D under Coach Richt. Better D last year and we win BCS.

Go Dawgs!

GHWB

January 26th, 2014
5:10 pm

The UGA team gets more than its share of penalties because they commit more than their share of fouls. It’s merely one of the many symptoms of the overall lack of discipline that Mark Richt coached teams tend to display on the field.

dawgfan

January 26th, 2014
5:32 pm

Oh, now the special teams are Grantham’s fault?

Love the Kool Aid blame game. They’ll blame the janitors before they blame Richt.