Mark Richt on UGA football: “We’re a very strong program”

Mark Richt meets the media Tuesday. He was frugal with his smiles. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Mark Richt meets the media Tuesday. He was frugal with his smiles. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Athens — He looked and sounded tired. What smiles there were, and there weren’t many, were forced and fleeting. Mark Richt met the media Tuesday in a role all but unfamiliar to him — as coach of a team under severe scrutiny.

Georgia has never before been 3-3 under Richt. Georgia has never lost more than four games under Richt. Never has Richt heard his athletics director say, as Damon Evans did Monday, that he has “some concerns” about the football team.

Someone asked about Evans’ statement. Said Richt, correcting the question’s use of the word “program”: “I think he said he had concerns about the ’season.’ I have concerns about the season. But we’re a very strong program. When you finish No. 10 in the coaches’ poll last year and No. 2 the year before and when you’re in the Top 10 six out of seven years … that’s not bad.”

That’s more than not bad — it’s exceptional. But it’s also yesterday’s news, as Richt conceded. “That’s the past. I understand that. But this season is not over. It is just not over.”

It isn’t. And anyone who would dismiss a Richt team needs to note what happened when the 2006 Bulldogs underwent a similar dip. They’d lost four of five, including games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. They’d fallen to 6-4 after starting 5-0. There were questions about the quarterback (true freshman Matthew Stafford) and about the defensive coordinator (Willie Martinez, then as now). And Georgia’s next date was at No. 5 Auburn.

The night before the game, Richt looked at his game plan — he was then the play caller — and declared it the worst he’d ever concocted. But he went with it because he couldn’t think of anything better. Georgia won 37-15. Then it beat Georgia Tech, which had won the ACC Coastal Division. Then it beat Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Said Richt, speaking of 2006: “It’s hard to measure a team’s ability to withstand pressure. A lot of teams and a lot of coaching staffs would have folded, but we never did. We didn’t make wholesale changes. We stayed the course. We kept grinding. You never know how close you are to success.

“I was pretty proud of that team — what we went through and how we finished. I might have been as proud of that team as any team I’ve been around.”

Richt isn’t going to quit on a season. He’s too skilled and too stubborn. The greater issue is whether Richt’s staff is as skilled as the head coach, and Richt himself seemed to suggest that personnel changes are “maybe what needs to be done” on Monday’s radio show.

But nothing significant, at least coaching-wise, is going to happen now. Richt isn’t going to go back to calling plays, and Tommy Tuberville isn’t going to show up in Nashville on Saturday and coordinate the D.

That said, Richt did hint that backup quarterback Logan Gray will be given a longer look against Vanderbilt: “I wouldn’t say that’s out of the question.” And Joe Cox? “I would say he’s still our starting quarterback.”

Being a .500 team halfway through the season is new for Georgia under Richt. “It’s tough on everyone,” he said. Then this: “We’re battling as hard as you can possibly battle to get things turned around.”

And that’s really the only way up: Keep pushing and hope something good happens soon. Without a hint of warning, it happened at Auburn in November 2006, and come January 2008 the Bulldogs were No. 2 in the land.

We learned three years ago not to write off this coach or his program. We’re about to see if Mark Richt is still the same coach, and if his is still the same strong program.

532 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly Deluxe

October 13th, 2009
2:20 pm

What else is he going to say really?

Mark Bradley

October 13th, 2009
2:22 pm

He could have said, “Playoffs? We’re talkin’ playoffs?”

Exactly...

October 13th, 2009
2:25 pm

…the program is strong, it is just misguided and way undercoached at this particular point, and unless big changes occur, it may well fall to UK, Vandy, Wake Forest and Clemson status!

Reggie Ball

October 13th, 2009
2:25 pm

He is correct...

October 13th, 2009
2:27 pm

…the program is strong, but as the GT coach said after the Miami loss, “good teams don’t lose 2 in a row”, and UGA was completely embarrassed in that second loss. So, we may be a “strong program” but UGA is a weak team right now!

Slick

October 13th, 2009
2:27 pm

Any time a coach breaks out the resume, I see that as a bad sign.

MightyQuinn

October 13th, 2009
2:28 pm

He would go a long way to quiet the barking masses by at least appearing to care more than he does on the sidelines. Not to mention winning a few more games.

WilliamG

October 13th, 2009
2:29 pm

It’s hard to know – after all coaches aren’t half as good as people say they are on when the team is on a roll and aren’t half as bad as they seem during hard times like this.

I do think it’s apparent that we’re weak at quarterback – not horrible, just weak.

Our defense is the problem, of course, but that’s like saying that it gets hot in the summer. Everyone knows that, Richt included.

I think – whether he wants to or not – he has to make a move when it comes to the defense. Loyalty, friendship, whatever … ever if he believes in his heart that it’s the wrong move, I think he’ll be under increasing pressure to make some coaching personnel changes there.

I also wish – but think it’ll happen – that he would make a change at quarterback. This isn’t going to be a season that we’ll treasure. And Joe Cox truly did earn a chance. It’s also sad that, if he’s replaced this year, that his loyalty to the program won’t be rewarded. But – cold hearted as it sounds – we need to develop a quarterback for next year, when – presumably – we will have a competitive team. It just doesn’t make sense to do anything else. Since this year is shot, why not get experience at that position rather than start the new season with an unseasoned quarterback.

GO BIG ORANGE

October 13th, 2009
2:29 pm

Given the Dawgs performance against the Vols the last four years, I’m content if Richt keeps the same staff…but then I am not a Dawg.

Bryan G.

October 13th, 2009
2:30 pm

Mark,

You raise great points. UGA had big turnarounds in 2006 and 2007. The only difference is that those turnaround weren’t THAT ludicrous. This is NOT the UGA team that was 5-0 going into the UT game in 2006 (and had shut two teams out mind you).

UGA in 2007 had a stud running back and QB who were just starting to hit their stride that day in Jacksonville.

This team has not shown the kind of defense the 2006 team showed nor the type of offense the 2007 team had shown before those teams took off for the better. Other than a couple of good kick returns and AJ Green, there is little clicking on the 2009 squad.

7-5 is probably par. 6-6 wouldn’t be a shock.

DOGFAN

October 13th, 2009
2:30 pm

Hopefully we will see some positives throughout the end of the season and have something to hope for next season. Lets go DOGS!!!! and as always THWT!

navydawg

October 13th, 2009
2:31 pm

I think CMR is the best coach for the job! With that said, I’m waiting to see how the remainder of the season turns out. I do expect slick Willie to be gone at the end of the season! I love my dawgs, and regardless of how the rest of the season turns out, I’ll still be cheering them on…even if they play in a crappy bowl, I still have faith in our coach! GO DAWGS!!!!!!

Ted Striker

October 13th, 2009
2:31 pm

I may be the only UGA supporter not overly concerned about the direction and leadership of UGA football. UGA will be fine. UGA will be strong. UGA will improve.

Odd how so many UGA “fans” are crying for blood when they’ve never even given sweat in the arena of college football competition.

Charlie Ward

October 13th, 2009
2:33 pm

Like Coach Bowden said….

Mark might be too nice to be a head coach.

Mark Bradley

October 13th, 2009
2:33 pm

I would say the biggest difference between 2006 and 2009 seems, at least today, this: Matthew Stafford was already playing back then. And you figured he’d be good before he left.

Burdell

October 13th, 2009
2:34 pm

Careful Ted Striker….you’re beginning to sound a little bit like Joe Cox.

Christopher Walken

October 13th, 2009
2:34 pm

This remains a strong program that is experiencing a temporary hiccup, not an elongated trend leading to permanent mediocraty. With a few tweaks in the leadership (coordinaters, not the general) this program will return as strong as ever.

Burdell

October 13th, 2009
2:35 pm

But I agree with what you’re saying. Georgia is a STRONG program. You all will be fine…just a rough stretch of the road that needs to navigated.

Dear AJC

October 13th, 2009
2:36 pm

FALCONS MARK FALCONS

RDM

October 13th, 2009
2:36 pm

This is a bad team this year, no doubt. But you cannot base the strength of the entire program on 6 games. I would like to see more questions about the specifics of this team. Such as, why can’t the heralded O-line open any holes? What’s up with the D-line play? If you can improve the lines on both sides of the ball, a lot of the problems would take care of themselves. It all starts up front and both lines are getting beat down in every game!

Slick

October 13th, 2009
2:38 pm

Ted Striker, I’ve read your comments around here for years and normally think you have interesting things to say. But I just don’t understand your recent comments. How can you not be concerned when all recent numbers and trends (even in victory) point to a team headed the wrong direction?

And your last statement I guess is above my head. We have no right to criticize? Are you and Joe Cox related?

Tim

October 13th, 2009
2:38 pm

That team 3 years ago was also playing with a true freshman stud QB. The QBs now have been in this system for awhile and either them or the guys around them are not playing well.

The Lone Trumpeter

October 13th, 2009
2:41 pm

Great Article Mark. I couldnt agree more that this stretch of games will define the direction of UGA football. A 4-2 or 5-1 finish would be huge and result in a decent bowl game, while anything less would be a disaster. This team needs a spark though, and i don’t think Cox is the answer anymore. The fans need to get behind this team and it will be a tough sell with him at the qb. Most dawgs have already writen off the season so it is very important to get the young guys on the field. 6-6 with an experienced qb for next year is not that bad; 7-5 with another rebuilding year ahead is.

Firemarkricht.net

October 13th, 2009
2:41 pm

I hope he hires an OC and a DC that will bring power football back to UGA. Don’t know if Richt seriously considers the power game, however. This may ultimately prove to be his undoing, if my crystal ball is crystal clear.

GSU Eagle 91

October 13th, 2009
2:42 pm

At Georgia Southern, we are experiencing the same type of season. 3-3, no defense, can’t run the ball at all. All the things Erk Russell emphasized, and that worked, aren’t being done anymore. Coach Hatcher and Coach Richt have a lot in common right now….

SOUTHGADAWG88

October 13th, 2009
2:42 pm

We need more O linemen

Dawg Fud

October 13th, 2009
2:42 pm

we are only half-way through the season but Richt is projecting the demeanor that he is tired and ready for it to be over.

i think that concerns folks.

ARE you kidding me?

October 13th, 2009
2:43 pm

Sounds like too many people listened to talk radio today. Seems that some have no opinion of their own , so they just regurgitate the talk radio points. We all can support a winning team, but it takes real fans to support their team when times are tough. WE’re with you coach. Time to GATA this weekend!!!!!

Dawg Fud

October 13th, 2009
2:44 pm

hope for wins against Vandy, Tenn Tech and KY

pray for at least a close game against Florida and GT

probably will lose to Auburn

that makes us 6-6

Grandad

October 13th, 2009
2:44 pm

Mark Richt: competitor
Joe Cox: competitor
Willie Martinez: bless his heart

Supes

October 13th, 2009
2:45 pm

Mark,

There is nothing this UGA team has shown that will make a rational fan believe that we’ve got a “very strong program”. We have top 10 talent, and subpar coaching on both sides of the ball. This doesn’t equal very strong, it equals mediocre. That’s where UGA is headed. We would have been headed there years ago, if not for Stafford, Moreno, MoMass and a few others who overcame “coaching”, esp. Willie Martinez’s poor defensive coordinator coaching. How many games did UGA had to scratch out and win on Stafford’s arm or Moreno’s ability? All the close games UGA won. Well Stafford and Moreno are gone now, and look at where UGA is at…Mediocrity.

Mr. Crassley

October 13th, 2009
2:46 pm

I hate to be so crass (GIT grads, that means blunt), but with a $3 million contract comes commensurate (…that means equal) expectations. Forget that some make $4 million and others make $2 million. Regardless of which million you make, you are going to be scrutinized (….looked at) when things are not going well (…and losing to GIT once every 8 years is not good). I believe this is another growth opportunity for Coach Richt as he further develops as a head coach. Changes appear warranted (…needed), but CMR is MY coach.

Scottyfloze

October 13th, 2009
2:47 pm

I liken this situation to Miami’s last year. Miami had to let go of Nix to get Wipple and look at what they are doing now.

robodawg

October 13th, 2009
2:47 pm

Sad to say, MB’s preseason assessment was right. With the amount of talent we have, it’s got to fall on the coaches. But I do believe in CMR. I think he can take control of this team, raise the level of play, and get us to the offseason where we can make the necessary changes.

The past couple weeks, I was hopeful the defense had turned the corner. But the way UT moved the ball on us with such a vanilla passing offense was just embarassing. Something is wrong with the coaching when Crompton has a career day against your defense. I really hate to say it but it’s become undeniable. Our defense plays on its heels, plays tentatively. It’s not the old tenacious, swarm to the ball Georgia D. Why can’t we challenge pass plays and force incompletions when the ball is in the air?!

Special teams is simple … fix the kickoff coverage! Big returns haunt us in every game. Figure out what the top 50 teams in the country do and copy them!

Offensively it’s a little more complicated. The playcalling is predictable at times, and worse, predictable with those plays whose success is built on catching the defense off guard (like the 3rd-and-9 screen pass). But sometimes the playcalling is fine. Many times a rushing play is a good call, but you just can’t go through a season averaging 2 yards per carry.

Our deeper problem seems to be not the playcalling itself but the whole offensive design. The Georgia offense is built on running the ball and then passing out of running formations. When we can’t move the ball with our power running game, we’ve got major problems. The whole offense shuts down. (See the last 11 quarters.) I don’t know what the answer is … maybe switch to a shotgun short passing game and get our rushing yards out of passing formations? Maybe something less drastic. But Bobo is running the offense based on the offensive blueprint. Since for whatever reason we can’t implement that blueprint (coaching? OL? RBs?), CMR is going to have to get involved and find a design fix so that we don’t end up with a losing season.

Cox is a good leader with a good head most of the time. If we put him where he can see the field and know where the safeties are, he can be more efficient. But if we keep doing the same old thing with our busted, ineffective running game that puts him in 3rd and long on every series, we’re setting him up for failure.

D.W.

October 13th, 2009
2:53 pm

The UGA Coaches are not strong including Mark Richt. That’s not to say he is not a good coach, but he needs to find some strong folks to be around him or he’ll be gone soon. Willie Martinez needs to go. Mike Bobo needs to go. The O Line coach needs to go. Damon Evans needs to let Mark Richt know that needs some discipline from his players when they step between the lines on the football field or he’ll be gone. Watching players do ill advised things and just shrugging your shoulders is not the answer. That is not changing the results or most penalized or snatching a game from a team just to give it back. Somebody needs to kick some a__. And before I go, can we get a new UGA. I have not seen this new one bark this season, maybe not even last season.

BAND FROM AJC & AFMB

October 13th, 2009
2:55 pm

Hey Bradley? What did you ever find out about us getting band form the Flacons boards?

YoungDawg

October 13th, 2009
2:56 pm

We lose to Vandy then the window for “waiting” to make moves is over & CMR will need to do something if not fire coaches then demote or reassign some of them. Glad to hear he’s willing to make changes because unless they run the table from here out I don’t see how he can avoid not doing it. I know it’ll hurt BAD to fire or demote his best friend &\or protégé (Bobo) but they all know it’ll be a bottom line business decision. Best case scenario is CWM finds a new gig somewhere to me the best hope for that in the NFL as a DB coach.

RDM

October 13th, 2009
2:59 pm

I’ll say it again. If you correct the problems on the O-line and the D-line and get those guys playing like they are capable of, most of the other issues will take care of themselves, ie running game, pass defense… The line play this year is the biggest issue. I was at the LSU game and they completely blew GA off the ball all game long!

Todd

October 13th, 2009
3:00 pm

bottom line, I guarantee you MR either said or it was obvious that Joe Cox will be our guy in 09, period.

well, guess what the offense piled up 49yds at half at LSU and DID NOT GET IN THE REDZONE AT TENN.
That’s ubelievable! So MR, stick with your boy Coxy and then it will default to Logan G., knowing all along that Murray is the guy.
MR thinks this is the correct strategy, blow a whole season on these 2 guys, Coxy and Grey. This is a guy who redshirted K. Moreno.
It’s his gig, I hope he doesn’t put himself in such a hole, incl. next yr. when Murray hadn’t played a down going in to Carolina. Dude might end up quiting and running a non-profit or coaching at Mars Hill.

Everybody Take a Breath

October 13th, 2009
3:01 pm

(as Cuz likes to say). Preseason expectations of most Dawg fans was that this team would go 8-4, or with a little luck, 9-3. A 6-6 year is NOT night and day away from those expectations. It happens sometimes. And I think that’s the worst we can look for this year. At best, maybe 8-4 still. Not too shabby. I think CMR will make some coaching changes after the year, unless we win out or unless both sides of the ball are improved dramatically. So let’s not abandon ship right yet. No program goes without having some bad years. Just be thankful that a “bad” year is 6-6 or 7-5.

unbiased volfan

October 13th, 2009
3:02 pm

sure it is. That’s why he’ll feel taking over at Fla St. Damon Evans already on horn w/ Gruden.

clean break- everyone’s happy

MIke

October 13th, 2009
3:03 pm

Sounds like a Phil Fulmer press conference in 2005.

RedandBlack

October 13th, 2009
3:04 pm

There really is a heap and a bunch of great talent on this 2009 Georgia Bulldog team. The coaching of that same talent really has not been evident for the last two years. Players are suppposed to grow and learn strategy and technique to win on and off the field. With the previous years problems off the field along with all the penalties and inconsistent play on the field, the current coaching staff as it is configured now is inadequate to continue. There is too much talent on this team to be 3-3. This is a travesty.

Seriously, I am not a college football coach, but even I saw the inability for Joe Cox to move the offense consistently downfield in the G-Day game last Spring. Logan Gray was the most effective QB that day followed by Murray. The future is now. Play Gray, and get Murray in there too, this year. Joe Cox, bless his heart, has had his opportunity. The Bulldogs have to move on to prepare for 2010 now.

birddawg92

October 13th, 2009
3:05 pm

What is getting missed here is that all the mistakes, blowouts, missed tackles, off-and-on-field discipline issues, poor game planning and play-calling, all of it has emerged and worsened in the post BVG era.

Now this is not a “bring back BVG” post. He’s an NFL DC now; short of major-FBS program HC job, he won’t be back in college. The point is, whatever BVG brought to the staff, it is sorely missed now. I submit it was more than just just defensive Xs and Os.

The fact that Mark Richt has not recognized this in the FIVE YEARS since the BVG departure should tell anyone who knows squat about football, or leadership in general, all they need: top-notch individual that he is, Mark Richt is not a next-level, BCS-championship guy. Does anyone seriously think we’re ever going toe-to-toe with Saban and Meyer? CMR has played Saban twice and easily could’ve lost both. Meyer (and for that matter Zook) has dominated us at UF.

The Admin and AD at UGA need to extract craniums from respective posteriors and start thinking transition PRONTO. Else, Kiffin will make good on his recruiting “threats,” with the rest of the SEC following suit to capitalize on recruits in Georgia. If we linger with Mark Richt, we’re headed for Goff/Donnan purgatory again. I submit that the place to start with said transition is in Tuscaloosa—Kirby Smart is a Dawg and has worked for one of the best coaches in CFB for practically a decade now.

Adams/Evans, draw up the contract. Have it ready for Smart on Dec. 1.

http://www.saturdayinathens.com

SimpleDawg

October 13th, 2009
3:06 pm

I have a problem with a defense – defensive coach and players – who continually are duped by the same type of play action over and over, again and again. Tennysee ran the naked bootleg away from the play action no less than 20 times in that game, and were successful every single time.

No one had back side containment, or no one maintained back side containment….even rec league players are coached that, if you are the contain man, you pursue the play from across the line of scrimmage. You chase the play on the opponent’s side of the line of scrimmage.

On the bootleg play down near the goal line, both Prince Miller and Reshad Jones – who were the last 2 UGA players on the back side – pursued the play action from UGA’s side of the line of scrimmage. No one ever crossed the line of scrimmage on the back side. The defensive end on that side immediately crashed down to the inside following the play action to the right….no one ever came across the line of scrimmage.

I’m not sure if we are a dumb team or a poorly coached team. We certainly aren’t a team void of athletic ability.

I see a 5 win season very vividly….more to the point, I see 7 losses.

Something’s rotten in Athens….and I think it’s us.

GO BIG ORANGE

October 13th, 2009
3:07 pm

@ Mike

Not a Fulmer press conference. I don’t think Richt said “Daggnabit, no one’s going to work as hard as we are…” even once. LOL

DawgHouse

October 13th, 2009
3:09 pm

We will finish no worse than 6-6 which isn’t too shabby with Martinez as DC. Now if he is back again next year we will win at least 4 games! Bring him BACK Richt and it likely will be your retirement season.

McDawg

October 13th, 2009
3:10 pm

strong program that just needs an indoor facility and a scheme that allows for effective kickoff coverage

barneyb

October 13th, 2009
3:10 pm

Ok, step in the right directoin, albeit way overdue. The first sign to fixing a problem is admitting you have one (and Richt did that today). Now do the right thing and make changes NOW- don’t wait until next year to begin experimenting. This season is shot, so make personnel changes (players & coaches alike) NOW. these individuals have blown it, and don’t deseerve to remain incumbents in their positions any longer.

Big XII

October 13th, 2009
3:11 pm

Why is everyone so distraught? Georgia is not as good as you think they are, or hoped they are.