This is the week, Mark Richt said late Saturday night, to recruit in earnest. And it’s true that one of the teams that played in Sanford Stadium on Saturday needs a talent infusion, but it’s not Richt’s Bulldogs.
Georgia Tech has a clear idea of what it is but insufficient manpower to get it where it wants to go. Georgia has, and has long had, enough players — not that it couldn’t use more — but has come to lack direction. As these middling-by-definition teams head into December and then 2011, we address their respective needs. First, Georgia’s.
Step 1: Get stronger. It has long been suggested that Georgia’s conditioning program has gotten soft, and we saw striking evidence again Saturday night. Tech ruled the line of scrimmage. Dave Van Halanger, Georgia’s strength coach, had a hand in building SEC championship teams here — those were his offseason mat drills, transferred from Florida State, referenced in “Finish The Drill” — but the Bulldogs have come to look comparatively peaked. (And not just against Tech; Auburn scored touchdowns on six of its final seven possessions two weeks earlier.)
The issue: Van Halanger is Richt’s best friend. Willie Martinez might have been Richt’s college buddy, but it’s Van Halanger with whom Richt goes jogging. Richt waited long — too long — to sack Martinez as defensive coordinator, but finally he did it. He needs now to make an even more difficult personal decision and upgrade a position that has become substandard.
Step 2: Get edgier. An acronym born under Erk Russell is still written on the board before every Georgia game — GATA. (Loosely translated, “Get After Them Aggressively.”) The Bulldogs, however, have become slow burners. They didn’t take a lead against an SEC opponent until the season’s fourth conference game. They trailed Florida 21-7 in a game they might have won easily had they built a two-touchdown advantage. When they responded to Auburn’s opening touchdown with three of their own, the question asked itself: Why don’t do they do this more often?
As we say in hockey and figure skating, Georgia football has lost its edge. Some of this has to do with preparation, but not all. Which leads us to …
Step 3: Get an idea. Richt is a finesse coach. Georgia runs the ball as a counterpoint. Its staple running play over these 10 years has been the sprint draw, and a draw is by design a fake pass. There’s no reason for Richt to change what he believes and become Woody Hayes reincarnate, and that’s fine. Where Georgia errs is in seeking to be both finesse offense and power offense. Artificial concerns over “balance” need to be tossed in yonder trashcan.
When Georgia fans rage at Mike Bobo for “going conservative,” they have half a point. Running isn’t a bad conceptual idea, but Bobo/Richt seem to feature the run at moments when all running can do is slow Georgia. The top two teams in the BCS standings have gotten there by playing fast and attacking for four quarters. Time for the Bulldogs to join the fun.