The drills are finished at UGA, and Mark Richt’s starting over

"If this no-mats things works, next year we might wear orange jerseys." (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Mark Richt no longer preaches the virtues of the mat drill. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Athens – We can’t say Mark Richt refuses to change. We could for a while, but no longer. Last winter he fired three-quarters of his defensive staff, including his pal-from-college Willie Martinez. This time he reassigned strength coach Dave Van Halanger, who came with Richt from Florida State and who has been described as his best friend, and this yielded an even greater concession.

The Van Halanger mat drills? The offseason conditioning staple that yielded the famous slogan, “Finish the drill”?

They’re finished.

No more mat drills for the Georgia Bulldogs, Richt announced Thursday, meeting the media ahead of spring practice. “We were looking at the possibility of doing some mats after spring ball,” he said, “but right now I’m not interested in doing that.”

Under new strength coach Joe Tereshinski, there’s more weight-lifting — heavier weights and more reps — and an increased emphasis on nutrition. (”We’re doing a better job of making sure everybody’s eating all their meals,” Richt said.) Mat drills have been jettisoned, same as Martinez and Van Halanger.

This tells us something. There was a time when Richt would sooner have promenaded down Lumpkin Street wearing Gator-issue jean shorts than ditch those beloved drills, but he has determined they no longer served a purpose.

If anyone thinks Richt is too placid to restore Georgia football to eminence, there’s your answer. One losing season — his first since 1984, when he was a just-out-of-college just-cut-by-the-Dolphins volunteer coach helping his friend Pete Christie at Pope John Paul II High in Boca Raton — and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to win big again.

“The game humbles you every season,” Richt said, but surely it’s harder to stay humble, not to mention hungry, when you’re winning 10 games and finishing in the Top 10. The first seven seasons under Richt were so superb they made us believe he’d never produce anything less. But the Bulldogs were 8-5 in 2009, and in 2010 they were worse.

Two months after the New Year’s Eve loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, the whole thing still makes no sense. Georgia outscored opponents by 130 points over 13 games, outgained opponents by 734 yards and made 10 fewer turnovers … and lost more often than it won. It didn’t beat a team that finished with a winning record. With the exception of Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs lost to every opponent that stayed close enough to win.

Looking back, Richt said, “you see how close we were to winning. But some years you win 10 and you were so close to losing four. Every little thing can make a difference.”

There was a time when Georgia could get away with sloppiness, meaning penalties and turnovers, and win because of its talent. We began to see in 2008, when the Bulldogs entered the season ranked No. 1 but failed to win a game of consequence, how far quality control had slipped. What worked for Richt in 2002 was working less well, and it was unclear if he’d take corrective measures.

UGA in 2011: Whaddaya think?

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If Georgia fails to win big enough in 2011, it won’t be because the head ball coach sat on his hands. He has changed everything that needed changing, and he and his reconfigured staff went out and signed nearly every prospect worth signing. The assembling of the ballyhooed Dream Team has bought back some measure of credibility, and season-opening victories over Boise State and South Carolina would propel the Bulldogs into the Top 10, a place they haven’t been since Nov. 1, 2008.

“This year is kind of like do-or-die,” said cornerback Brandon Boykin, and it is. For nearly a decade Georgia folks had reason to believe their coach was as good as anybody’s, but the past few seasons have spawned all manner of doubt. Has the SEC gotten too tough for the nice-guy coach? With the national championships being taken by a different SEC school every season, have the Bulldogs — who haven’t won even a conference title since 2005 — been rendered an afterthought?

Georgia will have the chance to refute all criticisms soon enough, but its coach has already swatted aside one concern. Yes, Mark Richt is strong enough to change. He has found a new place for those mats — in the corner, collecting dust.

By Mark Bradley

441 comments Add your comment

Michael

March 4th, 2011
10:18 am

Michael

March 4th, 2011
10:18 am

wow…7 minutes later…you people are slacking.

nation

March 4th, 2011
10:19 am

devil dawg

March 4th, 2011
10:19 am

Wow, second.

devil dawg

March 4th, 2011
10:20 am

Athens Bob

March 4th, 2011
10:20 am

Enter your comments here
first

42-34 Dawgs STILL Run This State

March 4th, 2011
10:20 am

Looking forward to seeing much better results ON THE FIELD in 2011.

Athens Bob

March 4th, 2011
10:20 am

Mark Bradley

March 4th, 2011
10:21 am

Kudos, Michael.

KDawg

March 4th, 2011
10:22 am

Excuse my ignorance but what did these mat drills entail exactly?

devil dawg

March 4th, 2011
10:23 am

And I, for one, love Coach Richt. Don’t hear any tapes about how UGA is paying for some “mule’s” services. And certainly not signing sex offenders to his team, or oversigning and screwing some nice high school kids future up. Take a look at your own rotten coaches before you come after ours.

Michael

March 4th, 2011
10:24 am

Thanks…I was the first voter in the poll too. That has to be a record.

As for the article, I’m glad he’s trying to change things up. I just hope it works. I can’t take another crappy season from a program that should never, ever have seasons like the last 2 have been.

Buckeye

March 4th, 2011
10:26 am

And away we go…………….

Buckeye

March 4th, 2011
10:27 am

DawgnLex,

I’ll go first and simply say”

#1- #15.

Thanks, I felt like I just pushed the Easy button.

GaTruth

March 4th, 2011
10:28 am

As said yesterday – they better get some freakin’ mental INTENSITY. The Junkyard of old was fearsome. Red Jerseys flew to the ball and made pain. Get RABID!!!! Come on Dawgs!!!!

TopDawg

March 4th, 2011
10:29 am

To Bad he isn’t starting over somewhere else!!!! How did we not win the pitiful SEC East last year??? How in the world do we not win it this year??? Florida is way DOWN. Tennessee is way DOWN. We out recruit South Carolina by a country mile….YET WE LOSE!!!! Please say anything less than 9-3 this year means he is GONNNNNNEEEEEEEEE!!!! PRETTY Please!

DawginLex

March 4th, 2011
10:31 am

You da man buckeye.

I really need to work a deal with the AJC and the list should be a staple of every blog.

I accept cash.

bgdawg

March 4th, 2011
10:31 am

buckeye why are you on a dawg blog? why don’t you got to a blog of an sec team you can beat.

Mark Bradley

March 4th, 2011
10:32 am

They were agility drills done at high speed. Many players would upchuck before they could finish. Hence, “Finish The Drill.” (Which sounds a lot better than, “Don’t lose your groceries.”)

DawginLex

March 4th, 2011
10:32 am

DawginLex

March 3rd, 2011
4:27 pm
To the Trolls,

I have repeatedly posted a list of often used stereotypical crap that you idiots use daily on our blogs.

From now on to save time, just reference a number.

1. Fulmer Cup
2. Thuga
3. UGAG
4. Trailer parks
5. Jan Kemp
6. Jim Harrick
7. Tony Cole
8. No national titles since 1980
9. 6-7
10. 2-8 vs Florida
11. Goons
12. Jail
13. Drunk AD
14. Red panties
15. Ignorant rednecks

Just reference the list. It saves time and energy.

*******************************************************************

for the Trolls, to save time and energy

Beast from the East

March 4th, 2011
10:32 am

“There was a time when Richt would sooner have promenaded down Lumpkin Street wearing Gator-issue jean shorts than ditch those beloved drills, but he has determined they no longer served a purpose.”

Mark,
He may want to try the “jorts”. If ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Hutch

March 4th, 2011
10:33 am

Gonna be ugly with a 0-2 start

bgdawg

March 4th, 2011
10:33 am

naw top dawg- anything below 8 wins means he is definitely gone. 8 is 50/50 9 and above he stays.

Worm

March 4th, 2011
10:34 am

Mark, It’s hard to win conference championships when the National Champ is in YOUR conference.

Inspector G

March 4th, 2011
10:36 am

I once saw Matthew Stafford run over a kitty-cat on his scooter off of Clayton St. Matt quickly pulled over, ran over to the kitty-cat and just stood over it, gazed hard and the cat sprang to life! Dr. Nevins from the Vet School witnessed this and now refers to life-saving miracles as “Staffords”. As a reward for his kindness, Dr. Nevins took Matt out to dinner at Amicis, which was reportedly delicious and good times were had by all.

biggerthanbigdawg

March 4th, 2011
10:37 am

KDawg- Mat drills consisted of getting up very early in Feb-March and performing various conditioning drills on mats. Sorta like a P90X program for football players. I believe there was a lot of tumbling and cart wheels incorporated. I was told by an lineman once that the drills would help them “look cool” getting back up after they got knocked on their a$$ in a game.

pcidoc

March 4th, 2011
10:38 am

CMR will have the dawgs in the hunt again. I’d rather have CMR than any other coach.
Goooooo Dawgs!!!

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

March 4th, 2011
10:39 am

KDawg:

Go on youtube and type in “uga mat drills.”

Win with Richt! This man should be able to coach at UGA for as long as he wants! Go you hairy Dawgs!

FLA DAWG

March 4th, 2011
10:39 am

I don’t see a significant turnaround in 2011. My greatest concern would be for Richt to win just enough games to keep himself as Headcoach.

Florida and South Carolina are loaded – and that’s just in the East. Bama and LSU are stout in the West. That leaves us missing the dance again in 2011 my friends.

Goldenrod

March 4th, 2011
10:40 am

Tired of hearing about the UGaG leghumpers – Richt has a bunch of criminals in that cesspool known as Athens and signs thugs like Isiah Crowell. What’s the over/under tell he ends up in jail?

Coach Paul Johnson is the new sheriff in this state, let there be doubt who really runs this state!

DawginLex

March 4th, 2011
10:42 am

goldenrod

Just type in #3 and save time gomer

Zing

March 4th, 2011
10:43 am

I predict that UGA will have a good season next year, but we’ll know whether it will be good enough to save Richt’s job after the first 2 games. If UGA is 0-2, he’s gone. 1-1, and he’s still in there.

Incidentally, I saw that Cremins won the SoCon coach of the year award. Any Tech fans out there have fantasies that Hewitt will be fired and Tech will bring back Cremins for one last hurrah? MARK, what think you?

DawginLex

March 4th, 2011
10:44 am

Additions to the list:

16. Leghumpers
17. Mutts
18. Cesspool
19. Drunk coeds
20. Trash the campus

Remember trolls, just reference a number………..

Paul in RDU

March 4th, 2011
10:45 am

Mark – Nice column.
It does look as if Richt is trying to do what it takes to improve the team and program. However, if UGA has a good season, everyone will say it is because of the changes – if they have a bad season, people will say it is because of the changes. We heard the same thing last presason when Richt decided to not have any 2 a days.

dawgfan

March 4th, 2011
10:46 am

Great. Now, if only Bobo could think outside the box a little more with the offense. I swear, if I hear one solitary word about how Crowell needs to work on his blocking before he sees any PT I’m going to blow a damn gasket. If this guy is as good as advertised just give him the damn ball Bobo!!! The blocking will come when it comes. Good grief. I guarantee you we lost a whole year of Knowshon because of this stupid blocking nonsense. Sure, blocking is important. That’s what O-lineman, FBs, and TEs are for. Just give the ball to the playmakers and let them make plays. This isn’t rocket science Bobo.

Thanks.

biggerthanbigdawg

March 4th, 2011
10:46 am

FLA Dawg—U are right that South Crackalaky is loaded….u hear how loaded Garcia got b4 the Chick Fil-a bowl? Word on duh street is he got tow up from the flo up and had himself some nekid ladies in his cribtel room!

Poon

March 4th, 2011
10:46 am

Sorry, I hate to just point out one wrong thing in your article, but their has been a huge emphasis on more reps this year, not less.

bill

March 4th, 2011
10:46 am

Now it’s time for a new 4th Quarter tradition to replace the “Finish the Drill” 4 fingers salute. I’m afraid I always though of Ric Flair & the 4 Horseman when the fans stood up and held their fingers high…especially since we haven’t finished the drill in an important game since Alabama in 2007…

Bama Fan #2

March 4th, 2011
10:47 am

Knock, Knock who is taping on my door? Alabama who? Alabama who just stole
another recruit from the state of Georgia!! Just kidding dawg fans good luck to
Coach Richt this year!! RTR

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

March 4th, 2011
10:47 am

Thanks for the comedy Goldenrod!

cantondawg

March 4th, 2011
10:48 am

It’s amazing how short people’s memories are. The Mat drills brought us huge success in the 2000’s. We won 2 SEC and played in another and had final rankings of #2 and #3 in the final polls along with 6 top 10 seasons. However, times and things change and CMR has made the necessary changes.

CBB1

March 4th, 2011
10:48 am

Great article Mark. Glad to see some GA people besides myself are seeing Richt is trying to change and has shown it. I am sure it has been rough on him the last 2 seasons either firing or reassigning his best friends. But I have to say, if he doesn’t produce this season, he is gone.

DawginLex

March 4th, 2011
10:49 am

I notice all the complaints about our players not being strong enough.
Yet, at the combine, 3 of our players, Green, Houston and Boling had some of the best numbers in terms of weightlifting.

I think all of this has more to do with discipline than S&C.

Bill Clinton

March 4th, 2011
10:51 am

Mark, kudo’s to a very good read…….I don’t know that all these changes will suddenly make a huge difference this year but I hope so……I do feel like the changes are a step in the right direction……I just hope it’s not ” to little too late”……..Go Dawgs

cantondawg

March 4th, 2011
10:51 am

Mark,

I’ve never seen or heard anyone provide this scenario and it scares me as a dawg fan.

1)UGA struggles this year and fires CMR

2)Steve Spurrier decides to retire in 2011 or 2012

3)USC hire CMR as Head coach. With 11 seasons as UGA head coach CMR has built up alot of recruiting contacts and starts to dominate Ga in recruiting. I guarantee he would pull alot of the top recruits in GA

4) UGA alot worse off than before.

THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE SCENARIO. What do you think?

DOUBLE G

March 4th, 2011
10:52 am

Mat drills were great for conditioning, but the weight training was given short shrift. It’s leaning the other way now. Richt and Tereshinski see how we were pushed around up front.

We may have been in great shape, but we weren’t in great strong shape. We need BOTH strength and endurance. Let’s get strong.

GStateBen

March 4th, 2011
10:53 am

Top programs do not decrease conditioning. Lifting heavy with low reps is great if you are playing college football in 70s or 80s. S&C has changed so much that it will shock me if Georgia is any better prepared using old methods of football conditioning.

Mental conditioning is a part of that but it’s amazing how many steps behind UGA is when it comes to their football conditioning program. So many innovative drills and research have been done in the last several years.

Mark Bradley

March 4th, 2011
10:53 am

I have to admit, cantondawg, that scenario is one I’ve never pondered. Let me ponder for a bit.

biggerthanbigdawg

March 4th, 2011
10:53 am

Bama Fan # 2….you think I care? No hale I dont….you tell Terry…nevermind…Roll Dayum Tide!
Harvey A. UpDyke

Mark Bradley

March 4th, 2011
10:55 am

That’s correct. Richt said as much yesterday. I just got it wrong: Heavier weights and MORE reps.