UGA notebook: Special teams ‘getting a bad rap,’ Richt says

ATHENS – Some high-profile mishaps — missed extra points, botched punt returns — have obscured generally good play by Georgia’s special-teams units, coach Mark Richt insisted Tuesday.

“I think the special teams as a whole are getting a bad rap,” Richt said.

Richt said he is pleased that Georgia special-teamers have blocked two punts, stopped an opponent’s fake punt attempt, allowed opponents only 18 punt-return yards in the past four games, provided “excellent” kickoff coverage and made four of five field-goal attempts, including two from 50-plus yards.

He also said “kickoff return has actually been pretty solid” with the exception of the one on which Todd Gurley stepped out of bounds at UGA’s 1-yard line against Tennessee. Gurley and Malcolm Mitchell “have big-play potential as kickoff return men,” said Richt, who mentioned Gurley’s 100-yard return in the season opener.

All of that said, Richt acknowledged the problems with PATs and punt returns.

Freshman Marshall Morgan has missed three extra-point attempts despite his success on field goals, and Georgia failed to get another PAT off because of a bad snap.

“I know our extra points have been an adventure,” Richt said. “No doubt we have to get better at that.”

Asked if senior walk-on Jamie Lindley might get an opportunity to kick extra points, Richt said: “He gets reps there [in practice], but if Lindley had been ‘Mr. Automatic,’ he probably would have gotten an opportunity [in a game] by now. In practice he just hasn’t been ‘Mr. Automatic’ either, so I think we are better off right now sticking with Marshall and allowing him to get used to doing it.”

Richt’s dissatisfaction with punt returns — specifically with decisions on whether to field the ball or let it roll — led to a mid-game switch from Mitchell to former walk-on Rhett McGowan against Tennessee. Richt said McGowan will remain the primary punt returner Saturday at South Carolina but added that Mitchell must stay ready.

“I do know that we’ve not fielded the punts very well,” Richt said. “We’ve had some mistakes there. That’s part of the reason why we’re allowing Rhett to go ahead and do that.

“If a guy gets benched from being a return man, that’s not fun for him,” Richt added, referring to Mitchell. “These kids understand what’s going on. The other thing is, they have to be ready. Malcolm, he may return two for touchdowns this game; it just depends on how things go in the ballgame. You just never know when your opportunity will come again.”

On balance, Richt said, the special-teams units have been a big part of Georgia’s 5-0 start.

“There are a few things that stick out that make you feel like everything in the special teams is going wrong. But it’s not,” he said. “We have six different units; the majority of the units, I think, have done pretty well.”

Mitchell ‘primarily’ offense

After focusing on defense through spring practice, preseason camp and the season’s first four weeks, cornerback-wide receiver Mitchell’s priority clearly has turned to offense.

“He’s primarily an offensive player [now],” Richt said, “and he’s in a state of readiness on defense.”

Mitchell did not play any defensive snaps last week against Tennessee.

Etc.

To prepare the team for the noise at South Carolina, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo instructed quarterback Aaron Murray to whisper at practice, Murray said. … Saturday’s game will mark the first time in Georgia-South Carolina series history that the teams meet with both ranked in the nation’s top 10. … South Carolina’s nine-game winning streak, dating to last season, matches the longest in program history (set in 1984). … Eight of the past 11 Georgia-South Carolina games have been decided by seven or fewer points.

– Tim Tucker

74 comments Add your comment

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2012
11:07 am

As a coach in that situation, you would know Morgan has made 9/10 PATS so far this year. It depends on what do you think the % success of a 2 point conversion would be? I wouldn’t think that would be a very complicated decision for you and your staff.

UGA Insider

October 3rd, 2012
11:28 am

I knew ST would be an issue and it is. The punt return team is terrible. We don’t spend nearly enough time practicing it.

Mitchell’s botched punt and Gurleys kickoff muff were turning points in the game. Without those 2 mistakes the game would have been a blow-out. CMR got lucky last week.

This week Spurrier will use ST again against us. He knows we don’t have a dedicated coach and he knows we don’t practice situations ST.

I am nervous.

UGA Insider

October 3rd, 2012
11:30 am

Also, why can’t we find one person at UGA who can kick the ball in the endzone on a kickoff? Go to the soccer fields and find someone! USCe has some dangerous kick return guys.

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2012
11:55 am

I-Dog, I guess I shouldn’t have just put it out “the record” without some explaination, But obviously I wasn’t saying that it proved how great of a PAT kicker he is. That he is creating PAT scored for himself. Or maybe it did sound that way.

Your caviat to that, is the point I was making. He is on the receiving end OF a bunch of attempts. I cannot imagine there have been many freshmen in the game ever put out there 30 times in thier first 5 games, (and been perfect). He’s obviousyl far from perfect, But I do think the perception is amplified by sheer numbers. He is way more than halfway to what the average kicker attempts all year, and missing a few, stretched out over a year, is really not that abnormal.. My bet is that it even out in the end.

The second reason that I point out the record is just the pure points scored. Morgan is 27/30. Florida kicker is 14/14. Is this really our big concern? I hear the point made by others “this can cost us a game”. Well, if we put up 6 touchdowns and loss by one, It’s for damn sure there were plenty bigger problems than a missed PAT on that day.

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2012
12:06 pm

Obviously we were attempting to kick it high and get under it. (you know like other teams have done to us all the time too) Morgan has kicked it deep into the endzone plenty, so yea, we found a guy already.

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2012
12:09 pm

If I were you insider, I would predict a close game AND a big Georgia win, just to be safe again this week.

MaconKnight

October 3rd, 2012
12:18 pm

I would to see Swain back there fielding punts, Rhett will do a good job either way, we just someone to not take so many risk as MM was doing…. Hate the loss of MB DGD.. somebody else has to step up wooten has to stop dropping balls i would like to see Brown or Conley in the slot. maybe MM can focus on being a great wideout instead trying to be Champ Bailey.. that bobbled toss would have been a disater ending up being a 17 yard loss i just think the kid has to take the next step and realize this isnt high school. He needs to refocus and start making the kind of plays that he’s expected to make. With thta being said he still has my support as well as all of the other guys GO DAWGS!!!

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2012
12:23 pm

It took TN 12 plays to drive it 50 yrds and score after the first muff (and punt) . Not sure a person can really say , it “gave” them a TD. Any more than the defense gave them a TD there.

And I think the FUMBLE was a much bigger turning point, than the muffed KO in that series, since the offense had already moved the ball out safely with a first down.

TN is the team that got Lucky. Richt’s team won the game outright.

Bulldog Nation

October 3rd, 2012
1:00 pm

GTBob – The enormity and scope of problems with the football program at Georgia Tech warrants your fulltime analysis and assistance. Please critique and help them as they desperately need it. We are satisfied with our program at the current time and can live without your valuable input. Thanks.

kingdaddy

October 3rd, 2012
1:35 pm

beanster
Sorry it took so long to get back to you. Nope, not directed at you. Your post are great. I don’t agree with everything CMR does but he is doing better this year. We actually have a balanced TEAM. Can we improve on some things? Yeap. I think CMR wants to win this year, so I will support him all I can. I also trust your judgement as a DGD. Nothing wrong with construtive criticism, but some morons just want to tear this team down and start all over with new coaches. They are idiots. We are 5-0 & ranked #5 in the country. Not bad if you ask me. As far as a grain of salt, well …

UGA Insider

October 3rd, 2012
1:55 pm

I’m surprised UGA fans are being so cordial this week to the Tech fans. That would really bother me if I was a Jacket. You know your program is in the gutter when your rivals don’t worry or think about you. Just look at all the Bama and USCe fans that post on UGA blogs.

UGA Insider

October 3rd, 2012
2:04 pm

Altamaha Dawg,

I was correct again last week. I had the Dawgs winning by 7 I think. Told everyone to take Tennessee if you were a gambler. I was afraid the team was looking ahead to USCe and I was right.

This team is very close to being a national title contender. I think we looked past Tenn last week as we did Buffalo. However, do you guys remember how we played the week after Buffalo? This week will be the same.

UGA – 42
USCe -20

I can’t wait to hear what Holtz says after the game. He thinks UGA should no even be in the top 10.

LoyalDog

October 3rd, 2012
2:30 pm

Good to whisper and not have loud loud crowd noise which over time will diminish ones ability to hear. Protect the ears and hearing by whispering. We did the same when I was in school in the 70’s and we thought that we had a smart coach. Some of the other neanderthals who were our opponents had loud noise and I always thought that approach was stupid. We trained our ears to block out the noise and to listen discreetly to a particulr voice. Protect the ears. Well researched by the coaches.

GTBob

October 3rd, 2012
3:03 pm

You know your program is in the gutter when your rivals don’t worry or think about you.

Has UGA ever worried about us? How is this week different? UGA should beat Tech 19 out of 20 times. That is never going to change.

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2012
3:03 pm

Think again

UGA – 35
TENN-21

Does that ring a bell?

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2012
3:05 pm

Of cource you said this was a loss a few weeks back, so by that standard……..being off by 20 points is spot on.

GTBob

October 3rd, 2012
3:05 pm

Please critique and help them as they desperately need it.

I have critiqued GT plenty. Most people know the core issues with the program and they are going to get worse before they get better. Its more fun to critique UGA because their fans actually care.

beanster

October 3rd, 2012
4:15 pm

kingdaddy – Just read your reply. Sorry for the grain of salt comment. Drinking and posting don’t mix. I know better.

And yes GTBob. I was drinking on a Tuesday night. Social interaction is part of being a well balanced human being. I went downtown and saw a friend’s band at the Caledonia Lounge here in the best college town in the good ol’ USA, Athens, GA. God’s Country.

kingdaddy

October 3rd, 2012
5:09 pm

Yeah beanster, we are both on the same page and to my knowledge, there’s no law against PWI…(posting while drunk)…

JFKDawg

October 3rd, 2012
5:37 pm

Not hard to cover a kick off when you boot it out of bounds.

JFKDawg

October 3rd, 2012
5:46 pm

And I don’t think the answer is just a coach. Remember when we had Skeletor as our ST coach and they were still horrendous. If VA Tech continues to suck, we can take theirs.

mcdaviddawg

October 3rd, 2012
8:13 pm

Richt has always consiered the special teams a bother. Why becausse most teams leave the special teams to the head coach and Richt doesn’t intend to do anything that takes him outside his officie.

Truth

October 5th, 2012
11:34 pm

Sammy, look who y’all have played. In 32 career starts, Aarron Blurry has never beat a team ranked in the top 20.

Truth

October 5th, 2012
11:38 pm

An unranked team should have hung 50 on you last week. Stay out of the kool-aid.