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

rramo

October 2nd, 2012
9:10 pm

BDawg

October 2nd, 2012
9:11 pm

Kick off coverage has been very good thus far. Keep it up DAWGS!

Rick Ross

October 2nd, 2012
9:13 pm

Dawgs win 35-32 and go on and win the sec champ

Max Sizemore

October 2nd, 2012
9:18 pm

Georgia’s not blocking those two defensive ends without some serious help.

JRW7

October 2nd, 2012
9:19 pm

kingdaddy

October 2nd, 2012
9:19 pm

Only missed 1 FG. What do we do to get him to hit the PATs??? Draw 3 penalties???

dawgs2004

October 2nd, 2012
9:20 pm

I,m seeing much better kick coverage than in years past. The PAT’s are concerning but Morgan will be fine. He can kick some long FG’s and just a freshman. My opinion after 5 games (it’s been 5 games already) is special teams much better than before. GO DAWGS!!

JRW7

October 2nd, 2012
9:20 pm

sorry about that, finger slipped on my I pad, should have been, GO DAWGS!!!!

Just Saying

October 2nd, 2012
9:21 pm

I think this team is great and love the lack of “hot dogging” and taunting. Gurley and Marshall are very mature and when they score they act like there is nothing new about being in the end zone. I hope they continue being humble and realize they make big plays because of God given talents, lots of hard work and because other unsung players made big blocks. Go Dawgs!!!

Just Saying

October 2nd, 2012
9:21 pm

I think this team is great and love the lack of “hot dogging” and taunting. Gurley and Marshall are very mature and when they score they act like there is nothing new about being in the end zone. I hope they continue being humble and realize they make big plays because of God given talents, lots of hard work and because other unsung players made big blocks. Go Dawgs!!!

kingdaddy

October 2nd, 2012
9:28 pm

Tackling is much better on Special Teams…

Lou "the toe" Groza

October 2nd, 2012
9:41 pm

PAT’s should be automatic – not drama or an adventure. Morgan and Lindley are not the only kickers on the team, but only ones looked at during camp. Take a look at the rest of the stable. A great team is a team utilizing the best skills of each individual, not a bunch of individuals running around the grass trying to run up statistics. Good luck Dawgs ! – play like a team this weekend.

TY

October 2nd, 2012
9:48 pm

They will get it done.

AltamahaDawg

October 2nd, 2012
9:57 pm

At the risk of pulling an “insider” (except in this case it’s not a flip flop) can I point out that there are posters that have been saying this, almost verbatim, for a couple of weeks now?

Abnerish

October 2nd, 2012
11:01 pm

I’m guessing that our 40+ ppg streak will come to an end this week. This is the game where we almost annually forget where the end zone is. I just hope the Defense shows up this week, especially after getting man-handled by Tennessee’s OL last week! They have something to prove this week.

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
11:11 pm

1- UGA’s field goal kicker ranks #3 in the nation in field goals made from 50 yards or more. Only 2 guys in the nation have kicked mroe than 2 50 yard+ field goals.
2- UGA’s field goal kicker ranks #1 in the SEC in longest made field goal, tied with Bama
3- UGA has made 4 out of 5 field goals, including 2 of 50+ yards.
4- UGA ranks #2 in SEC in kicking points and #27 in nation
5- UGA ranks #1 in the nation in % of 50+ yard field goals made

Net punt return defense UGA is allowing 7.29 yards per punt return
Alabama’s is 7.0,

Georgia’s kick return yardage (19.74) allowed defense is better than Alabama’s (19.81). Orgeon’s is 20+. Florida, Ohio St, are all allowing more than UGA.

UGA ranks #7 in the nation in number of kicking touchbacks at 17.

UGA has allowed 0 td’s on punt or kick return.

UGA is tied for #2 in the nation in kick return td’s.

UGA needs to improve yards per punt & kick return, but that’s about it.

GB's Hamburgers

October 2nd, 2012
11:23 pm

Lou Groza got it right. Would it take a high school coach 5 games to figure out who he has that can kick extra points? Like the unfixed problem of special teams over the years, this will end up costing us a game or two.

Hank Hill

October 2nd, 2012
11:24 pm

I want to see three visor throws before halftime.

Go Dawgs!

beanster

October 2nd, 2012
11:24 pm

Bad rap or not, I cannot for the life of me understand how our punt/kick returners have so much indecision when it comes to fielding the ball. Why are there not hard and fast rules that are ingrained in their heads about what to do in certain/specific situations? It should not be as difficult as we make it look. And it doesn’t take a special teams coach to instill said hard and fast rules.

And why is McGowan the answer? Granted, the coaches see he makes good decisions and has good hands. Great. There’s no one else on the team with that ability, that may be able to get yardage that McGowan can’t? Damien Swann has looked more than capable from my view.

The excuses are really getting old. I hope we get it figured out this weekend.

beanster

October 2nd, 2012
11:26 pm

And please coach, if McGowan is going to be fielding punts (and likely making a fair catch), can we please go for the block?

kingdaddy

October 2nd, 2012
11:28 pm

At 5-0 and ranked #5 after 5 weeks, I think we should do it Coach Richts way. If you disagree, you may be a moron…

Bulldawg Rick

October 2nd, 2012
11:30 pm

Git er done Dawgs!!

31-27

kauai dawg

October 2nd, 2012
11:35 pm

DAWGS win a close one at the end.

I like that 31-27 score as well on our way to GREATNESS!

beanster

October 2nd, 2012
11:48 pm

kingdaddy, I can only assume that was directed at me. BELIEVE ME, coming from you, I will take that with a grain of salt.

FaithfulDawg86

October 3rd, 2012
12:09 am

Yes, PATs have been an “adventure,” but Marhsall is a freshman and growing up quickly. Very impresive on FGs. ST as a whole have been great (see Sammy’s stats above). The bobbled returns have been due to lack of experience (Gurley) and over-eagerness to do it all (Mitchell), but given the talent and maturity these two young men have demonstrated so far, very very fixable. We need all three (O, D, and ST) to show up this weekend!! GATA! Dawgs 42-21 over Cocks. Jarvis Jones says he’s hungry for some fried chicken, btw.

GTBob

October 3rd, 2012
12:36 am

Blair Walsh at UGA: 21 for 35 (60 %)
Blair Walsh in NFL: 9 for 10 (90 %)

His issue was a timing issue and was easily corrected by professional level coaches. He is lucky the coaches at UGA didn’t ruin his career. Special Teams obviously isn’t the strong suit of CMRs staff.

Sammy

October 3rd, 2012
1:19 am

Blair Walsh finished his career at UGA in the top 10 in NCAA history in both points and field goals made. UGA coaches did an excellent job. With 20 mandated hours for practice, most coaches don’t give much time to special teams. It’s up to the kickers to work through their issues. But overall, Walsh’s career was top 10 in NCAA history.

Whiznot

October 3rd, 2012
2:11 am

Gurley and Marshall are the best pair of additions to the Bulldogs since Jake Scott and Bill Stanfill.

banders1

October 3rd, 2012
6:16 am

CMR is the most prideful man I know. It took him years to finally give up OC duties so he could be a head coach. Now, he refuses to admit the special teams needs a dedicated coach. Enough excuses and silver linings. Think Saban walks around talking about how his team is “mostly good” at something!?!

Atticus

October 3rd, 2012
6:56 am

Gotta get the punter going, he is not hitting the ball well, in games or in warmups

GaTruth

October 3rd, 2012
7:24 am

Remember one of the great Bulldog punt returners – Scott Warner. Slow. Catch ball run straight ahead and punish the first guy you run into. He usually picked up 5 – 15 yards. No dinking, dunking, juking, and losing yardage. Catch ball, run toward the goal line. Always gave us good filed position and never seemed to give us worse.

Uncle Kirk

October 3rd, 2012
7:54 am

Hey banders1…..no special teams coach in tuscerlooser either.

Uncle Kirk

October 3rd, 2012
7:54 am

Enter your comments here

Just Saying

October 3rd, 2012
7:59 am

@Sammy,
I agree with everything you have said, but you are missing the point. We have a great history in the kicking game and many parts of the kicking game are doing well this season. The big issue is that our PATs are easily the worse in UGa history and probably in the bottom 5 in the nation….if not the worse. Also, I have followed the Dawgs for almost 60 years and I don’t remember a time when we fielded punts worse than the average HS team, and that is what has taken place in the first 5 games. I agree with the changes with our punt returner……he will do great. I just wish our PAT team would get their acts together. If you want to talk about history consider that the average kicker at UGa has only missed 1-2 PATs in their college careers. We have hit the upright 4 times, had 6 near misses, 2 misses and a mishandled snap. PLEASE fix it guys…..I need to get a beer after TDs, not be glued to the TV watching in suspense at our PAT attempts!!!!

Vampire Bill

October 3rd, 2012
8:27 am

Bobo asks Murray to whisper… Isn’t that kinda goofy ? Why not simulate crowd noise like every other football team in the world?

What did you say??? Can’t hear you

Fair Catch?

October 3rd, 2012
8:36 am

Why is everyone assuming McGowan will only be fair catching the ball? Yes he makes good decisions and yes he has great hands but he also has returned the ball. He has two punt returns this year and one was for 19 yds and the other was 23 yds? Pretty good in my opinion!!!

ugab

October 3rd, 2012
8:46 am

SC has a special teams coach. I just wanted to throw that thought out. Our special teams has improved for the most part. A few mistakes need to be corrected and we should be fine.

I-DOG

October 3rd, 2012
8:46 am

Agree that parts of the special teams have been solid and the two punt blocks and 50 plus yard field goals are spectacular. I think we will be more solid if not spectacular with Rhett returning punts.

Still don’t understand our use of Mitchell against TN. How many offensive snaps did he play Tim? Seems like we featured him on that first drive and then he played sparingly the rest of the game. He sat on the bench while the defense was forced to play 85 snaps. Can someone from the media ask Richt about this? Why didn’t he play 6-8 snaps at corner in the 3rd quarter. Didn’t B. Smith look like he could use a rest?

He is one of the very best athletes in the SEC and how many snaps from scrimmage did he play?

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2012
8:47 am

Sammy you are wasting your time. For some reason folks are simply overlooking the overwhelming evidence that Georgia under Mark Richt has has been one the best plackicking teams in the nation, if not THE best.

The hater will because do it because they are haters. Our fans are just low on things to whine about this year. So maybe Morgan only finishes his freshman season at 94.5% PAT accuracy. He will still set a Georgia record for attempts and made PATs. this year.

And for those of you that can’t see the daylight from your position up Nick Saban’s behind, Alabama has had average at best ST under him. There have been very few thing they have ever been in the top of the league and quite a few times nearer the bottom.

ugab

October 3rd, 2012
8:50 am

Don’t forget the ball can be spotten on the 25 ;yrd line this season on kickoffs. I would kneel the ball and take it on the 25, instead of trying to take the ball out. Taking the ball out could lead to poor field position.

ugab

October 3rd, 2012
8:55 am

Mitchell needs to play either Offense of Defense. He made some bad plays on Special teams this season. The game against LSU, he had some TD drops. I thinks he needs to focus on one thing, so he can improve. Throwing Mitchell around is going to make him end up like RSamuel. The razzle dazzle with Mitchell is not working. The vols proved that. Just play football. CMR and Bobo’s trick plays never work.

Statesboro dawg

October 3rd, 2012
9:05 am

It’s always funny to me these arm chair/computer coaches who have so much info and no so much about coaching probably can’t even coach a rec league peewee football team. Get a life and enjoy watching/supporting UGA football

FloridaDawg

October 3rd, 2012
9:14 am

Where do we rank on extra point misses? If we are one point down after a TD and no time on the clock…4th quarter, end of game, do we kick the extra point to win or do we go for two points, wondering if we might miss the PAT?
Just having to ASK this is a problem for me.

DawgFanInBama

October 3rd, 2012
9:15 am

Logan Gray > Malcolm Mitchell……………..That’s soo bad. haha. At least Gray would just field the ball cleanly and be done with the day. MM tries to showboat too much and attempt to make something out of nothing. Sometimes you just gotta field the ball and get on with the game.

kingdaddy

October 3rd, 2012
9:29 am

I have the answer for the PATs…Go for two pts and make it at least 50% of the time OR get 3 false starts penalties back to back to back and back it up so he won’t miss it. Heck let him kick them from 50 yards out, OR we could fix his “flaw” on a “simple” PAT…

Cmdawg99

October 3rd, 2012
9:37 am

I hope not for this game

kingdaddy

October 3rd, 2012
9:57 am

If it’s a close game, look for lil stevies lil bag-o-tricks…

MattinATL

October 3rd, 2012
10:10 am

Chip, can we get an injury report. I saw Keith Marshall limp off the field late in the game – any issue with Keith?

Dawg Tired

October 3rd, 2012
10:14 am

I’m not sure about that whispering thing.

I-DOG

October 3rd, 2012
10:56 am

Alt: Agree with you about the overall kicking game history under Richt and I think we have to cut Morgan some slack as a frosh, but the extra points are certainly shaky so far. He has missed a few and had some blocks and even some of the ones that have gone in are barely sneaking in one up right or the other. I’m sure that at some point he will be kicking them right down the middle, but I think it is fair to call our exra points shaky.

Morgan reminds me of JR Smith when he played for the Denver Nuggets (except that JR is a nucklehead and Morgan seems like a good kid). JR would go 8-10 from the 3 point line making some crazy 3’s with a guy draped all over him and then go 4-9 from the free throw line in the same game. He actually started taking a step back from the free throw stripe to make it a foot longer.

Morgan is making 50 plus yarders as a freshman, but the much closer extra point seems to be more of a challenge for him. Again, Morgan seems like hard worker and I’m glad we have him. He will get more consistant on those extra points with more experience and practice.

He may set a record for extra points this season, but that would be more of a function of the very high number of touchdowns we are on pace to score this season. Even if his percentage is below average, he may make an awful lot of extra points assuming we keep having him kick them. I say, let him continue to kick them unless it gets worse.

Would rather have him miss a PAT in a game and then kick a 50 yarder as the field goals are worth 3, so that is a net +2. I’ll take that any day, but I’m sure the kid is working hard to be more consistant on his extra points.