Da' Dream Makin' Cold Blooded Sausage

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Greg McGarity didn't know he was buying a fixer-upper

I bet when Greg McGarity was hired as athletics director, he didn't know he was taking over an athletics department with a football program plagued by numerous areas in need of fixing. Now, I'll admit that Richt has given Georgia arguably it's most successful stretch of football other than the early 80s and early to mid 40s. But the program seems to have taken massive steps back since the run from 2002 to 2007, and has now lost three in a row to South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi St (which helped Alabama move from Shula to Saban, and Florida from Zook to Meyer). The loss in Starkghanistan seems to be the straw that broke the camels back for most fans. Mark Richt certainly has been and still seemed like the right man to lead this program, but he has also been painfully making Paul Finebaum look more and more prophetic by the day.

Greg McGarity recently told Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph about the multitude of things that are part of a successful football program. Citing strength and conditioning, recruiting, player development, and "philosophical approach". But unfortunately for Richt (and McGarity, among others) the program seems to be failing at many of those multiple moving parts. Now, I'm not smart enough to know how to fix the problems, but I think I at least have enough vision to see what some of them are (Ray Charles probably has the vision to see them, may he rest in peace). Here is a rundown of what appears, to this uneducated eye, to be areas in need of improvement.

  • Desire - How many games recently has Georgia come out flat? Not just the little games, but big ones, important ones. We looked flat vs. Arkansas until coming to life in the 4th quarter. Did it again against Mississippi St Saturday, and have done it time and again recently (see Florida last year, Tennessee the last few years, the Bama blackout debacle). Motivation certainly is seeming like a huge problem, as other than Georgia Tech last year we haven't come out ready to play since maybe Hawaii in 2007. We even manufacture fake ways to get up, such as the hideous Grambling knock off jerseys in Jacksonville, only to fail miserably at sustaining a high energy level. Rennie Curran and other players have been quoted talking about how players are lackadaisical in practice, Richt and staff talked about losing Stafford and Moreno as though it would help in leadership and get players to step up in effort instead of waiting on the stars to make a play. Bacarri Rambo cites an effort problem at a key early season contest against the Gamecocks. Why is effort constantly being mentioned as a problem? Has Richt gotten comfortable? Does he have the desire to win at the risk of his own health (like Meyer) or running assistants into the ground (like Saban)? Is he willing to do what it takes to get the best out of himself, his staff and his players?
  • Strength and Conditioning - Ironically, the first part out of McGarity's mouth in Emerson's article above. When Dave Van Halanger arrived, Georgia noticeably improved in this area from under Jim Donnan. For almost every game, Richt's squad seemed like the bigger, stronger, faster team. That hasn't been the case since 2007, and multiple times the last 3 seasons we have looked smaller, weaker, and slower. Not just against premier teams like Alabama and Florida, but now South Carolina and Missississippi St are physically dominating the Dawgs. Strength and conditioning, as countless people on the periphery of the program say, seems to be the area in biggest need of improvement. It's gotten to the point where our players go elsewhere between seasons to work out. Van Halanger's had noted health issues (said to be multiple heart attacks), and exercise science seems to have moved by huge leaps the last 5 years, especially in nutrition as well as traditional physical development like weight training. It's quite possible a change needs to be made, but will Richt make the hard decision of moving on from a man he brought with him from Florida St, where the relationship between Richt and DVH is much closer than the one between Richt and Martinez, and a guy who's been a huge part of championship programs for decades and the spiritual and emotional leader of his team during that aforementioned run from 02-07? One change that seems easy to make is an infusion of more, as the size of our staff (3) pales in comparison to those of Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama, in addition to other elite national programs like Texas, Southern Cal, Michigan, and Ohio St where they have 2-3 times the trainers. We lack a "training table" for feeding our athletes, and several other aspects of the top teams. With penny pinching Damon Evans gone and McGarity in from the Gators, hopefully we can have a much needed increase spending here. But whether you feel Van Halanger is too far past his prime or not, it is obvious that strength and conditioning is an area where significant improvement can be made, must be made, and that any improvement there will show up on Saturdays.
  • Talent - Recruiting rankings haven't been hurting under Richt, as he's stockpiled top 10 classes year after year. But recruiting rankings aren't an exact science, as even those who are among the best in that business will tell you. While Georgia has rated well nationally on the first Wednesday in February, we've also had more than our share of misses (Eric Berry, Allan Bailey, Cam Heyward, Da'Rick Rogers, Greg Reid, among other Georgia born players elsewhere, not to mention guys like Cliff Matthews and Marcus Lattimore who Georgia came close but missed). Are we making the right decisions on guys? See Chase Vasser vs. Jarvis Jones, although we were able to get Jones back after he was cut from Southern Cal; see rejecting Devin Burns saying we don't want a QB in last year's class, burning a bridge on multiple players we wanted from his high school to only later try again and end up with Hutson Mason at QB. Then see how those recruiting rankings and supposed ridiculously elite athletes end up falling on draft day. Georgia has stockpiled NFL draft picks in later rounds (we are at or near the top for SEC teams since Richt arrived), but other than Stafford, Moreno, and Massaquoi, who has been a top 3 round pick? Richt's best defensive players came from either Jim Donnan, or in his first one or two classes. His best offensive lineman have been the same. In spite of dozens of draft picks, very very few have come in rounds 1, 2, 3, or 4 where the elite talent goes in the draft. The talent, while it seems great walking in the door, doesn't look so good walking out of it. Maybe that's part of the desire and strength and conditioning problem above, maybe it's just overrated recruits, but something isn't adding up in the talent department.
  • Discipline - This also tends to tie in with the lack of motivation, desire, etc in point 1. While we don't have lineman pulling out AK-47s in traffic disputes or DBs firing them through apartment walls like Florida, we certainly have our share of off the field issues. The problem is not just the quantity, but the type of issue. It's the same thing over and over again with license issues and alcohol offenses. The amount of stupid arrests Georgia seems to get indicate the players just don't care, or don't pay attention to little details, or maybe just lack the common sense to avoid them. Why do we keep getting easily avoidable legal problems? Are they too stupid or do they just not care?
  • Player utilization - The amount of bonehead player personnel decisions under Richt and flip flopping positions has been maddening. Brandon Miller is a great athlete, big frame at 6'5, 250 or so, with soft hands, who isn't much of a hitter. Sounds like a TE, right? Nope, he's at LB (covering WRs in the spread, but we'll get to that in a second). Martrez Milner is a great athlete, with a big frame around 6'5, 250, with the hands of Roberto Duran and a love of contact. Sounds like a DE, right? Nope, he's at TE. Mikey Henderson is 5'7, and 150 pounds soaking wet, with great speed. Doesn't sound like someone who can jam 6'+, 200+ WRs at the line, or make a tackle against a 200+ pound RB on a sweep, does it? So it takes us 2-3 years to realize he should be at WR, not CB. Coleman Watson can't play TE, so we move him to OT. He doesn't like it, so we move him back to TE where he doesn't play. We waste Marcus Howard at LB, when he can't play in space, before putting his hand down and unleashing a beast in pass rushing. We move Kiante Tripp from DE to OT to TE back to DT. We waste Bean Anderson for 3 years at OL before realizing he can't figure out plays, and should be a DT. We waste Richard Samuel for 2 years at RB before realizing he can't find a hole and move him to LB. Is Nick Williams a LB or a S? Is Logan Grey a special teamer, WR, or QB? How about Chester Adams, Fernando Velasco, or Ken Shackleford playing as freshman so they can block for extra points and field goals? Thankfully Velasco took a redshirt between his sophomore and junior years, allowing us to have a critical leader in 2007, but why were we playing them for maybe 10 snaps as 19 yr old freshman instead of saving them for 10 starts as a 23 yr old 5th year senior? Yet when a redshirt makes little sense, like with Knowshon Moreno, we fail to use a player that can produce, then a few years later repeat the original mistake using an unproductive Marlon Brown for a couple dozen plays at most in his first year on campus.
  • Scholarship utilization - This ties in with player usage above, but deserves it's own spot. We waste scholarships. Now, one can debate the ethical nature of cutting lose good kids who are unproductive players. Are we a school playing football, or an NFL minor league with a school? Well as sad as it may be, the SEC has steadily become an NFL minor league. Florida, Alabama, among others, don't keep unproductive players through graduation. Right or wrong, they cut kids, which is perfectly allowed by NCAA rules where scholarships are a one year contract. Kids take medical hardships or are "encouraged" to transfer, among other ways to cut dead weight. It allows those teams to sign 3-5 more kids a year, which increase the chances one of those players turn into a contributor, keeps older players competing for time, and allows a team to take great talents that may or may not have an obvious position or space in a class (like White Co.'s Ashley Lowery). It's unsavory, but it's becoming a part of the 8 figure business that a major football program is these days. Just not at Georgia. We keep kids like Coleman Watson to be 4th string TE. We sign a 3rd K in Brandon Bogotay to not kick, after losing another 3rd K who never kicked (Andy Bailey). We bounce kids from spot to spot hoping to find a fit, like with Kiante Tripp. We have 4 FBs on scholarship, after having a great deal of success using walk ons there. We struggle to find room for players, while our conference competitors sign a full amount or more every year. We waste as many as half a dozen scholarships in a given year that could otherwise be used to sign players we currently don't have room for and bringing in new talent to fight for jobs. This is a voluntary disadvantage that we can avoid, if we were willing to do everything possible to get better.
  • Scheme - Watching plenty of football this year, why is it we seem to be among the few teams still using a fullback on the majority of plays? They can block, and are great dump off options in the passing game, but you can get the same production out of a backup TE (like say Bruce Figgins, who despite starting as a freshman and sophomore now can't see the field as a 4th year junior?) plus the ability to make them a vertical threat in the passing game. The amount of high level football teams using one back is growing for a reason, yet here we are, with a backup FB on the field, running play action of 3rd and long (when no one is going to be fooled by a run fake even if we could run effectively in the first place). Carlton Thomas is the size of Tyson Browning, so let's run him off tackle? We're throwing jump balls at the goalline, let's use a 6' or less WR instead of a receiver 6'5 with a big vertical like Marlon Brown, Orson Charles, or Aron White. We become enamored with a run up the middle, or an off tackle run from shotgun, or a bubble screen, or a QB draw on 3rd and long in the red zone, or whatever our play du jour seems to be for the moment. And rarely does that play du jour work. We don't adapt to situations, and haven't as a team for a while now. Willie Martinez was notorious for sticking with a base 4-3 against a spread team, leaving guys like Brandon Miller in space to cover WRs or stop water bug RBs. We get burned time and again on the same roll out bootleg by David Cutcliffe or a bubble screen from Ron Zook, play after play after play. Teams can game plan us pretty easily, and we don't adjust, or have someone at the top demanding adjustments to stop whatever is beating us. Do we not notice it's the same thing beating us play after play? Do we not know how to stop those plays, or are we just incapable of adjusting to them? It's the old Albert Einstein quote about insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
  • Planning - Richt takes over a team that lacked offensive line depth, forcing him to start an extremely inexperienced unit in 2003. He says we won't be in that situation again, only to have that exact situation pop up again in 2007 once the 2003 kids moved on. Greene is replaced by Shockley. Since then, we've signed countless elite QB recruits, only to rely on a pair of below average Joe's (Tereshinski, Cox) as a bridge to freshmen starters. We lose Kade Weston, Jeff Owens, and Geno Atkins, yet lack any capable DT recruits to step in as they go. It's not like these players moving on is unexpected since we can count years left on a scholarship, so why do we always seem so ill prepared to replace departing players?
  • Communication issues - When reporters asked about Hutson Mason playing game 1 this year, Richt said ask Bobo, while Bobo said ask Richt. Were they playing with the media, or did they not communicate on the issue? Richt "asks" Bobo if he'd move upstairs, only to have Bobo tell him he's more comfortable on the field than in the booth. Does Richt make that decision or Bobo? We say Logan Grey can't be risked for injury getting in game reps at QB, but can put him on kickoff coverage and punt return, the two most violent and injury inducing plays in football? Against South Carolina, Bacarri Rambo said there was a lack of effort, while Richt said effort wasn't an issue. Willie Martinez, Jon Fabris, and John Jancek were out recruiting in living rooms, representing the future of the program attempting to get kids to come to Athens, just days, if not hours, before being fired. A demeaning text about a recruit intended for a fellow coach gets since to the kid instead. This doesn't seem like much, and could also be at times the coaches not wanting to release information (such as with Mason), but there has been a surprising amount of conflicting quotes coming out of Athens over the last 24 months.

We seem to be making mistakes across the board, and the question now must come, as inconceivable as it might have been at the beginning of the year, is Mark Richt the man to correct these problems and get back on the level he was at just a few years ago. We slipped, maybe just a few inches. But "the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early, and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast, you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game; every minute, every second." The question remains though, is Mark Richt willing to fight for that inch? Tear himself and everyone else around him to pieces for that inch? Because it's those inches that are making the difference between winning and losing.


12 comments:

  1. Heck of a write up. I agree on all counts.

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  2. Fantastic Write up! Please send it to CMR and/ or McGarity.

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  3. darn good write up. This season isnt a Bobo problem it takes a whole coaching staff to ruin this team. We keep facing teams that run the same scheme and yet we keep doing the same things to try to win (expecting better results). Madness!

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  4. I agree with everything you said, and you were being much too kind. Much too kind.

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  5. Many of your statements are off base, and I'll explain, item by item:

    S&C - Take a look at the UGA's height/weight stats and compare them to Alabama's. There isn't much difference. This notion that "they appear to be small and weaker" is completely ridiculous. How can you possibly measure such a thing, quantitatively?

    Recruiting - Many of the players you listed as "misses" weren't going to UGA, period. Eric Berry's father played at Tennessee, Cameron Heyward's father (Iron Head Heyward) played and grew up in the northeast/upper midwest. He wasn't staying in-state. It is also important to note that Georgia is a large state and many key recruiting areas are in territory that heavily favors other teams: Columbus (Auburn), Rome/Dalton (UT), Valdosta/Thomasville (Florida State), not to mention that Clemson, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama are an equal distance/closer to home than Athens is for many kids. Plus, nearly everyone in the country recruits metro Atlanta, and many kids in the metro area aren't even from Georgia. Was Asher Allen not a third round pick? I suspect that part of the problem with defensive players being drafted was the defensive coaching staff. The change has been made. How many elite NFL players does Nick Saban produce?

    Player Utilization - This is the worst of all your points. MARCUS HOWARD . . . where was he going to play? In '06 Charles Johnson and Quentin Moses were playing DE. When he got his chance as a feature DE, he capitalized. JUSTIN ANDERSON . . . was recruited as an ELITE offensive lineman, nearly every major program in the country wanted him as an offensive lineman. He was switched to nose because of a pressing need. Given the OL's performance, he might have been useful at guard in the running game this season. RICHARD SAMUEL . . . he was playing running back because it was an area of need. Who else was going to play running back in '09 when King was out for the first few games? Clearly there wasn't a better option, and Ealey was injured. KNOWSHON MORENO . . . this is the worst argument of all. In '06 Georgia had Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin, and Danny Ware on the roster, all of whom had more experience AND had an opportunity to play in the NFL. When was he going to see snaps? Moreover, how can we possible know whether or not he was a better player in '07 because he was a redshirt player? LOGAN GRAY . . . Logan was moved to WR for a few years (1) playing time, (2) playmaking ability, (3) depth issues at WR, (4) he wasn't going to play as a QB. Murray beat him out, time to move on.

    Planning - No team is perfect. Even Alabama is playing young players. Even Alabama doesn't have a shoe-in at nose. It is uncommon that you have everything in place all at one time. When you're deep at one position, you're thin at another, that's just how college football works.

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  6. Winning Percentage Coach at Current School

    .928 # 1 Chris Petersen Boise State 52-4 year 5
    .859 # 2 Urban Meyer Florida 61-10 year 6*
    .823 # 3 Mack Brown Texas 131-28 year 13
    .823 # 4 Jim Tressel Ohio State 98-21 year 10
    .823 # 5 Chip Kelly Oregon 14-3 year 2
    .822 # 6 Nick Saban Alabama 37-8 year 4*
    .812 # 7 Bob Stoops Oklahoma 121-28 year 12
    .795 # 8 Brian Kelly Cincinnati 35-9 year 4
    .785 # 9 Les Miles LSU 55-15 year 6*
    .760 # 10 Gary Patterson TCU 89-28 year 11
    .752 # 11 Joe Paterno Penn State 397-130-3 year 45
    .752 # 12 Mark Richt Georgia 91-30 year 10*

    After 2005 to-date, how the programs stack up :

    # 1 at 52-04 Boise State Chris Petersen
    # 2 at 52-07 Florida Urban Meyer
    # 3 at 48-08 Ohio State Jim Tressel
    # 4 at 48-09 Texas Mack Brown
    # 5 at 47-09 USC Lane Kiffin after Pete Carroll
    # 6 at 46-10 TCU Gary Patterson
    # 7 at 46-13 Oklahoma Bob Stoops
    # 8 at 44-12 BYU Bronco Mendenhall
    # 9 at 44-12 Utah Kyle Whittingham
    # 10 at 44-13 LSU Les Miles
    # 11 at 43-13 West Virginia Bill Stewart after Rich Rodriguez
    # 12 at 43-13 Penn State Joe Paterno
    # 13 at 43-15 Virginia Tech Frank Beamer
    # 14 at 42-15 Cincinnati Butch Jones after Brian Kelly
    # 15 at 40-17 Boston College Frank Spaziani Jeff Jagodzinski Tom O’Brien
    # 16 at 40-19 Central Michigan Dan Enos Butch Jones Jeff Quinn Brian Kelly
    # 17 at 42-14 Wisconsin Bret Bielema
    # 18 at 42-16 Missouri Gary Pinkel
    # 19 at 40-16 Oregon Chip Kelly after Mike Bellotti
    # 20 at 39-16 Texas Tech Tommy Tuberville Ruffin McNeill Mike Leach
    # 21 at 39-17 Georgia Bulldogs Coach Richt & his sorry butt “coaching staff”

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  7. Nice excuses,Mr Anonymous. What floor at Butt-Mehre do you work on?

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  8. Anon @ 9:53

    Height/weight listings aren't the point, and are also often incorrect. I know that first hand. But it's not hard to see Mississippi St, South Carolina, and everyone else dominating the lines, making tackles while we have ours broken, and just physically dominating this team. That's bigger,
    stronger, faster.

    I'm glad you found one guy in 5 years off the defensive side of the ball. And Asher Allen wasn't exactly much here either, having left early off an injury plagued 0 interception season. Teams miss, but we have come in 2nd on an awful lot of kids that would have been a lot better than what we put on the field.

    As for the player usage, we disagree obviously. I'll just say Bean clearly was not moved to a "pressing need" since he has barely played DL. And the rest were also clearly out of position, for multiple years. It doesn't take that long to figure out a kid can't play somewhere.

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  9. Nail=Head article. There have been numerous staff position misses made directly by CMR. I won't list them here but,once you realize it's NOT working,or there has been a drop-off,make a change. I just hope once a change is made at the top some feelers have been put out to gauge the interest of your replacement canidates,so there is a quick and smooth transistion. A protracted process will be a bad move for UGA.

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  10. I love it. You hit the nail on the head on all accounts. I think people in the AD need to read and study this!

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  11. The OL of GA MAY have similar height/weight ratios to Alabama, but ours have a great deal of weight in their guts. Watch Alabama's linemen on Saturday and then watch ours. They look a lot more fit.

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  12. Point is, UGA is not a winning team anymore, nor are they even contenders. Mark Richt must go and change must happen sooner rather than later

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