Posted: 6:41 pm Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

At last, Richt restructures UGA’s special teams 

By Mark Bradley

Here's how a team like Georgia loses to a team like Vandy. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Here’s how a team like Georgia loses to a team like Vandy. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

In a staff restructuring announced Tuesday afternoon, Georgia coach Mark Richt didn’t designate a single assistant as special teams coordinator. He did, however, split the responsibilities in two.

Offensive special teams (meaning kickoff and punt returns and field goals and extra points) will be the province of tight ends coach John Lilly. Defensive special teams (meaning coverage and kick blocking) will fall to Mike Ekeler, just imported from Southern Cal to coach Georgia’s inside linebackers. This, I submit, is progress.

It’s not quite what I’d have done. I’ve never understand why, with all the lip service paid to the importance of special teams — they’re one-third of football; you can win and lose games faster there than anywhere else; blah blah blah — collegiate head coaches don’t do as NFL guys do and name a single special teams coordinator.

For a time, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson bristled at the suggested notion, saying almost no college team had an ST coordinator. (Over that time, as you’ll recall, Tech and Georgia were running a heated race as to which could mess up more often in the kicking game.) Then, two years ago, Johnson broke down and hired David Walkosky as … er, special teams coordinator.

That isn’t to say the Jackets haven’t lost containment on a runback since. Their stats on returns weren’t anything special in 2013, but they did tie for fifth in the country in kicks blocked (with five) and for second in punts blocked (with three). By way of contrast, only one Tech kick got blocked. (Harrison Butker did miss a key 43-yard field goal in the second half against Georgia.)

But here’s a partial list of Georgia’s of special teams whiffs in 2013: Botched field goal in a three-point loss at Clemson; bad punt snap against South Carolina; a blocked punt for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown against North Texas; a blocked punt for a touchdown in an overtime victory at Tennessee, and three special teams mistakes in a four-point loss at Vanderbilt. By midseason Bulldogs fans were bemoaning those errors as much as they were injuries.

That Richt has chosen to pare the list of men responsible to two, as opposed to the previous five, can’t help but be an upgrade. Dividing the duties too many ways tends to mean that attention to detail is likewise divided. This doesn’t mean that Georgia will never muff another punt, but it does serve as further evidence that Georgia’s head coach isn’t unwilling to try things a different way. Good for him.

Further reading: Big shock – Auburn fans are mad at Bama signee.

85 comments
Intruder
Intruder

It appears that Richt is just a slow learner but does learn as he goes. I haven't seen an end zone celebration or a fashion show in quite a while.

SlawDawg
SlawDawg

Too little too late if you axe me. Rick has been too busy in the tanning saloon and doing Chevy truck commercials to pay attention to the sad state of affairs we are in. To make matters worse, he hires John Pruitt and John Rocker as coaches. What the heck do a TV reporter and former baseball player know about coaching football????

mcdaviddawg
mcdaviddawg

It only too Richt 12 years to make the change, we wait to see what excitement the nexy 12 years will bring.

TheOldGuy
TheOldGuy

I am sad to say that I have held my breath every time the Georgia special teams have come onto the field in recent years Hopefully this will be an improvement. If the long snapper can just hike the ball to the spot he is supposed to and not try to make It a fastball that would be an improvement. I recommend that the Georgia punt and kickoff returners not run back anything that goes into the end zone. Go Dogs! Beat the crap out of Tech.

Classof98
Classof98

This is a welcome sign that Richt has FINALLY acknowledged that special teams can LOSE games.  We only had to lose about a two dozen games during his 13-year tenure for this fact to dawn on him.


It's a sad state of affairs when, as a Georgia fan, you EXPECT the snap to go over the punter's head.  Or EXPECT the punter or holder to drop the rare good snap.  Or EXPECT the punt returner to muff the punt.


I like Richt very much, but when you have a freshman attempting to catch and return a punt while in heavy traffic, in the 4th quarter of a game you are WINNING, it sometimes led me to wonder exactly how much this staff really understood fundamental football strategy.



Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

Bubbatavious......is it not wait and see every off season for any team that makes significant changes to staff and/or new player assignments?

te29wr
te29wr

That is why you are not a football coach   They have a limited # of coaches where the NFL does not.  It is not one third of the game   Check your numbers if each team runs 60 plays you would need 40  ST plays and the #'s   do not work out Also remember they have a limited time to practice per week........bad story.

chem
chem

Even an excellent specials team coach wouldn't change the outcome of botched field goals or bad snaps --- kick returns and blocks maybe --- but the majority of these blunders are not a product of scheme.  

Dawggie
Dawggie

It doesn't matter who coaches the STs, if they don't get the practice time. Richt has not ever acknowledged a problem with the STs - even at mid season, he said 'our STs will be fine."  So is he gonna spend the time necessary to make our STs a strength, instead of a JOKE? 

I just don't think so.  From game 1 to game 13 last season, the STs made mistakes that cost the Dawgs at least 3 losses.

In other words, STs caused an 11-2 team to have a 8-5 record.

mcdaviddawg
mcdaviddawg

That Richt is really on the job, it only took him 12 plus years to do something about special teams and even than, you don't expect him personally to do anything.  Richt never has his hands dirty doing the work.

Peachs
Peachs

The head coach needs to take ownership of special teams. When you lay it off on part time assignment to one or twenty assistant coaches it is like the high school football coach teaching health courses, it is not what they are there for and they don’t do a very good job. Bobby Dodd could out punt most of his kickers at Tech and would end the practices with a kicking contest that worked to make the special teams feel part of the organization. Frank Beamer made a living on special teams. Miami in its hay day with guys like Hester did too. Parity demands it, plus it puts an underline on discipline, the biggest problem these Georgia teams have.

SinceVince
SinceVince

For me its still wait and see. We've heard this before and now its time to see results on the football field. This still falls squarely on Richt to make it happen. No more excuses... its time to get it done CMR!

RangeRover
RangeRover

How important are special teams?  Without that Field Goal return for a TD Auburn isn't in the SEC or National Championship Game.

That's pretty important!

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

When you listen to WBS AM750 about this announcement this morning, all they say is the part about Bryan McClendon given title of Recruiting Coordinator. 


Announcing these 2 announcements at the same time, tells you how lackadaisical Mark Richt remains about Special Teams.  Oh, yeah, and a former QB and WR is now in charge of all field goals and extra points.  And, new 2nd duplicitous linebackers' coach is also responsible for kick-offs and punts.


26 losses in 6 years, one would think would get Mark Richt's attention that no longer can we afford to fair catch every punt, every kick-off while our opponents are trying to make hay with their punt returns and kick-off returns.

MoistDawg
MoistDawg

this is still not enough we need a special team only coach.  i almost threw up every time we had a special teams play because my stomach knew something could and probly would go wrong then who do you blame?  we have a all star dream team national championship staff exept in this very important category

aadandrew
aadandrew

Mark, do you research College football at all?  I don't understand why you're so baffled by the notion that UGA doesn't hire a "Special Teams Coordinator".  There are many college teams that don't, due to the NCAA colleges are limited on how many Assistant coaches they can have, which by the way makes no sense to me why the NCAA would restrict how many coaches you can have unless its the colleges way of keeping the payroll down.  So if you hire a STC, what defensive coach or offensive coach do you let go?  Who is more important?  


By the way, Special doesn't make up "one-third of football" as you suggested unless you're thinking of it as Offense, Defense and Special Teams which would be retarded way of looking at it.  Can a special teams mistake cost you a game, SURE IT CAN!  Can a miss block or miss tackle cost you a game, ABSOLUTELY!  See where I'm going?  Remind me how many offensive and defensive plays there are in a game and then let me know how many special teams plays there are.  By the way, how well has GT played the past two years since hiring the all so important Special Teams coach?  If I'm not mistaken they've went from bad to worse.

TheItalianDawg
TheItalianDawg

This proves that all coaches have gigantic egos even Richt!


NCDawg
NCDawg

Mr Bradley - "I’ve never understand why, with all the lip service paid to the importance of special teams — they’re one-third of football; you can win and lose games faster there than anywhere else; blah blah blah — collegiate head coaches don’t do as NFL guys do and name a single special teams coordinator."

The strictures on staffing mean a position coach has to handle that position most of the time.  This means that they must split time between their position coaching AND the special teams.  Coach Richt has said he does not believe that there is anyone that is an expert on all the phases of special teams.  Even in the NFL the STC has to collaborate with position coaches  So he has taken the approach of spreading the responsibilities around for the first 13 years of his tenure.  John Lilly has been the de- facto coordinator for the past few years but that amounted to scheduling meetings and such more than anything else.


He now has a staff with a different skill set and he is leveraging it to full advantage.  Since he believes the job is just too much for one person to handle, he is splitting it between two coaches and utilizing their strengths.  Coach Ekeler has a background in special teams.

I like the concept and I expect it will yield better results.  I realize that is very close to "damning by faint praise" but it has to be better.


ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

We banned the fashion shows after Bust Boise in our Power Ranger uni and Black-out Bama down 31 to nothing at half starting the pre-season # 1, and well he found out you can get a whole field full of penalties sending even just all the guys on the field at the time as he said he intended hoping for a 15-yard penalty, after all of them added on to each other, which cost us a TD, celebrating.  Still won.  I am glad we did that.  Florida celebrates over us all the time, while now he's won 3 in a row.  He never was a head coach before and has reported to 2 A.D. neither of which were coaches to teach him any of this, although part-time women's tennis coach, Greg McGarity at least coached something.  All the other one did Mike Adam$ hired when he fired Vince Dooley, was red panties.  When you have no one to teach you vicariously, all you can do is learn the hard way.  When Mike Adam$ refused to let the guy who hired him, teach him anything about coaching, these and many other errors such as hiring poor coaching staffs, have caught up with Mark Richt.  But, everyone still loves him.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

Choose a better handle if you want to put one over on anybody, ok ?

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

I recommend we return every kick-off no matter how deep, and return every punt no matter how close to us when we catch it.


We've been doing it your way TheOldGuy.  Why ask for that ?

NCDawg
NCDawg

@Classof98 only a pessimist takes that view of things.  The  STs have been progressively worse for the past 4 years... not his entire tenure.  STs were actually a strength of the team until @ 2008.  Look it up.


We won games with STs in that era.  It needed to change and now it is.

POAD2013
POAD2013

@te29wr  so 40 is 1/3 of 60? I guess that is new Obama math? Check the stats or take a math class.

NCDawg
NCDawg

@Dawggie what is he supposed to say?  "Our STs suck and my players suck?"  Jeez... the STs did improve after the low at Vandy.  That is provable.  Guess what...that is when he said they would be fine.


They needed to improve and he is making changes to make sure they improve. 

NCDawg
NCDawg

@mcdaviddawg - through 2008 STs were a strength...it has only been since 2009 that the STs have not been up to snuff.  Do the research before you spout a bunch of crap you've seen other that are similarly ignorant post.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

@Peachs Did you ever explain your handle ?  And, why you don't put your team name in your handle ?

NCDawg
NCDawg

@ThomasBrown that is their fault they didn't get the whole picture.  The announcement should have been made together.  Nit picking fool.

Dawgilama
Dawgilama

@MoistDawg  To their  credit in 2013 the  bad  snaps stopped mid  season when the  competition for  snapper was  opened , and  the  dropped snaps and  blocked punts stopped  when they replaced  Barber. The only continuing  problem they had  during  the  season was  the  adventure  of  fielding a  punt.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@MoistDawg No special team only coach and acute gastro intestinal virus plus a catastrophic ice storm, Moist your really screwed.

slydawg
slydawg

@NCDawg  Can you ever admit when Coach Richt has made a mistake or is wrong about something? Just once? Yes or no will do. It doesn't take an 8 paragraph answer.

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot

@ThomasBrown You are celebrating 3 wins in a row over Florida, a team that just lost Ga Southern this year?


This isn't the Spurrier or Meyer era.  Oh, heck, this isn't even the Zook era.  Zook knew how to beat UGA. 

NCDawg
NCDawg

@POAD2013 @te29wr uh sociopath...what is 60 x 2?  He said each team runs 60 plays.


There is an example of your hate fried brain haywiring again.  The need to jump on  Georgia fan and prove you are so much smarter, caused you to not read the statement.  It's typical for you.


ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

@POAD2013 Excuse me ? Give me that as an algebraic expression ?  He did not say 40 is 1/3 of 60.  Good heavens and you're another Georgie tek fan ?  How many times you walked into a calculus class ?


Each team has 60 plays he said.  Special Teams are not 1/3 of the game, he said.


You would make a zero in the Physics classes I took.  You are incapable of reading, let alone math questions.


Go ahead.


Answer this post ?

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

@gtcaryd Is it that hard to say you are, or you're ?  You can't be a fan of the Georgia Institute of Technology.  Your English is horrible.


Be careful.  Turn heat up.  Losing AC today, no AC tomorrow and none some of Friday.  Eat now, wash now.

NCDawg
NCDawg

@slydawg @NCDawg I have said many times and in many places that mistakes have been made.  Unfortunately, because I don't word it so that it seems that Coach Richt is the worst coach in the history of college football, it seems to fly under the radar.


Hiring Grantham was a mistake...it turned out.  There..satisfied?

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

@POAD2013 @NCDawg@te29wr



Take the game between us for example.  There were 196 either special team plays or plays by the offense/defense.


30 were special teams' plays, slightly more than 18 %.  Since this was  double over-time game where there are no kick-offs, the percentage here would be slightly less here than normal, about 20 % of the total plays for games with no over-times might be about the average maybe.


Special Teams' Plays make up about 20 % of the total plays. If every possession were a score on every play, special teams' plays as a percentage then would go up.


This game had 6 long possessions of more than 8 plays on the drive, before a special teams' play happened again.  And, that is the only manner in which possessions come into play.


20 % of the plays are special teams' plays.

POAD2013
POAD2013

@NCDawg @POAD2013 @te29wr   The point of ST being 1/3 of the game doesn't mean PLAYS it means Possessions. Most Possessions end with a special teams play be it a Punt/Punt Return, Score so FG or PAT then a Kickoff/kickoff return. If you count Possessions then 1/3 would make since.

Saying a ST play is just a few of the 60 plays run in just dumb.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

@NCDawg


I do not want a new coach.  You just say whatever Mark Richt said is great.  And, whenever anyone is not on the team or coaching here anymore, you dump on them.

NCDawg
NCDawg

@ThomasBrown @NCDawg what does that have to do with anything?  Coaches make mistakes with hires all the time.  That doesn't mean you have to remove them when they do.  


But I guess that doesn't fit your worldview.  Any time something doesn't go right... fire the head coach.