Knowshon Moreno’s final legacy?

I presume most of you have seen the write ups of last night’s meeting of the Greater Atlanta Bulldog Club in the AJ-C and AB-H.  The quote of Mark Richt’s that seems to have gotten the most attention is this one:

“We have declared that every skill guy we have, not counting quarterbacks, will play,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt told an audience of about 1,000 at the Greater Atlanta Bulldog Club Monday night at the Cobb Galleria.

That means freshman tailback Washaun Ealey will be thrown into the mix even with four other tailbacks on scholarship.

“This year it’s like ‘We’re going to play them,’ ” Richt said. “Get them ready for special teams. Get them ready for scrimmage downs.”

And Richt went on after the meeting to let the reporters know that he’s defining “skill guy” broadly.

… Richt said in an interview after the event, that he’s including defensive backs and linebackers as well – that would include defensive backs Branden Smith, Jordan Love and Shawn Williams and linebackers Mike Gilliard and Chase Vasser.

“When you talk about special teams, you want your runners, your hitters,” Richt said. “You’re trying to decide whether these guys play or not play. We’re starting out saying ‘Hey, let’s play these guys. Let’s get them on special teams and teach them what to do.’ They’ll help us on special teams, and they’ll also be growing as players at their positions, too.

“Sometimes you’re two weeks in and you’re like ‘They’re not ready, they’re not ready.’ Two more weeks, he probably is ready. Two more weeks after that, he may be your starter.”

Now I’m not quite sure I take the man literally on this.  As David Hale pointed out, does Richt really plan on deploying upwards of twelve linebackers this season?  Unlikely.  But I do think he’s reached the point where he’s serious about committing to playing true freshmen far more than he used to.

… Georgia coach Mark Richt says redshirting the players has preserved the team’s future. “The assistant coaches were wanting to let some of these guys play and allow them to work on special teams and get reps and that kind of thing,” Richt said. “I tried to look at the big picture and see if we could hold off from doing it. There are certainly guys that could be helping us right now, there is no doubt.”

I think some of that may be due to the way other coaches, like Urban Meyer, recruit and sell their programs.

“We’ve taken a new attitude. Every freshman, in my opinion, will play next year. Obviously, that won’t happen, but we’re taking that approach. It used to be more, ‘We’d like to save this guy.’ I’ve learned my lesson, and that’s over. Everybody’s playing. We’re going to let you go play and we’ll worry about your fourth year down the road. If it’s in the best interest of the young player, we’ll hold him and redshirt him, but we’re going to play him.”

And I think some of it stems from redshirting Moreno.  I know that Richt has at times kidded about the subject and has at times felt that it might have helped shield Moreno a little bit, but still, you’ve got to wonder how the 2007 season would have played out (in particular, how the South Carolina game that year would have played out) if Moreno had seen the field and made his bones in 2006.

Of course, we’ve heard some of this before, too.  So a degree of skepticism is warranted here.  But I think a change is coming.

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “Knowshon Moreno’s final legacy?

  1. D.N. Nation

    I can’t think of many teams that straddled the line between the BCS and Weedwacker Bowl the way ’06 Georgia did. You’ve got some close shaves against some pretty atrocious competition (Colorado, *both* Mississippi schools), a nearish miss against the national champs, a blowout loss at home, a blowout win in a Top 5 school’s house, and a Homecoming loss.

    Keep Coutu healthy and that team bafflingly goes 11-2 and maybe snares a BCS at-large.

    • D.N. Nation

      Oh, and I should add: One of only two times a Richt-led Georgia team has rightly destroyed South Carolina, and in Columbia to boot. And even that blowout was odd; 18-0 doesn’t sound nearly as dominating as, say, 48-30.

  2. The Realist

    I think this will have more of an impact on special teams than either the offense or the defense. This is good news on that front.

  3. sUGArdaddy

    If a freshman linebacker can make 5 special teams tackles that save hidden yardage, it’s worth it. We aren’t paying for their education to let them watch the games. We get to take 70 to SEC road games. Let’s take the best 70 we’ve got. Realist is right. This could transform our special teams. Hey, Nation, just think about what that ’06 team is with a healthy Coutu and Moreno in the backfield. We lost 21-14 to the national champs w/ Matthew’s 6 turnovers and Thomas Brown on crutches and #24 watching on TV back in Athens.

    To me, this is the kind of change in thinking that we need from Coach Richt. I think he wants to make this thing more elite, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like this season.

  4. jferg in NC

    I agree, to a degree, with The Realist. I agree that this will improve our special teams. I disagree, however, that the O and D sides of the ball won’t see the same kind of improvement. Getting these youngins used to the speed and hitting of SEC ball can really help mature them for the following years on O and D. I like the “play ‘em early and often” idea…for everyone EXCEPT linemen who can use the extra time to beef up during a redshirt year. plus, could you really see a 290 lbs OL running down on kickoff coverage?

  5. Moreno had a fine game against South Carolina in ’07 (14 carries, 104 yards, 7.4 avg). We just kept forgetting about him once we crossed the SC 20, sadly.

    Regarding special teams: Um, yes, I’d say playing freshmen scholarship players on ST makes *considerably* more sense than watching Chris Rainey and Brandon James rip through 10 walk-ons and a kicker like sh!t through a goose. The role ST plays in shifting momentum in college football, which is an emotional sport almost by definition, has been vastly underappreciated by this staff in recent years. I’m thrilled at this change in thinking.

  6. NolaDawg

    I also don’t wonder if Richt is a little more willing to throw the dice due to his stats in recruiting. I read somewhere (possibly here) that, if he pulls in another top-10 class (aggregate across the various ranking sites) Georgia will be the only team with top-10 classes every year since 2002. Confidence in this kind of recruiting flow might also allow Richt deploy true Freshmen more often, with the understanding that he’ll have more the next year.

  7. RedCrake

    I definitely don’t hate the idea.

  8. Macallanlover

    Agree with those above, the key beneficiary of a policy change like this will be the Special Teams. I am sure we will redshirt a few, but anyone who can contribute is needed. Not only does this put better athletes on the field, but it steps up the quality of practice as everyone knows they may get the call on Saturday. A RS player just isn’t likely to go all out every day knowing he will not be used for another 10-12 months. At this level of play, I don’t want to leave bullets in the chamber.

  9. Hobnail_Boot

    Agree with those who have said this will improve our Special Teams the most. And, thank God for that.

    As a UGA/Broncos fan, my hopeful answer to the question posed in the title of the post is, “2 Super Bowl MVP Awards”.

  10. Bill

    This is strictly for recruiting. Richt is simply trying to counter Meyer who tells the recruits they will all get a chance to play as true freshman.

    History has shown that the best programs redshirt as many freshman as possible. You just have to be smart and make sure the kids who are special (like Moreno) don’t sit. But he is the exception.

    And there is just as many coaches who will say that playing true freshman on ST’s is a risk. Yes, they may be faster but if they can’t maintain their lanes or assignments, you will get burned.

    You guys are just rationalizing … just like when you think Richt recruiting FL more is a strategic move. It is not … it is simply the fact that Meyer is coming into GA more and more and stealing players. If Richt got everybody he wanted in- state, he shouldn’t need to go anywhere else.

    • People once shared your attitude regarding the British Navy, horse-drawn buggies, and trains. History is most oft repeated when nothing was learned from it.

    • And there is just as many coaches who will say that playing true freshman on ST’s is a risk. Yes, they may be faster but if they can’t maintain their lanes or assignments, you will get burned.

      It’s not like the upperclassmen we saw on kickoffs last year were any great shakes at that themselves. At least greater speed gives you a chance to overcome some of the mistakes.

    • “If Richt got everybody he wanted in- state, he shouldn’t need to go anywhere else.”

      Now you’re the one rationalizing. Yeah, we’ve gotten verbals from six Floridians. In July. If we were desperately casting around for these guys six months from now, you might have a point. And, if we were taking these guys to fill in for the Georgians Meyer has poached, how come there are only two Florida verbals from the state of Georgia?

      Maybe, just maybe the out of state guys Richt goes after are just really that good. The only in-state player we wanted as much as Aaron Murray was Zach Mettenberger and he’s in Athens too. I can assure you that we didn’t go after Stafford and Moreno because better in-state guys turned us down.

  11. Bill

    I am not criticizing CMR for making changes in certain aspects of his program’s philosophy. I just believe the main reason he is changing his philosophy is primarily because what is going on down in Gainesville. It may not be a bad thing. Bear Bryant changed his recruiting philosophy because of what Sam Cunningham and USC did to his team.

    Time will tell if these changes will work. I just believe UGA will be better off getting kids from home for a number of reasons. Senator knows that I am a Tech guy. I am estatic that CPJ is getting almost all his recruits from in state … definintely a change from past regimes.

    And I believe red shirting as many kids as possible builds a better long term program. Call me old school.

    • I am estatic that CPJ is getting almost all his recruits from in state … definintely a change from past regimes.

      Of all the dumb things Gailey did, that was the dumbest. Makes you wonder what recruiting in Athens would have been like if Michael Adams had gotten his way and hired Chan.

  12. Bill

    It actually started years before … probably with Ross. But Gailey took it to new heights. Unfortunately, the one he did land from in state played QB for four years.

    I don’t how well Chan would have done in recruiting at UGA but I guarantee he would have had a career 500 record. Safest bet in Vegas. If Gailey is your head coach, mark it down 6-6.

  13. dean

    Is it so far fetched to believe that CMR and company are offering kids based on their evaluations and which ones they think are the best players at a given position for their system? Or that every in-state recruit doesn’t want to stay in-state? I really don’t think CMR is trying to counter anything Meyer is doing. To me this is CMR reaction to the early departures (and I’m not just talking about Moreno and Stafford). If the kids are really that good you better go ahead and play’em while you got’em. Lastly, from what I’ve read about Richt’s recruiting philosophy he has always told recruits that they will have the opportunity to play as a true freshman but promises nothing.