Special teams: “The bottom line is, can a guy get the job done…”

You know, there are times when I think the Georgia staff looks at things differently than any other staff in the country.  Take, for example, the special teams battle that’s going on in Athens this preseason.  No, not between the players who may be fighting to obtain a starting spot there.  Between the coaches.

… It’s a departure from the status quo at Georgia, where a mix of walk-ons and second-team veterans have generally been the key contributors on special teams.

While the plan has had its merits in years past — namely a more dedicated crew for coach Jon Fabris to work with — the rash of injuries that befell the Bulldogs a year ago got Richt thinking about a new approach.

“When you have the amount of injuries we had a year ago, it not only depletes your first-team and second-team offense and defense, it also depletes your special teams, and it actually depletes your scout-team looks,” Richt said. “It was definitely a trickle-down situation.”

Fabris said it’s a lot like running a minor league baseball team — just when he has a player ready to contribute on special teams, another coach is ready to swipe him away for a more glamorous role on offense or defense.

That’s part of the reason Fabris has relied so heavily on walk-ons in years past, but this season, Richt sees numerous benefits to getting scholarship players — and more specifically, his youngest scholarship players — a taste of the action on special teams.

From what it sounds like, Richt has a tough job on his hands.

… Richt said he’s worked on selling the freshmen to his coaches, too.

Fabris, like many of Georgia’s assistants, can lose patience with an inexperienced freshman who makes a few too many mistakes in the early going, but Richt said he has asked all of his coaches not to write off the new recruits too quickly.

The point here isn’t to roundly condemn Fabris.  There are special teams areas that have been consistently excellent for Georgia over the past few seasons, like punt returns.  But that hasn’t been the case with kickoff coverage since the 2004 season (73rd in 2008; 38th in 2007; 89th in 2006; 24th in 2005).  So why not keep an open mind about making some changes to your approach there?

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UPDATE: David shares some more of Fabris’ thoughts at his blog.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Special teams: “The bottom line is, can a guy get the job done…”

  1. I guess the intramural squad is off the kickoff team.

  2. Joe B.

    Again, Fabris makes this so damned complicated.

    First he talks about a guy having to have the “wants.” Then he talks about a guy having to know “the tricks of trade.”

    Well, which is it? Look, kickoff coverage is not rocket science. You run as fast as you can, stay in your lane and tackle the man with the ball.

    Yes, you have to enjoy hitting a 250 lb man, going full speed and be able to break down on a dime and tackle the returner.

    But all this gargbage about the “tricks of the trade” is just blather.
    Do his 6th year walk-ons know how to sneak blades underneath their tongues?
    Do they put grease on their uniforms?

  3. JoshG.

    Richt should make Fabris unavailable for interviews. Reading his quotes doesn’t quell the doubts I have about his competence.

    • Dog in Fla

      Let me tell you something, if you think the reading of the quotes is fun, wait until you get a load of what a special teams meeting at UGA looks like in which Rule #1 is that true freshmen on special teams make a deadly combination:

  4. Ben Rockwell

    I’m confused. Isn’t CMR the head coach, and isn’t Fabris the special teams coach? I understand and advocate that special teams is very important for winning games, but when the head coach wants to make a move the asst. coach needs to push back in private and agree with in public.

    I wonder if such disagreement on coaching staff is common, or if some other stuff is finally coming out.

  5. baltimore dawg

    god. from now on, instead of reading fabris quotations and reading about uga special teams, i’ll just go hit myself in the head with a friggin’ hammer.

  6. The Realist

    Fabris sounds like an old man. He needs to lighten up. At Florida, everyone wants to be on special teams. Their units are among the nation’s best. At Georgia, Fabris eschews anyone with scholarship talent for walk-ons and third stringers who know what it takes to give up huge returns every time toe meets leather.

    When I read quotes from Fabris, all I hear in my head is “Get offa my laaawn!”

  7. Macallanlover

    Access to all of the talent pool is one of the key reasons I feel CMR should be the Special Teams Coach. The other reasons are: 1) it raises the level of importantance to the team if the HC is directly involved, 2) it is more likely to get the needed amount of time on the practice schedule, and 3) he needs a job since giving up the OC position. It would also allow Fabris to focus on his other accountabilities.

  8. Richt-Flair

    See how Florida does it. Copy, paste, execute.

    It should be an honor to be on the special teams, steak and lobster honor. Only the best.

  9. Pingback: Tuesday (8/18) links « The Chapel Bell

  10. 69Dawg

    +1 Richt-Flair Why is it so hard to convince CMR that special teams are important enough to demand excellence and accountability from Fab. Do it right or I’ll find someone who will.

  11. Keith

    Lets see.. Urban Meyer head coach and special team coach( who uses starters on special teams) has 2 MNC in 3 years. Which way should we do it?

  12. JasonC

    I understand having a dedicated unit that encourages stability, but I have a serious doubts about a philosophy that sounds like, “I want the lower-talent guys that none of the other coaches want so I can keep them to myself and not have to find replacements.”

  13. JasonC

    Also, since it is an odd year, should we expect an improvement in kickoff stats? The trend above says, “yes”.

  14. IMO, Fabris should have received the amount of heat sent towards Martinez if not more. While I think Martinez didn’t exactly do a great job I was floored at the product Fabris put on the field. That includes the play from defensive ends. Injuries or not, we could have done much better.