Brandon Boykin is such a polite young man.
Dear Coach petersen, I DARE you to Kick to me….
We had a… ahem… lengthy discussion yesterday about what Richt might be up to by closing fall practices to the media. Here are a couple of follow-up thoughts to that, both along the lines that Richt is simply breasting his cards so that he doesn’t tip his hand to Boise State’s coaches (okay, I’m done beating the poker metaphors to death now).
First, if you haven’t seen this quote from Richard Samuel in yesterday’s AJ-C, it’s worth a look:
Q: Surely some things have changed. How much would you say is different?
A: I’d just say the signals mainly; actually the whole play-calling situation. We’re doing a lot of no-huddle and a lot of high-tempo stuff, and that’s new to us. There are a lot of sight adjustments, so you have to be paying attention and focused and listening and hurrying up.
If that’s the case, that’s a big change from season’s past, when Richt wanted to control the tempo of a game as much as possible. That would indicate two things to me: one, Aaron Murray knows more and more what to do and two, Richt likes what he’s seeing out of the defense.
The other thing I wonder about is the shake up at safety.
Georgia ‘s starters at safety for the Boise State game are now set, and Bacarri Rambo isn’t one of them.
Richt said for the first time this preseason what some players have already said — that converted cornerback Sanders Commings and Shawn Williams are the starters at the position.
Richt called Commings “our No. 1 safety right now along with Shawn.”
Rambo was a starter last season when he finished second on the team in tackles with 82 and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. His second-team role has prompted uncertainty about his status.
“He’s done well,” Richt said. “They’re good football players. … With Sanders ability to play both, it just gives us better depth, but Rambo’s done well.”
There’s been a lot of speculation that Rambo’s been in somebody’s dog house, although to date none of that has been substantiated. What if there’s a much less sinister possibility – that Grantham and Lakatos favor safeties with better coverage skills than Martinez did? I’m not saying for certain that’s what’s going on here, but it’s not an unreasonable premise. And as much as I like certain things Rambo brings to the table, there’s no question he whiffed a good bit in pass coverage last season.
Many have pointed to Tyler Bray’s big finish down the stretch last season as a reason to expect big things from him this year, but he wasn’t the only SEC freshman quarterback to close the regular season strongly.
… His scrambling all but evaporated after that run, as his final six games produced a net of 9 rushing yards. While that aspect of his game was dwindling, Murray completed more than 70 percent of his passes in three of his last six games, something he had not accomplished once in the first half of the season.
“The comfort level definitely increased as last season went on,” Murray said. “You get up to the line of scrimmage and hike the ball, and there are guys flying around everywhere. The speed and the size of the guys kind of boggles your mind, so you’re getting rid of the ball so you don’t get killed.”
All of Murray’s best passer-rated games came after the loss to Colorado, including that otherworldly 250.86 showing against Georgia Tech. It’s no coincidence that the Dawgs went 5-2 over that stretch, compared to their 1-4 beginning. All told, not a bad start.
Here’s a pretty good trivia question for you: can you name the only two Georgia quarterbacks of the Mark Richt era who didn’t redshirt as freshmen?
In fairness to Coach Richt, I think this is more than preseason happy talk.
… For the better part of a decade, the calm and steady approach worked for Richt at Georgia. He won two SEC titles, had one of the best winning percentages in college football and was generally considered one of the nation’s best coaches.
When the team slipped in 2009, winning only eight games, Richt overhauled his defensive staff but didn’t change much else. Those around the program seemed to expect a natural improvement, because at Georgia just didn’t have losing seasons under Richt.
But when it only got worse last year, low-lighted by that bowl loss to Central Florida, more changes were made.
“Sometimes you need the kick in the pants to get going,” said David Pollack, who played during Richt’s first four years in Athens, when the team was a combined 42-10. “The realization is that 10 wins isn’t guaranteed anymore. For the longest time with Coach Richt it was. It’s about grinding.”
Pollack has watched a change in the program from his spot in the media. Sophomore linebacker Alec Ogletree has seen it up close.
“The atmosphere around here changed a lot,” Ogletree said. “He’s a lot different from last year.”
Really, moving Van Halanger out of his position earlier this year told me all I needed to know about the difference in Richt’s attitude. And obviously for things to change for the better this season, it has to start with the head man.
But here’s the thing: it takes more than one man to right the ship. And in terms of human behavior (my wife would add, especially male human behavior), there’s no more powerful force in the universe than inertia.
Right now, Georgia football reminds me of one of those pulp science fiction stories in which a spaceship is hurtling through space, its crew in suspended animation. A dire problem comes up and the captain is awakened; he’s got to figure out how to fix the problem and awaken the rest of the crew all at the same time. There’s usually a happy ending because of the captain’s ingenuity, but we all know that life ain’t a neat little fictional story.
I don’t doubt that Richt knows where he wants to go.
Q: You’ve spent a month now getting your team ready. Do you believe this one has a chance to win big?
A: We’ve got the potential to be a very good team. The difference between really good teams and average teams are how well you finish. Do you make plays, big plays, at the end of the game? That’s going to define us, really, I think. I think it could go either way. It just depends on how these guys finish.
The question is whether everyone else wakes up in time to have his back. We’ll find out on Saturday.
Closer and closer…