Logan Gray may be gone, but his spirit lives on.

I give up.  Evidently Mark Richt has decided that Georgia’s punt returners can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

Better safe than sorry.

When it comes to punt returns, Georgia head coach Mark Richt said Monday night that’s a route he has no problem traveling down.

“The most important thing after a punt if we’re returning a kick is for us to have the ball,” Richt said. “A couple of years ago they’d line up to punt two us, fake it, and we had times we fumbled the ball. That was problematic so our main goal was at the end of that play if we force a team to line up in a punt formation the very next down we want to have the ball.”

In other words, this staff isn’t capable of finding anyone who can field punts cleanly and be a legitimate threat to return them.  Or it doesn’t feel the need to make the effort to find someone who’s capable of doing both.

Now I can see Richt making the argument that the offense is so explosive that the biggest sin the punt return unit could make would be to turn the ball over, except this mindset didn’t pop up yesterday.  It’s something we’ve seen over several seasons now.  Several less offensively explosive seasons.

I just don’t get it.  This is the program that produced Thomas Flowers and Damien Gary.  What happened?

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53 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

53 responses to “Logan Gray may be gone, but his spirit lives on.

  1. TennesseeDawg

    Thus you have Rhett McGowan fair catching punts in the SECCG on the 15 yard line. Fall practice has not even started yet and we have already given up on having the ability to return punts without even looking at what options we have.

  2. A little misdirection maybe? Please…?

    • Sanford222View

      +1 This is what I was hoping. The longest bluff in the the history of college football. Several years of playing it safe to set up the most insane attacking punt return team in UGA history.

      We can dream right?

    • Comin' Down The Track

      I must admit, I’m blindly, homerly hoping that Evil Richt is still in the building.

    • Cojones

      Twas the first thought after reading it. Yall may be onto something.

  3. fuelk2

    I think we might be focusing on the returner individually too much, rather than the return unit as a whole. I never thought Gray or McGowan was given a chance to return kicks because we were lined up in “punt safe.” So, in order to allow these guys to return kicks more frequently (or at all), we’re going to have to set up a punt return with the entire unit. I think what we’re hearing from CMR is that he’d rather put the ball in the offense’s hands five yards closer to our goalline than deal with another WVU Sugar Bowl or 2011 South Carolina situation. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that.

    • DawgWalker07

      I do. If the players in the formations aren’t executing like they should be (and haven’t been for several years) that’s coaching, and if Richt is giving up that entire phase of the game he’s essentially saying he’s giving up on fixing the coaching that’s leading to those problems.

      I totally get playing it safe sometimes, but to write the whole thing off entirely doesn’t seem right.

      • fuelk2

        That’s just the thing – they are executing. Many of them aren’t turning their backs and running until the ball’s in the air because that’s what they’re being asked to do. It just doesn’t allow for a return in most cases. It also doesn’t allow for fake punts (see Mizzou game). I think JHC would’ve made that play even if Samuel hadn’t.

  4. Andrew

    Question: is Richts stance based on any theory about the value of a possession vs the value of a possible field position gain weighed against a turnover? Or is this just his own conservative style? Does anyone else play returns this way?

  5. If we’re going to fair catch punts consistently, I would like to see us go after the punter and try to get the block. We seem to have good punt block schemes. I also think about the fake punts we gave up, and you always saw offensive players out on the punt return team. In other words, guys with little to no defensive instincts to know when something is up.

  6. paul

    I don’t get it. We seem to have pretty much given up on special teams all together. Didn’t Richt say he was taking more personal responsibility for special teams? This is what we get? It makes little sense to me. Let’s hope this is more evil Richt psychological warfare. Maybe it means we’re not only going to ram the ball down Clowney’s throat but we’re looking to catch some people off guard on punt returns too. Hey, it’s preseason. A guy can dream.

  7. It blows my mind how Richt views special teams (specifically punt returns). With the athletes UGA recruits, PR/KR should be a strong point. I understand you have to field the punt, but 100 other schools don’t have issues with that, and 90/100 lack the talent UGA employs.

  8. WF dawg

    “they’d line up to punt two us”
    Editing these days has reached an all-time low.

  9. Spike

    And Produced Scoot Woerner..

    • W Cobb Dawg

      And Mikey Henderson – who after having a long punt return TD nullified by a penalty, promptly returned the re-kick for an even longer TD (this time with no penalty).

  10. Macallanlover

    While I think having an “All State”, good hands, receiver in critical catch situations is very prudent, I agree we should not give up on being aggressive in more routine situations. Impossible that we do not have someone with speed that can handle catching punts and securing the ball. That is silly, although I am not sure Richt’s remarks means we will not use both strategies at times.

    There is no question turnovers will occur when you have someone field a punt and then take hard hits at full speed, but it will not happen as often as passes get intercepted. There are risks, there are rewards, all things must be measured and considered but closing the door isn’t a good plan, and I doubt he meant it in an absolute way. Why pursue “athletes” when recruiting if we only intend to use them as receivers? Let’s take full advantage of the talent we have, that doesn’t mean I oppose having a Logan Gray/Rhett McGowen back deep in certain situations.

  11. Go Dawgs!

    The days of the Mark Richt Hot Seat are over, but it’s garbage like this that got it started in the first place. Mark, it was rare for us to get beaten on fake punts (and you can defend those plays, too, frankly… the WVU one was on you and your coaches because the only 11 people in the Dome who didn’t know that was coming played for Georgia). It is rare for us to turn over on punts. It is LESS rare for positive plays in the return game to turn into big time opportunities. And as TennesseeDawg points out above, when you’re settling for Rhett McGowan downing a punt at the 15 yard line when a championship is on the line, I don’t care how good your vaunted offense is. You don’t want to go 85 yards against Alabama. Or anyone else, if you can help it.

    Great. Now my blood pressure’s up and it’s not even 9 am.

    • Moosefish

      I believe the rise in “rugby-style” punts is at least a factor in this. Holtz started doing it to us years ago, in part, because of the success we had in the punt return game. Others have also adopted this approach. In that situation, you’re usually not going to have much opportunity for a good return. There almost certainly has to be a schematic reason for this. Otherwise, why would Richt stop doing something that his teams have had so much success at?

    • Joe Schmoe

      You have clearly forgotten some of the absolutely horrible decisions that Mitchell made catching punts throughout the season (and I believe once earlier in the SECCG) that nearly lead to disasters. Speaking of getting my blood up.

      • W Cobb Dawg

        That’s a valid point. But MM is a heck of a lot of talent to be standing on the sidelines watching us fair catch punts. And perhaps MM’s mistakes can be attributed to ST coaching too.

      • Anon

        Then he was the wrong one to have out there.

        That’s coaching.

    • HVL Dawg

      SC beat us in Athens because of a fake punt.

  12. peacedogattack

    Two things.

    You forgot Mikey Henderson! He was terrific.

    Two, I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that in the era of the rugby punter, not letting the punt bounce is even more important. Further, It’s harder to get good punt returns going as the nature of the punt allows coverage more time to get in place.

    Having said that, Richt’s comments still seem crazy to me. Find someone who is (1) reliable (catches it cleanly) (2) smart (makes the right decision on what to do and (3) is a danger.

  13. I could almost live with fair catches if we tried aggressively to block kicks. But it seems like CMR is terrified of fakes too.

    Why don’t we not even fair catch then… just let ‘em bounce and make sure there’s no fake with 11 guys. Or just forfeit the season?

    • Moosefish

      From my memory, most of the times we’ve been caught by fakes is when we’ve been setting up a return. Guys have their backs turned trying to run downfield to get in position to block. I think we’ve been above-average in the yearly number of punt blocks. We just do a tremendous job of timing when to block.

  14. I wanna Red Cup

    McGowan is actually not bad – he ususally goes upfield and gets some yards. Let’s don’t all have a cow over a preseason comment. Relax

    • W Cobb Dawg

      I didn’t read the whole thing, but wasn’t the comment in regard to the punt return approach, not McGowan.

  15. I understand arguments for both sides. We have had uber-talented guys back there to return kicks before with disastrous results. When Branden Smith was back there, it was a 50/50 proposition that he would catch the ball and hold on to it. That is what led to the whole Logan Gray affair in the first place. As the likelihood of Georgia not getting the ball in a punt situation approaches zero, it takes one additional thing off the opponent’s luck-o-meter that can bite the team in the ass.

    The very best punt return teams might take one back every ten punt returns or so. So if the odds breakdown this way: a 10% chance of a TD, an 80% of getting about 10 yards (which would rank 46th last year among some note-worthy teams), and a 10% chance of a turnover… I understand why Richt is risk-averse. If the most likely outcome is to pick up 10 yards, it seems irrational to risk a possession for a near meaningless bit of field position… the same reason you don’t punt from the opponents’ 40-yard line: the 20 yards you will gain in field position is not worth forfeiting the possession.

    At the same time, a big punt return can be a back-breaker if you have a team on the ropes (Ace Sanders for USCe in 2012) and a comeback spark if you are behind. I don’t think Richt is completely closed off to returning punts, but I think he wants to pick and choose his spots carefully. If it is near mid-field, he isn’t going to chance a fake. If UGA is going to get the ball at mid-field, he’s not going to increase the likelihood that UGA misses a possession so close to the scoring zone. He may be more conservative when it comes to game theory than us fans, but… at least it’s an ethos. But, that’s just like, my opinion, man.

    • AusDawg85

      +1 He’s just playing the odds. His best players are on the field when we’re on offense. Why risk taking the ball out of their hands when the chance for meaningful success in the return game is so limited? And read his quote…he’s only emphasizing that he wants the ball cleanly fielded, not allowed to hit and roll for another 15 “years”.

      (Spell-check FTW! “A state that doesn’t show up is a guy lets a ball hit and roll 17 years, but if a guy steps up and catches it and doesn’t let it roll 17 years, you gain some field position so there’s some hidden yards there so much that we don’t really talk about a lot,” Richt said. “But if we could just get on some of those punts and just field them we may save ourselves 5, 10 15 yards by not letting the ball hit.”

    • Connor

      I agree with this. There’s also a cost/benefit in terms of coaching time and resources. Teams are very limited in the amount of time they can practice, they can’t do everything they’d probably like too.

    • Cosmic Dawg

      I don’t know if the odds you’re listing above are close approximates or not, but if you’re suggesting that when a team tries to return a punt
      10% of punts lead to a TD
      80% of punts lead to a 10-yd gain
      10% of punts lead to a turnover
      Then you should try and return all of them. 80 yards + a TD vs a single turnover in ten tries – the turnover may not even lead to points. But I have a feeling turnovers are more common than touchdowns.

      As far as Connor’s point, I think we’re all sympathetic to the amount of time you can spend on the punt game in practice, but both sides of our punt game require practice (punting and receiving). If every football game includes maybe 5-7 punts, I don’t think you can afford to ignore it.

  16. JN

    (Verne) – Here we are sports fans, it’s the unofficial first day of the season. The off season was more or less like any other off season in terms of the goings-on for these two teams, but some Georgia fans may feel otherwise. Georgia enters this first day of practice with probably higher hopes than they’ve entered a season in the last half decade or so. What do you think Gary.

    (Gary) – Well Verne, I’d have to agree. This GA team is young on defense. There are definitely some holes needing filling. But if…if they can navigate September with one loss, particularly if that one loss is in Week 1 or Week 5; they may very well be in good shape to make a serious run at the conference title as well as the national title. There are some very good reasons for the high hopes many UGA fans possess.

    (Verne) – Here we are, opening post of the 2013 season. Senator set to “kick it off.”

    (Gary) – Yeah Verne, I can’t wait to see what’s in store. This ought to be good.

    (Verne) – And here we go. The Senator has officially opened up the 2013 season with…wait Gary, what’s tha….. Gary, you there? Gary?

    (Gary) – Cold…Cold. @#$%-it Senator, that’s just cold All these GA fans are as happy as pigs in slop, and The Senator opens up w/ this gem of a post. Wow Senator, That’s Cold…That’s Just Cold.

  17. Vinings Dawg

    Hey guys. Just visiting form the AJC blogs. What a freaking shit show those things have turned into. What a shame. I read these daily now. Thank you Senator.

    I’m all for a more aggressive attack on the punter himself. Richt picked up on that a tad last year but if you want to have a safe catch formation on the receiving end why not take a stab at smacking the kicker a tad and see what may pop loose?

  18. stoopnagle

    DAMN YOU RICH ROD!

    Seriously, pull off the tighty whities, coach. Find some roomy boxers. Maybe you’ll grow a pair.

    Somebody remind him about Mikey Henderson or Tim Wansley please. It wasn’t that long ago.

  19. Mark

    It’s mostly about the fakes Senator. Go back and look at how and why the fakes were effective. Our guys were running down the field to set up for blocking and the ball carrier just went right in behind them. While that system produced a great return game, it simply wasn’t effective if the other team faked the punt. To be able to stop a fake and set up a return requires someone that can make the first few guys miss on his own and that can catch the ball cleanly. That way, you can leave enough guys behind to make sure the punter punts the ball.

  20. mdcgtp

    I understand his calculus. We have a great offense. Get the ball in their hands. On the other hand, if you have a guy who can reliably judge the ball, catch it, and make the first guy miss, the risk/reward is strongly in favor of playing for the return. The interesting thing about most of our great punt return guys (save boykin and woerner) is that they were not good kick off returners. So if you look at our roster, ostensibly there are a handful of guys that I think might be ideal for the role….tramel terry, jj green, marshall, mitchell, and sheldon dawson. mitchell has proven to be inconsistent in the role at best and given his concussion in the bowl game, I don’t want him on ANY return duty in 2013. Marshall and dawson are too valuable to risk back there. so that leaves terry and green, and we have no idea if terry is really healthy, and oh btw, he is a true frosh who has not proven ball security. Is it possible that Shaq Wiggins, fluker, or kennar johnson are good with the ball in their hands? maybe, and if they are I am sure they will get a look.

    so what is Richt to do? I think he has the right idea. I think we might go for more blocks, but you have to pick your spots. Blocks work when we run man covering the gunner in at the last second and the team does not adjust…if you do that every time, they adjust. I would rather go for the block at key times when it can swing momentum.

    Richt is NOT wrong here NOR is his logic incorrect…BASED ON WHAT WE KNOW….but if one of the players mentioned above prove to have the skills, we need to be more aggressive.

    BTW, I see no mention of the Melvin Ingram fake, which I would argue was far worse than anything in the West Virginia game.

  21. I wanna Red Cup

    The first job of the punt returner is to CATCH THE DAMN BALL. It should not hit the ground ever and be allowed to roll. If we do that then I will be a much happier Bulldog. We should be spending a third of our practice time on special teams. I think we should be going for the block more too. Having said that, this is just a preseason comment, no doubt in response to a question. Let’s see how it plays out. No reason to fire the coach.

  22. sUGArdaddy

    Good gracious, guys. Calm down. Richr knows what he’s doing. Do you watch our guys catch it every day in practice? He’s got millions on the line. I’m gonna guess he’s going to try what is most likely to help us win games. Just a hunch.

  23. Cojones

    Looks like we have a lot of folks who think Clowney is the best player in the world. Richt’s pumping sunshine for other teams to get an unsuspected tan. He will introduce a lot more guessing from other teams with this approach. He is holding his cards close this year and we don’t have a clue what he eventually will do.

    Patience, fans, patience.

    • Dog in Fla

      Patience? You’re talking patience? I thought we wanted to go out and kill something. Or better yet, let someone else kill it.

      Patience hell! I'm gonna go out and kill something!

  24. Lrgk9

    How we long for the good old days of Flowers and Fabris!
    Whoops, wait a minute here…

  25. IveyLeaguer

    Don’t know if Mitchell can simultaneously walk and chew gum, but I do know for sure that he can’t handle the ball and think at the same time.

    Just keeping him off the field on punt and kickoff returns will automatically improve them. Like Richt said, there’s a number of different ways bad return plays hurt you. McGowan is smart enough to handle it, so at least we have one punt return guy.

    I don’t care for the idea of Gurley returning kickoffs, either. Just don’t like it. Unnecessary risk. Surely we have some other guys who can do that.

    But Mitchell is a liability, whether punt or kickoff. I’ll be very disappointed if he takes the field on a return team this year.
    ~~~

    • Anon

      I know, right? I mean that time that Lattimore hurt his knee returning kick…. wait, I mean the time Knile Davis busted his ankle return… or the time Lattimore…

      Wait, what were we talking about?

      Guys like Gurley are a threat to score the instant they touch the ball. Increase the amount of times they have a chance to touch the ball.

    • AusDawg85

      Can’t figure-out why Keith Marshall isn’t the obvious choice, especially if Bobo is going to continue his strategy of letting Gurley pound the ball with more carries and only use KM to spell him.

      • IveyLeaguer

        Agree. Marshall seems the most logical choice for one spot. And give some of the freshmen a chance, there should be several who could do it.

        But Marshall for sure. He has the top end speed you like, too .. he’s not gonna get caught from behind. Gurley has good speed, but not that top-end speed past 40 yards or so.

        Gurley is just too valuable as a runner, IMO. Why risk it …
        ~~~

  26. kckd

    With the offenses we had in the past, throwing in the defenses we were fielding with it, I agreed with you Senator. With this offence, not so much. I’d just as soon make sure they get the ball.