Daily Archives: February 6, 2014

Four days in July

Somebody decided it would be a swell idea to add another day to SEC Media Days this year.

Imagine what they’ll do next year when they need more broadcast fodder for the SEC Network.  A week of PAWWWLLL in Hoover is right around the corner.

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Hand in the dirt

More thoughts from Mark Richt about a hybrid defense:

Q: Did you have to redo a lot of things with the defensive staff took over with [Lorenzo Carter]?

A: I think he was excited about Jeremy (Pruitt) coming in and was kind of wondering who his position coach was going to be. When (Tracy) Rocker was able to help him understand that’s kind of what Rocks been doing. He coaches four down linemen. Like I was trying to explain earlier, the way we run our 3-4 is identical to how people run their 4-3. Other than our end man to the line to the weakside is in an up position and a lot of other people just put his hand in the ground and go. The other thing he realized is when people go to a three-receiver set, a four-receiver set, which is mostly what we see now, we’re in what we call nickel and once we’re in our nickel look, usually we have four down linemen. Those guys that were outside linebackers are a lot of times on the line of scrimmage rushing and a lot of things we’ll do if he’s more comfortable rushing with his hand on the ground, we’ll do that. If he’s more comfortable rushing staying in a two-point stand. It’s like Jarvis (Jones) liked to be in a two-point stand. Jeremy, this is Jeremy now, he kind of wants them to be in the position they like the most that they’re the most comfortable in. There are sometimes when you play zone read teams where you’ve got to read that quarterback exchange and you’re trying to be in position to see what you’re doing, we’ll probably be more up in a game like that. There are certain games where you’ll play a prototypical pocket passer, you’ll probably put your hand on the ground.”

It sounds like they’re trying to adapt themselves to the current reality of college offenses, which is that variety rules.  The snide part of me says that might be a concept harder for a former NFL guy to grasp.

Interestingly, though, Richt goes on to say that there’s always been some form of this adaptability at work in Georgia’s defensive schemes.

Q: So would you call Carter a defensive end or outside linebacker?

A: It’s a slash really. Because even when (David) Pollack was here, he was a defensive end the way we termed but if we brought a certain blitz, like fire zones people talk about. You bring a sam and mike linebacker strong and Pollack’s on the backside, he’d drop into coverage but he’d drop from his hand on the ground. Now, Lorenzo or a guy like that or what Jarvis was doing, he’d be in the up stance and drop or rush. That position even when (Todd) Grantham was here, it was about a 90 percent rush guy. The will was a rusher. He would drop on occasion.”

Yeah, and I cringed every time I saw Floyd do that this past season.  Hopefully that gets coached up this year.

(And before anyone asks, no, I don’t think it means anything that Richt refers to his current DC by his first name and his former DC by his last one.  But feel free to suspect otherwise.)

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Even if I don’t understand it, I like it.

Emerson is reporting that Mike Ekeler, who coached the linebackers at Southern California last year, will indeed join Georgia’s defensive staff.

He certainly seems qualified and has received some ringing endorsements, but I am admittedly puzzled by two things.

First, why the wait?  It’s not like he was employed somewhere else.  The only thing I can figure on that front is that it gave Richt an excuse to use some of the GA’s to recruit and that he felt he was getting more mileage out of them than he would have with someone who would have shown up for the last week of recruiting.  Still, that means crossing your fingers that recruits won’t be bothered by not knowing who their position coach would be on signing day.

Which brings me to point two.  Apparently Ekeler will coach the inside linebackers.  Where that leaves the remaining defensive position coaching duties is a puzzler as well.

It’s unclear how Ekeler’s hiring will affect the rest of the defensive coaching duties. All that Richt has announced for sure is that new assistant Tracy Rocker will coach the defensive linemen and Will outside linebackers. That leaves Kevin Sherrer’s duties at least publicly undefined, as well as new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, whose background is coaching the secondary. Pruitt said when he was hired he would coach the secondary, but that was before the staff had two more vacancies.

None of this is meant to be critical.  Richt evidently has a plan in mind for his defensive staff.  Sherrer strikes me as a coach who is flexible when it comes to coaching duties, so I expect Richt and Pruitt know what they’re doing and where they want everyone deployed.  It’s just sounds like it’s going to look a little different from what we’ve been accustomed to.  Given how the last few years have gone on that side of the ball, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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UPDATE:  It’s official.  Here’s the new division of labor:

Ekeler will coach the inside linebackers.

Kevin Sherrer, who has simply been called a defensive assistant since his hire, will coach the “Sam” linebackers and the “Star” nickel back position.

Tracy Rocker will coach the defensive line and the “Will” linebackers.

New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is coaching the secondary.

Hybrid assignments all over the place.  Maybe this is the new paradigm for defenses that shift in game between a 3-4 and a 4-3.

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Armchair psychiatrists have lost control of Mark Richt.

This does not look like the face of a worn out man. (Photo via AB-H)

During the past season, I saw plenty of comments here and elsewhere about how tired and less than happy Mark Richt appeared to be coaching.  There was speculation along with that about how much time he might be willing to spend in Athens.

The thing is, Mark Richt doesn’t seem to agree.

“I look so young,” Richt said Wednesday, speaking on Signing Day. “If it weren’t for these extra 40 pounds I’m carrying, I could pass for 40.”

Then this, smiling: “Coach (Bobby) Bowden went until he was 80. So I’ve got another 27 years.”

Then this, still smiling: “I’m young compared to a lot of head coaches. Some guys coach deep into their 60′s and 70′s.”

Then this: “I’ve got a long way to go.”

I don’t know how much of this Richt’s been taking on the recruiting trail of late, but you have to figure if some in the fan base are asking, there are coaches who are more than willing to try to connect the dots.

All I can say is that we underestimate Mark Richt at our own risk.  I gave up in the wake of the two disappointing 2009 and 2010 seasons and Richt turned around and delivered back-to-back appearances in the SECCG to prove me wrong about that.  The program hasn’t fallen into nearly as deep and dark a hole after this past season as it did before, but with the early talk of defensive continuity after the 2013 results, it was easy to fret again.

It sounds like the energy and the desire are still there, though.  With new blood and new eyes, maybe that’s enough to bring focus to making some serious fixes to last year’s shortcomings.  There are a couple of intriguing hints of that in the latest recruiting class.  There’s also one more coaching hire to assess.

In any event, things feel a lot more positive now than they did a month ago.

Earlier in the day, Richt told a group of Georgia fans he feels more sprightly than ever. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who has worked alongside Richt since 2001, said: “I agree with what he said. He’s more energized than he’s ever been. It hadn’t crossed my mind that he might ever step down.”

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“I think we pulled it together very well.”

I can’t say for certain if yesterday’s class is Mark Richt’s best recruiting class – nobody can, until a few years pass and we see who makes it on the field – but I’m pretty certain it was Mark Richt’s best recruiting job.  For Georgia to wind up with a consensus top ten class after what the program went through in the last month is nothing short of remarkable.

It was less than a month ago that Mark Richt found out he was losing his defensive coordinator. Eventually he would lose all his assistants on the defensive side of the ball. For a lot of programs, that would be the death knell for a good recruiting class.

But Richt, Georgia’s head coach, got a feeling it wouldn’t be when one of the first calls he made that Sunday, upon finding out Todd Grantham was leaving, was to Keyon Brown. The defensive standout from Wauchula, Fla., had been committed to Georgia for a while and told Richt it would stay that way.

That started a month in which Georgia not only largely held its class together but added to it with a signing day two-part punch…

As MaconDawg notes, there’s a little something for everybody in this year’s class – three five-star players (only Alabama and LSU signed more nationally), needed depth in the secondary, an intriguing shore-up for special teams, ridiculous quality at running back, solid offensive line signees, you name it.  It’s a well-balanced and talented group of 21.

Pruitt turned out to be crucial.  McClendon, named 247Sports’ top national recruiter, and Bobo did their usual stellar jobs.  But the head man deserves a lot of credit, too.

“Coach Richt had everything organized. He laid out a plan for what he wanted when I got here. So we just kind of stuck to the plan,” Pruitt said. “It’s not a whole lot different of where you would be wherever you were at. We just had to kind of start all over and only had a couple things to get some things done.”

Makes you wonder what these guys are capable of when they get a full year under their belts with a full staff.  Oh, yeah, and by the way, Richt spent a fair part of national signing day on the phone with 2015 recruits.

This could be fun to watch.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

Thursday morning buffet

Post-signing day tidbits:

  • I’m guessing this is another story about momma not being happy with her son’s college choice.  This stuff is more sad than funny for the kid.
  • Give Derek Mason some credit for salvaging Vanderbilt’s class after James Franklin stripped it bare.  The Commodores finished with 22 signees, including 17 prospects ranked three stars or higher by ESPN.
  • Matt Hinton reminds us why recruiting matters.
  • A Jeff Schultz column about Georgia Tech recruiting partly entitled “Just the facts (no spin)” winds up sounding otherwise.  As for the two possibilities suggested in his piece, let me add a third:  the Jackets don’t play a lot of good opponents.
  • Boy, how things have changed in Texas.  Charlie Strong takes a swipe at TAMU:  “We don’t need gadgets. We’re not going to be a gadget program.”
  • Hakuna Matata, Eastern Michigan.
  • A little South Carolina crowing “You certainly shouldn’t let your friendly neighborhood Dawgs fan tell you that Mark Richt let Carolina win these battles.”
  • And Mike Bobo on in-state recruiting:  “The way Atlanta is now, it’s not like you’re recruiting south Georgia. A lot of people in Atlanta didn’t grow up there, where in south Georgia, those people are from Georgia and they have roots. It’s a constant battle, but that’s part of it. We’re still the state school, and I believe you can get everything any young man wants here.”

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Filed under 'Cock Envy, Big 12 Football, Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, Recruiting, SEC Football