“Imagine what a dynamic return man could do for Georgia’s special teams.”

As you might guess, I’m down with Seth Emerson’s first choice for Georgia’s most important players this season.  Let Mike Bobo explain the hole McKenzie is trying to fill:

“It could be the difference in one ballgame, and obviously help us on offense if we can sometimes just get 10 yards on the punt return. That’s the first down for the offense. And field position is so crucial, it sometimes doesn’t matter how effective you are as an offense, the percentages go down if the field position isn’t in your favor. It’s hard to go 80 yards on anybody, I don’t care who you’re playing.”

I’m starting to get nervous that McKenzie’s getting too much attention and the pressure that comes with it.  People shouldn’t expect him to hit a home run the first time he touches the ball, because that kind of thing doesn’t happen in Athens… sorry, what?…

Okay, almost never.

Seriously, I’d be happy if McKenzie showed enough consistency to allow Richt to quit playing not to lose in the punt return game. Here’s hoping.

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36 Comments

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36 responses to ““Imagine what a dynamic return man could do for Georgia’s special teams.”

  1. HVL Dawg

    His high school highlight film shows a lot of examples of him running backwards to get to the corner. You think that’s going to work in college? Groan.

    • He may be a complete flop. On the other hand, it’s not exactly unheard of for a high school player to be coached up in college.

      I think that’s why the key word in the header is “Imagine”.

    • Deutschland Domiciliary Dog

      Here’s hoping McKenzie doesn’t get torn to pieces first time he tries a return against bigger and fast men who play for the likes of Clemson and South Carolina. Plus, as you say, he’s got to get coached out of all that backtracking featured on his high school highlight films.

      McKenzie could be what the doctor ordered for UGA special teams. But I fear same-old, same-old dropsies and bad decision-making to which we have become accustomed.

      Georgia used not make mistakes on special teams (and pretty much period). Then again, Erk Russell was coaching in those days.

      Say what you like about Dooley’s three-yards and a cloud of dust offense, but the Dogs usually out-conditioned the other team and it showed in the fourth quarter.

    • Rp

      Your pessimism is strong, you are a true fan.
      At this point I am resigned to considering anything better than horrible as a success.

    • Bulldawg165

      I would like to call you a pessimist, but unfortunately everyone knows you’re just a realist.

    • Go Dawgs!

      Running backwards to get a big gain is certainly not adviseable in college, but it can also work in college the same as it does in high school. The kid’s high school highlight reel doesn’t include any of the times he may have been dropped while running backwards (it is, after all, a highlight reel) but it almost certainly happened several times. There’s a long line of college players who lit up the scoreboard with all sorts of similar antics. The name Reggie Bush comes to mind. The kid is going to receive some coaching. And he’ll learn. His ability to create on plays like that in high school isn’t the only thing that has the coaches excited… after all, they know a thing or two about what works in college and what doesn’t.

    • Mr. Sanchez

      Yes, and has with numerous others before (Dante Hall, Devin Hester, etc, etc, etc).

  2. McTyre

    Yes . . . leaving only that pesky returns blocking thing.

  3. siskey

    Hopefully as we acquire more depth we are better able to perform on special teams. In the earl Right years the special teams were really good and some of the players on those units were walk one but the majority were also contributors on defense and offense. The low amount of players on scholarship has meant that more and more walk one or former walk ons were forced to play special teams. As we inch closer and closer to 85 players on scholarship we may also move closer to competent on special teams.

  4. Gravidy

    “…if we can sometimes just get 10 yards on the punt return”

    Sigh It wasn’t that long ago when that sort of wish didn’t seem very far fetched.

    • Yeah, it’s been what, two years, since we had anybody that could even handle the ball (except for McGowan)?

      If anything, IMHO, the coaches risked too much, as they tried in futility (surely because they didn’t have anybody else) Mitchell and a few others over and over, when they shouldn’t have. Somebody mentioned “under Dooley”. Not just Dooley, but a lot of coaches, probably Saban for sure, for example, would never have given Mitchell an opportunity. I wouldn’t have. Turning the ball over deep like that is just too devastating a price to pay.

      I get the high school stuff, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an indication that McKenzie will bring those things to the next level. As a safety, most of the time I’d let my man get open long enough to bait the QB into throwing it to him, then make a play on the ball. It didn’t always work, but it worked a lot, and I got a lot of picks that way.

      Emerson seems to think a TD return is the better measuring stick, but at least he quoted Bobo, because as you too point out, the consistent 10 yards or so on punt returns is much more important over the long haul of the season. There’s no doubt McKenzie has that ability, much like Damien Gary did. McKenzie is as good as anybody I’ve ever seen in a crowd, and returning punts draws a crowd.

      The question really, is does McKenzie have a good head on his shoulders. If he does, he’ll be fine. If not, he won’t be able to handle the ball well enough, especially punts, because that requires good judgment. But I don’t expect that to be a problem. He looks comfortable to me fielding the ball.

      I haven’t seen any more of McKenzie than any of you guys, but based on what I have seen, I think he’s going to be great.

      Blutarsky: I’m starting to get nervous that McKenzie’s getting too much attention and the pressure that comes with it.

      Me too, but there’s nothing that can be done about it. Except perhaps, mentoring them when they get to Athens about how to handle it all. I hope we’re doing that. We certainly should be, and it’s hard to imagine we aren’t.

      But that’s the way it is today, and it’s not going away. Like you I suppose, I’m trying to learn not to get nervous about it
      ~~~

      • Geez, somehow I lost a whole paragraph, I hate there’s no editing feature.

        I get the high school stuff, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an indication that McKenzie will bring those things to the next level. As a safety, most of the time I’d let my man get open long enough to bait the QB into throwing it to him, then make a play on the ball. It didn’t always work, but it worked a lot, and I got a lot of picks that way.

        That looks bad without completing the thought, so here’s the paragraph that should have followed:

        But that’s the kind of thing McKenzie was doing. He wanted to make plays, and he knew most of the time he could get away with it. He knew he was that good, and it got him a lot of big returns. In a way he was like man like a man among boys, as it is for a lot of guys in HS.
        ~~~

  5. BMacDawg87

    If he can catch or hold on to the ball… or averages more than 5 yards per return. He is an upgrade.

  6. Bulldog Joe

    If he earns it on the practice field, we need to make him the man.

    We should be done with that last-minute dial-a-returner “strategy” that failed so miserably last year.

    We can no longer try to make everyone happy with playing time. It cost us two games last year.

    They’ll just have to be happy with winning.

  7. Moe Pritchett

    here’s to the Logan Grays of the world and the designated fair catch man.

  8. W Cobb Dawg

    The problem wasn’t the players, it was the coaching. CMR has turned most, if not all, of the ST responsibilities over to CJP’s staff, so I expect significantly different ST play than last year. Hope McKenzie is the real deal. But if not, we have plenty of other playmakers on the roster who are capable of doing a good job if they are well coached.

    • siskey

      I agree with you in part but if you watch the SEC championship game with LSU from 2011 you can see that there was a significant difference in the talent level out there on special teams. The image of our walk on getting crushed on that return by the “Honey badger” really sticks with me as much or even more than those dropped passes in the 1st Half.

      • Bulldog Joe

        Those days, we used special teams as the means to get walk-ons playing time. A few excelled, but most were outmatched athletically by our opponent.

        Yet another competitive disadvantage we chose for ourselves.

  9. I think Seth hit on it at the end of his article – “A decent improvement in those dismal return stats will take some pressure off Hutson Mason and the offense.” Recent seasons have made me forget how nice it is to have special teams that actually help your offense. With AM gone, I don’t want to see our offenses getting pinned back as consistently as we did last year. I have no real reason for optimism with the Dawgs’ special teams at this point, but surely the only way we can go is up, right?

    • Mg4life0331

      Be careful, I said the same thing about our defense…

    • I think Seth hit on it at the end of his article – “A decent improvement in those dismal return stats will take some pressure off Hutson Mason and the offense.” … I don’t want to see our offenses getting pinned back as consistently as we did last year.

      Exactly. Where Seth missed it, IMHO, is giving punt return TD’s more importance than the consistent, short return. Field position is more important over the course of the season.

      Not that punt return TD’s are great, and they can sure break open a game, even decide games. But it’s what the good short returns do for your field position, as you point out, because it helps the offense score more points.

      If McKenzie can do that (and it comes down to whether he can handle the ball because he can surely be an effective returner), then he’ll get his TD’s. But the collective shorter returns are even more beneficial.
      ~~~

  10. Gatriguy

    Blame it on Urban. Not only was he fanatical about his own ST, he was also the first coach to really pull UGA’s pants down in 2005 with that fake punt. That game was a turning point; from that point on, more and more teams started challenging the ST.

  11. Dog in Fla

    “It’s unfair to expect McKenzie to be the next Tyrone Matthieu right away.”

    Which causes the analysts at Drug Tests-R-Us to breathe a sigh of relief for what promises to be the most jittery thing to come out of Florida since Frostproof’s Carlton Thomas

  12. Macallanlover

    I am going all in, in the blind no less, with McKenzie. I hear the doubters but this is first “water-bug” like return man at UGA and I think it will make a difference. Might he get caught for a key loss when making a bad decision at this level by reversing field once too many times? Damn right, but he will give us a threat we haven’t had and you have to take some risks to get the chips. Not buying the pessimism on this young man. He dropped it all for UGA at the last minute of the recruiting period and he is coming to make a name for himself. Book it, Dano.

  13. Goat Balls

    I just watched his highlight reel deal on YouTube and the thing that stood out to me was him back pedaling after catching the punt. That showed his confidence in his ability to outrun/outmaneuver the other side which is impressive. However, his opponents weren’t hand picked top flight SEC speedsters so as usual we’ll have to see if it works out.

    It always gets back to that annoying blocking thing.

    And I would add that his picture at the Macon paper is a classic.

    • I just watched his highlight reel deal on YouTube and the thing that stood out to me was him back pedaling after catching the punt. That showed his confidence in his ability to outrun/outmaneuver the other side which is impressive. However, his opponents weren’t hand picked top flight SEC speedsters so as usual we’ll have to see if it works out.

      Good point, Balls. All we have to do is though, is show him the Damien
      Gary film. Textbook.
      ~~~

  14. hot12dog

    If this poor kid bobbles one punt CMR will have him on the bench for ever!

    • Nah, if that was true, Malcolm Mitchell would’ve never seen the light of day as a returner, after his first bobble (IIRC, his first attempt was a fumble that resulted in an opponent TD). McKenzie will get a mistake or two, as he should.

      But your point is well taken. Let’s just hope he doesn’t need that small cushion.
      ~~~