Damien Gary wants a little Dawg porn.

Per Weiszer,

Georgia’s all-time leader in punt return yardage isn’t a big fan of playing it safe by relying too often on fair catches.

“I’m kind of gritting my teeth when I see that,” said Damien Gary, who racked up 1,253 punt return yards from 2000 to 2003 and is now running backs coach at Charlotte. “I understand the game especially being a coach now when you have a safe opportunity, but I definitely love seeing good returns.”

The article, as you might guess, is written about the potential of Isaiah McKenzie to bring life back to Georgia’s moribund punt return game – the Dawgs didn’t have a punt return longer than 17 yards last season – but it’s really about the struggle going on inside Mark Richt’s head.

Richt’s intentions were good when he signed McKenzie, who had some crazy stats as a returner in his senior high school season.

“That’s one of the more exciting things about his high school career that made me really want to go after him,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Friday. “I thought his ability to return punts and kicks could help us a lot.”

But there’s still some Logan Gray haunting Richt’s soul.

Before Richt hands over the punt return duties to McKenzie, he has to trust the freshman that he can count on him to secure the ball.

“That’s why I’m telling him, every rep I’m watching,” Richt said. “There is no `I’ll do it game day mentality.’ It’s ‘I’m going to do it in practice to prove to coach I can do it.’ That’s not just him, that’s anybody back in that spot.”

Or maybe he’s just channeling his inner Vince Dooley.

“What you’d like in a return man, but like I told him and the rest of them, I’m going to base the decision on who that guy is on how well he fields the ball and how well he protects the ball. If you don’t field the ball and don’t protect it, it doesn’t matter how good you can run. And that punt return especially is so much different in college than in high school. They’ll punt it out there, you’ll catch it in space in high school. College, it’s way up there, it’s hanging, you’re sitting there waiting and waiting and waiting and here they come. They’re right on top of you — 95,000 people, millions of people watching on TV. It’s just a whole different deal. That’s the thing you concern yourself with a true freshman.”

Hey, don’t stop with true freshmen.  Damian Swann managed to turn the Vanderbilt game around all by his lonesome with a botched catch.  (And that was on punt safe!)

There are times when I wonder why Richt doesn’t just say “screw it, I’m not sending anyone back to field this punt”.  But maybe he should listen to Damien Gary a little bit.

“It’s an opportunity to give the offense some extra yards,” Gary said. “It would be nice to have some good return men that could kind of help the offense back there.”

As the saying goes, no guts, no glory.

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39 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

39 responses to “Damien Gary wants a little Dawg porn.

  1. gastr1

    I think he never said “screw it” because a frigging college football player should be able to catch a punt.

    • Krautdawg

      What you see is a coach who’s had no reliable defense for 6 years. When you have to start counting possessions in the third Q, you don’t take risks on punts.

      Get another BVG and you’ll get another Damian Gary.

  2. Goat Balls

    Man I like Richt but my god, we’re talking about fielding a punt here. How is it that a football program on this level cannot return a punt? I’m already angry about Martinez and Grantham and now we can’t field a punt. It’s frankly beyond inexcusable. Seriously?

    • How is it that a football program on this level cannot return a punt?

      I think we can now, Balls, if our guy stays healthy. But I agree there’s no excuse for the last 2 years, and certain years before that.

      I think what happens is coaches sometimes assume great athletes can do it, instead of doing their due diligence and making sure they have somebody in every class with all the goods.

      That’s how Malcolm Mitchell got out there 2 years ago. And he was a disaster, on both punts and kicks. I couldn’t believe it, but they kept putting him out there, long after he’d proven he couldn’t do it.

      So IDK, go figure. All I know is I’m tickled to have Isaiah. But there should be a suitable backup or two every year, maybe not great at getting yards, but at least good at fielding and protecting the ball. And we haven’t even had that in recent years (except for McGowan, and even he dropped one or two, but IIRC he was able to fall on them).
      ~~~

    • sUGArdaddy

      How is it a team like Alabama can’t kick a FG. Dude, it’s just football. Stuff happens.

      • Bulldawg165

        Lol. Yeah, because fielding a punt (like high schoolers do all of the time) and having a back up kicker hit a 57 yard field goal are TOTALLY the same ;)

        • sUGArdaddy

          Ummm…It wasn’t the back-up kicker, dude, that was the problem. It was the starting kicker who’d missed THREE already, a few from chip shot range. Kicking FGs (see LSU 2011) has been a bit of a snafu for ol’ Coach Saban the last few years.

          And do you go to many high school games? I go to a 6-A game every Friday night and see a lot of bad punt returning. And, as Richt said, it’s a different deal. Their not kicking 25-yard lob passes in college.

          We tried everything last year. Swann, Davis, McGowan. All of them had the dropsies at some point. Malcom was hurt. Marshall was hurt. JSW was hurt. Sometimes teams just don’t have an answer at a position for whatever reason. It’s not ALWAYS an indictment on the coach. Sometimes kids that catch everything in practice drop it in the game. Sometimes guys get injured. Sometimes you just have bad luck. We want frontline players out there, but then we put Malcom out there and he gets his bell rung a couple of times and everyone complains. At least went after a kid specifically because we couldn’t find an answer. Gary, Thomas Flowers, Mikey Henderson. Richt has had plenty of good PR guys. My guess is he wants to find another and just hasn’t been able to, for whatever reason.

          • You really think MM can be trusted fielding punts, sUGAr? What makes you think that? And JSW, for that matter.
            ~~~

          • Bulldawg165

            Are you serious sugar? It was absolutely the back up. Don’t make up facts to support your argument.

            And how many of those missed field goals you mention against LSU were from 40+ yards?

            Again, TOTALLY different than fielding a basic punt, which all other teams have seemed to be able to do just fine the past few years.

            • .Dash

              He’s saying it wasn’t JUST the back up. Their regular kicker missed 3 field goals in that game.

              • Bulldawg165

                Maybe if you try really hard to see it that way ;)

                • sUGArdaddy

                  I mean, not to pick nits, but it was Alabama’s starting kicker who missed. Starting kicker Cade Foster missed a 44 yarder, a 33 yarder, and had another 44 yarder blocked (it was a terrible, low kick). This sequence also caused Saban to go for it on the Auburn 13 in the 4th qtr, and Yeldon got stuffed. Adam Griffith (the long FG kicker) then missed the notorious 57 yarder.

                  The point, here, is that a great coach (the greatest currently) couldn’t find a FG kicker and it cost him an SEC and national championship. But Saban didn’t kick the ball. My guess is he thought he had a player, and the kid just got the yips.

                  Just a few short years ago, we had Boykin catching punts at his own 8 and taking it to the house in the Outback Bowl. To think that guys just fumbled punts all over the place in practice and the coaches just throw them out there and say, “Hey, I’ll bet they’ll catch it in a game” is ridiculous. We as fans tend to see things myopically rather than seeing the broader picture. Auburn fumbled two punts in the 3rd QTR vs. FSU (by 2 different guys), but fell on both of them. FSU recovers one and it’s probably a route.

                  Yes, the punt return situation has been non-existent to harmful the last 2 years, but we act like the coaches don’t know it. They’ve tried darn near everyone. Sometimes we act like Richt doesn’t know it’s a problem. Why do you think he was parading all those guys out there last year? Good gracious, we get to the bowl and freaking McGowan fumbles one. Our sure-handed guy couldn’t even hold onto it. That ain’t coaching. That’s just plain snakebit. It happens. We recruited to fix it. Let’s hope Izzy can.

                  • Bulldawg165

                    “I mean, not to pick nits, but it was Alabama’s starting kicker who missed. Starting kicker Cade Foster missed a 44 yarder, a 33 yarder, and had another 44 yarder blocked (it was a terrible, low kick)”

                    Not to pick nits here, either, but you were directly responding to my post about the 57 yarder ;)

                    Also not to pick nits, but 40+ yard field goals (of which 3 of the 4 missed ones were in that game apparently) are not in any shape, form or fashion comparable to fielding a punt.

                    “Just a few short years ago, we had Boykin catching punts at his own 8 and taking it to the house in the Outback Bowl”

                    And for several years prior to that we had Logan Gray fair catching seemingly every punt. Don’t pick the exception of the past 5-6 years and pretend it’s the rule.

              • gastr1

                Why the hell does it matter? Kicking a FG from anywhere outside of 25 yards is a specialized skill. FAIR CATCHING A PUNT is not a specialized skill, it’s a skill nearly err-damn-body does all the time. It’s a skill I can do, for chrissakes.

  3. AthensHomerDawg

    Can’t have Dawg porn without pics. Fast forward to the 1:47:55 mark. Gary had a lot of good runs. Bernie had a pic up from the 2002 Clemson game which reminded me this. Lot of DGD on that team!!

  4. AthensHomerDawg

    Measure twice… cut once. Here we go.

  5. mwo

    I can’t remember the first cover man down on the punt team ever getting Gary. It seemed like he always made the first guy miss.

    • I don’t either.

      Gary was the best we’ve ever had at Georgia, and probably one of the best ever, at fielding punts and then the first 20 yards.

      He didn’t have top end speed, which likely kept him from being drafted. But I said at the time, and still believe, if I’d been a HC or GM, I’d have jumped all over him. Even at that level, he was probably worth close to 100 yds./game. For the first 10-15 yards he was unstoppable, even when the punt was well-covered.

      I think McKenzie is going to be like that, except better. He DOES have the speed. And like I’ve been saying, I’ve never seen anybody better in a crowd.

      That’s something, because Gary was great that way, it’s what made him an exceptional PR. That, and he was confidant and just totally fearless. Of course he had the ball judgment and the soft hands required.

      So we all hope that Isaiah has all those qualities. Looking at his film, my guess is yes.
      ~~~

      • Russ

        Gary was good, but Scott Woerner and Buzzy Rosenberg beg to differ on “greatest ever at UGA”. Heck, Mike Castronis could argue that, too.

        • LOL. Yeah, and he would. I don’t take anything away from Woerner or Buzzy. They were both great. But I still say Gary is the best we’ve had “for the first 20 yards”.

          BTW, I was trying to think of a returner I’ve , seen who’s better in a crowd than what Isaiah has shown thus far. And I can’t. Those who are as good? Two come to mind, Gale Sayers & Dion Sanders.

          And Isaiah’s career is just starting. Everything is still in front of him.
          ~~~

          • FWIW, when it comes to best overall PR, I didn’t see Trippi and Sinkwich. I guess the best I’ve seen is Scott Woerner, followed by Jake Scott, Buzzy Rosenberg and Damian Gary, in that order. Charley Britt was pretty good, too.

            But to the point, if Gary had had the top end speed to go with his first 20-30 yards, he’s be at the top of the list. He had the burst, and everything else, necessary for an elite PR, but not the last couple of top-end gears to go with it.
            ~~~

  6. Macallanlover

    Agree with comments above, you cannot let this concern override the need to develop someone and then trust them. The only time this concern should dictate your actions is with a tricky wind situation, or when the sun is in an extreme position relevant to the returner’s angle of reception. McKenzie has been working with Barber all summer, I am sure he is pretty adept at receiving the ball by this time, especially since he was successful at it in HS. Just need to insure his judgment on when to call for a fair catch and when to go for it. I am more concerned about the judgment issue and trying too hard to make something out of nothing by doubling back and giving up more yardage trying to escape some very fast coverage people. All in all, I am not worried to much at all and confident we will see success for our new ST star. Haven’t heard anything about the ST practice yesterday, is CMR keeping a secret for some evil reason?

  7. Scorpio Jones, III

    Gary is running backs coach at Charlotte? The Charlotte Panthers (Carolina Panthers) or Charlotte College, or what? Not that it matters, but I suspect if Mark Richt had Damien Gary as his return man his attitude might be different. (UNC-Charlotte running backs coach Damien Gary will be working with the Carolina Panthers as part of the Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship )

  8. Slaw Dawg

    The uneasy, skeptical, snake-bit Dawg part of me (which, c’mon, we all have, right?) puts this together with your previous post and frets these reports indicate a general problem with the basic fundamentals of football. Guys couldn’t properly defend 3d and long; guys couldn’t properly field a damn punt. Since these are in 2 very different phases of the game, the fretting Slaw Dawg sez “could this indicate a problem at the top”?

    Maybe I’m getting too old. Maybe my mind’s eye memories of Dooley/Russell coached football are unfairly rose colored. Maybe my 21st Century expectations were improperly skewed when for the first half or so of the Richt era, there seemed to be a return to the fundamentals of what I think of as the good ol’ days. But I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the concept that, of late, Georgia Bulldogs football means frequent incompetence on special teams and frequent failures on defensive fundamentals.

    • Hang on Slaw man. I’ve seen those same visions many times, and yours aren’t rose-colored. But hang on. This really could the year where we revert back to solid, fundamental football.
      ~~~

  9. AthensHomerDawg

    FIFY. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_49ers_football
    Joe T is coaching WR there as well.

  10. 69Dawg

    I’m old so I remember Scott Werner but before Scott there was Buzzy Rosenberg. Now Buzzy was not fast but he had the ability to run straight up field and make guys miss. What UGA has been missing and what the new ST guy Coach E will bring I hope is the return to actually blocking for the return man. For years now we have had too many guys that were just spectators. If an opponent ran into them they might mistakenly block them but baring that they just watched. No wonder the returners were scared. Let’s try slowing the gunners down a little to give the PR a chance to make the catch without somebody in his face. If Lilly can’t teach it then just give the damn ST to Coach E. As has been said a thousand times here, It’s not rocket science.

  11. Scorpio Jones, III

    Didn’t Brandon Boykin play for Mark Richt? Guess all he did was fair catch punts, huh?

    • Dog in Fla

      Mark remembers him

    • sUGArdaddy

      Seems like he returned one for about 90 yards just as late as the 2012 Outback Bowl. Richt must have hated it. Surely Boykin disobeyed the fair catch directive.

  12. W Cobb Dawg

    We’ve had plenty of players who could handle punt returns, and CMR’s timid punt safe approach isn’t merited. Just like his timidity with directional kicks doesn’t add up when you consider the kickers we’ve had. So either CMR needs to get a grip, or he needs to get a ST coach he has confidence in.

  13. charlottedawg

    Punt retruns wouldn’t be an issue if we’d have just kept Grantham and his oppenent passer rating of 192 on 3rd downs. Damn it Richt!

  14. Biggus Rickus

    Does nobody remember the original reason we went safe on returns? Fakes killed Georgia multiple times when Georgia was peeling off to set up returns (which was a big reason for Gary’s success, Georgia’s punt return set up was phenomenal early in Richt’s career). Last year, sure, they had no faith in fielding punts, but the overall conservatism in the punt return game predates last season.