Well now, here’s something you don’t expect to hear from the head dude:
… [Richt] disagreed with a blogger who criticized plans to use Logan Gray again deep in Georgia’s own territory on punt returns if he doesn’t win the starting quarterback job.
“I usually don’t ever read a blog, but I read the blog about Logan Gray catching punts,” Richt said…
… Richt said he wanted “to try to educate whoever cares that when Logan is back there — I tried to explain it the other day — it’s at a time when our opponent is punting it in. It’s a pooch kick. Our defense — our punt return team — is in punt safe to keep them from faking the punt because their (sic) across the 50-yard line.
“All Logan is doing is making a decision whether it should be a fair catch or let the ball hit. The fine gentleman who writes the blog, I don’t think he understood that very much, but I just thought maybe if everybody got educated on that a little bit better, they’d understand why Logan would do that. He was 100 percent last year on making those decisions and never bobbled the ball. I think that’s not a hard thing for him to do and we’re not expecting him to return the punt because those punts don’t get returned. There’s no return set up.”
First off, kudos to Richt for responding – and responding in a respectful way. I can think of several of his peers (as well as countless anonymous bloggers/commenters) who wouldn’t have been nearly so decent about that. And I have long suspected that Richt and the coaches read the blogs more than they let on. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
However, with regard to the substance of his remarks, sorry, but I’m not buying it. For that all to make complete sense, you’d have to believe that (1) Logan was only deployed as a returner (using the term loosely) in situations when Georgia was flat-out not returning a punt; (2) no other player on the team was as capable of judging whether to field a punt as he was; and (3) that he performed his duties at a level higher than anyone else on the team could.
And the reason you have to believe this gets back to something I said in the comments to my post on this subject.
… Basically what Richt is doing is conceding to the opponent’s strategy without a fight. How does it make sense to say, “OK, we’ll go ahead and start at our own 10 yard line”?
By electing not to insert your regular return specialist, you limit your options and you make it easier for the other team to defend. Now maybe you can justify this in terms of risk and reward, which gets back to the three points I raised earlier, but I didn’t see anything in what Richt said that went in that direction.
Maybe that’s because, in reflecting on last season, I question whether he’s got his facts completely straight. I can recall a game when Gray bobbled a punt. I also remember the Vanderbilt game (I was there!) when Gray sandwiched a disastrous minus-2 yard return on a punt from the Vandy 31 between two Prince Miller returns of 55 and 40 yards. And there’s the Auburn game, when, after Georgia got down 14-0, the coaches elected to have Prince Miller field punts twice inside the Georgia 20 (one of those was fair caught, by the way).
It’s hard to see how there was some hard and fast rule about when to send Logan out to field a punt, at least in the context that Richt described. And it seems apparent that there were circumstances when the coaches were convinced that they could trust Prince Miller as much as Gray. Given that, it’s hard to justify continuing the same old thing this season.
Again, this isn’t about Logan Gray. Respectfully speaking, it’s about the tactics. It’s about being unnecessarily passive. It’s a mindset Georgia needs to get out from under.