David Ching goes masochist on us with this piece about Georgia’s special team woes last season and Mark Richt’s sudden laser beam focus on fixing the problem.
“My guess is we’ll have more live kicking reps in the fall than we’ve had in a while,” Richt predicted of the Bulldogs’ open preseason camp in August. “Some of that is because we’re going to be breaking in a new punter and a new kicker. They need to be under pressure as much as possible and it’s hard to create that pressure unless you’re doing some live situations.
“But we also just need to see for our own eyes can a guy make a tackle out in the open. Drills are great, but when it gets down to it, you have to have that sensation of being able to corral a guy out there when you’re covering a punt or covering a kick. You need to have your punts rushed full speed to make sure there’s no problems.”
“We were just wanting everybody to understand that everybody and anybody could end up on special teams — a starter, a second-teamer, whatever it is. We need all hands on deck like I’ve been saying,” Richt said at the end of spring practice.
“So the drill work that we worked on we think will give us an idea to understand who to start out on these units, who’s second team on these units and then also hopefully it gave them some experience doing the things that they’ll have to do to get the job done.”
This from the man who had no problem trotting Logan Gray out there to field punts and play on the kickoff coverage team. Better late than never, I suppose, because last year’s special teams play epically sucked, a point which Ching miserably details. Although I do have to disagree with him about one thing. He’s wrong about the low point of the year. Yeah, the timing of the Mathieu punt returns was brutal, but at least they were delivered by a guy who was if not the best at that in the conference, at least very close to it.
On the other hand, there’s very little excuse for letting this happen:
All I could think while watching that play unfold in front of me was how goddamned long it took. Just awful, awful special teams play, which was inexcusable for a team with Georgia’s resources. So, by all means, throw the kitchen sink at the problem this offseason. If 2011 is a benchmark, that might mean the difference between a couple of wins and losses in 2012.