If you want to understand the essence of Mark Richt’s coaching philosophy, he’s happy to lay it out for you.
“… There’s something about our league that’s special. If you win the Southeastern Conference, you’ve really done something special, and if you win the East, you’ve done something special in my opinion. I think our fans really understand that and embrace that. When I came from Florida State to Georgia, that’s one of the things that I learned. Every victory is precious in this league, and the style points don’t really matter all that much. Just win. Whereas before when I was at Florida State, we were wanting to win, but we wanted to win with a certain flair or a certain style. At Georgia I realized really fast that it doesn’t matter if you have style points or not. Just win. This league is so competitive on all levels, so it’s just fun to be a part of.”
And that’s how you get to this year’s approach to special teams.
“My goal this year was for us to be solid on our special teams. My goal wasn’t to try to lead the nation in any one category. I wanted to make sure that every time we force them to punt, I want to make sure we have the ball. If someone makes a fair catch, that’s okay with me. At the end of the kickoff, I want to make sure we have the ball in our hand. Let’s have a good, solid return, secure the football, and do well. Of course when you punt, you have to make sure you protect. My goal is just to kick that sucker high and have the least amount of big plays in that situation. We did have the one returned for a touchdown, but other than that, we’ve given up very few return yards. Now is our net punt quite as high as Alabama’s, which is almost 44 (yards)? No, but even if it’s 38 or 39 yards and it’s got good hang time and we fair catch it, we can then move the ball for four downs and get a good play out of it. My goal was for a really solid kicking unit this year, and I think we are solid. In the kickoff return, Malcolm (Mitchell) returns it back to the 50. It’s not like we’re not trying to get a touchdown. We had Todd Gurley return one for a touchdown, and we blocked a couple punts this year. We’ve done some good things in there, but the big thing is to make sure that they don’t become a huge momentum play for the other team.”
I still think Richt settles for too little on punt returns and has for some time now – **cough**Logan Gray** cough** – but they’re in the Dome on Saturday, and as Richt says, that’s all that really matters.