Admittedly, that opinion is based mostly on some of the cultural and philosophical changes we've begun to see in and around the program. From the outset I want to say that the common denominator seems to be Jeremy Pruitt, and he is given most of the credit for some of the things listed below. But the truth is that these things wouldn't be noticed at all if someone wasn't letting that happen. And at least one of those persons is Mark Richt.
- First and foremost, recruiting has become very aggressive. Richt is no longer relying on contract extensions and top ten classes to drive football recruiting year in and year out. If there's a player they want, they are going after him. Doesn't matter if he's committed or not.
- Along those lines, de-recruitment. This isn't something we saw much of under Grantham, but Pruitt isn't playing games with seniority, number of stars as a high school player, or even past on-field performance. Whoever practices best will play. Don't like it? Either try harder next week or hit the road.
- Indoor practice facility. I don't want to open the door to an IPF's merits/drawbacks, mostly because I'm in the minority. But the fact that one will be constructed soon (and more importantly the way in which it was brought to the forefront of media coverage a few weeks ago) should show fans that the football staff is going to force administration to get serious about spending some money. That alone gives me hope.
Now, all that being said, I have serious concerns about Coach Richt's leadership. And I am going to make sure I explain these in a way that singles him out solely. For one, this program is under his leadership; two, like it or not, he is the one person that can institute some manner of change.
|Got it Bernie! Let's do this!|
- Clock management. Mentioned yesterday that this is an ongoing problem. There certainly has to be some teamwork amongst the staff in terms of when to call a timeout, as well as when not to. But ultimately this falls at Richt's feet. And it's one of the things that cost us the game against Tech. Richt didn't ask for either of the fumbles near the goal line, he's not the one that lost containment on the quarterback before the tying field goal, and he didn't throw the interception in overtime. But he can do a better job of managing the clock so that it helps rather than hinders the team.
- Game management. For a man that everyone believes to be such a nice guy (and deservedly so), Richt is one of the most stubborn football coaches out there. Therefore I can't help but wonder just how much of the down to down operations he turns over to his staff during the game. But I'm pretty sure he was as close to a lone voice on that last kickoff as you can get. I doubt many players and coaches wanted to do anything except kick that ball deep (just like they practice) and win the damn game. I'm glad the head coach owned up to his mistake, but if he's not also doing some soul-searching as far as how to manage the game to WIN IT as opposed to TRYING NOT TO LOSE IT, he's not doing the team any favors. To be quite frank, it's as bad as trusting too long in an under-achieving defensive staff.
- Bye week preparation. Haven't seen many people mention it, but before the season we were all talking about how well the 2014 schedule set up. A bye week before two key divisional matchups, and a cupcake before Tech again. Well, that didn't work out so well as we lost both games following the bye weeks and then added another loss after the FCS opponent. So speaking of soul-searching, Richt should look into just what they did or did not do during the bye week/Charleston Southern week that could've caused those three losses. Doesn't help that they were three very different losses that can't be pinned on one single issue, but I would call that a very bad pattern that we want to steer clear of next season.
- Lastly, team management. This is another area I think Richt has gone to great lengths to improve on the last several years (anyone remember the movement to rid the house of "Energy Vampires" a few years ago?). But I keep coming back something post-WLOCP, when one of Richt's players was the only one being honest with the media and public. Everyone who watched that Florida game knew Georgia took the Gators lightly. Kudos to Ramik Wilson for calling a spade a spade, as that's about the only morsel of comfort I got from that game's fallout. But Richt's insistence (stubbornness again?) that no one was looking down on their SEC East rival just shows some measure of disconnect between coaches and players. And therefore, some amount of doubt creeps in as to whether the head coach is always on the same page as his players. I hope that even if that game's effort and intensity wasn't up for public discussion, it was up for some private conversations.
Not to beat the horse to death, but all of this boils down to evolving from a program that plays not to lose tackle football games into one that plays the game to win it. Week in. And week out. From cold January mornings until the very last second drains from the clock each and every Saturday. I can keep the faith in Mark Richt now because I do see some evidence of evolution going on. Those bullet points above should be the off season discussion in and around Bulldog Clubs in the coming months, around water coolers from Ringgold to Valdosta and beyond, and yes, even on message boreds.
Most importantly, they should be at the forefront of discussions and operations in and around Butts-Mehre.