With no game to discuss this week, I’m devoting this edition of the Blawg to some of the recent Junkyard Mail. Needless to say, a lot of the letters I’ve been receiving lately are from folks who aren’t too happy with how this season is going so far.
Some of them, as is usually the case after a couple of losses, want head coach Mark Richt fired. Others are dissatisfied not just with this season, but with the overall state of the program under Richt, and yet aren’t convinced a change would necessarily be for the better. And some still believe Richt can get it done at UGA.
That debate over Richt is at the heart of a note from Melissa Southerland, who writes: Bill, I always enjoy reading your analysis! When the remaining defenses of Richt have been reduced to the anemic “Hey, the next guy could be worse” or the lukewarm “But he’s such a good guy,” it really crystallizes the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of good to say for him right now…
Thanks, Melissa. Richt does have his strengths. He runs a clean program that UGA fans can be proud of. He graduates a lot of his players. He doesn’t tolerate repeated bad behavior. He’s a good recruiter. And he has won a lot more than a lot of other coaches (frequently in the 10-game range). But I understand the frustration about the lack of championships, the Dawgs failing to show up well for some big games, etc. I’ve heard folks lament that he wins just enough to never get fired but not enough to win it all. He’s come close, but until if and when he wins it all, he’s going to continue to have his doubters.
Naturally, Georgia’s inability to score touchdowns against Mizzou, following losses to Bama and Tennessee, has a lot of fans wondering about the starting QB. Perry Beaver speaks for a bunch of them when he writes: I understand that Brice [Ramsey] looked bad when he entered the Bama game, however, he has not had a chance to get in a rhythm; every time he has gone in it’s just for one or two series. Not only that, Mark Richt said he would play against Tennessee and even though Greyson [Lambert]’s numbers were terrible, Brice never got the call. Then, Greyson’s numbers were terrible again against Mizzou, why?
And Dan from Peachtree City is not the only fan who’d like to see Faton Bauta get a chance. He writes: Bill, really enjoy reading your blog each week. Very pointed and insightful. My question and comment relates to our QB situation. If you remember until practically the first game of the season Coach Richt commented that the QB competition was too close to call. Giving him the benefit of the doubt with what was said, I’m wondering why we aren’t seeing Faton Bauta in certain series. With Lambert and Ramsey you get the same and I agree with your comments on Brice. We know Faton is the more mobile QB and would bring a new wrinkle to the offensive package. Richt and Schotty both made positives comments about Faton throughout the spring and fall. In my opinion, bringing Brice in is a disruption but Faton makes a defense prepare for different looks. I see Faton being an impact player in an offense that needs to do whatever possible to get through this year. It’s not turning out as we had hoped. This to me is when coaching makes the difference.
In theory, I’d agree that Bauta might represent the sort of change of pace that could disrupt the planning of some opposing defenses. But, aside from G-Day, Bauta has very little game experience and also doesn’t have the arm to worry defenses about a downfield threat. Yes, he’s smart and a hard worker and popular with his teammates. But, bottom line, he hasn’t done enough in practice to convince the coaching staff that he’s the guy. As for Ramsey, see my answer to the question below.
Carolina Dawg writes: Bill, how did Georgia get in this QB situation? I realize we have a potentially great one in Jacob Eason coming next year, but the coaches knew when Aaron Murray was going to graduate. How did we wind up with a situation where we needed to bring in a second-string quarterback from Virginia?
The Georgia coaching staff whiffing on too many recruits is the short answer. From Christian LeMay to Ramsey, too many guys at that position simply haven’t panned out or didn’t develop as expected. Ramsey has a strong arm but still makes poor choices. He was given every opportunity to make the starting job his, but couldn’t do it. Would Mike Bobo still have started him and tried to bring him along if he were still at Georgia? Yeah, maybe. But I get the impression from some of his comments that Ramsey also has a bit of an attitude problem, and that might also have been a factor. As I wrote after the Mizzou game, for better or worse, Lambert is and is likely to remain the starter, barring an injury.
Vegas Dawg writes: Bill, Always enjoy reading the Blawg. Between us and your readers, living here in Vegas, I don’t mind playing a parlay or two. I never bet on the Dawgs … bad luck in my opinion. One of the sportsbook experts here is an old friend who had no idea I went to UGA until he saw me walking in with a UGA t-shirt on after the Mizzou game. He shook his head when I acknowledged my alma mater and told me he felt sorry for us and our “R2P2” offense. No clue what he was talking about so he gave it to me straight when I asked: “R2P2 is run on first down, run on second down, pass on third down and punt on fourth. That’s not the Air Coryell offense; that’s Marty ball. That Apple didn’t fall far from the tree and you had to know Papa Schottenheimer to understand the ultra-conservative nature of his offense. That’s why his boy never lit up the scoreboard as an OC with Don Coryell concepts but a Mike Martz, Norv Turner, Tom Moore and an Earnie Zampese did! It is a vertical offense and there is nothing vertical about your offense. You need a quarterback first (ouch). It is an offense that relies on pass catching tight ends as a blanket…you wouldn’t even know you had one”. I cut him off there still fuming over the game. My question is …. is he right?
Along the same lines, David from Plains writes: Bill, I know there is no hope this year for our QB situation, but I must ask, why does Schotty continue to run up the middle 90% of the time? Most fans feel running out of the shotgun is pointless, when you have a QB that can only look to one side (eliminating at least 2 routes) of the field and the zone read is an utter failure. Play action and the run game seems more beneficial running out of the I, as well as getting the both TE’s on the field … your thoughts?
And Jim P. writes: What was with the crazy, inconsistent run calls in the Missouri game? Just when Sony Michel was getting in a rhythm, he was either substituted in the game or a series of mostly inadequate passes were called. It created no flow in our offensive series throughout the game. Does Coach Richt need to take over the play-calling again, as he did his first (very successful) years in Athens? Bottom line: Schotty is getting a “D”, if not failing grade, thus far as OC for the Dawgs. Especially compared to Bobo. Bobo haters be damned. The man helped set records and left the cupboard mostly full for Schotty, who is ruining this once, offensive machine. What do you think Bill?
The main reason Michel kept leaving the Missouri game because of problems with his hip and groin. But I agree that Schottenheimer’s playcalling so far this season has been predictable, unimpressive and largely ineffective. I know Georgia has had some trouble running wide because its smaller, less experienced receivers can’t provide the blocking the Dawgs had outside last year. That also hurt with the bubble screens against Mizzou. And part of the problem has been the offensive line not being able to make much headway against defenses that are almost uniformly stacking the box to stop the run. Still, there’s no question that Schotty hasn’t mixed the run calls up very well. I also agree that Georgia’s running game tends to work better out of the I-formation and with a fullback leading the way. (More on that below.) Is what we’ve seen so far the best we can hope for out of Schotteheimer? I certainly hope not!
Michael Scharff writes: Would someone please explain to me how a 6’5′ QB continues to have several tipped passes each and every game? Is it his release point? Poor technique? Some combination of both? Also, it is very frustrating to see that Georgia has gone away from two of its most successful plays — the play action where the QB hides the ball on a fake run, and the pass to the fullbacks. Quayvon Hicks is a playmaker, and it has been very frustrating to see him and Jay Rome have so few touches recently.
Also, Michael Ruffin writes: Hey Bill. Since we are so intent on running up the middle, why do we never give the ball to the fullback?
Yes, Lambert has shown poor fundamentals at times this season. At other times, he’s looked fine. Overall, he’s inconsistent. As for the running game, part of the problem has been starting fullback Christian Payne being out with a leg injury. He generally is more effective at blocking than Hicks. But the latter is a better runner, and there were a couple of times against Mizzou when a quick handoff to the FB might have been effective. No idea why it wasn’t tried. As for not throwing to the fullback or the tight ends much, the need for them to help block apparently has been the major factor there.
Briton Williams writes: Bill, I don’t disagree that Greyson Lambert has been inconsistent this year and has some things to correct. But the biggest disappointment has been our offensive line. Yes opponents have loaded the box but they still have been inconsistent and have not played up to their preseason hype in my opinion. The one player that has played poorly lately is John Theus. He had 2 critical penalties in the [Missouri] game and got beat on several passes not just [against Missouri] but in last few games as well. I am just tired of hearing about Lambert and Schotty being the only culprits — it begins and ends with the boys upfront. Thanks for your blog and love your opinions.
Thanks, and you make a good point. The OL play this season has indeed fallen far short of what was expected, even with defenses crowding the box. It’s been one of the more disappointing areas of the team.
Bob Morris writes: Bill, why are we not seeing more of Keith Marshall? He looks good when he does get a chance. Is he in someone’s proverbial doghouse?
Several other letter writers were thinking along the same lines, including Jason Rhodes, who writes: Hi Bill, Against Missouri, Brendan Douglas averaged 2.7 yards a carry on 9 carries, while Keith Marshall averaged 4.8 yards a carry on just 5 carries. Marshall is a better running back than Douglas, and with [Nick] Chubb unfortunately out, why not give him the opportunity to shine? I remember the days when it was said that Marshall had “elite hands” as a receiver — would it be such a bad thing to throw him the ball 4-5 times a game? Just wondering if you have any ideas as to why Douglas saw more action than Marshall on Saturday, and why Schottenheimer seems to be taking a “use sparingly” approach to a player with Marshall’s talents. Thanks for reading this, Bill. I always enjoy your column.
I wish they’d throw to Marshall more, too, Jason. As for why Douglas was the choice over Marshall at times against Mizzou (nine carries to five carries, both winding up with 24 yards), I’m guessing that maybe the coaches view Douglas as the more “physical” back of the two, and since Georgia was going for a conservative, ball-control approach, that might be why he got the nod. I’ll be surprised if we don’t see more of Marshall in Jacksonville.
And that’s where we’ll pick up again next week.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.