ATHENS — The Georgia football team began its bye week with a Monday practice, and if coach Mark Richt’s radio show is any indication, the offense was a big emphasis.
The Bulldogs failed to score a touchdown in their 9-6 win over Missouri, and the vast majority of the calls Richt received Monday night were about the offense. He didn’t deny the offense had issues, and hinted at personnel evaluations throughout the week.
“The big thing is we want to get back to working fundamentals, and competition too,” Richt said. “We’re gonna let everybody know that it’s kind of like a mini-spring ball this week, in regard to everybody getting opportunity to get work, and get a chance to show what they can do again.”
That was in response to a caller who asked about playing quarterback Faton Bauta and tailback A.J. Turman, two players the caller said impressed him this spring. Richt didn’t directly address either player. But he said they would spend “a bit of time” on Thursday with some young players and others who haven’t played much to “show the coaches what they can do.”
“Our goal as coaches is to put the best players in the game, and the ones that give us the best shot at winning, in our opinion,” Richt said. “Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. But the goal is to get the right ones in the game and the more opportunities we give these guys the more chances they have to prove that they can do it. So we’ll be open-minded to all those types of things. But the bottom line is we’ve gotta get ready.”
Another caller asked Richt about the offensive line, which he said “seems to be getting pushed around,” leaving “our backs scrapping for every yard.” Georgia’s tailbacks were held to 3.4 yards per carry by Missouri.
“You know what, Don, that was a big part of our discussion as an offensive staff,” Richt said. “You’re 100 percent right. We did not play as well up front as we had earlier in the season.”
He pointed to two mitigating factors: Left guard Isaiah Wynn was sick, requiring a couple IVs before the game. Center Brandon Kublanow played through a hurt ankle. Wynn’s nausea hadn’t been publicized.
Still, Richt acknowledged that beyond getting healthy the line needed to improve.
“We spent the whole day doing nothing but the O-line working on run blocking, combinations, the things that we had a really good edge coming out of camp on, we lost a little bit of that,” Richt said.
Something else that could help the blocking: Fullback Christian Payne, who blocked well when available earlier in the season, could return for the Florida game, Richt said. Payne has been dealing with an injury to his fibula.
Another caller pleaded with Richt to take back over playcalling and let Brian Schottenheimer concentrate on working with the quarterbacks. Richt told the fan he appreciated the passion, but basically turned aside the idea.
“A lot of times play-calling is very over-rated,” Richt said. “I’ve called plays for years, and really the thing that’s most important is the execution of those plays. And that’s the thing we’ve gotta focus on the most. Because the plays that we call and are calling right now are very sound. But they’re not worth a darn if we don’t do a good job of executing.”
Someone else suggested that Schottenheimer call his plays from the press box. Richt, while admitting he preferred calling plays from the press box, said Schottenheimer was like many NFL coordinators, who prefer being on the field. Richt also pointed to an instance earlier this season when Schottenheimer, because he was on the field, was able to yell out to the field for Greyson Lambert to change the call. The result was a touchdown.
“It’s really just a preference and I’ve gotta go with what the coordinator is most comfortable with,” Richt said.
Richt normally appears on the show in person. This time, however, he was on the phone. The final question, from Jim in Columbus, was to be about “quarterback evaluation,” as Jim put it.
But if Richt was going to say anything, sadly, it would have to wait. His phone had dropped him before Jim came on the air, and Richt’s hour on the show was over.