Georgia Sports Blog FanShop

November 11, 2008

Thoughts on Special Teams

I like John Fabris as a defensive ends coach. I've been told that he's one of the better teachers on the staff. He arguably had the most consistent unit on the team for the seven years prior to this season under Richt. Look at some of his pupils:
  • Charles Grant - became a better player working with Fabris.
  • David Pollack - had never played DE before working with Fabris. Left with exceptional technique.
  • Quentin Moses - came to UGA as a basketball player with raw potential. Became All-SEC.
  • Charles Johnson - lived up to his considerable billing.
  • Marcus Howard - went from a 210 pound kid without a position to All-SEC end.
This year his group is ravaged by injuries and a down talent cycle, but he's still a good DE coach. Now...with all of that praise out of the way. Let's talk about special teams.

Our punt return and punt coverage teams have been historically strong under Fabris. For instance, Georgia is second in punt return yardage this year. Andy Bailey and a few blocked punts in 2006 aside, we've also had good punt and field goal units for most of the past eight years.

On the other hand, you've got the debacle that is our kickoff return coverage. The Dawgs are currently 10th in the SEC in kickoff coverage and 79th nationally. We routinely give our opponents starting field position between the 30-35 yard line in big games.

Much has been made about directional kicking. At this point, it's not where the kick lands that's driving me nuts. It's the actual coverage. Georgia's kickoff coverage unit looks nothing like you see in Florida, LSU or Bama. We have three walk-ons and a third team quarterback covering kicks. Those other schools put their fastest young talent across the line.

Logan Gray, bless his heart, looked like Martin Gramatica trying to make a tackle down field on the long UK return. I'm all for building morale and rewarding the hard work of walk-ons. I want our players to have fun, and I respect Richt's approach generally. But you know what's really fun? Winning. And it's easier to win when you have your best players in the game.

Why we have a 180 lb backup QB covering AND blocking for kicks is beyond me. It's almost as if Fabris is trying to work out some sort of childhood issues around being a slow, undersized player in a fast, big man's sport. Just because a walk-on has "a case of the want its" doesn't mean that he can change the space time continuum to arrive at his intended destination dramatically faster than a kid with greater talent who is coached up.

One area where I'd like to see Richt make some changes is in this area. If it requires a staff wide intervention to get Fabris to put our best players on coverage units, then so be it.

PWD

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

but Paul, they'll get tired if they start on special teams AND defense.

that's just too much for their little bodies to take. (entirely sarcastic)

Anonymous said...

i disagree with the sentence about the walk ons. look at renner. you need your special teams players to sprint the whole play. starters may be a little winded for those plays.

Anonymous said...

The alarms should sound when Southerland has a missed assignment that causes a blocked punt against Kentucky...

Anonymous said...

On the long return that UK made, we kicked a RARE deep ball and the UK player was at the 20 before any of our guys were even on the tv screen, and I have a widescreen tv! Very frustrating. When we return it, opposing players are already hitting us and slowing us down between the 15 and the 20.

Pete said...

Historically, Virginia Tech has had one of the best special teams units around. They've always put their best players out there, so obviously they can handle it as they've also had strong defenses throughout the years as well.

Anonymous said...

And why is Logan Gray still on our Punt returner? At first, it was sort of a campy, fun experiment for the first couple of walk-over games. Yet, I keep seeing him back there. We have recruited stud after stud at DB, RB and WR; yet, we have a 3rd string QB returning punts in the crucial moments of a big game? Something just does not jive.

Sometimes you have to live with boneheaded plays like Prince made on Saturday,rather than have Kelly Rhino back deep so that the opponent does not fear a return. Very bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what did Asher Allen do to get removed as Punt Returner? I thought he did a good job last season and this year when he had an opportunity.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, UGA has succeeded in spite of Fabris as special teams coach. If you heard Kevin Butler after the Florida game he made some very pointed comments about a lack of any kind of coaching for our kickers, who we seem to leave to their own devices. He pointed out that Walsh's efforts to kick it deep on kickoffs and the "torque" he was putting on the ball were making him put too much torque on the ball on field goal attempts as well.

Special teams is an area that with some focus could be a difference maker, but Richt & co. consistently give it the short shrift.

mitch said...

Watch florida or alabama play and everytime they kick it off their coverage is down to the 25 when the guy catches the ball. We need more speed on our kickoff team and let bliar kick it deep.

Matt said...

Compared to where our special teams were under Donnan, I'll take Richt's work, but something does not jive. Our punt returns and punt coverage have consistently been some of the best in the country since 2001, yet our kickoff returns and kick coverage simultaneously suck and blow.

Are the disciplines that different? Or maybe is Fabris not in charge of both units like we're lead to believe? The results are just too different.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Fabris is not our special teams coach. In fact, we don't have a special teams coach. Instead, it is a by-committee system. True, Fabris does coach punt return and kick-off, but Coach Lilly coaches punt kick, and Coach Ball coaches kick-off return. So, maybe what we could stand to gain is an actual special teams coach. Of course, that begs another question--how would we open up a spot for a special teams coach? I'd be interested to know how other teams do it.

Universal Remonster said...

BTW, Logan Gray is an incredible punt returner. That's the reason he is back there guys. He's got acceleration and top end speed, and unfortunately they stick him in when there is little chance of a return because he's sure-handed.

They don't put him pack there to give the erst of the team a giggle, for Christ's sake.

Anonymous said...

You're missing the point. Correct in your mind for a moment the other (major) things screwing up this season, then tell me how much you care about the kick coverage. Nada. If other things were going the way they should, no one would care. The benefit TO THE TEAM of giving hard workers a chance to play between the hedges is one of the positive legacies of the Richt era, and it's important.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind giving hard workers a chance to play between the hedges as long as they are not standing on the 30 yard line after the kick returner has already reached the 25. The best thing to do would be to get a 31 point lead and then let the hard workers play between the hedges. Special teams are important. Very important. And to use that aspect of the game as some kind of reward system for inferior players is lunacy.

jayteeeatworld said...

I'm guessing when CMR refers to our "special" teams, it's just a polite way to say "retarded"

Paul Westerdawg said...

Anon - 9:48.

Are you freaking kidding me?

"The benefit TO THE TEAM of giving hard workers a chance to play between the hedges is one of the positive legacies of the Richt era"

If we would sweep the leg and show no mercy at our dojo, we could give those players meaningful minutes on offense and defense after we beat the sh*t out of crappy teams. Instead, we let teams hang around because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

Southern Cal can recruit that insane collection of talent because they beat the hell out of their opponents and let the 2nd and 3rd teamers get minutes that way.

This is a football dojo. Not a YMCA.

Anonymous said...

Ummm,
I agree about Logan Gray but lets not piss on the walk-on's. Pinning that on walk-on's is BS Paul. They are part of a TEAM. Go back and look and you will see that those very same walk on's have excelled in coverage. Its not their fault so lets not pin it to the walk ons.

C. Paul said...

If we are to trust CMR to understand where aspects of the team need an honest assessment (and he's shown in the past a willingness to do so - time management, motivation, play calling responsibilities), then he needs to take the off-season and review the success of our kickoff coverage units and what we can do to make them better.

Whoever we have out there (stars, walk ons), and whatever we are practicing (directional, kick deep) is not performing consistently and puts our defense in bad positions more times than anyone would like.

That said, some immediate improvement would be greatly appreciated as Tristan Davis is an excellent return man for AU.....

hoodawg said...

If we didn't already have so many key injuries, I'd be all for letting the starters play on special teams. But at this point, when KY was arguably the only game where we could have lost BECAUSE of special teams (and that was largely because of linemen and kickers, not rushers and tacklers), I can't see putting more crucial players in spots where they tend to get hurt. I know these guys are football players, but sometimes you just have to be cautious.

Mr. Egger said...

Logan Grey may be the "hands" option as someone said since it seems so often that's he back deep in mostly fair catch situations (and Prince Miller's mistaken return out the end zone Saturday may be an example of why). But as someone else said, what did Asher Allen do to be taken off entirely? When he's tired, sure, but he has had considerable success as a return man, with 0 returns this year? And Knowshon had one great return, he hasn't been back there again. The whole rotation has just seemed very odd all year.

But the comments about the walk-ons I agree spot on. One or two, maybe, sure, but we have a load of guys on that unit. Watch time and again as teams can return out to the 20, sometimes the 30, before ever having to avoid a defender. Why does it take so long for us to get down there? Could it be the 3 walk-on FBs/LBs, and the walk-on S or 2 we send deep while leaving our main speed back as safety men? Our kickoff coverage is a HUGE problem right now. We've got a lot of ?s to answer this off season if we want to step into national title realm. We're a good team, and can stay that way, but there are some fundamental problems that need to be addressed before we can take the next step imo.


Also, the abnon at 8:58 is right, special teams unit's are not all under Fabris, just a couple. I think he has the right breakdown, just not 100%. Pretty sure it's Ball in charge of kick return, Lily or Jancek in charge of punt, with Fab on punt return and kickoff. Not sure who's got XP/FG.

Paul Westerdawg said...

Hoo,

There are players between walkons and starters. We can go with them. Guys like

For instance, rotate a walkon out and put Richard Samuel (a hard hitting hs linebacker) in there.

jayteeeatworld said...

we're all on the edge of our seats, willie.

Bez Imya said...

War Willie:

I agree about having a player with good hands (and mind) first and foremost at PR. But I don't really see how Knowshon has earned himself the title of "flashy fumbler." He seems to be quite disciplined in ball security, and I don't remember too many mistakes on his part, other than the big fumble at the Florida game, but that was on a pitch, so I only give half of the blame to him.

I do wonder what happened to Asher returning though. It seems Prince has been the best we have so far (except for the one bad mistake at Kentucky). Logan seems to catch well, for all that's worth, and Samuel almost always takes the ball in the middle of the endzone and threatens to run it out, but luckily Chapas is always there to sit him down.

hoodawg said...

Fair point, PWD. That could be a good way of training the young pups up, as well. All I ask is that we don't put our 4th linebacker on kick coverage if we've already lost Dannell Ellerbee for the game.

Anonymous said...

You basically say a walk on doesn't rate and can't get it done. Ummm, Verron Hayes, was a walk-on. I could go on and on about walk ons and they wouldn't be out there IF they weren't producing it is THAT simple. Look if you got crapped on by a walk on that's fine, but the FACT is that a walk on started at DE and MADE a play (1/2 sack) on the third play of the game. Just because they are walk ons DOESN'T mean they can't play. Saying its all the walk on's faults is stupid at best.

Mr. Egger said...

anon @ 11:55...
Agreed, just because they are walk-ons doesn't mean they can't play. Do we have any faster walk-ons? This isn't so much about walk-on vs. scholarship as it is pure and simple speed. We lack it in bulk on kick coverage, and it shows every game when opponents are consistently reaching the 20 while the closest defender remains 10-15 yards away. When some guys are in position to make a tackle but just get left in the dust by an opposing return man who cuts back. It's not walk-on bashing, it's a speed thing.

mitch said...

If munz and the walkons acutally had speed it wouldnt be an issue, but our kickoff team is way too slow.

Anonymous said...

Speed is only half the equation. Blair Walsh is not elevating the kicks, especially when he is trying to reach the endzone. Hangtime of the kick is huge when it comes to coverage. I also dont like the "gangbuster" formation that has everyone starting as a group to hide the coverage. It just doesn't seem to do anything other than make the guys more easy to find for the initial block. If you spread guys out, then the defense is spread out as well, and one missed block means that guy gets to the returner much more quickly.

Also, I believe that college staffs can only have so many coaches on them. Maybe Butler would like to become "team mascot" and be on the field during practice, "cheering" on the kickers,

UGAFBparent said...

As the parent of a walk on turned scholarship, I know how hard these guys work. They have the job because the coaches know they can handle it-it's not a gimme position. I get so tired of armchair coaches who think they know what goes on inside Georgia football-trust me you DO NOT. Until you are a coach on the UGA staff, BACK OFF.

 
Copyright 2009 Georgia Sports Blog. Powered by Blogger Blogger Templates create by Deluxe Templates. WP by Masterplan