I sincerely hope you had the opportunity last night to listen to Coach Richt's Bulldog Hotline Show. I found it to be the most refreshing, honest and genuine conversation with Richt in a long time. JimFromDuluth has a recap, but it's impossible to capture Richt's tone. Here are some highlights from my recollection in addition to the full recap from Jim:
1. Toughness -- Richt openly and candidly addressed the issue of toughness on the team. He talked about our need to be more physical at the point of attack on both sides of the ball and to tackle better. To that end, he reshaped this week's practice schedule. Typically, Monday is a day for lifting, reviewing Saturday's mistakes with the players and doing a shorts and pads walk-thru. However, the team went full pads and full speed yesterday and did 1's vs. 1's work.
It's extremely rare and incredibly frustrating / baffling to me why Richt does so little 1 vs. 1 work. Typically, it's first teamers vs. second teamers or 1's vs. Scout teamers in practice. So yesterday was uncommon. He said the practice was incredibly spirited, and the guys had fun competing. I also liked that the losers for all the drills had extra running. He said the team got better, and that they'll be going the same speed today. He also said that toughness and physicality are two of the biggest areas of emphasis for him right now.
2. Play Calling -- He addressed the play calling on 1st and Goal from the 4 yard line vs. Colorado. He said in retrospect that we absolutely should've pounded those guys four times. However, he said the real mistake was not telling Bobo when they got down there that he was going to go for it on 4th down. If Bobo knew he had 3 whacks at it after they got to the 2 yard line following Chapas' run on first down, he felt the play calling would've been different. He didn't address the idiocy of having AJ Green on the bench for the disastrous 3rd down pass, but he at least admitted that they completely bungled that possession.
He also said that as a result of that nonsense on the goal line much of Monday's 1 vs. 1 practice session was focused on a Goal Line Possession called "1st and Goal from the 4"...where the offense wasn't allowed to pass.
3. Vance Cuff's 3 Penalties -- He was basically asked how in the heck Cuff could get a third personal foul in that game without being benched. Richt candidly said that he badly wanted to bench him. But with Branden Smith out with a concussion, they didn't think that Cuff's back up was experienced enough to play better. Richt would rather have pulled him, but didn't think it would work. Now...you can agree or disagree with that reasoning, but at least he had valid logic. I've felt in the past that they screw up...and it's never even considered to pull them. (No word on why Jakar Hamilton still sees the field, but that's a topic for another day)
4. Visible Leadership -- A woman called last night and asked him about visible leadership. She said that Nick Saban and others lead their team out onto the field pregame, but Richt is the last one out of the tunnel. She acknowledged that typically Richt has said he wants that moment to be about the players, but she wants to see him lead the program. He said she had a valid point, and he will lead the team out this week. Most of you won't care about this at all. But it's been a source of annoyance for me and a few friends for years. Same with the Dawg Walk. His excuse about not doing the Dawg Walk but once a year has never made a lick of sense to me. Is it why we're losing? No. But it's part of a bigger issue about leadership.
5. Being a Nice Guy -- Richt routinely gets calls on the show about being a nice guy and a good Christian man. Last night, he said (paraphrased heavily) that he appreciates that praise. He also recognizes that being a head coach is about more than wins and losses. It's about developing young men, seeing them graduate, etc. But he said the wins and losses are the biggest and most visible thing. More importantly, we're no where near where we need to be, where he expects to be or where the fans wants to be in that regard. We have to improve. Again, that's heavily paraphrased, but his general tone (that I interpreted) was that he knows it's not enough to be a Nice Guy or Rev. Richt. Which I appreciate.
You can read everything I wrote about last night, and not think any of it matters or will fix anything. Maybe you are right, but I can tell you that I'm an extreme skeptic related to the rhetoric from our coaching staff. I was incredibly encouraged. Richt sounded passionate, and he sounded sincerely humble.
For the first time this season including before the ULL game, my optimism and hope for the season is based on something other than a weak schedule and a belief that "Murray can't be worse than Cox / Grantham can't be worse than Martinez."
Don't get me wrong...he still has to beat UT or we move into DEFCON 1 PANIC. But for one night, I finally heard most of what I wanted him to say about the big picture stuff. Get us tougher, and many other things will fix themselves.