The addition of Todd Grantham and Scott Lakatos to the Georgia defensive staff leaves Georgia one short of the maximum number of assistant coaches allowed by the NCAA. Rather than adding a fourth defensive coach, it’s been floated that Georgia might persue a dedicated special teams coach. We’ve learned this week that Mark Richt is “still working through” that decision. Both directions have their arguements, but here are the key points in favor of each:
For a special teams coach: Georgia has several bright spots on special teams (kickers especially), but there have been enough breakdowns over the past few years to suggest that a more cohesive approach to special teams could help. Fabris caught most of the criticism for special teams breakdowns, but all coaches had some responsibilities for some area of special teams. There is too much advantage in having the kickers and guys like Boykin to see it countered by an ad-hoc approach to kick coverage and returns. Richt should bring in a dedicated special teams coach to oversee the details that would make sure those hidden yards end up in Georgia’s favor.
For another defensive assistant: The Bulldogs will be implementing a new defensive alignment and scheme with new coaches. This transition will be especially challenging for the front seven – it’s not as simple as dropping a rush end into an outside linebacker spot. Richt should maximize the coaching resources available to ease that transition and get this new defense performing in time to show big improvement in 2010.
My opinion: go with the defensive coach. You’re spending $750k on a new defensive coordinator. You don’t want to make an investment and a statement like that about the defense only to shortchange Grantham when it comes to the people he’ll need to implement his defense.
It’s not that special teams don’t deserve attention, but Richt has to ask himself whether those areas can be shored up with a different approach or if it really will take one person overseeing all areas of special teams. Georgia has had successful special teams under Richt using the coaching-by-committee approach. In the case of kickoffs, it’s possible that not adjusting to the new reality of college kickoffs can be fixed with a fresh perspective. It’s also possible that there are qualified assistants out there with significant experience in certain areas of special teams – Fabris was such a coach.
There’s also nothing preventing Richt himself from taking greater ownership of the special teams. It’s not that he has nothing to do, but he also doesn’t have positional or coordinator responsibilities. Head coaches working with special teams (Beamer, Meyer) isn’t unheard of.