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Post Lesson (re)learned

Wednesday October 6, 2010

I know a lot of people are encouraged to see signs of life from Georgia’s practices this week. The key bit of news has been a return to harder-hitting practices with greater emphasis on contact. Richt explained how things got to that point:

A lot of it had to do with the one season when we had 32 guys hurt going into the year. You start out with camp and another one goes and another one goes. There are different schools of thought. One is you have to block and tackle to block and tackle well. The other one is let’s get everybody to the gate healthy and let’s kind of play our way into this game and pick our shots when we do those types of things. We did the least amount of that in camp than we’ve ever done. Is it biting us in the rear end right now? Probably so.

Fair enough. I get the once-bitten-twice-shy factor at work here. 2008 was pretty brutal in terms of injuries, and it’s clearly affected how Richt approaches practice. Better late than never to recognize that and correct it, right?

But in some obscure corner of my head, this all sounded very familiar. And, indeed, it’s an evaluation from Richt that we’ve heard before. He talked about it following the win over Michigan State that closed the 2008 season:

After the regular season, Richt mentioned how injuries took a toll on the Bulldogs starting with their approach in practice. During bowl workouts, Georgia opted for more contact and it helped, according to Richt.

“We practiced different this year, and it was attributed to the number of injuries in camp,” said Richt. “We addressed that in the way we practiced for the bowl. We tackled more in our bowl practices than we did all season long. I think our defense improved in that time frame. They tackled better, had more of a swagger in that game. That’s part of it, practicing the way we need to practice.”

He reiterated the need to change entering spring ball in 2009:

“When a lot of guys get hurt and you’ve got bodies on the ground, you start thinking, ‘If we lose one more guy, our game plan is shot,’” Richt said. “Then you have to re-invent the wheel on Wednesday or Thursday. You start making decisions based on that. It affected our defense in particular. Defensive players need to practice with an edge. When you don’t do that, you can lose some of that team speed and attitude. We had three scrimmages in the fall. But by the second scrimmage we weren’t going at full speed.’ That’s just not football.

“You make those calls in the interest of the team. But in hindsight it probably wasn’t the right thing to do. It’s time to go back to old school.

So we’ve heard this reflection and pledge to change the approach at the tail end of the 2008 season, going into the 2009 season, and now again in the 2010 season. There’s a difficult balance between practices at full speed with violent contact and being able to field a team on Saturday. It seems to be a balance that the coaches struggled to find for the past three seasons. The pendulum has swung back (again) this week, and eventually we’ll see if it sticks this time or if we’re back here in 2011 reading more quotes about the need to get more physical in practice.

One Response to 'Lesson (re)learned'

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  • I swear, there needs to be a set or orange highway cones around this team. I’ve never heard of a D1 squad that racks up injuries like we do, in practice or on gameday. Sometimes it seems like we’re fielding a bunch of china dolls in silver britches. Sigh.