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Post If you know what you’re doing, look like it.

Friday April 29, 2011

Even for a fan base that has eating its own down to a science, A.J. Green could do no wrong. Even his more controversial moments – the taunting penalty and the 2010 suspension – slid off his Teflon reputation and were correctly seen for the screw jobs they were.

He’s earned that reputation. It started during recruiting. He was an early commitment to Georgia, didn’t drag out the process, and remained firm through Signing Day. That last point isn’t small – he was as obvious a star as a recruit as he was a draft pick. He surely faced tremendous pressure to stay home and play for a team like South Carolina. He never wavered and rode through the recruiting process with the quiet calmness that defined his three years in Athens. Now he’s a top-four pick. You had to love the ESPN draft capsule saying “Areas of concern: None.” Yep. That’s A.J., and that statement applies on and off the field.

Last night, I felt like a wet blanket for tweeting about this: Georgia’s trio of offensive skill players from the 2008 team were all drafted no lower than 12th overall. Two were taken in the first four picks. I don’t think it can be argued that Stafford, Moreno, and Green were the best QB-WR-RB trio ever to be on the same Georgia team. It’s not even close.

I see others thinking along those same lines this morning. Those of us who got to see Green for the past three years are thrilled for him and proud that he’ll be Georgia’s latest representative at the next level. At the same time, watching those highlights and his can’t-miss draft outlook was a reminder of a big missed opportunity.

As Kyle points out, its bittersweet that this rare convergence of talent coincided with Mark Richt’s leaner years. The three aren’t the first stars (even at Georgia) to come away with no titles to show for their individual accomplishments and talents. At least Stafford and Moreno have 2007 and a #2 ranking to their credit, but you feel for Green that his time coincided with defensive disarray, two first-year starters at quarterback, and a general decline in the program.

The Senator artfully takes this discussion and turns to a somewhat testy exchange between Mark Richt and a fan last night in Macon. I can understand Richt bristling at some of the room-temperature IQ questions he gets on the Road Tour, and we still have plenty of fans stuck in the 80s who think that double-digit passing attempts is a sure sign of the end times. Richt is correct of course that some very diverse styles of offense have succeeded in the SEC, and his frustration with his tailbacks shows that he appreciates how important a dependable back is in his offense.

But Richt again leaned on his resume, and I’m not sure it had the effect he intended. I hope he didn’t expect many pats on the back after last season, and such a defensive posture to convince us he knows what he’s doing by virtue of his experience isn’t all that reassuring. Much of the frustration with the state of the program is precisely because of Richt’s experience and his legacy as a winner. His comments about knowing what he was doing might’ve had more to do with constructing an offensive scheme, but of course we have to apply those comments to how he runs the program. Fans gripe about scheme and playcalling all of the time, but that’s not the area where we really expect more of Richt’s experience.

The Senator wonders why this experience didn’t put Richt ahead of the curve in identifying big problems on defense. The same could be asked of the erosion in the strength program that became this year’s remodeling project. You can get into other areas if you like – from kickoff coverage to the appropriate level of practice intensity. Richt is surely confident in his experience, but even he admits that he needs more time to keep up and study the cutting edge in football.

The offseason has been mostly good news so far. Signing Day was a coup. We’ve heard success stories with the brief time spent on the conditioning program. Players like Geathers are stepping up at key positions. Players are staying out of the wrong kinds of headlines. The offseason is the time for optimism. Last night was a bit of a trip back to reality and a reminder that there’s a lot to do and a dwindling window of time for Mark Richt to do it.

6 Responses to 'If you know what you’re doing, look like it.'

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  • The attitude is not pro red and black. It bad for UGA recruiting. We should up the contract now to back off the feeding of our other sec schools. If Richt gets enough of this trash talk I am sure there are many programs that are looking for a coach with his on the field record as well someone who will represent the program in a positive. Get a life

  • Amen, Amen, and once again Amen! Finally a balanced, truthful blog post about Richt’s remarks last night & the real state of the program. All i’ve seen/heard today are rah rah delusions of grandeur over some pseudo Evil Richt Character fans have created in their minds.

    While i don’t endorse a fan’s rude attempt to rip into Richt, i wasn’t too impressed with his “In the Arena” redux either.

    It seems the few brave souls willing to confront & ask tough questions are continually labeled as “negative”, “haters”, “not REAL fans”, etc. I’ve also noticed they never say that to your face & comment anonymously like REDDOG, for example… Good grief, our Disney Dawg fans are evidently the most overly sensitive folks on the planet.

    Thanks Groo for an excellent, fact-based assessment of the program. Lots of reasons to be optimistic and lots of reasons to temper enthusiasm. I think everyone hopes Richt can right the ship. We shall soon see. Go Dawgs!!

  • I think those of you who were rubbed the wrong way by the comments are simply bothered by the fact that Richt pretty much said to all of you what the rest of us have been saying – He knows what he’s doing, and all y’all can do is armchair quarterback and second-guess. Hindsight is 20/20 and you guys will always be smarter than everyone else after the fact.

  • And “Bad for recruiting?” GMAFB. If anything, players like a coach who sticks up for his players and his coaches. I think YOU need to get a life, DA.

  • What about the Dawg Nation’s pride,character and integrity?…..Mark Richt does a good job at trying to protect his $3 million plus pay check only now it’s put up or shut up. The Rhetoric game won’t work anymore with the Dawg Nation. It will take important results like victories quickly over Boise State and Carolina. There is a big difference in talking a good game and playing a good game. Richt is talking. After a 8-4 and 6-7 seasons finishing out of the top 25 for the second straight year nobody wants to hear anymore Rhetoric from the “Arena”. In the Arena the Gladiator must “Win to Live” ….right?

  • very well said!