The Schotty Era Begins

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The Schotty Era Begins

Brian Schottenheimer
Brian Schottenheimer
Photo: Greg Poole/Bulldawg Illustrated
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When then St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer accepted the same position at the University of Georgia on Jan. 7 of this year he said he expected “an easy fit” in Georgia’s pro-style offense.

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Going further, Schottenheimer said rather than bring all sorts of NFL terminology to the Bulldogs’ offense and have the players learn a completely new system, he would keep the same terminology used by former coordinator Mike Bobo, who was named as Colorado State’s head coach on Dec. 22.


“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” said Schottenheimer at the time. “That’s going to allow these guys to play fast. There certainly will be some things that will have my fingerprint on it.”


All that said, if you listened to Georgia’s offensive players during this year’s 15 days of spring practice, their new coordinator’s terminology was a good bit different than what Mike Bobo brought to the table.


“I think we’re doing a good job with the new offense terminology,” said sophomore tight end Jeb Blazevich. “I told my friends who don’t play football it’s like having two other classes that you have to study for every night. Every night we’re all studying, all talking to each other, we’re all getting what we need to get done in terms of studying and I think it’s all starting to show through on the field a lot better.”


Senior wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell said not only is Schottenheimer’s coaching methods different than Bobo’s but the offensive players are having to learn a lot faster as well.


“Coach Bobo has been a college coach for so long and Coach Schotty is just getting back into that flow,” Mitchell said after the G-Day game on April 11. “So when he’s (Schottenheimer’s) teaching, he’s rolling through. It’s not taking five minutes to teach one play. It’s like 10 seconds and you better know it by tomorrow. He’s just brought that in. Every time we install, it’s quick. We might have a 30-play install that might last five minutes. His coaching is different but they’re two different people.”


But, like Blazevich, Mitchell thinks the results of Schottenheimer’s coaching are already showing on the field, making the Bulldogs’ offense not only better as a unit but as individual players as well.


“We love it,” he said. “Everyone in the room wants to go to the NFL. That’s where he came from. So if he’s doing that, he’s just showing us how to be at the next level.”


Mitchell pointed out the primary challenge for the Georgia offense now is to get on the same page going forward into summer workouts and then preseason camp in August. “We need a lot more chemistry,” Mitchell said. “That’s not bashing the chemistry we have now because we do have flow. We saw a little bit of that (in G-Day) but we have a long way to go. Everybody needs to be on the same page. That will be straightened out once we get the quarterback position solidified.” Blazevich sees Schottenheimer’s newlook offense clicking in high gear by the time the Bulldogs line up for the season opener Sept. 5 against Louisiana-Monroe.


“We keep installing new stuff and shoot, I can’t wait for fall camp,” he said. “We’ll have everything in and first game, we’re going to be able to show a lot. It’s just a different mindset on what we do against blitzes and everything and just kind of different ways of going about some of these things. I just love what he’s doing, I love this new offense.”


Another new face on the UGA offensive staff this season is running backs coach Thomas Brown, the former standout Bulldogs tailback who succeeded Bryan McClendon tutoring the Georgia backs when McClendon assumed the wide receiver coaching duties …. the position he played for the Bulldogs. Under Schottenheimer Brown envisions an extremely balanced attack, not simply a power-running football team like the system Brown coached in at Wisconsin last season. At the same time, Brown knows running the football well has always been Georgia’s bread-and-butter.


“It’s somewhat of a different offense (than Wisconsin’s),” said Brown. “We can be a lot more balanced here, we’ll have more skilled players on the outside but we’ll definitely continue to attack and run the football well. Obviously, it starts up front and the offensive line is doing a great job. Coach (Rob) Sale does a great job with those guys and gets them to compete and work hard every day, and it’s my job to get these guys to clean up on the back end and make sure we maximize every run we have. I think our backs are very talented and they work extremely hard every single day.”


Georgia fans are wondering if the Bulldogs’ offense under Schottenheimer’s guidance will produce more passes to the tight ends this coming season. Blazevich, the 6-5, 232-pound sophomore from Charlotte who, after moving into the starting role at tight end as a mere freshman and earning Freshman All-SEC and UGA Newcomer of the Year honors, definitely thinks that will become a reality this autumn.


“I think so,” he said. “I think just because we’re all healthy, we’re all back, we’re all learning a lot more and we’re able to open it up a lot more, just expand what we can do. I think we’re getting the opportunity to move around a lot more. I felt like we could have done it last year but with the people we had and the inexperience by me we weren’t able to do these things but now everybody’s healthy and we’re able to open it up more,” said Blazevich.


“The system that Coach Schottenheimer brought here to Georgia is really tight-end friendly,” said senior Jay Rome, who bounced back from past injuries in the spring drills and is expected to push Blazevich for the starting nod this season. “If we keep getting opportunities we’re going to keep making plays.”

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And although the Bulldogs were admittedly thin at the wide receiver spots this spring, Schottenheimer showed he intends to stretch the field with deep throws in the 2015 season. That was evident in the G-Day game when sophomore quarterback Brice Ramsey uncorked a 72-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie and also a 60-yard bomb to Reggie Davis. And with 5-star recruit Terry Godwin as well as outstanding receivers Jayson Stanley and Michael Chigbu reporting to campus this month to join incumbents Mitchell, McKenzie, Davis, Shakenneth Williams, Kenneth Towns, Justin Scott-Wesley, Charlie Hegedus and Clay Johnson, Georgia’s new starting quarterback − whomever it may be − should be blessed with plenty of downfield weapons.


“Overall, as a receivers group, I think we’re coming together,” said junior split end Towns. “We’re adapting to the way Coach B-Mac wants and we’re just jelling together. Malcolm, he’s good. He’s out there running with no limitations, playing like he was when he first got here.


“Everybody has their own ways but Coach McClendon brings the intensity he brought to the running backs,” added Towns. “Just like he helped Todd (Gurley) become the person he is, he brings that same intensity and is pushing us each and every play and making sure we don’t slack.”


Of course, if Schottenheimer’s offense is to click like Bobo’s Georgia attack did the last few seasons, it will all come down to the new coordinator selecting the right guy to run things … whether it be Ramsey, junior Faton Bauta or redshirt freshman Jacob Park.


“I think we truly have three guys that are capable of doing it,” said Schottenheimer, who like Bobo coaches the quarterbacks. “We’re rotating the reps with the ones, giving them all a shot to work in there with the first group. What we’re looking for as a staff is, there are going to be good days, bad days, but we’ll come to a point with, ‘Who’s being the most consistent?’”


Another contrast between Schottenheimer and Bobo is while the excoordinator called the plays from up in his press box booth, Coach “Schotty” will likely do so from the sidelines, like he did in his NFL days.


“We haven’t really talked about it yet, but I believe he will be on the sideline,” head coach Mark Richt said. “But that’s not 100 percent.”

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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.