[su_spacer size=”40″] In his 14 years at the Georgia helm, head coach Mark Richt and his assistant staff have made many brilliant calls in tight game situations, calls that have enabled Richt to compile one of the nation’s top won- lost records at 136-48.
Of course, as with most coaches, there have been the usual head-scratchers as well. Two of those came just last season when then offensive coordinator Mike Bobo took the blame for not giving the ball to Todd Gurley, arguably the nation’s top running back at the time, when the Bulldogs had a first-and-goal situation at the South Carolina 4-yard line and failed to score in a grueling 38-35 loss to the Gamecocks, and the other was when Richt said he made the wrong call when he called for a squib kick near game’s end against Georgia Tech. The return of the short kick enabled the Jackets to get field position for a game-tying 53-yard field goal and then go on to sting the Bulldogs in overtime, 30¬24.
[su_spacer size=”40″] With games featuring equally-talented opponents often coming down to a play or two, not only must the teams execute precisely at game’s end but a good, or not-so-good, call from the sidelines can determine which team leaves the stadium victorious and which leaves the stadium downcast.
[su_spacer size=”40″] And if you know football, these game-changing calls must be made in mere seconds. That’s why the information and suggestions sent from the coaches high up in the press box, to the coaches wearing the headsets on the sidelines, must be synchronized correctly and efficiently. Just as their team wins by performing together as a unit, the head coach, coordinators and other assistant coaches have to function as one team also in handling the mental part of Game Day successfully.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia’s coaching “headsets” team on the offensive side of the ball was detailed by Richt following a recent practice.
[su_spacer size=”40″] “(John) Lilly (tight ends, offensive special teams coordinator) will be on the ground,” said Richt. “My guess is Bryan McClendon (wide receivers) will be up (in box) but I’ll be honest with you, with this new offensive configuration, I’m not sure right this second. But I know John’s going to be down. The two special teams coordinators will be on the ground. I know Rob (offensive line coach Sale) will be down and Schotty (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) will be down. Exactly where Thomas (Brown) (running backs) and B-Mac will be, I’m not sure but I think B-Mac will be up and Thomas will be down but I’m not 100 percent sure,” Richt said.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Richt said that while Schottenheimer will call the plays from the sidelines, he (Richt) is able to monitor the calls through his headset.
[su_spacer size=”40″] “I’ve got a three-way mike,” Richt said. “I use the offense and defense. I try not to get on the special teams one because there’s usually some conversation on there. What happened last year was Coach (Tony) Ball was upstairs and he was still doing kickoff returns and Coach Lilly was on the ground talking with Coach Ball a lot, making sure everything was covered downstairs on the kickoff return team. But this year because John handles the two biggies, the kickoff return and the punt, and he’s on the ground, there’s not going to be as much communication going on on the special teams. We always have somebody up there, believe it or not, just counting hats. Every time we transition some type of substitution we always try to make sure we know whether there’s 11 in the game or not. Because you know you can get your special teams going, you got 10 on the field or 12 on the field or whatever, we’ve got to know that immediately and get that squared away. So the guys upstairs will be doing things like that and there will be some assignments that special teams coordinators will want them to be looking for upstairs. But it’ll be less communication because those guys will be on the ground.”
[su_spacer size=”40″] Richt said he’ll still have his hand in much of the crucial game-calling.
[su_spacer size=”40″] “There’s a lot of things I’ll have my input on … as for as whether we’re going to go for it on fourth down, whether or not we’re going to fake a punt, whether or not we’re going to go after a punt, whether or not we’re going to set up a return – there’s all kinds of things I’ll be making decisions on.
[su_spacer size=”40″] “I’ve got a good rapport with Coach Schottenheimer,” Richt continued. “It’s been interesting because when you run a system like he’s been running for a while, there’s a lot of good things, a lot of things he’s liked. And some of those things he’s liked are new to us … ‘Hey, I like that too, a lot.’ And then there’s a lot of things we’ve been doing that’s been pretty good around here and we’ve been kind of feeding that to him and he’s, ‘Hey, I like that.’ So there’s certain plays that are creeping in that maybe weren’t being practiced quite as much on the front end for certain situations and things of that nature that we had done in the past. And even the tempo that we’re practicing at was a little different for him but he’s really seen the value of going with the tempo that we’ve been going with. He’s got a lot of good red zone ideas and we had some good red zone ideas too so we’re doing a good job of communicating. And he’s got the right kind of ego to be open to new ideas, and vice-versa. We want to learn, too.”
[su_spacer size=”40″] Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt says the press box-sideline communication setup on his side of the ball will be the same as last season.
[su_spacer size=”40″] “Kevin Sherrer’s (outside linebackers coach) in the box along with our graduate assistants with me and Coach (Tracy) Rocker (defensive line) and Coach Ek (inside ‘backers, defensive special teams coordinator Mike Ekeler) on the sidelines,” said Pruitt. “We’re all kind of tied in and we do the game plan throughout the week so probably the way we structure our game plan any of the four of us could call it on Saturday, based on personnel and down and distance.”
[su_spacer size=”40″] “Basically, I’m sort of Coach Pruitt’s ‘eyes in the sky,’ you might say,” said Sherrer. “I give him down and distance, I tell him where the ball’s at, kind of what’s going on, give him a feel for things, if it’s a good play or bad play tell him what happened from us from the offensive’s perspective. I try to call out the personnel, the formations. Sometimes it’s not as easy to see but upstairs, you’ve got a pretty good view. And there will be times I make suggestions and things like that. But he kind of knows what we’re doing overall but then we all kind of have a voice in the matter … Rock, Ek and everybody and our graduate assistants will help in some of those things. Everyone’s got a part that they watch and it all kind of comes together, in between series, too.”
[su_spacer size=”40″] For more articles like this, including player and fan photos as well as videos, check out Bulldawg Illustrated’s 2015 Season Opener digital issue:
[su_spacer size=”40″] Bulldawg Illustrated