Georgia Football: Mark Richt Making All the Right Coaching Moves

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Georgia Football: Mark Richt Making All the Right Coaching Moves
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia head coach Mark Richt.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt's success at Georgia cannot be denied. Now entering his 14th year between the hedges, he has posted a 126-45 record (.737) with two SEC championships and five SEC east titles—including two of the last three.

But that track record of sustained success has been met with some criticism.

Two games into the 2011 season—a season in which Georgia won the SEC East—Paul Finebaum, then of SI.com, wrote that Richt "shouldn't keep his job" after his team sputtered to an 0-2 start. 

He wasn't alone. Richt giving off an appearance of complacency has been used to criticize him for a while.

Wade Payne/Associated Press/Associated Press
Georgia head coach Mark Richt.

Just don't use this offseason as an example, because he's been anything but complacent as he's rebuilt his coaching staff.

Richt added recruiting coordinator to the title of running backs coach Bryan McClendon, gave tight ends coach John Lilly the responsibility of handling the Bulldogs' offensive special teams and new inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler got the keys to the defensive special teams.

"This restructuring I believe will give us the best chance to win from a recruiting and special teams standpoint," Richt said in a release from Georgia. "Our recruiting effort will be strengthened and our special teams will be improved as well."

The moves are the latest in a series of changes on the Georgia staff that signify that Richt isn't messing around anymore. He's going for it.

John Bazemore/Associated Press/Associated Press
Georgia head coach Mark Richt.

Special teams were not only a sore spot for the Bulldogs last season, they came seemingly at the worst times. The Bulldogs had eight special teams blunders that led to leads being erased or cut to within one score in 2013. 

RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press/Associated Press
Georgia head coach Mark Richt.

Never was that more pronounced than in the 31-27 loss to Vanderbilt in which three game-changing special teams mishaps cost Georgia. The Commodores scored a touchdown on a fake field goal in the second quarter, Georgia fumbled a punt return that led to a touchdown to cut its lead to six in the third quarter and then fumbled a snap on a punt that led to the game-winning score for the 'Dores late in the fourth quarter.

It was clear that Georgia—a team that didn't have coaches specifically assigned to special teams—needed help.

Not only did Richt hear the roar, he recognized and fixed a problem.

The same thing can be said for his decision to go after Jeremy Pruitt to replace Todd Grantham, who left Georgia to take the same position at Louisville. He didn't start the process himself. After another disappointing season, Richt initially decided to retain Grantham despite two years of subpar defensive performances.

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But when Grantham left on his own, Richt recognized that he needed a teacher on top of a coach—something Georgia didn't have with Grantham—and hired Pruitt, who was recently fitted for a national championship ring. On top that, Pruitt's work with Alabama head coach Nick Saban as a secondary coach specifically addresses a problem area on the Georgia defense.

Toss in the home run hire of veteran SEC defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, and Richt has upgraded his entire staff in the midst of unexpected turnover.

Whether it's desperate times calling for desperate measures or Richt taking advantage of circumstances that fell into his lap or were unavoidable, he's hit a home run with his coaching moves this offseason. 

It's an indication that, whether it's a deserved criticism or not, he's done being complacent.

 

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