Mark Richt

Hot Seat?

By: TJ Hartnett news services

The University of Georgia Bulldogs stumbled early on in 2019, losing a game in September to a South Carolina Gamecocks squad that would eventually end the season with a 4-8 record.

They battled back and scored big wins against the likes of Auburn and the University of Florida to propel them to a third consecutive SEC East Championship and a showdown against the Louisiana State University Tigers for the SEC Championship.

Given that they didn’t have to play Alabama, the specter that haunted them each of the previous two seasons, this seemed like a golden opportunity for Kirby Smart to right the ship after a disappointing follow-up season in 2018 to the 2017 College Football Championship run.

However, Joe Burrow and the Tigers showed up to Mercedes Benz Stadium and sealed their own CFB playoff spot instead.

Burrow blew the ink dry on his Heisman campaign with 349 passing yards and 4 touchdowns to boot. Jake, from State Fromm, managed 1 touchdown while throwing for 225 yards but tossed two interceptions as well.

It was, as I mentioned before, UGA’s second loss of the season, while LSU remained undefeated.

You have to wonder now if the Bulldog’s rabid (no pun intended) fan base is going to turn against Smart. Even though he was sending out a depleted roster to take on a Tigers team that averaged nearly 50 points per game during the season.

Kirby followed in the footsteps of Mark Richt, who – like Smart – took a season to get acclimated to Athens before winning the SEC Championship in his second year.

That victory was in 2002 and Richt earned another in 2005 before a decade of pretty good, but not quite great, football.

All the goodwill Richt earned by winning the first SEC Championship in 20 years had pretty much worn off by the time he was dismissed in 2015 and Richt remains a debated figure by the UGA faithful.

Smart may not get the 10 years that Richt had, but he led a team to the National Championship game and has taken steps back in the two years since.

Today’s coaches are on the hot seat the second they’re hired. Especially, in the SEC.

I’m not saying that Kirby Smart isn’t going to make it to the New Year with his job intact but he’s in definite danger after losing a second straight SEC Championship.

The Bulldogs seemed like they were trending up just a couple of short years ago, but that trend has seemingly done an about face.

A double-digit lead over Alabama in the 4th quarter in the National Championship Game in 2017 led to a loss.

A double-digit lead in the 3rd quarter in the SEC Championship the very next year led to a loss and to the exact same team, no less.

They followed that with an embarrassing Sugar Bowl loss to Texas. Now they’re entering Championship games as the underdog and the upsets aren’t happening.

That’s a dangerous path for an SEC coach to be on, especially with popular former Bulldog player & coach Mike Bobo suddenly in the unemployment line.

I know there have been calls for Kirby to bring Bobo onto his staff but now I wonder: after this loss and with this continuing trend of getting farther away from greatness, will those calls now change to calling for Bobo to replace Smart?

New Dawgs, Old Tricks

By: JJ Lanier news services

It’s been a good start to the Kirby Smart regime. I’d be lying if I said I saw his early success coming this soon, but I have a feeling Georgia fans won’t mind me being a little off with my prediction.

While I understand the excitement, and if you’re a UGA fan you have every right to be, I would caution getting too overzealous. If you’re experiencing a bit of Deja vu, it’s because you’ve seen this movie before.

Kirby Smart and Mark Richt will be forever linked for the obvious reason that Smart succeeded Richt, after the latter was relieved of his head coaching duties. However, it’s some of the similarities concerning each coaches’ first couple years in Athens that I want to talk about; their records in particular.

For one, they both arrived as first-time head coaches. Sure, that’s not necessarily life changing or anything, but neither had any other head coaching experience prior to UGA, which does play a part when assessing their early years.

And going by the first two years for each at Georgia, those seasons are almost identical.

Smart finished his inaugural season 8-5, ending up just outside the Top 25. Richt finished 8-4, ranked 25th at season’s end.

Kirby then followed that up with a second season consisting of a 13-2 record, the school’s first conference championship in over a decade, a berth in the playoffs, and a number two ranking in the final polls. That’s a sophomore slump anyone would sign up for.

What about Mark Rich’s second season? How about a 13-1 record, a conference championship for the first time in 20 years, a third-place finish in the season ending polls, and a Sugar Bowl win. Had the college playoffs actually existed during the 2002 season, Georgia would have been one of those four teams, without a doubt.

I know it’s purely coincidental, but to have two first time head coaches with almost identical seasons to start their career at the same school, is still pretty interesting.

I do have to say that Smart has done a better job on the recruiting trail, specifically with local talent. Richt did a good job with Top 10 recruiting classes those first few years, but I don’t remember him ever having a number one class, like Smart has for this upcoming season.

I know this may come across as me antagonizing the UGA fan base- like I’ve been sitting around all day, drinking beer with Skip Bayless and Danny Kanell, scheming of ways to get under your skin- but I promise it’s not like that at all. Even though it’s been 12 years since I lived in Georgia, I was a resident there long enough and remain friends with enough people, to know expectations are at an all-time high.

I’m not trying to knock Smart, or anything he has accomplished; bringing him in was obviously the right call. Bulldog fans have every reason to be excited and should be. This is the greatest amount of promise their team has had since, well, Mark Richt’s first two years.

I will say this though; if you’re a Georgia fan, finishing this upcoming season at 11-3, with a SEC East Division title, to go along with a loss in the SEC Championship game, may not be the outcome you’re looking for, for one particular reason.

As different as Smart and Richt may be in certain areas, so far, they’ve been pretty similar in the one area that counts.

The Smart Richt Move

By: JJ Lanier news services

There aren’t too many instances in today’s society that are win/win situations.

This is especially true in sports where the entire objective is for there to be a winner and a loser.

I mean, whole articles are written about who got the better end of a trade, or who the winners/losers are of a particular draft. Every now and again, when the moons align with Endor, and the flux capacitor reaches 1.21 jigawatts, you have a situation that plays out well for both parties involved.

Case in point: when Kirby Smart replaced Mark Richt as Georgia’s football coach. To say I was critical of the Smart hire is a bit of an understatement. The phrase “Congratulations Georgia, you just hired the Romeo Crennel of college football” may have been thrown around.

But seriously, who’s keeping track, right?

It’s not that I believe Richt shouldn’t have been let go; it’s that when you consider how the administration and fan base viewed themselves on a national level, Georgia could’ve gotten a bigger name coach.

You could argue now that they still could’ve gotten a bigger coach, but almost two years in, it’s hard to argue they could’ve found a better fit.

Smart has exceeded expectations, both on the field and in recruiting.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I thought Smart would take the same nosedive trajectory Butch Jones just took; I figured he would have some semblance of success. The level of success and how quickly Georgia has attained it is what I didn’t expect.

As for Mark Richt, I’m not sure even he could have imagined his release from Georgia turning out as well as it has. He’s coaching his Alma Mater, and is only a few wins away from an undefeated season, earning his Hurricanes a spot in playoffs.

Again, much like Smart and Georgia, I don’t think anyone is surprised that Richt is getting the best out of his players; he did a tremendous job during his tenure at Georgia.

But anyone who says they saw this type of season coming for Richt’s team, is about as trustworthy as Rick Pitino standing in a Foot Locker with a big briefcase.

One storyline that could be very interesting concerning both of these schools and I realize I’m shifting gears here a little, is the future of Jacob Eason.

At this point, unless an injury occurs to Jake Fromm, there is no way Eason takes another meaningful snap for the Bulldogs. With his bags probably already packed and one foot out the door, does Eason try to reconnect with the coach who originally recruited him to Athens? You’d have to imagine there is some mutual interest there?

Obviously, I don’t have any ties to the Georgia program, so I have no idea what if this is realistic or not, but if so will Smart allow him to transfer there, or will he block it like he did with AJ Turman?

Like I said, I’m completely in the dark on this, but it does add a little more intrigue to the whole situation.

Anyways, my point is in a profession where there is so much turnover and negativity, it’s nice to see an occasion where both parties actually benefit from a separation.

Of course, if Miami happens to make the playoffs over Georgia; well, I guess all good feelings must come to an end at some point.


Miami Hurricanes Preview

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

The University of Miami has to be one of the greatest programs in recent history. Most traditional powerhouses like Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan or USC were dominant back in the 1930’s and 40’s. Miami won their first national championship in 1983 and won a total of five in 18 years (1983-2001).

The Hurricanes have also had their share of controversy, being placed on probation by the NCAA a few times. Most recently they were on probation for 3 years and that just ended October 2016.

The Canes defected from the Big East and joined the ACC in 2004 along with Boston College and Virginia Tech. Since joining the ACC they’ve never won a conference championship or even played in the ACC Championship game.

This could be the year for that to change. Long time Georgia head coach Mark Richt returned to his alma mater last season. He led them to a 9-4 record and a win in the Russell Athletic Bowl over No. 14 West Virginia (10-3).

They have to replace prolific quarterback Brad Kaaya, who left school early for the NFL. He wasn’t selected until the sixth round (215th overall) so he honestly should have stayed at U of M but that’s a discussion for another day.

Junior Malik Rosier is the only QB on the roster with any experience, throwing two touchdowns and three picks in 61 career pass attempts. The fan favorite is dual-threat freshman N’Kosi Perry.

The offensive line also needs to improve drastically. They struggled in pass protection last season. They are comprised of three seniors and two juniors so they have experience.

Junior running back Mark Walton should have another big year. He ran for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016. He finished second to Lamar Jackson in the number of votes for the All-ACC preseason team this year.

Ahmmon Richards was one of three Canes to be named a Freshman All-American. The speedy receiver led Miami last season in receiving yards and yards per catch.

Manny Diaz was hired as defensive coordinator in January after one year at Mississippi State. Miami has one of the best D-lines in the country, with a gifted front four of Chad Thomas (11 tackles for loss last season), Kendrick Norton (10 TFLs), RJ McIntosh (nine TFLs) and Joe Jackson (8.5 sacks as a freshman last year).

The defense only gave up 18.5 points per game last year, 12th-fewest in the country. A trio of freshman linebackers started last year. Two of them, Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney were named to the freshman All-American team. The secondary is where they might struggle. They were ranked 47th in passing defense.

Playing in the much weaker Coastal division means they have an easier chance at playing in the ACC Championship game. They don’t have Louisville or Clemson on the schedule.

The season opens with FCS Bethune-Cookman. The next week is at Arkansas State. This is basically the college version of preseason games, both easy blowout wins.

Things will get drastically harder week 3, which is in Tallahassee against No. 3 FSU. I think they’ll lose.

The only game after this that they may not be favored in is home against Notre Dame on November 11. The last out of conference game is against Toledo and the other Atlantic division opponent is Syracuse. Based on superior talent they should also run through Duke, Pitt, GA Tech, Virginia, VA Tech and North Carolina.

I think Miami can realistically win ten regular season games and finally compete to win the ACC.

Mark Richt Overrated?

By: JJ Lanier news services

Recently, The Sporting News released their rankings of all 130 FBS football coaches. Coming in at Number 9 was former Bulldog, and current Miami Hurricanes head coach, Mark Richt.

I don’t know about every single college football coach enough to debate the merit of that ranking, but there was one comment that stood out to me: “Perhaps no coach wins this much without proper recognition.”

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Miami’s Richt Answer

jjBy: JJ Lanier news services

Last week, on a flight from Miami to Asheville, my Dad happened to be seated next to two Hurricanes fans who were traveling to North Carolina to watch their team take on Appalachian State.

Both of the passengers were former professors from the university (the wife was the former head of one of the academic departments) and they were avid fans of all Miami athletics. At some point during the hour and a half flight home the comment was made “Well, Georgia’s loss is certainly our gain.”

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Deadly Hurricanes?

kenBy: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

The Miami Hurricanes might be the best program in the last 30 years. Since 1983 they’ve played for the national championship eight times, winning five. The program has also had low moments being placed on probation more than once.

The Canes went 8-5 last season and coach Al Golden was fired. The record isn’t terrible but the way they lost is what ultimately cost him. He was let go after a 58-0 blow out loss to Clemson at home.

Mark Richt was hired to replace him and return to his alma mater. I believe this was a great hire. Richt was very underappreciated at Georgia. He turned an average program into a perennial contender. UGA has not won a championship since 1980 but their delusional fan base expects to win one every year. I think Richt will instantly turn Miami back into an elite team.

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