Fans aren’t the only ones who let issues that plagued their team last year linger for months and months in the offseason.
Georgia assistant coach John Lilly, who oversees the Bulldogs’ punt coverage unit, isn’t about to forget the big plays given up in the SEC championship game.
“You think about that game every day and what happened there,” Lilly said.
It may be hard to remember, but it wasn’t all bad for the punt coverage unit that day.
Most of Georgia’s punts and coverage in the game “you’d make a clinic tape,” out of them, Lilly said, “but the other two killed us.”
Tryann “Honey Badger” Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown and set up another with a 42-yard return. LSU ran away in the second half with a 42-10 victory.
That was then. A new season beckons.
“We’ve got to do a great job of coaching it,” Lilly said. “We’ve got to give them a great plan and scheme that fits our personnel and then we’ve got to get the right guys on there and then motivate them. Then, at the moment of truth, we’ve got to make the plays when they’re there to be made.”
High-profile players will be asked to pitch in for a unit that ranked 116th in the nation last season, allowing 14.9 yards per return.
“You’ve got to put guys in the right place and I do think from a personnel standpoint, I think you’re going to see guys across classes,” Lilly said. “You’ll see everything from a true freshman to seniors out there. You’ll see everything from a high-draft pick to a guy that might be one in two or three years but hadn’t done it yet. We’ve got to do—I’ve got to do—a great job of motivating them and getting it done. The punter’s got to do a great job of putting the ball where we want it and how we want it there, and I think we’ll be very good again.”
That punter is likely to be incoming freshman Collin Barber. None of the walk-on candidates staked a claim to the spot this spring.
Georgia’s coaches visited “with a lot of guys in the offseason,” on other coaching staffs—some in the NFL, some in college.
So what’s changed?
“Some of that is ever evolving,” Lilly said. “We’ll have a great group of guys out there.”
–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer