Special case: UGA one of few teams without special teams coordinator

Stanford already had a special teams coordinator in David Shaw’s first year as head coach, but when Brian Polian left to join Texas A&M’s staff in 2012, Shaw hired veteran assistant Pete Alamar to coach strictly special teams.

“For me, it’s all the difference in the world as opposed to most places a special teams coach that coaches another position and the kicker’s got some kicking guru in another state someplace that he talks to that’s not on our coaching staff,” Shaw said. “I never wanted to do that. I wanted our kids to be coached by our coaches and Pete’s done a great job with that. To me, it makes all the difference and the difference between saying, ‘Hey, a guy missed a kick.’ Well, everybody in the stadium saw that as opposed to, ‘His plant leg was too close to the ball. We’ve got to get his plant leg right back to where it’s supposed to be,’ and a guy who’s an expert coaching his position.’”

The results on special teams this year for No. 6 Stanford have paid off.

Entering the weekend, the Cardinal had blocked two punts — tied for second nationally — and two kicks, had the nation’s top kickoff returner in Ty Montgomery, ranked in the top 25 in kickoff and punt coverage and had not had a punt or kick blocked.

“We’ve won a lot of games on field position,” Shaw said. “With all these statistics and everybody talking about yardage and how much time they can use and how many plays they can run, the one thing that doesn’t get talked about a lot is field position. Field position matters.”

Stanford is one of only 20 teams nationally with a dedicated special teams coordinator who isn’t also a position coach. Among 123 FBS teams, 98 (79.7 percent) have a special teams coordinator, according to listings in the Football Writers Association of America handbook. Most coach another position such as tight ends. At Stanford, Polian coached the safeties.

Georgia falls into the 20.3 percent that have no special teams coordinator. At Georgia, it’s a collective effort with six assistant coaches heading up various units.

Head coach Mark Richt has never had a special teams coordinator in his 13 seasons, but he is being asked again — whether by reporters or a caller on his radio show — about having a special teams coordinator of his own during this season when the Bulldogs have had big blowups on special teams.

“Everybody out there is calling for a special teams coach, just too many breakdowns,” radio host Jeff Dantzler said on the “Bulldogs Brunch” show on WSB in Atlanta the morning after three Georgia special teams mishaps led to 21 points in a 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt.

Those breakdowns include four on punts — two punt blocks for touchdowns, a dropped punt snap and a high snap that wasn’t fielded cleanly.

Add in a turnover on a muffed punt, a kickoff return for a touchdown, a fake field goal for a touchdown and a field goal that never got off after a high snap, and the Bulldogs have had eight disastrous special teams plays in seven games.

“There’s been a lot of good things happening, quite frankly, but it’s just been totally overshadowed by some of the big things that have just gone awry,” Richt said.

Georgia has had a successful onsides kick and fake punt and recovered two muff punts and kicker Marshall Morgan has made 10 of 12 field goals.

Richt has not indicated any future plans to revisit how special teams are coached on his staff.

“Whether you have a special teams coordinator or not, you’ve got to field the punt, you’ve got to snap the ball, you’ve got to catch the snap,” Richt said. “What does that have to do with whether you’ve got a special teams coordinator or not?

Georgia’s coaching staff is divided up this way for special teams: Punt (tight ends coach John Lilly), Punt return/block (running backs coach Bryan McClendon), kickoff coverage (inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti), kickoff returns (receivers coach Tony Ball), field goal block (offensive line coach Will Friend), PAT block (defensive line coach Chris Wilson). Richt has taken on a bigger role with the kickers.

When it came time to assembling a staff at Arkansas State, first-year coach Bryan Harsin wanted a special teams coordinator. He worked at Texas, where the Longhorns didn’t have a coordinator, and at Boise State, where the Broncos did.

“I’ve been a part of it where we’ve had separate coaches coordinate teams and then having just one coordinator with coaches coaching within the schemes,” Harsin said. “That to me, it’s like offense and defense. You have one coordinator and the guys work together on that, so I felt the same way when it came to special teams. I wanted somebody that I knew was very detailed and would spend the time to really study.”

Georgia is one of four SEC teams without a special teams coordinator. The others are Missouri, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

First-year Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema had a special teams coordinator for one season at Wisconsin in 2011

“You play to the strengths of your staff,” Bielema said. “There’s certain guys that have a background in special teams, some do not.”

Bielema has several assistants overseeing special teams units and “as head coach, I coach on every one of those units, so I’m involved in the day-to-day gameplan as well as execution and teaching a group on what their coaching techniques are so it’s a fun way to stay involved.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban has always had a special teams coordinator.

Tight ends coach Bobby Williams “really does all the background, all the work, all the gameplanning, and then we have a special teams meeting we have four other coaches and me and that are kind of the special teams coaches. We approach it very similar to what you would on offense where you have four or five coaches or defense where you have four coaches.”

Georgia players made available for interviews back the way things are currently structured for the Bulldogs.

“I think we probably spend more time than most other schools do,” said tight end Arthur Lynch, who is also on the punt team. “I know in terms of meetings, we definitely do, just because I talk to other guys who play elsewhere. … It’s not the schemes, it’s not the coaches. To me, it’s everyone putting out an individual effort.”

Said Kosta Vavlas, a member of the kickoff, kickoff return and punt teams: “The system we have now works pretty well. … When you miss a little assignment, one guy doesn’t do the one thing, it all crumbles.”

Bill Snyder, now in his 22nd season coaching Kansas State, divided up special teams duties among assistants for most of his career. Son Sean, named one of three finalists for special teams coordinator of the year last year by FootballScoop, now is in charge.

“It takes a little bit of a load off of some of the other coaches,” Snyder said. “Even though they’re involved, they’re not as actively involved in the organization of it and all the planning that goes along with it. I see both sides.”

Blog: Updates from Pruitt and Bobo heading into preseason

by Marc Weiszer

Two days before preseason practices begin, Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo provided updates today on their respective... Full Story

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Updates from Georgia coordinators Jeremy Pruitt and Mike Bobo heading into preseason practices http://t.co/h9TJsnF0pz #UGA

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