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AFM Subscribers Ask...with Mark Richt

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An outstanding high school quarterback in South Florida, Mark Richt attended the University of Miami in nearby Coral Gables. There, he played for Coach Howard Schnellenberger and backed up future Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly. Richt coached later on Bobby Bowden’s staff at Florida State for over a decade and helped mentor two Heisman Trophy winners, Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke. The Seminoles also won two National Championships during his time in Tallahassee. Named the head coach at Georgia prior to the 2001 season, Richt has an overall seven year record of 72-19, a 40-16 mark in the SEC and five bowl wins. He answers your questions.

When a team has come off a season that is considered ‘below expectations,’ what advice would you give to a head coach and his staff? Steve De Marino, Assistant Coach, Arcata High School (CA). AFM subscriber since 2005.

I think you really have to look at yourself and the overall program and be brutally honest. Look at all the phases of the game and examine what you, as a head coach, could have done better. It’s really a gut-level inventory of all the things that you and your staff do. There’s an old saying that ‘If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve been getting.’ Then, if you feel you need to make some changes, do so. But do it with an explanation as to why you haven’t succeeded and with a positive outlook as to why it’s now going to be different.

You compete in the toughest conference in the country. As you know, many of the games are decided in the final minute. How do you and your staff implement in your preparation and practice plans how to cover the numerous last minute situations within the last minute of a game? Do staff members assume responsibility for the weekly cut-ups on the various situations that take place? Chris Mattura, former high school, college, and NFL Coach. AFM subscriber since 2000.

We break down all of the film into different game situations, down and distances, field situations, and the last couple of minutes of each half. This would include the two-minute drill. We want to know what to expect in every situation on both sides of the ball. If you’re an offensive coach, you need tools or plays in certain situations to get things accomplished.

For example, we have what we call ‘boundary plays’ where a receiver will run out of bounds with a catch or the ball is incomplete. Either way the clock stops. We also have ‘stick plays’ where the intent is to move the chains and we know the clock will stop with a first down. And we have ‘touchdown plays’ where we know the play will either be caught for a TD or thrown out of bounds and the clock will stop. Then, we make sure our field unit is ready.

But I feel you have to practice these situations all the time as it relates to clock management. Coach Homer Smith wrote a great book on managing the clock, which I would recommend (‘The Complete Handbook of Clock Management’).

What is your offensive philosophy regarding simplicity and execution vs. having plenty of offense to accommodate and utilize your talent in order to compete in the SEC? How do you go about ensuring offensive chemistry amongst your players to allow for creativity? Matt Ingrim, Defensive Coordinator, Augusta High School (KS). AFM subscriber since 2005.

As coaches we all want to spend as much time as we can on concepts and it’s really up to the head coach and coordinators how much time is spent on specific concepts. It all is dependent on how much time you have and your priorities as a coach. We install schemes on a broad level early on and then change to a more narrow scheme for each game. We want to make sure we have enough reps each week so that we’ll execute well.

Coach Bowden had a saying that there are strategy and tactics for each game. You can have great strategy but if you have poor execution you’re probably going to get beat. On the other hand, you can have a very simple strategy and with good execution you’ll probably win out. You have to know your limits and perfect what you’re trying to accomplish.

When your team is in a two-platoon system – divided in half by offense and defense – what measures or activities do you do to ensure that you still stay together as one unified front on game day? Ben Thompson, Defensive Coordinator, Old Mill High School, Millersville (MD). AFM subscriber since 2005.

One of the things we do is in the locker room we have the players assigned numerically. So, that means that receivers and D-backs may be next to each other or the same with running backs and linebackers and both O-linemen and D-linemen. We certainly want competition among our players and there can be heated moments but they know we don’t want them to take that back to the locker room. You also, as a head coach, want to stop what I call ‘wedges’ between players or between a player and a coach. Don’t allow it to grow and affect the morale of your team.

We run the Shallow Cross series at our high school. The problem we have vs. Cover 3 is that the Shallow Cross is open immediately especially with the Arrow combination with the RB. We never get to throw it and almost always hit the Choice route. What do you tell your QB regarding his mechanics and the timing of the play? Should he take one- step and throw, should he look at the Arrow, or should he look off the defense by “eyeing” the Bench Route on the other side? Jeff Schaum, Head Coach, Maclay High School, Tallahassee (FL). AFM subscriber since 2003.

We run it with four different receivers. When it’s an outside receiver on the Shallow Cross, we have him take a jab step and then run three yards over the center on a diagonal. If an inside receiver, he pushes up field three yards, makes a stick move and then breaks across. The outside receiving in this situation is jabbing and then going. It could be that in this situation the inside receiver is going across too quickly. The quarterback must be ready to throw the ball. I would throw the ball on a three-step drop only out of the gun and without a hitch step. And there’s nothing wrong in throwing the ball to the Choice or the Arrow vs. a Cover 3. That’s, in fact, where it should go. A lot is dependent on whether or not the linebacker respects the Shallow Cross.

Coming Next Month: Can Georgia Tech win running the Triple Option offense? That’s a question in the minds of both coaches and fans. Paul Johnson was successful at both Navy and Georgia Southern with this offense but will it work in the ACC? During his tenure in Annapolis, Johnson’s teams led the nation in rushing in three of the last four years. He also won two Division I-AA National Championships while at GSU. Next month he answers your questions. Go to or send your question to AFM’s Managing Editor Rex Lardner at


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