Scheming Fundamentals

ATHENS – Usually Mark Richt doesn't say very much when he talks to the press.

Mark Richt has been abnormally disciplined over the years – watching everything he says – when talking with reporters. There was a time when everything Richt said wasn't being recorded on video… those days are gone, and with them went Richt's slightly carefree attitude about what he said.

That's why when Richt says something important you need to make sure you are paying attention – because more often than not he doesn't (again, on purpose – he sees no reason to live in the limelight or by being a TV star).

What he said on Wednesday was very important – it was Sports 101.

"You could have great scheme and poor tactics, and you're going to have no success. I'd rather have less scheme and more tactics and more fundamentals because I think we'll have a better chance of winning. That is what is happening right now," Richt said.

Often people who don't know a ton about the sports they are watching talk about a lack of fundamentals of the team losing. And it is true that fundamentals break down from time to time at this level of football – that is going to happen with the level of player you go up against time after time in the SEC – they are very talented. There are times when you are in the correct position, and a skilled player makes you look stupid.

But that's not Richt's point here. The point is that you can't scheme, or coach, your way to wins.

I will repeat… you can not scheme your way to wins. A scheme is only a tool by which you try to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. In the end players have to get the job done on the field – and that's through fundamentals.

That is coaching – not figuring out if you are going to run a 3-4 defense or a 4-3. If players are properly taught the way in which to confront a blocker, or how to best block then the deployment of a defense or offense shouldn't matter all that much. On the other hand, you can get out there and run a 3-3-5 – or even a 3-4-5 – and if the players don't know what they are doing you can forget it.

I can think of a slew of different schemes used on offense and defense since the start of the BCS era to win the national title – Alabama's offense is traditional, but its defense is a 3-4; Auburn ran the spread and had a terrible defense; LSU had a traditional offense and a 4-3 defense; Florida (under Meyer) ran a spread with a 4-3 defense; USC was a traditional offense; Miami was a fun-and-gun type offense – even before the BCS Nebraska won multiple titles running the option… the option.

Players win games; schemes are for the birds.

Because of that the players need to know what in the world they are doing – not with the scheme, but when they are confronted with the moment of truth. Should they knock the ball down, or intercept it? Is the ball high and tight, or will it be stripped going into the end zone? Is the kicker keeping his head down and following through on the kick? Is the punter getting the ball away in the appropriate amount of time? Is the receiver looking the ball into his hands every time, or dropping an easy, catchable ball? Do players jump on loose balls – any loose ball – in the field of play... whistle or not? Are punt returners squarely under the ball with both hands and both feet, or are they try to make basket catches?

None of those things have anything to do with scheme – every one of those either cost Georgia a game or won it for them. You see fans have a way of either elevating a coach because a team is winning, or pile driving them because of losses. I get that – that's human nature.

But the real challenge of coaching is hardly ever scheme – it is the work done in the years leading up to a game with the results of recruiting and the months of work done leading up to the game on the practice field with continuous repetition of drills – and doing those drills the right way.

That's what Richt was talking about, he was dead on correct.

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