ORLANDO – Mark Richt is excited about being a hands-on offensive coach again, but he’s not scouring all corners of the country, digging into textbooks and spending bleary-eyed nights trying to develop new plays.
He has more than enough in his repertoire.
“There’s really nothing new under the sun,” he said, sitting down Thursday in a conference room at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando before speaking to a sold-out room of 250 UM boosters.
“You take all the plays I might have run at Florida State or Georgia over the last 30 years, there’s more plays than you can ever dream of or thinking of wanting to run. It’s just a matter of putting in X amount of runs vs. certain formations and personnel groups, certain pass concepts, quick game, screen game, RPOs [run-pass options], curl-flat plays, plays that have corners or flag routes in them, four-vertical plays. There’s just different concepts that I think everybody in America uses. It’s just figuring out how you’re going to call them and protect them.
“It’s not the plays. It’s how you execute a play, really. There’s plenty of plays. There’s too many plays.”
This was suggested to Richt: it stands to reason that, as he settles in at Miami, it could be the most potent itineration of his offense, given what he’s learned over the years and that he’s now devoting himself fully to it.
“I don’t know about all that,” he said. “Again, it gets down to how well we block, throw, catch, fake the ball, secure the ball. You just take ball security – if you never have a turnover the entire season, you’re probably going to have a pretty good year, not just offensively but wins and losses. That’s huge. … It’s more fundamental to me, rather than trying to trick someone.”
After nearly a decade of “CEO” coaching – he recently admitted he was bored at times at Georgia, having surrendered play-calling duties in 2007 – Richt, 56, said his foray back into the nuts and bolts of installing and running and offense is going as he expected.
“I love it,” he said. “I’m enjoying it a lot. I remember when I first started coaching, the attraction was strategy and competition. Then over time you realize it’s a lot more about these players than about me. I really enjoy that relationship with these guys, helping them navigate life in general. Along with the strategy and competition. When I got away from calling plays, you take a step back to a certain degree. You’re doing a lot more managing than you are coaching.
“The camaraderie of the quarterback room, I missed. The planning. The game-planning. The planning for the installation of spring, now we’re planning for what we’re going to get ready to install in the fall. Those things are a lot of fun for me.”
Richt said his quarterback, junior Brad Kaaya, has been as advertised.
Before he met him, “I didn’t know what to think,” Richt said. “I really didn’t study a lot of film. All I kept hearing is he’s a really good quarterback, and a really good guy. That’s what I kept hearing, universally. And then, after working with him, I’ve realized he’s a really good quarterback and a really good person.”
Richt said he won’t tinker much with Kaaya’s throwing motion – “I think guys are built different” – but he’s “very much a stickler on footwork. I want exactly this many steps. I want your ball-handling to be exactly like this. I want your progression of reads to be exactly like this. I want you to declare this guy the Mike linebacker in this look, and that guy in that look. There’s a lot of things that are non-negotiable. A lot them are habits that are habits that will carry over when the pressure comes.”
Richt, on how much trust Kaaya will have to run the offense:
“He’ll change a lot of plays. He’ll come to the line of scrimmage with a lot of two-play, three-play combos — this protection or that protection, declare this guy or that guy the Mike linebacker, run this way or that way – but it’s all predetermined according to what he sees. So he’s not just making up a bunch of stuff. He’ll change a play, but he’ll do it because of what we studied and what we planned.”
Richt then rose from his chair to explain what Kaaya won’t do. He assumed a quarterback’s pose, pre-snap, holding his hands out for the ball.
“You’ll see a lot of guys get into the cadence nowadays, they’ll start the cadence and try to get ‘em to jump offsides,” Richt said, mimicking a hard count. “Then he’ll look to the sideline and the coach will tell them what to do. He’s going to know what to do. He may get into his cadence and get them to show their hand, but then he’s going to call the play.
“I like to teach them what to do and where to go with the ball and who to check to, all of that.”
Kaaya looked to the sidelines a lot as a freshman, especially, under offensive coordinator James Coley.
“It’s a style of a lot of coaches,” Richt said. “A lot of these coordinators, it’s like they’re playing a video game. They’ll get them to do whatever, and they’ll see it – and they do a great job, a lot of them can see it and make the call. But what happens is when you do a lot of that, when you check, then the defense checks. So if I check, I see a look, and now I go here [to the sideline] and I change for the look, now they change it after we change it … now you’re in a guessing game.”
Basically: Richt wants his quarterback to know – and go.
“If you do it at the line of scrimmage, the quarterback does it quick enough, the defense doesn’t have a chance to change.”
One more issue: now that satellite camps are a go – much to the ACC and SEC’s chagrin – will the Hurricanes attend one, somewhere?
“We’re evaluating that,” Richt said. “We’re just seeing what’s going on around the state, around the southeast, around the country. We want to make sure what we do will make sense. We’re not just going to jump at something just to say we were there. I want to have value from it. I don’t to kill our coaching staff in the meantime.”
Said UM Athletics Director Blake James: “Whatever Mark thinks is best, that’s what we’ll do.”