When Georgia limped back from Colorado to fall to 1-4, Mark Richt asked himself one question.
Actually, there were several, not the least of which involved what specifically he needed to do as a head coach to try to turn his Bulldogs' season around.
The answer was actually a simple call - in a manner of speaking.
"I wanted the offensive and defensive plan to be simple enough for the guys to know what they needed to do and play full speed without hesitation, without making a mistake that could cost us," Richt said after practice Wednesday. "I just told the coaches to err on the side of simplicity. I just told the coaches I wanted the guys to play full speed with 100 percent confidence in what they're doing. Each coordinator took that with the way it was intended, but I also said don't become so simple that we can't compete, either."
So far, keeping it simple has resulted back-to-back wins over Tennessee and Vanderbilt heading into Saturday night's game at Kentucky.
But that's not all.
When Richt watched the tape, he saw a team that lacked the physicality and toughness Bulldog teams were once known for having.
As a result, Richt broke a long-standing tradition of not matching the first-team offense against the first-team defense during game-week drills to try and make that happen.
"I just didn't see us playing as fast as we should or as physical as we should. I kept asking myself why and the answer I got was maybe we weren't practicing in such a way that we weren't getting the end result that we wanted, so maybe there's too much to think about back there on both sides of the ball," Richt said. "If we had too many missed assignments, then maybe it's too much, let's back it down a little bit on that, let's rev up the physical practice and effort level and see what happens."
The simplified philosophy has made its biggest mark on the defensive side.
Georgia (3-4, 2-3) comes into Saturday's play ranked third in the SEC in total defense (290.1), fourth in rushing defense (103.4), sixth in passing defense (186.7) and fourth in scoring defense (17.4 points per game).
"I'm still not sure they are 100 percent certain but when you watch film and grade the film, then keep up with how many critical errors there are or missed assignments, there were too many critical errors and missed assignments that were giving up big plays," Richt said. "But as the season has gone one, there has been less and less of that. The only thing I can attribute it to is they understand it better and Coach (Todd) Grantham and the staff is making sure they are not giving them so much that they are confused. That was part of what I wanted to make sure of as a head coach that after that Colorado game, we weren't going to confuse them - on either side of the ball."
Ogletree gaining steam
Slowly but surely, freshman Alec Ogletree appears to be making a push for extended playing time.
Wednesday, secondary coach Scott Lakatos was asked to compare the Newnan native to former Bulldog great Thomas Davis, whose reputation as one of the hardest hitters in recent Georgia history still resonates within the program.
"I don't know Thomas Davis but I know Ogletree - if he continues to work as hard as he is now - is going to be a really good player," Lakatos said. "He's got a lot of natural ability, he's got the size and he's very physical. He's had some plays where he's knocked the pile back a little bit. We're excited to see what he looks like when he really knows what he's doing."
Ogletree, who Lakatos said is exclusively at strong safety, received between 20-25 snaps during last Saturday's game against Vanderbilt, the most he's received all year.
Head shots concern Green
A.J. Green said he had to turn his head when he saw former teammate and current Cleveland wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi get laid out by Pittsburgh's James Harrison last Sunday.
"Yeah, I texted Mo after he got hit," Green said. "I said 'Man, you all right? I thought you were gone.' He said he was all right."
Green said the hit made him stop and think.
"Oh man, I hope I don't ever get to experience one of those, at least not in the head like that," Green said. "It comes with the game; you've just got to be prepared, cover-up, whatever. I know I'll get a couple of licks, it's the NFL. You've just got to get up."
Green said he was also watching Sunday's game between Atlanta and Philadelphia, a game which featured a vicious hit by Falcon cornerback Dunta Robinson on Eagle receiver DeShaun Jackson.
Both players lay prone for approximately eight minutes before being helped off the field.
"That one definitely had me cringing about going across the middle," Green said. "He's (Jackson) a small guy, but man it's crazy out there. You just can't think about it."
This and that
Richt confirmed that cornerback Branden Smith (concussion) is definitely out for Saturday's game against Kentucky. Safety Nick Williams (hamstring) is questionable.
The Bulldogs practiced for two hours Wednesday afternoon. "Today I thought was a good day," Richt said. "The energy level was good, I thought the effort to do it like Coach said do it was good, I thought the defensive scout team going against our No. 1 offense did an exceptional job today and gave us a good look."
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