Talking Football with Mark Richt, Retired Coach of the Georgia Bulldogs & Miami Hurricanes
This week, we change it up and talk some football with Mark Richt. Coach Richt is the former head football coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs and University of Miami Hurricanes, and a longtime assistant coach for the Florida State University Seminoles. He is currently a football analyst for the ACC Network. Mark and his wife Katharyn are the parents of four adult children.
The views, information, or opinions expressed during this show are solely those of the participants involved and do not necessarily represent those of SouthState Bank and its employees.
Intro: Helping community bankers grow themselves, their team, and their profits. This is The Community Bank podcast.
Eric Bagwell:Welcome to The Community Bank podcast I’m Eric Bagwell Director of Sales and Marketing for the correspondent division of South State Bank and joining me today. Caleb Stevens. Caleb works in our business development area, and also in marketing as well. Caleb, you doing, okay?
Caleb Stevens: Doing great, I mean this is going to be a great day when you get to talk to a football coach. So,
Eric Bagwell:Absolutely we have today, Caleb we’ve always you and I have talked about this, we want to kind of throw a curveball out there. We talk a lot about banking we talk a lot about leadership, and we wanted to do something kind of that we haven’t done it before. And so we’ve got today on the show Mark Richt. Coach Richt was a coach here at the University of Georgia in Athens for about 15 years, I think. He was SEC Coach of the Year twice. I think won six division championships and was the 2017 Walter camp coach of the year when he’s at the University of Miami, so we have got coach Richt here today.
Caleb Stevens: And coach with Bobby Bowden and back in the 90s a Florida state won a national championship.
Eric Bagwell:Absolutely yes and. But, if you’re a football fan out there you’re going to like this show a lot if you’re not a football fan still listen to it and let somebody that is a football fan listen. Because we didn’t want this to be a UGA football show, or just you know a college football show, we want it to be kind of a behind the scenes, what is it something that you’d love to ask at a press conference to a coach, and in coach Richt talks about it before, we spoke with him about it. That’s not coach speak.
Caleb Stevens: Because here’s the thing, I mean, coaches talk all the time about leadership and culture and you and I were sitting down, we were thinking you know we could do that we could make this part of the leadership and culture stuff that we do here on the podcast. Because we talk about that all the time and I mean Mark Richt a legend, you know, in the college football world. I mean he’s had a lot of success, but he’s also been known for doing it the right way and having a great culture and being a great leader and has his priorities in line where he’s still investing in his family and the things that matter. And you and I were sitting down, and we were saying we could do that, but you could go on YouTube and watch all kinds of clips on that. Why don’t we talk about some things that you never really hear coaches talk about?
Eric Bagwell:Absolutely, So we put down some questions and, I think you’ll enjoy it. So we’re going to go to that interview right now with coach Richt
Caleb Stevens: Coach Richt, thank you for being here. It’s an honor to see you in person you were saying it’s nice to not wearing a mask finally so.
Mark Richt:: It’s a beautiful thing, get this, see what everybody looks like again although you can’t hide a scruffy beard anymore.
Caleb Stevens: Well, we appreciate you coming, and you know we’re bankers and the stereotype about banking is that your stale, frail, pale, and male and bankers are boring and they’re stodgy. So we’re glad that to have a show that we’re talking about football and things that are not banking related so thank you for being here to kind of mix it up and make it fun. So Eric is one of the biggest sports fanatics you’ll ever meet. And me too I went to UGA and so to do so we’re big fans of you and you’re one of our heroes and I followed you for a long time so. I want to kind of really just kind of a behind the scenes of what are some questions that maybe people have always wanted to ask or thought through, you know, in your press conference. Those are always kind of canned sort of answers. So, Eric, he made a list of.
Mark Richt:: We call that coach to speak, I don’t know if I like that term, but there is some of that going on.
Caleb Stevens: That’s right, So, Eric, he made a list of some interesting questions and why don’t you kick us off any questions you have for a coach that people may have thought before but I’ve never really, know?
Eric Bagwell:Yeah. And Coach, thanks for coming again this is awesome to be able to speak with you. And quickly we talked about this coming up with the referees I know there’s like a pregame, meeting with the referees, what’s talked about, how long is it, what’s talked about in that meaning?
Mark Richt:: Right well usually, though they might bring something up, that they might have seen on tape. A game prior could be an alignment issue with a special team, it could be just a guy that’s a little feisty and they might say, keep it on number 75 If you can calm him down. Before the game starts you know which we rarely want to do that but, you know, usually from my end, there’ll be something I might see that the other team does. And, for example, you might have a certain cornerback or just all their DBS just or Mollen receivers at the line, or every time they try to separate, they’ll Snatch and try to slingshot underneath them to get interceptions and all that kind of thing. And the referees could probably call it every day, but they get tired of calling it I think but. So sometimes you just say hey you know this is what I see on tape. And usually what you do is you’ll put a tape together. So you might have 20 clips of these two cornerbacks doing whatever they’re doing, you know, all season long and you send it to the office early, and the rest of the crew views the tape, prior to it so you always say, Hey, did you guys watch the tape. Yeah, what do you think, you know?
Eric Bagwell:And did they watch it most of the time?
Mark Richt:: Oh Yeah, they watch it sometimes you wonder if they watched it or not, so those are some of the things that happen.
Eric Bagwell:Is there ever a time you see where you could not be rest. In baseball there are rumors you know that maybe there’s not going to be an umpire, you know let a competitor call balls and strikes, don’t think it’ll ever happen?
Mark Richt:: I don’t think so. It won’t happen in football, there are too many moving parts. Baseball could make sense that if you had a sensor on the ball and you can make sure everything’s a strike and that’s a strike and a ball is a ball, you know, but you lose the human element of the game and I think people just wouldn’t enjoy it as much.
Eric Bagwell:Oh, let me ask you this. So, before the season you get a schedule. You’ve got your schedule. Do you know who the refs are for each game at the start of the year?
Mark Richt:: You don’t know it at the very beginning of the year but usually going into, by the time you are at least a week away and sometimes sooner, you’ll know who you’re going to get.
Eric Bagwell:So you probably know the tendencies of the refs, I’m sure.
Mark Richt:: You’ll have a breakdown of the referees and the crews, and you know how often they call an alignment penalty or something as simple as that. But going back to them to one thing. If you have a trick play. And there’s going to be a certain bit of prestidigitation as they say that might fool an official and he may blow the ball dead thinking somebody who got tackled but he doesn’t really have the ball, and we had a couple of those super-duper ball fakes, even a Georgia few times when everybody thought on fourth and one Lussa Smith going over the top, but David Green still got the ball and throws it deep for a touchdown. What the referee thinks he’s tackling blows the whistle plays over, and you know for the one that midfield, you know, or whatever, wherever it is you’re in trouble. So, there are sometimes that you’ll tell the referee. At the last seconds. Some of your intentions because if you don’t tell them, they might, just miss the call because it was just that good of a ball fake.
Eric Bagwell:So saying that I got to ask you this question and I think you’re on the staff, but you may not have been. Florida State the punt brewski at Clemson.
Mark Richt:: Right, I was there.
Eric Bagwell:The coach Bowden even tell the ref about that, or was there no need to?
Mark Richt:: I don’t know I wasn’t in that. I wasn’t privileged you know the head coach, you don’t have assistant coaches in that meeting, but every once in a while, I would bring one of my assistants, especially like a special teams coach and he might have something he wants to explain to them that. That’s not legal for example John Fablus, you know, he saw our he’s our special team’s coach when I first got to Georgia, there was a kid, that when he would snap on the punt. He’d bring the ball forward about three or four inches maybe further before he, you know, went and snapped it. So he said I’m going to have my kid put his hand and, you know, on the other side of the neutral zone, but he’s going to hold his hand right in front of that ball. And if he moves the ball forward and hits my guy’s hand it’s not a penalty.
So just you know don’t call that word tampering with the snap, because that’s we’re telling you exactly what we’re going to do prior to it happening. So the officials were watching the snapper. During the pregame warm-up and saw that that was going on, so you don’t get called for something like that but going back to the punt brewski. That was a play that was brought in by the graduate assistant coach name Clan lead better, who was from Arkansas State, I think, and he that that play got to run there either on a scout team or in a real game I don’t know about it, but he was running the scout team for against our power turn team, and he put it in I don’t know if he told anybody about it, but it worked like a charm and coach Bowden fell in love with that play. He couldn’t wait to call it. And finally, versus Clemson. He kept wanting to fourth and won he wanted to fourth and won, you know, give me the fourth and won backed up on your own 30 You know, yeah, so we called it and it worked.
Eric Bagwell:Well if you’re out there listening, go to YouTube, they have a matter of five minutes synopsis of it and it’s amazing the fact that coach Bowden would even call that play. It’s a lead story.
Mark Richt:: Well he told us he said men somebody is fixing the score. Because I am not sure who, which team but somebody is fixing the game right now.
Eric Bagwell:Well even Coach Scott even mentioned it, he’s interviewed about it, and he said when Coach Bowden said to run it. He said we all looked at each other like is he kidding? But I mean one of the greatest players in college football. Caleb has got a question about after a game, talk about this with a coach and.
Mark Richt:: Right.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah, so, you know, let’s say you got Murray State coming in or it’s a, you know what, else fans call it cupcake school you’re going to get paid him half a million bucks to come in and treat for you to beat him.
Mark Richt:: It’s about a million now but go ahead.
Caleb Stevens: Yeah, that’s right yeah inflation. So, what do coaches say to each other after a game and I’m sure it depends on if you know them or not and your relationship with them but right? If you don’t know the coach, it looks like it’s just a quick, you know, handshake, you know, good luck rest of the season coaches quick or do you say
Mark Richt:: Well it’s usually quick unless you know the guy. And in sometimes there are hard feelings in games like that, especially if the team that’s the dominant team, you know, keeps their starters in, You know, and they’re still running like trick plays at the end of the game and trying to truly try to rub the score, right, you know, I can see hard feelings going on but no, my goal was always secure the victory. If you had an opportunity to play young guys start playing them. Now I would want them to play ball. You know I don’t want my second or third-team quarterback to be in the game and have to just hand the ball for, you know, the whole second half of the last drive of the game, you know hand the ball off or take a knee and get out of there. But you know it is an opportunity for that kid to play football too and get some game situations for guys that need it.
Caleb Stevens: And for the young guys, how did you sort of think through whether we’re going to redshirt you or when we’re in junk time we’re going to play it to develop you. How did you sort of think through?
Mark Richt:: Well first of all the rules changed, which is great.
Caleb Stevens: Right, used to be played one game and that was.
Mark Richt:: You played one play, yeah play one play and your red shirt are over, right, it’s burnt as we would say. Now you can play a kid up to four games, and not count that as the season of competition and still redshirt him so that’s huge. That was a great rule. It’s one of those rules that actually made sense, and everybody agreed on and I think it turned out to be really good. But one of the biggest things you could do is just ask yourself, is this kid going to be here five years. If he’s not going to be there five years. And you’re like, you need to play the guy, yeah, now I was the genius that Richard no, Shawn Marina.
Caleb Stevens: Right 2006 All right.
Mark Richt:: So now we had Thomas Brown, Craig Lumpkin, and somebody else I’m trying to think who it was. They all got drafted they all play in the NFL. So, but they’re all, you know, two or three years ahead of no show. And so anyway I’m like how are we going to get this kid in the game, you know, I don’t want to ruin it, you know runs a season by just getting mop-up duty. Well, you know, as it turned out he destroyed on the scout team. He didn’t mope enough that he started kicking butt on the scout team. And, of course, two years after that he was gone. Yep, he ended up being, you know, freshman of the year as a redshirt freshman in the SEC. But the big thing was, you know, is this guy literally going to be here five seasons because you know if you’re going to redshirt a guy, you’re thinking, it’ll be there five but not many guys stick around that well.
Eric Bagwell:I remember listening to Coach Dooley talk about Herschel when he got there, they really, you know, obviously all the accolades and he was unbelievable, right, and they weren’t sure he was what they thought he was. And obviously, he was really good. Do you, and obviously not naming names, not every five-star four-star recruit works out, how do you get a sense pretty quickly. If somebody can either play or can’t play, how long does that take when they get on campus?
Mark Richt:: Usually, not too long, like Todd Gurley for example. Yeah, the first time he carried the ball in a scrimmage situation, you could just literally like wow this guy is a beast, and he is built like one and, he made a little run around the left hand I think, and got maybe 8 9 10 yards and I was like Hey Todd you ever used a stiff arm. He’s like no coach I’ll try that in the future. So he just started stiffing people and knocking them back and I mean, he went up to hide stiff-arm if you went lower, you’d bounce off his thighs, I mean he was just he was amazing but there are some guys that we know as coaches are going to take a little time to soak. And, but the media doesn’t know it and the fans don’t know it and their parents don’t know it and the kid doesn’t even know sometimes. And if they just, if they get to where they trust you enough to develop them and playing when they’re ready, even like the quarterback position it’s hard to come in as a true freshman, and just be ready to play SEC football.
Caleb Stevens: Aaron Murray redshirted if I remember correctly.
Mark Richt:: Right. Yeah, he did.
Caleb Stevens: And Zach Mettenberger I guess he was on the team that year, and he redshirted.
Mark Richt:: Right, both those guys ended up in the NFL, really good players but, you know, like, well but Murray, for example, I mean Murray ended up saying five seasons he was a redshirt senior when he left, he still has, I think, a bunch of passing records in the SEC, because he stayed the whole time through, but you know there are kids that you, know, can make an immediate impact and a lot of times it’s positional like running back has a much greater chance to break in and be a star from the beginning, like Gurley first game he had eight carries for 110 yards and had at the first time he touched the ball on a kick-off he went the distance. Yeah, you know, so running guys can do that, you know receivers and offensive linemen, You can hardly have any offensive lineman maybe, a tackle who’s got a guard next to helping him all along the way, but it’s just so hard to be really ready to play and if you play too soon, especially a quarterback, and you’re not ready every guy starts making opinions that you can’t do it when really you just need a little bit more time.
Eric Bagwell:Yeah. So let me ask you this because you see all the and I don’t follow recruiting close it’s going to sound as I do, but I don’t. Your son does like a passing kind of Camp type thing that these kids in high school nowadays. Are they better equipped than they like to say when you got to Miami, you know, you probably played all kinds of sports these kids seem to like it’s a one, they that’s all they do is football year-round, are they better equipped nowadays to maybe play early?
Mark Richt:: They’re more ready physically, mentally, the whole shebang. But it’s, still a big learning curve I mean going from, high school to college is a big deal, and even the greatest players have doubts, they’re like, Can I really hook it up and play with these guys, you know, so you just got to be wise with them but again there’s got to be a trust factor because now everybody wants this immediate gratification. If they don’t get it. You know they’re going to be wanting to opt-out and just you know jumping the transfer portal and all that fun stuff. Yeah, they realize when they get to the next spot it’s the same thing you got to compete.
Eric Bagwell:Yeah. Got another question
Caleb Stevens: Yeah, I was going to ask you know what are some things that maybe the average fan would be surprised by if they got to watch a game right on the sidelines on the field, I mean I just know for me, I played one year of organized football I was a senior in high school and I went out as the punter. And I always wanted to be a punter and went out finally and said if I’d never been my last chance Senior High School. And I just remember the atmosphere on the field and the game is totally different than watching it from the stands, I mean the sound of the pads, how big all the players are I means especially for an offensive line, that’s like walk into the redwood forest, seeing all these big SEC linemen, anything that you think a lot of fans don’t realize from the stands, that go on the field.
Mark Richt:: Well, for me you know I coached for years in the box, I was up in Florida State, even as a quarterbacks coach and eventual coordinator. I’m calling the game from upstairs so then I become Head Coach of Georgia, and I’m on the ground, and it’s, unbelievably different, you really see the speed and you really see the collisions that are out there, I mean it is a very physical rough sport and, the kickoff, in particular, you know guys are just running full speed down there and they’re about to run into another guy that’s just not going to budge. And there are some you know they’ve changed some of the rules to help there but anything they could do to keep that kickoff from being as volatile as it is, is a good thing but you, it was amazing the difference to see it from the booth, than be down on the field game-day especially because I mean I’d see scrimmages all the time I’d be on the sideline during practice, but just a different deal on the sideline game day.
Eric Bagwell:I have all I’ve heard this said before you’re an offensive coordinator. You never call a bad play something just happens in the course of the play where it doesn’t work.
Mark Richt:: They didn’t execute.
Eric Bagwell:They didn’t execute. And I remember watching it was, I think it was when Florida State was in Nebraska maybe and you probably weren’t on there’s no I don’t think you’re on that staff, but they lined up for a play. And I didn’t realize coach Bowden was an offensive guy to play-caller. And coach Scott’s next to him and I think he’s the OC, but they line up for the play and Coach Scott is like we got it, we got it, we got it, and this is before the ball snapped and it worked, and I remember at Tennessee in 2001 Varane Hanes I think y’all knew before that the play was going to work, is that rare that you know, does that happen a lot?
Mark Richt:: Well, there are certain looks like the P 44 Haynes, the Varane Hanes play against Tennessee. That was a deal where if they lined up in a split safety defense, meaning you know, to two safeties, that are kind of on the hashes, so to speak, instead of one safety high down the middle. So when you get a split safety look down there in that end zone area that red zone area. When receivers run certain route concepts, they’re going to double the outside receivers, so you got a corner, one receiver in a corner in a safety belt on another guy, and up the gut, you got a linebacker responsible for anybody who goes down the middle. Well, when you put a play-action when you put a run fake and a full back coming at a linebacker he’s waiting for a collision. So Varane goes like he’s going to block this guy on isolation play to the tailback, and the guy bears down ready for contact and Varane just slips by and there was no one behind him. So pre-snap. I mean, during the timeout I told him I told David, I said look if it’s split safety defense we got it just make sure you hit him, you know, I said if it’s one high safety. The play is not going to work and just launch it in the stands, and we still got time for one more play. And so when they lined up in the split safety look, I’m like, oh my we got it we got this thing. And sure enough, it worked.
Eric Bagwell:That’s cool. So I’ve heard a story where Bear Bryant, you know, I think, got to the early 70s program started to struggle just a little bit, I think Sam Cunningham came over there and ran USC ran for like 300 yards and he knew something had to change so I think he goes to see Darrell Royle, Texas and learns about the wishbone in the offseason and the rest is history. How many more national championships, three or maybe three, we hear about coaches visiting programs during the offseason. Surely, you’re not going to share something with an opposing coach that, but how do those work? Not within the league so you travel, what does that often I guess that coaches do that?
Mark Richt:: Every offseason. You’re sending your staff. You may send your whole offensive staff somewhere. For example, you know the coach might have done that when he sent it when he went to Texas for everybody to learn it. Yeah, especially if you have a specific goal that you want everybody to understand, you might bring everybody. But you know your defensive coaches may go to one school your offensive coaches may go to another school or you might have a guy who’s the D line coach your D line coach, And there’s some D line guru and some other school or maybe even an NFL. He wants to just be better at his craft and be able to teach these kids better techniques. So he may take off and go to the Atlanta Falcons to talk to the D-line coach there to see what he can learn and bring back to his players.
Caleb Stevens: Well coach we really appreciate your time and want to hear really quick. Tell us about your new book coming out in August.
Mark Richt:: Well it’s called Make the call. So obviously it’s a little bit of a play on words if you’re coaching and calling plays, you’re making a call every 40 seconds and of course, you’re the head coach throughout the game you’re making a lot of calls, but really making the call is making decisions, and there’s a lot of calls that you got to make in the game and business, but you know the same thing is true of a family, and all that kind of thing just everybody makes decisions all the time. And this book is a great football book. A lot of these things a matter of fact all these things we talked about, are in the book, in more detail. But, you know, so there were some good calls and some not-so-good calls that I was able to articulate in the book. But as far as football goes but it talks a lot about life decisions, faith decisions, relationship decisions and things of that nature .so it’ll be a fun book to read if anybody who’s a football fan in the south, especially because, you know Florida State there’s Florida State moments, there are Georgia moments, there’s University of Miami moments, and even squeezed in a little bit of East Carolina when I was there for 11 months. So it will be a fun book.
Caleb Stevens: We’ve got a lot of CEOs of banks listening to you on Down sound. So I know this will be right up their alley. So go and get this book folks. You’re really going to enjoy it. We know for sure. Let’s end with this quick question, I’ve heard before that so many plays that an offense runs for the first time they get on the field, their first series are scripted. Is that true that’s always kind of confused me because I’ve always thought well if you’ve got the first 20 or 30 plays scripted. If something goes wrong, do you stay to the script, how does that work?
Mark Richt:: Well I don’t know how much time you have but basically those call sheets are going to have different situations and different field positions. So you’ll have plans in the green zone which is like from your 20 to 20 just plays their first and second down calls, and they’re not a possession down a third-down obviously is a possession down. Then you got your third and one call, third and two calls, third and three through five which is the third medium. Third and long calls, you got your red zone calls, you got your goal line call. So when you are in certain field positions you’ve watched the film. You’ve practiced it against the scout team against the looks you think you’ll see. So all those things will be mapped out on your call sheet.
When I would script early plays early in the game I actually would script, at least four series of the Green Zone plays, so plays you’ll love on first and second down on the middle of the field. So, but then when it came to third and 1, you go to your call sheet. Well, what was our number 1 third, and 1 play that we practiced everybody knows what to do? We think we know how they’ll line up call that play, you know so then, but you get the first down, that’s first and then again. Go back to the script of your green zone plays and then it turns out to be, first a goal on the seven. Look at your red zone. What do you look like in the red zone, you know, so you kind of, you pick that now, things aren’t going well, you know, obviously, you got to go off-script. I mean, there have been games where I literally did have to go off-script, You know, one time the whole game because of everything. Not everything worked, but enough of it worked, we didn’t have to abort the plan and usually you change dramatically. If the defense changes dramatically.
Eric Bagwell:So here’s a question I’ve wanted to ask and we’ll end on this, but I got to ask you, we use the term at work a couple of times and it’s silliness we’re doing but we’re playing streetball, right So, have you ever been in a game where nothing’s working, and I heard Pat Dime make a comment one time probably 1960 and he said they got back to the huddle like the third or fourth down, they had to score the end of the game, and Fran Tarkington just basically makes up something in the huddle and it worked, Right. Have you ever just said, Just make something up?
Mark Richt:: Not quite like that but, for example, the big win against Auburn that put us in the SEC championship game, and we had Mike Johnson, Michael Johnson. In the battle for the end zone. That was a fourth in whatever it was. And I called a play that we had run earlier in the season but did not practice at all that week. And so I trusted the fact that David Green was the student of the game that he is, and he had the, you know the history of our system. And I just knew if we signal it in, he will know what to do and how to do it. And so he did it flawlessly drop back. Punt fake like he was going to throw to his right, turn back launched it to the back end of the endzone. And, you know, the rest was history I
Guess you could say.
Eric Bagwell:Yeah, it was a great moment. Because it was at Auburn too, cool. Coach Listen We greatly appreciate you coming on with us. It’s neat to meet you. Neat to talk with you. Everybody go buy out and buy his book, but Coach, thanks again, man.
Mark Richt:: Alright, thank you, guys.
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