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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Practice Notes: Cox Copes With Criticism

Joe Cox swears he hasn’t owned a working computer in 18 months. At times it might have been an inconvenience, but lately, he’s been happy not to have it.

With Georgia’s 4-4 start to the season and Cox’s 12 interceptions to go along with the record, Cox hasn’t had much interest in surfing the Internet to see what fans are saying about his performance.

“Anybody can get on that and talk about sports,” Cox said. “That’s like me going on WebMD and talking like I’m a doctor and telling these guys what they should be doing in hospitals. That’s the least of my worries.”

It’s not that Cox doesn’t understand the concerns of fans. He freely admits that he hasn’t played well, and he said he would have understood if head coach Mark Richt had decided to bench him after last week’s three-interception performance against Florida.

But being at the center of a sea of criticism is no easy task, and the only real option, he said, is to avoid it.

“When you have a bad game, and you go out to eat the following week, you feel like there might be people at the restaurant talking bad about you,” he said. “It’s tough. You don’t want to go out sometimes and be places. I’ve changed so much in my life as far as how much I do and where I go just based on the role that I have on the football team. It’s tough to get used to. You never know how crazy it is until you’re really in that position.”

Cox said he even warns his parents to stay away from message boards and fan blogs after the games. While he can handle the criticism, he said they take it much more personally.
The animosity aimed at Cox reached a new crescendo this week as the Bulldogs dropped their second straight game to Florida, with Cox’s bad throws at the center of the underwhelming performance.

But rather than let his quarterback twist in the wind this week, Richt announced Monday that Cox would remain the starter, citing a unanimous vote among the coaches.

“It means a lot having your coach’s confidence. I’m definitely glad it’s not something I have to answer, and I’m just glad I have another week where I have to play football.”

It hasn’t been the senior year Cox had dreamed of, and the costs of being the starting quarterback at Georgia have been greater than even he expected, but he still wouldn’t trade the job for anything.

“I definitely don’t want to have the plug pulled on me and not play any more for the rest of the year. I have another chance and I want to make the best of it.”

LEARNING ON THE FLY

Freshman Washaun Ealey got the starting nod at tailback for two straight weeks, but a missed block against Florida will likely cost him that role this week. While Ealey continues to run the ball well, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said pass protection remains a concern that’s too big to ignore.

“It’s always a big concern with young backs,” Bobo said. “I do know he knows what to do, he just did not execute the proper techniques of how to block. It was costly in (the last) game … but I think he’ll improve. He’s just got to trust his technique and execute it properly.”

Bobo said Ealey has gotten plenty of advice this week from the Bulldogs’ expected starter, Caleb King.

Last year, King missed a key block against Florida as well and then-running backs coach Tony Ball benched him for the next few games. The punishment was tough, but the lesson was learned, and King improved dramatically during the offseason.

Ealey won’t be benched, he just won’t start. Unlike last season, Georgia’s need for a strong runner outweighs any benefit a stint on the sideline might offer. It’s in stark contrast to the decisions Richt made with another freshman tailback a few years ago.

“That's one of the main reasons why Knowshon (Moreno) ended up redshirting because when it got time to doing those kind of things, especially early on in camp, he was a freshman,” Richt said. “He was struggling at it, and we had three veteran guys, three very proven guys.”

Georgia didn’t have that luxury this season, but Richt doesn’t have any regrets about playing Ealey, who waited until the fifth game of the season before seeing action. It simply means that the Bulldogs will have to take the good with the bad as Ealey learns on the field.

“This time around,” Richt said, “we are playing the freshman and kind of taking some of the lumps."

WILLING TO WAIT

With four games remaining and the chances of an SEC East crown now gone, Richt said this week he plans to keep shooting for wins this season rather than giving additional playing time to some younger players as preparation for the future.

While the decision met with mixed reviews from fans, Georgia’s up-and-comers aren’t complaining about the veterans keeping their jobs.

“In every sport there’s always a person pushing for a starting spot, but I don’t believe there’s any jealousy amongst the players that would make a younger player think he wants to move an older player out,” said sophomore linebacker Marcus Dowtin, who has seen his role increase as the season has progressed. “We compete at practice every day, and the coaches will make the best decisions.”

Baccari Rambo has earned more playing time each week, too, but has so far been unable to push senior Bryan Evans from the starting lineup at safety. While Rambo said he would love the starting job, he said he respects his coaches for giving the veterans a chance to turn things around.

“I think by Coach Richt supporting the veterans, when I get my time, that’ll happen to me,” Rambo said. “When they make mistakes, I try to learn from them. I think it’s a great thing how Coach Richt supports the veterans and lets them try to get better and correct their mistakes.”

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM

Defensive end Justin Houston is doubtful for Saturday’s game after suffering a hyperextended elbow last week, and Richt said there will likely be a rotation of players filling the void.

Cornelius Washington, Montez Robinson and Kiante Tripp are likely to each see a bump in playing time against Tennessee Tech if Houston missed the game, Richt said. Tripp has been inactive for the past six games after seeing some early action, due mostly to a shoulder injury that has hindered his progress since moving from the offensive line in January.

“He was working his way into some playing time early on, and then the injuries set him back for a long time,” Richt said. “Being injured that long, it’s just hard to snap your fingers and be right back where you were. … But I’ve seen a lot of effort an energy out of him this week, that’s for sure.”

MORE BAD BLOOD?

Florida coach Urban Meyer announced Wednesday that linebacker Brandon Spikes would sit out all of the Gators' game against Vanderbilt this week as punishment for attempting to gouge the eyes of Georgia tailback Washaun Ealey. Meyer had originally only suspended Spikes for the first half.

But while Spikes' punishment was increased, Meyer also noted that Georgia linebacker Nick Williams had hit quarterback Tim Tebow late on a play and should have been flagged. Meyer brought the hit to the attention of the SEC head of officials this week but did not disclose the league's response. Richt said that after reviewing the film, Meyer's critique was correct.

For his part, Williams said he was unaware that Meyer had sent the tape to the SEC, but said the hit was just part of the game and was not intentional.

"I was just trying to make a play," Williams said. "Tebow is a great player, and it's obvious you better get him on the ground or he's going to spark something. I was just trying to make a play, and I didn't think anything of it. I wasn't trying to hurt him or anything, I was just out there playing."

NOT-SO-BREAKING NEWS

Defensive end Neland Ball hasn't been a participant in practice since the preseason, and Wednesday we found out why.

Richt announced that Ball had been given a medical disqualification in September, but the news had not been officially released.

Ball, a redshirt sophomore, played in five games in 2008. He missed all of spring practice this year with a tendon injury in his knee, but it was a chronic back problem that brought about the medical DQ.

BOLING BACK

Left tackle Clint Boling suffered a knee injury against Florida last week, but Richt said the junior should be available this week.

"Boling is fine," Richt said. "He was able to go with no limitations (at practice) today."

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have rooted for Joe all year, including after the Florida game. After those comments, he can screw himself. Bye bye in 2010 Ginger. It's been less than a pleasure.

Brian said...

David,

Well, I was just about to type that I don't think the fans' ire is directed at Joe Cox, personally. In fact, my experience has been that he has the respect and admiration of 99.9% of the Bulldawg nation for his exemplary leadership, patience and character.

The first post put a little dent in that argument, huh?

Anyway, the animus, I think , is directed principally at Coach Richt for continuing to put Joe in a position to fail. Joe has been here 4+ years. They've had plenty of opportunities to evaluate him (and should have had more had they given him meaningful time in either of the last 2 seasons) and SHOULD have arrived at the conclusion that he's just not capable of running our offense at a level required to win big in the SEC.

Effectively declaring all competition for the #1 job "off" Jan 1, 2009, might have been Richt's biggest mistake. Had he allowed real "open" competition for the #1 QB, we might have seen Aaron Murray, Logan Gray or Mett emerge with the additional reps "real" competition brings.

Anyway , I'll speak for the majority of Dawg fans I know who are broken-hearted for Joe and wish he had had a better conclusion to his UGA career. We're not mad at him, we're mad at his coaches.

Anonymous said...

I do not fault Joe as it is obvious he is doing his best. I do question the judgment of the coaches as to why this is the second time in 4 years we do not have a starting quarterback who is ready to play in the sec. 18 months ago they knew what Joe was capable of and should have gone JUCO to find someone who could play if Stafford left us early. Next year looks just as bad. We could lose 8 games next year if our defense continues to play like it has. Again, I do not fault the defensive players but I question the coaching.

The coaches act as if they are entitled to their jobs and not something they have to earn.

ChicagoDawg said...

I really don't want to be that fan who uses every circumstance as an opportunity to bitch, but I find it incredibly frustrating that Richt & Co. are such ball busters when it comes to RBs missing blocking assignments. I am completely okay with this hard nosed approach, if it were consistently applied to the myriad other circumstances where it is warranted. However, RB is seemingly the only position on the field where a player runs the risk of getting fired -- if they miss a pass block. This staff will absolutely drop the hammer on this one phase of the game, yet we get crickets on repetitive blown coverages, endless drive killing or extending penalties, coaches ordering directional kicks, etc.,

Anonymous said...

Right on, ChicagoDawg. You can't miss a block as a back (Ealey) but you can throw countless picks (Cox) and get burned on every third pass play for a TD (Evans, Jones)? This is beyond unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Are the Gym Dogs back yet? I need to pull for a winner.

FL DAWG said...

Yeah Joe C especialy since our offense isn't rocket science. He's made some similar comments and he should be a doctor since he's not an sec qb. Joe I guess you should be proud of your coaches confidence in you and Evans. And Rambo don't worry about the coaches being loyal to you when you are a Senior because your play on the field will speak for itself , can't figure out why your not the starter????????????????????????

Dawgy1 said...

Apparently Brandon Spikes ask to be suspended for the entire Vandy game.

This tells me that he has a lot more integrity than Mike Slive and Urban Meyer.

PTC DAWG said...

While I agree with Cox for the most part, he probably should have kept that thought to himself.

RaleighDawg said...

“I think by Coach Richt supporting the veterans, when I get my time, that’ll happen to me,”

That Rambo quote was the most disturbing thing I have read yet. If the young players don’t believe hard work will get them the starting position and feel that all they have to do is wait till they are juniors or seniors for a guaranteed starting job no matter their performance, then that could be a big reason why a lot of players seem to regress with each year.

Where is the motivation to work hard and perform on the field?

When Evans started the FL game, it was obvious that the staff had no intention of shaking up the line-up or trying to make sure the best performing players are rewarded with a start.

If you want kids to get better, starting jobs need to be given based on performance, not loyalty or seniority!

John said...

I wonder if Joe has ever heard of medical malpractice cases that those doctors face when they make bad decisions.

While he may say he doesn't care that fans consider him one of the worst UGA QBs in recent memory, he does. If not, why say anything at all?

At this point, I'd rather see Cox in street clothes on the sidelines.

Anonymous said...

I think Joe would have been much better behind a better OL, no WR drops, and a better performing secondary.

Oh...sorry...I'm recycling the 2008 excuse. Forgive.

Prince Lightfoot said...

re: Cox not wanting to go out to eat- that doesn't seem to bother any of the other guys on the team, to judge from their tweets. Don't they have training table, at all? I remember Knowshon doing a radio interview last year in which he said he burned so many calories in practice that it didn't much matter what he ate. I'm always amazed that they can practice, at all, on a diet of Burger King and Golden Sun. Maybe Lamar Odom is the Bulldogs' dietitian...

UGA69Dawg said...

The most telling point, bench the RB's for missing blocks but as far as I know we do not bench anybody else for anything short of suspension for scooter abuse. What kind of message does that send to the rest of the players, don't play RB or you are screwed?

Hey CMR even you said the red shirt on KM was not too bright. So it was his blocking that kept the greatest RB since HW out of the game wow the stupidity of that is breath taking.

Ronald said...

It's a shame, really, for Cox. I truly believe that if he had had a better QB coach he wouldn't be performing nearly as badly as he has been.

What Cox should have done was paid a good QB coach during this past Summer to work with him to help him with some of his fundamentals. Who knows, it might've been a difference in UGA having 0 losses vs 4. And it may have even helped him insure to get a call from the NFL.

Gray, Murray, and Mettenberger all 3 might better look into paying for a QB coach during the offseason.